History of Illinois Cities, Counties & Regions

The History of Illinois Cities, Counties & Regions is contained in the many free eBooks and other online resources below. See the right column for more info about this website.

Go to section:


Other Areas of Illinois

Online Illinois County Histories Website

Go to Collection

This website has links to numerous free online histories and biographical collections published in the late 19th and early 20th century. For Illinois there are dozens of titles of local histories and biographical collections, for all the counties below:

Adams County, Alexander County, Bond County, Boone County, Brown County, Bureau County, Calhoun County, Carroll County, Cass County, Champaign County, Christian County, Clark County, Clay County, County, Clinton County, Coles County, Cook County, Crawford County, Cumberland County, Daviess County, De Witt County, County, DeKalb County, Douglas County, DuPage County, County, Edgar County, Edwards County, Effingham County, Fayette County, Ford County, Franklin County, Fulton County, Gallatin County, Greene County, Grundy County, Hamilton County, Hancock County, Hardin County, Henderson County, Henry County, Iroquois County, Jackson County, Jasper County, Jefferson County, Jersey County, Johnson County, Kane County, Kankakee County, Kendall County, Knox County, Lake County, LaSalle County, Lawrence County, Lee County, Livingston County, Logan County, Macon County, Macoupin County, Madison County, Marion County, Marshall County, Mason County, Massac County, McDonough County, McHenry County, McLean County, Menard County, Mercer County, Monroe County, Montgomery County, Morgan County, Moultrie County, Ogle County, Peoria County, Perry County, Piatt County, Pike County, Pope County, Pulaski County, Putnam County, Randolph County, Richland County, Rock Island County, Saline County, Sangamon County, Schuyler County, Scott County, Shelby County, St. Clair County, Stark County, Stephenson County, Tazewell County, Union County, Vermilion County, Wabash County, Warren County, Washington County, Wayne County, White County, Whiteside County, Will County, Williamson County, Winnebago County, Woodford County.

These were some of the towns and cities in Illinois in the 1850s:

Chicago, Elgin, Belvidere, Rockford, Freeport, Galena, Rock Island, Quincy, Alton, Belleville, Kaskaskia, Cairo, Joliet, Morris, Ottawa, La Salle, Peru, Peoria, Bloomington, Abingdon, Albion, Albany, Athens, Annawan, Aurora, Batavia, Beardstown, Belvidere, Bloomington, Brighton, Camden Mills, Carlinville, Carrolton, Centralia, Charlestown, Chester, Crystal Lake, Danville, Decatur, De Kalb, De Soto, Dixon, Dunleith, Edwardsville, Du Quoin, Ewington, Foreston, Franklin Grove, Freeport, Fremont Center, Fulton City, Galesburg, Galva, Geneva, Georgetown, Gilman, Girard, Grayville, Greenville, Hennepin, Henry, Hillsboro, Jacksonville, Jerseyville, Joliet, Jonesboro, Kankakee City, Keithsburg, Kewanee, Knoxville, Lacon, Lincoln, Lodi Station, McLeansboro, Macomb, Marengo, Mattoon, Mendota, Middleport, Moline, Monmouth, Monticello, Morris, Mound City, Mount Carmel, Mount Vernon, Naperville, Naples, Nauvoo, Nokomis, Olney, Onarga, Oquawka, Oregon City, Oswego, Ottawa, Plano, Plymouth, Polo, Pontiac, Prairie City, Rockford, Rockton, St. Charles, Salem, Sandoval, Shawneetown, Sheffield, Springfield, Sterling, Thebes, Toulon, Turner, West Urbana, Urbana, Vandalia, Verden, Washington, Waukegan, Waverly, Wilmington, Woodstock.

See the list of resources on this website for: Genealogy & Local History Research

county history, history of Illinois, city history, online collection, genealogy, family history, online library, free ebooks

History of Illinois Cities, Counties & Regions


Encyclopedia of Chicago

Chicago Historical Museum, The Newberry Library and Northwestern University
Go to Website

This online encyclopedia was produced in 2005 and contains much the same content as a print version produced about the same time. There appear to be thousands of subject entries as well as numerous maps and a number of videos.

history of Chicago, history reference, genealogy, family history, books, online library, books online

The Railroads, History and Commerce of Chicago

Chicago: Democratic Press. 1854
Go to Book

This booklet consists of three articles previously published in the Daily Democratic Press newspaper. The first article contains descriptions of every existing and prospective railroad in the Chicago area or the region; at least 35 companies. The tone is promotional, repeatedly stressing the advantages of railroads for local economies, and in some cases providing revenue figures.

