History of Bloomington and Normal, in McLean county, Illinois

The history of Bloomington and Normal, herewith given, was written for the History of McLean county, Illinois, published by LeBaron & Co., of Chicago, and appears in the body of that work. Owing to the general design and arrangement of that publication, its cost placed it out of the reach of many who wish to obtain the history of Bloomington and Normal, and, at the request of friends, I have thought best to publish a small edition which can be sold at a price that will place it in the hands of all who may desire a copy.

In this connection, I wish to remark that the preparation of this little work was, to the historian, almost a labor of love. As he progressed in the work, his interest in everything pertaining to the towns increased until he could scarcely lay aside the pen. He was aware of the great responsibility resting upon the writer of the first historical sketch, but has attempted conscientiously and fairly to arrange and present an impartial, authentic account of the events of our half century of history. The imperfections of the present work are, perhaps, more evident to its author than they possibly can be to the general reader, and such as exist, he hopes will be regarded with all proper indulgence.

Great care was taken in verifying all statements particularly those relating to the earliest events. The writer visited Pekin and Vandalia, and carefully examined all records, being, perhaps, the only person who has ever taken such pains to ascertain the facts of our early history. Only those who have been actually engaged in an enterprise of this kind, can properly estimate the difficulties and perplexities that must be encountered, and it is asking too much to expect the general public will be satisfied with what has been accomplished. Still, such as it is, we hereby present the little work, hoping our earnest efforts will be appreciated, and that our contribution to history will prove acceptable.

 

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The territory now included in the township of Bloomington is a part of our common county, and as such entitled to its share in the interest attaching to the general history of our State and nation; but when we take it upon ourselves to learn the history of the six miles square called Bloomington, we find it almost impossible to divest general history from the local interest of the tract of land under consideration. It would be pleasant to go back to the time when all the country, north of the Ohio, was a French possession; to glance at its first American baptism, in the year 1778, when Gen. Clarke with his Virginians captured the whole region from the British, who had taken it all from the French in 1763 ; to learn something of its early history as a portion of Virginia after Gen. Clarke returned from his expedition, at which time the whole tract was a dependency of Virginia, called Illinois County; to look at the same country years later, when it was called the Northwest Territory, and to follow its fortunes as the Territory of Indiana, then as the Territory of Illinois from 1809 down to 1818, when the State of Illinois entered upon its independent career. In all these varying changes, the little spot of land we are now examining had a territorial share, but was peopled only by wild and savage Indians, who may have been intelligent enough to know the French from the English, but who were not citizens of whatever power for the time being was in possession of the land. It was not till 1822 that the territory now known as McLean County possessed a single white inhabitant; and when, in that year, the families of John Hendrix and John W. Dawson made a selection of sites for homes, they were the first permanent settlers in the county, and were also the first in Bloomington Township, of which we now propose'to give an historical sketch. We have a right to suppose that long previous to the date we have mentioned important events transpired here, in which white people took important parts. It was here in this very region that Gen. Hopkins' army was embarrassed in 1813, in his fruitless expedition from the Wabash toward the fort which was then standing at Peoria. It is probable that many a party of French and friendly Indians have camped in our old woods when on their way from Lake Michigan to Cahokia and Kaskaskia. Possibly the early Indian traders and hunters may have built trading-stations and occupied them for long periods, at points where our first settlers found partial clearings in the original forests. But perhaps it is not best to indulge ourselves in much speculation or supposition on these topics, as we shall find our path obscure enough, following as we go the best authenticated records that are now available.