Pioneers in Illinois Tell Their Stories


We have a number of books authored by people who were settlers or visitors in Illinois in the early 1800s, and who wrote about their experiences there. The list below doesn’t include all such books on History of the Great Lakes States, but it’s a good start.


Click on the page name to open it in a new tab, and you’ll find the recommended works there, with descriptions and links. They are listed alphabetically, by author.
For tips on reading online and downloading, see the note at the bottom of this page.


Illinois Biographies and Memoirs page

Burlend, Rebecca, A True Picture of Emigration, or, Fourteen Years in the Interior of North America (1848)

Quaife, Milo M. (editor), The Life of Black Hawk (1916)

Reynolds, John, My Own Times, embracing also the History of my Life (1855)

Tillson, Christiana H., A Woman’s Story of Pioneer Illinois (1919)


Illinois Explorers & Travelers page

Birkbeck, Morris, Letters from Illinois (1818)

Faux, William, Memorable Days in America (1823)

Woods, John, Two Years’ Residence in the Settlement on the English Prairie, in the Illinois Country (1822)


Illinois Social History page

Perryman, F. M., Pioneer Life in Illinois (1907)


Illinois War and Military page

Clark, George Rogers (Colonel), The Conquest of the Illinois (1920)

Kinzie, Juliette A., Narrative of the Massacre at Chicago August 15, 1812 (1844)



Tips for Reading Online and Downloading

More than half the books on our website at History of the Great Lakes States are hosted by Internet Archive or Open Library. They are sister organizations and use the same online viewer application. In most cases this viewer will give you nearly perfect text if you;

1. switch from the double-page to the single-page view by using the icons in the bottom right corner, and;

2. Keep zooming in until the text snaps into a clear focus.

Using the single-page view allows you to scroll pages down with your mouse wheel.

You can download books from these two sites by clicking on the book name at the top-left corner of the page (in the viewer) to get to the download menu.