The second article is a 20-page “History of Chicago”. The third article, entitled “Historical and Commercial Statistics; Manufactures, Banking, etc.”, contains sections on the rising value of real estate, labor costs, the Chicago Water Works, descriptions of manufacturing companies, and others. The fourth article, “Commercial Review for 1853” contains economic data for agricultural and other commodities.

See also: Illinois Economic History

Chicago history, business history, railroad history, economic data, 19th century, 1800s, Illinois railroads, books free

Chicago Illustrated in Albertype

NY: Albertype 1890
Albertype CompanyGo to Book

Numerous photos and drawn illustrations of Chicago public buildings, monuments, residences and attractions.

History of Chicago (3 vols)

NY: Arno. 1884
Andreas, A. T. Go to Vol 1|Go to Vol 2|Go to Vol 3

Volume 1 carries the history up to 1857. Volume 2: From 1857 to the Fire of 1871. Volume 3: From the Fire of 1871 until 1885.

At the beginning of the volume is a detailed subject and name index, and an index to the many illustrations, but no Table of Contents. This book is based on other secondary works of the 19th century, rather than substantial original research. It is the author’s practice, common in many county histories of that era, to include throughout the volume long lists of names and many portraits.

These are some of the topics covered in Volume 1:
French explorers John Nicolet, Jacques Marquette, Louis Joliet La Salle, Henry de Tonty; Iroquois and Fox Indians in Northern Illinois, Baptiste Point De Saible, Pottawatomies in War of 1812, John Kinzie, Clybourne family, David McKee, Gurdon Hubbard, Black Hawk War, Cholera, Chicago incorporated as town 1833, Roster of Officers serving at Fort Dearborn, Illinois and Michigan Canal, Great Land Craze, Panic of 1837, Roster of City Officers 1837-1857, Plank Roads, Flood of 1849, Police Department, Educational Department, Sangamon school, Franklin school, Moseley school, Chicago Volunteer Fire Department 1837-1855, Chicago Harbor, Chicago Ship-yards, Custom House, Railroad System, Galena and Chicago Union Railroad, Illinois Central Railroad, Chicago & North-Western Railroad, Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad, Michigan Southern & Northern Indiana Railroad, Michigan Central Railroad, Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railroad, Telegraph and Express, Fort Dearborn Militia, Winnebago War, Cook County Militia, Church of St. Francis D’Assissium, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Olivet Presbyterian Church, Tabernacle Baptist Church, Edina Place Baptist Church, Union Park Baptist Church, Salem, Baptist Church, Berean Baptist Church, First Swedish Baptist Church, Canal-street Methodist Episcopal Church, Indiana-street Methodist Episcopal Church, First Universalist Church, First Unitarian Church, Swedenborgian Church, Swedish Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church, Spiritualists, Chicago Theological Seminary, Sketches of prominent members of Chicago Bar from 1837- 1857, Early medical practitioners, Homeopathy at Hahnemann College, Isherwood & McKenzie Theater, Chicago Theater, Rice’s Theater, Sketches of early Chicago Authors, Benevolent Societies, Literary Societies, Temperance, Masonic, Odd Fellowship, Mechanic’s Institute, Young Men’s (Library) Association, Chicago Lyceum, First Chicago Bank, Chicago Board of Trade, Cholera and Small-pox Epidemics, Stephen A. Douglas, Daniel T. Cook, Wolf Point Hotel.

See also: Illinois General History

See also: Winchell, Samuel R. , Chicago Past and Present; A Manual for the Citizen, the Teacher and the Student in Illinois History Politics & Government

Chicago, Cook county IL, Fort Dearborn, biography, culture, society, religion, economy, railroads, education, military, online books

History of Illinois Cities, Counties & Regions

“The Annals of Chicago”

Fergus Historical Series No. 1-10

Chicago: Fergus 1876
Balastier, Joseph N.Go to Article

“A lecture delivered before the Chicago Lyceum, January 21, 1840”. This covers the early history of Chicago, as seen by a resident and early settler in 1840. It is preceded by an introduction written 36 years later by the same author.

Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois; Cook County edition

Chicago: Munsell 1905
Bateman, Newton, ed. Go to Vol 1|Go to Vol 2

All of Volume 1 and the first part of Volume 2 are devoted to the history of Illinois, in encyclopedic form. Cook County History, in a more traditional chronological narration, begins on page 617 of Volume 2. The remainder of Volume 2 (pages 802-1030) is devoted to biographies and portraits of Cook County men.

