Located in the Northeastern part of the Illinois State, Will County forms one of the five collar counties of the greater Chicago-Naperville-Elgin. The 2010 census report indicates that the County had a total population of 677,560, recording an increase of 34.9 percent from the census of the year 2000. The County was originally a part of Cook County; however, following the legislation of January 12, 1836, it was separated to become Will County. By that time, it comprised of the present Kankakee county, which was set apart by 1845. The County owes its name to Doctor Will, who was a businessman, a producer of salt in the southern part of the County, and a politician. Until his death in 1835, Will was a member of the Illinois Legislature. This review will focus on the socio-economic state of Will County and its role in United States history before the year 1865.
There exist sufficient traces of the existence of humans in the North American region during the Glacial Epoch, that is, from 100,000 years ago (August). Though a lot of movement might have happened between the following decades, little is known about the activity or the early inhabitants. The only apparent activity was the migration of these tribes to new homes in search of greener pastures, and also to avoid the population pressure. Warriors protected their women and children. Any time a war ensued, children and women would be captured and held for so long leading to them acquiring the culture of the conquerors. Many decades later, the Red Man descended from Asia and, for more than 20,000 years, remained isolated from the former land, making them experience some evolutional changes, mentally, socially, and also the philosophy of life, i.e., religion. The red Indian tribes differed from the Eskimos, and with time, the Eskimos were blended into the Indian culture and traditions (August). All this has to do with the history of Will County since it is part of the larger unit called the Illinois Basin, which is a pivotal part of America.
The Indian history is known because they were generally Stoic. The contact with the white settlers made them more communicative; however, their culture, religion, and philosophy of life were not easy to understand because they would conceal more than they would reveal. The traditions were passed from generation to generation by word of mouth and art. Due to their migratory nature, their government structures were unstable as well as their dwelling places. One tribe absorbed the other, making it even harder to understand their nature of life.
The history of the County is concerned with three dominant groups, including the Algonquins which was made-up of numerous subtribes, among them being the Pottawattamie, the Foxes, the Sacs, Mascoutens, and Illinois (Wiss). The second group was the Iroquois, or Five Nations of New York and included the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas. These subtribes came in a war expedition against the tribes of Algonquins. This group rarely traveled to trade and were not permanent in the areas they invaded (August). However, they left their imprints in the local languages, and intermarriages. Their impact was not big to influence any significant changes. The third group was the Dacotahs of the Northwest, known as the Sioux family, who traveled this route in war parties or expeditions for trade. These were nomads, who were in constant wars and had no permanent residence.
Will county had rich soils, greenery environment, rich in forests, streams, rivers, and the grasslands made wild animals like buffaloes who would roam freely across and within. Due to the abundance of food and skins for the creation of shelters, this place attracted many inhabitants, who would eventually absorb or be blended into the ways of the local culture.
The locals were skilled hunters and hunted for clothing, housing, and food. They often migration to allow for the reproduction and repopulation of the hunted animals. Additionally, these tribes were involved in fishing, through the use of spears, and crude nets, which applied the use of twigs and brushes fashioned across the streams to catch the fish (Wiss). They were very skilled in the art of fishing. Gradual development led to civilization, which blends agriculture, with maize bring the main crop. The fertility of the soil was maintained by using fish or even the annual rotational of the cultivation areas. The Indians practiced barter trade, with weapons such as arrows being offered in exchange for other pleasantries. The tribes were known to accept new things easily. They were skilled in arrow making, which could be exchanged with food and luxuries such as clothing, meaning they were great manufacturers. Wampum was the legal tender before the white settlers, as it had value, derived from the difficulties in making them. Pottery is also evident and was mainly used for cooking, storing water and food, and decoration (August).
The Indians lived in huts, and the availability of construction materials determined the size of the house. The roof of these huts was made of timber frames, layer of willow bough on top, and a layer of smoothened earth being covered by wet clay, which was relatively impermeable of water (August). Some tribes dug a hole of about eight to ten feet, and covered it on top with poles, and a thick layer of dirt at an angle to drain the water. Steps or ladder was the means of entry or exit. Ten to 12 would occupy this hole (August). The families, especially those of the Sacs, lived together, meaning the grandparents, wives, husbands, children, and the grandchildren would live together in longhouses called ho-deno-so-tes, ranging from 30 to 100 feet in length and 16 to 40 feet in width (August). These housing units would be occupied by close to 16 families, translating to an entire generation. In case of any travel, a family unit, including the men, women, and children would walk together, taking with them household outfits, and wigwams fastened to the backs of their ponies.