Illinois history, history reference, Cook county IL, biography, portraits, American history, 19th century, 1800s, free ebooks

Chicago Telephone Directory

Chicago Telephone Co. 1892
Chicago Telephone Co. Go to Book

This directory lists mostly businesses; it appears that few residences had telephones at this early date. Included are instructions on how to make calls. There are separate directories within the volume for the various exchanges that cover different areas of the city.

Chicago and the Great Conflagration

Cincinnati: Vent 1872
Colbert, Elias, and Everett Chamberlin Go to Book

“The first part is devoted to a history of Chicago, its inception and growth. Statistics of the city in 1870 show its condition prior to the fire. The latter half of the book gives an account of the conflagration of 1872, made up largely of the descriptions of eye-witnesses and from newspaper reports. The story of the relief sent to the city widens the interest of the book, although the whole has now become an incident.”
– Literature of American History; a bibliographical guide (1902)

Bygone Days in Chicago; Recollections of the “Garden City” of the Sixties

Chicago: McClurg 1910
Cook, Frederick FrancisGo to Book

An intelligent, well-written and reflective memoir-history of the era of the Civil War and after, by a career Chicago newspaperman.

Chicago history, Civil War, memoir, 19th century, 1800s, books, online book

“Directory of the City Of Chicago, Illinois for 1843”

Fergus Historical Series No. 26-29

Chicago: Fergus 1896
Fergus, Robert, comp.Go to Article

Contains lists of officials, organizations and businesses, followed by a list of all residents. The 1896 compiler corrected numerous errors in the original directory and added death information, when known, to many of the entries in the directory of residents. The last section, also added by the compiler, is an “Obituary”. It is described as “Names, places, dates, and ages at death of some of Chicago’s Old Settlers, prior to 1843, and other well-known citizens who arrived after 1843, together with others prominently connected with Illinois history”.

“Chicago in 1833: Impressions of Three Britishers”

Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society Vol. 47 No. 2 Summer 1954 pp 167-175

Springfield: the Society
Jones, DallasGo to Article

The author of this paper, a history graduate student, describes the visits and observations of three British writers who were in Chicago in 1833. Charles J. Latrobe was a wealthy English author who published a popular book about his trip, The Rambler in North America. Patrick Shirreff was a farmer from England who visited Illinois to examine farm lands. Charles Cleaver immigrated to Chicago in 1833 with his wife and nine children and became an early Chicago businessman.

Chicago history, travel accounts, history, 19th century, 1800s, free online history journal

History of Illinois Cities, Counties & Regions

Early Days of Peoria and Chicago

Chicago. 1904
McCulloch, DavidGo to Book

This address was read before the Chicago Historical Society in 1904.

Peoria IL history, Chicago, history paper, books, free online books

Reminiscences of Chicago during the Forties and Fifties

Chicago: Donnelley. 1913
McIlvaine, Mabel Go to Book

In an effort to characterize Chicago in the 1840s and 1850s, the publisher selected extracts from the published reminiscences of three Chicagoans. To throw light on the rapid economic growth Chicago experienced during this era, a chapter on the first railroads was included.

Table of Contents:
William Bross, “What I Remember of Early Chicago”
Charles Cleaver, extracts from articles in the Chicago Tribune
Joseph Jefferson, reprint from his autobiography
A. T. Andreas, “Chicago’s First Railroad Systems” [from his History of Chicago, found on this web page.]

Chicago history, memoirs, railroad history, Illinois railroads, history, 19th century, 1800s, free online library

Reminiscences of Early Chicago

Chicago: Donnelley. 1912
McIlvaine, Mabel Go to Book

This is a collection from observers of Chicago, mainly before 1840.

Table of Contents:
Hoffman, Charles Fenno, Selection from “A Winter in the West”
Martineau, Harriet, Selection from “Society in America”
Wentworth, John, Lecture before the Sunday Lecture Society
Wentworth, John, Address at the Reception to the Settlers of Chicago Prior to 1840
Caton, John Dean, Address at the Reception to the Settlers of Chicago Prior to 1840
Scammon, Jonathan Young, Address at the Reception to the Settlers of Chicago Prior to 1840

History of Illinois Cities, Counties & Regions

Chicago and the Old Northwest, 1673-1835: a study of the evolution of the northwestern frontier, together with a history of Fort Dearborn

Chicago: Univ. of Chicago. 1913
Quaife, Milo M. Go to Book

This volume by history professor Milo Quaife was intended as a readable popular history and also an up-to-date (early 20th century) scholarly explanation of the significant place of Chicago in the struggle for the Northwest.

Chapter headings:
– The Chicago Portage
– Chicago in the Seventeenth Century
– The Fox Wars: A Half-Century of Conflict
– Chicago in the Revolution
– The Fight for the Northwest
– The Founding of Fort Dearborn
– Nine years of Garrison Life
– The Indian Utopia
– The Outbreak of War
– The Battle and Defeat
– The Fate of the Survivors
– The New Fort Dearborn
– The Indian Trade
– War and the Plague
– The Vanishing of the Red Man

There are nine appendixes containing accounts of the Fort Dearborn massacre, and a 20-page annotated bibliography.

For more history of this region, see also: Illinois General History and Great Lakes General History

Northwest Territory, Midwest history, Fort Dearborn, Military life, Indian wars, public domain books

Day and Night: The Pleasure Seeker’s Guide to the Paris of America

Chicago: Thomson and Zimmerman 1892
Thomson and ZimmermanGo to Book

Includes many illustrations.

Other Areas of Illinois

A History of the City of Cairo, Illinois

Chicago: Donnelley. 1910
Lansden, John M.Go to Book

This history was written by a lawyer and long-time resident of Cairo. Unlike many local histories of that time period, this does not appear to be mainly biographical, but is a wide-ranging history of city institutions, economic development and political issues.

Cairo IL history, U.S. history, 19th century, 1800s, books, online book

SangamonLink Online Encyclopedia

Sangamon County Historical Society
Go to Website

This growing website has hundreds of entries on a wide variety of topics related to the history of Sangamon County.

Sangamon county IL, American history, history, history reference, ebooks online

Cahokia Records, 1778-1790

Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library. 1907
Alvord, Clarence W., ed.Go to Book

This is a volume in the series “Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library”. It begins with a 150-page history of Cahokia by Professor Clarence Alvord, which provides some historical background about this old French-Canadian town, and covers in detail the period of General George Rogers Clark’s rule during the Revolutionary War. This is followed by a wide variety of transcribed court records from the district of Cahokia. All records appear to be both in French and English.

For more history of this region, see also: Illinois General History and Great Lakes General History

Cahokia history, 18th century, Illinois history, books, Revolutionary War, free ebook

History of Illinois Cities, Counties & Regions

Kaskaskia Records 1778-1790

Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library 1909
Alvord, Clarence W., ed. Go to Book

Like the book Cahokia Records, 1778-1790, found on this page, this volume is from the series “Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library”. This book follows a different plan from that one, however. This has only a very brief introductory chapter, and the remainder of the book consists of chapters on fairly specific topics, telling the stories of those topics through the use of documents. All documents that were originally in French appear in the original, followed by English translations.

Kaskaskia history, 18th century, Revolutionary War, Illinois history, history, books online

The Old Kaskaskia Records: An Address Read before the Chicago Historical Society

Alvord, Clarence W. Go to Book

In this address Professor Alvord announced to the Chicago Historical Society that the long-lost 18th century records of Kaskaskia had been found. Kaskaskia was founded in 1700 by French Jesuit missionaries. There was little orderly government until the erection of Fort de Chartres in 1723. From that date French civil officials at the fort kept minutes and records, and from 1737 a French court in the village also was active. In this address Alvord describes the history of Kaskaskia, the history of its archived government records, and the story of their discovery.
To read some of the records, see Alvord’s volume on this page, Kaskaskia Records 1778-1790.

Kaskaskia history, primary sources, official records, 18th century, 1700s, Revolutionary War, books online

Galena Guide

City of Galena 1937
Federal Writers’ Project (Illinois), Works Project AdministrationGo to Book

Chapter headings are:
– General Information
– Galena, Profile of the Past
– Jo Daviess County: A Glacial Caprice
– Burial Ground
– Many Mines
– Many Miners
– Boom Border
– Lead and Grain
– The Fermenting Fifties
– A Middle-Aged Clerk in a Faded Army Coat
– Armed years
– Landmarks and Watermarks
– Strolling our Streets
– Points of Interest
– Environs
– Chronology
– Galena Bibliography
– Personal Interviews
– Views of Galena

Galena travel guide, Galena history, history of Jo Daviess county

Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois; [editions for various counties]

Chicago: Munsell
Bateman, Newton, ed. Go to Book

This search results list has links to many versions of this ‘encyclopedia’ of Illinois history, each containing at the end of the volume the history of an Illinois county, and biographies and portraits of some of the county residents.