The religion of the Indians was well established as it had passed in the monotheism of a considerable spiritual life. They worshiped through symbols. Because of the world of terror, they occupied, the Indians always imagined themselves by these manitous, and their lives were all about appeasing these spirits if good and evil. Often, they would bribe or compel the manitous so they may receive aid or favor in return (August). This means that if an Indian trap caught an animal, without them having to use arrows and spears, the Indians would make an offering to the manitous. Every of their undertaking was believed to be under the guidance of a special power/protector, who communicated via dreams, omens, and any disregard to these would lead to disastrous consequences.
The first way of interaction was religion. The early missionaries attributed their success in converting the inhabitants to the fact that they were already spiritual beings lacking only the formality of it (August). This manitou was identified as a great spirit. In one of his publication in 1665, Father Allouez wrote,
"I have learned that the Ilinoulk, the Outagamie (Foxes) and other savages toward the south hold that there is a great and excellent genius, master of all the rest, who made Heaven and Earth; and who dwells, they say, in the East toward the country of the French." (August 118)
Using this bait, Christianity spiritualized everything, including the crude creation myth of the Algonquins saying, this is "great and excellent genius," (August 118). Allouez used his trickery, magic, and his power of deception to accomplish his purpose of convincing the inhabitant of the great power which was associated with the sun, and who created the earth and covered it. He was thus classified as a culture hero.
The first European settlers traveled through Will County beginning the year 1673 (Belden). These early travelers by the name Louis Jolliet, Father Jacques Marquette, and Robert Cavalier de La Salle identified the value of the region in trade and transportation (Belden). According to Jolliet, a canal passing through half of the league of the grasslands beginning at the beach of Lake Michigan to the Des Plains River could assist in building a business as well as a commercial empire of France.
Upon realizing the potential of the area, the French fur businessmen began to take advantage of the availability of animals, and in time a lucrative industry of fur-trading was established within the region. By the year 1820, the fur business declined as the population increased (Belden). By 1826, Jesse walker established the first settlement by the name Walkers Groove near the current town of the Plainfield, and within the decade, the settlers petitioned for the separation from the Cook County, which was transformed to Will County (Belden).
Before the 1850s, numerous developments had already been witnessed, which helped shape the Will County (Belden). First, the Des Plaines River formed the first waterway/highway used for travel and a source of power, giving rise to the mills, and manufacturing within the area. Having originated from thousands of years ago, the limestone rock bed provided the bedrock to help build the 19th century City (O'Kelly). Therefore, the development in the County can be attributed to the development of transport, especially the opening of the canal, in 1848, to the building of the Illinois Central and Rock island railroad. In the 1850s, Lockport and Joliet became important hubs between the rural towns of Will, the Grundy counties and Chicago. Agriculture success can be ascribed to the development of the waterway and the railroads (Belden).
The majority of the early European travelers were French and had a deep conviction to Christianity. Most of them ended up being businessmen trading in the popular fur business. Their country of origin had the leadership style of monarchy, and that influenced their politics. However, the French and the Spanish were not permanent settlers of the County.
The American Revolution of 1765 to 1783 Unleashed a strong socio-economic and political forces which later changed the post-revolution society, some of the changes being improved contribution in politics and leadership, the institutionalization of legal procedures and religious acceptance, development and diffusion of the diverse population (Fairbanks). Slavery was a lucrative business as it sprouted more millionaire per capita in the more significant Mississippi and across the United States.
Early immigration introduced formalized religion, industrialization, trade, and also improved transportation. Preceding immigration has brought forth an economic edge because of the introduction of diversity, innovativeness, and entrepreneurship to the local economy (O'Kelly). While agriculture and the slave-based southern economy suffered a blow during the civil war, the Northern economy benefited greatly from the developments in a majority of its industries, including the fur, textile, and iron industry. The civil war also led to a stimulated growth in the railroad, thus improving the infrastructure in the north.
Northern America has one of the most exciting and rich undocumented histories. The area is thought to have witnessed the first settlements tens of thousands of years ago based on the geological and archaeological evidence within the region. Similar to many other ancient settlements, very few details were recorded, due to lack of mediums. As such only stone carving and the archaeological evidence of the bone structure could be used to determine the first or the early settlements. As time progressed, North America witnessed the first immigration of the Red Men who were subdivided in various gr...
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