Illinois history, history reference, county history, biography, portraits, American history, ebooks free

Travel and Description, 1765-1865

Springfield, ILL: Illinois State Historical Library. 1914
Buck, Solon Go to Book

title continued: “together with a list of county histories, atlases, and biographical collections and a list of territorial and state laws”

This is Volume 2 in the Illinois State Historical Library’s Bibliographical Series. It contains annotated bibliographies of books that are significant in Illinois history for the following subject areas:

Travel and Description, 1765-1865
-County Histories, Atlases and Biographical Collections
-Historiography of Illinois Counties
-Territorial and State Laws

Also see: Explorers and Travelers in Illinois History and Settlers’ Guides for the Great Lakes Region

Illinois history, county history, Illinois Territory laws, Illinois state laws, bibliography, books, books online

Legends and Tales of Homeland on the Kankakee

Chicago: Regan 1923
Burroughs, Burt E. Go to Book

The author was a native of Kankakee County; his parents being among the earliest pioneers. However, the author points out that this is not a conventional local history, but rather a collection of legends and tales in the Valley of the Kankakee, “touching upon many things curious, unusual and out of the ordinary”. It is also a literate and valuable account of ‘daily life’ in rural Illinois in the early 19th century.

For memoirs and biographies of life on the frontier in the Old Northwest, see:
Biographies & Memoirs in Ohio History
Biographies & Memoirs in Indiana History;
Biographies & Memoirs in Illinois History;
Biographies & Memoirs in Michigan History;
Biographies & Memoirs in Wisconsin History

history Kankakee county, personal account, frontier life, Illinois history, history, books online free

History of Illinois Cities, Counties & Regions

History of the English Settlement in Edwards County, Illinois founded in 1817 and 1818 by Morris Birkbeck and George Flower

Chicago: Fergus 1909
Flower, GeorgeGo to Book

The completed manuscript of this history of the English Settlement, written by the founders, was presented by Flowers to the Chicago Historical Society in 1860. Flowers was a wealthy Englishman who bought some 26,000 acres (40 sq. miles) in the vicinity of present-day Albion, Illinois, and brought about 200 English settlers to farm upon it. Birkbeck and Flowers went on to play important roles in preventing Illinois from becoming a pro-slavery state in 1824.

English Settlement Illinois, Morris Birkbeck, Albion IL, Illinois history, books online, history

The County Archives of the State of Illinois

Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library 1915
Pease, Theodore Calvin, ed. Go to Book

This is Volume 12 of the series Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library. It is an inventory of records found at the county courthouses of each of Illinois’ 102 counties.

county records, Illinois, courthouse records, records inventory, genealogy, books online

Fifty Years Ago, or, Gleanings Respecting the History of Northern Illinois, a few years previous to, & during the Black Hawk War

Joliet, ILL: Joliet Republic. 1883
Woodruff, George H. Go to Book

This volume was assembled from a number of articles published in a newspaper in Will County just prior to an 1882 reunion of old pioneers. The articles were mainly based on a variety of published histories, including county histories, but also included many details and stories collected from old pioneers. Most of the content is related to the Black Hawk War or smaller-scale conflicts with Indians.

For more history of this region, see also: Illinois General History and Great Lakes General History

Northern Illinois, American history, Black Hawk War, Native American history, Will county IL, public domain

History of the Illinois River Valley (3 Volumes)

Chicago: Clarke 1932
Conger, John LeonardGo to Vol 1|Go to Vol 2|Go to Vol 3

The author was a Professor of History at Knox College. Volume 1 is a general history of the valley, which makes up about one quarter of Illinois. Volumes 2 and 3 are entirely biographical, and each has an index at the end for individuals profiled in that volume. Many photos.

Illinois River Valley, Illinois history, Illinois biographies

The Rock River Valley. Its History, Traditions, Legends and Charms (3 Volumes)

Chicago: Clarke 1926
Way, Royal BrunsonGo to Vol 1|Go to Vol 2|Go to Vol 3

Covering Jefferson, Dodge, Dane and Rock Counties in Wisconsin; and Winnebago, Stephenson, Boone, Ogle, Lee, Whiteside, Henry and Rock Island Counties in Illinois. The editor was a Professor of History and Political Science at Beloit College. Volume 1 has all the history. Volumes 2 and 3 are entirely biographical, and each has an index at the end for individuals profiled in that volume. Many photos.

Illinois history, Illinois biographies

To receive links to free history articles and resources every day in your Twitter or Facebook feeds, follow:

Century Past History (Twitter)

History of the Great Lakes States (Facebook)

Your comments and feedback are welcome!