Kankakee Illinois History

The historic Kankakee River Valley is widely known for the tranquil beauty and the splendor of the winding Kankakee River. This river runs fifty-seven miles by Kankakee Illinois hospital, passing through many communities both large and small on its way. Kankakee River is a precious clean-water resource, offering excellent fishing and water sports, as well as a lovely State Park which is available for everyone to enjoy. The river abounds with channel catfish, small-mouth bass, northern pike, and walleye. The park has a dozen boat launches, eighteen riverfront parks, and eight campgrounds to choose from.

The beautiful land of Kankakee River Valley, as well as its plentiful natural resources, are the result of minerals and debris left behind by three enormous glaciers which descended from Canada many thousands of years ago. The original inhabitants of what is now called the Kankakee River area were Potawatomi Indians, who called it Theatiki. Evolution of this term led to “Kankakee”. Theatiki means wolf; or swampy place; or wonderful land. The source of the Kankakee River is the marshland of northwestern Indiana. The river enters the county midway of its eastern border; then flows irregularly in a southwest direction to near Aroma, midway between the boundaries to the east and west; and four miles above the southern line. Here it is boosted by the Iroquois River – a muddy stream which also rises in the Indiana marshes. To the Potawatomi Indians the Kankakee County area was the perfect place – a rolling landscape of beautiful river bordered thickly with groves of hickory, oak, maple, black walnut, and cedar. In places the land sloped gently down to the edge of the water; in other places the land rose in sheer bluffs of limestone high above the river. Abundant wildlife inhabited this area. There was no more varied nor beautiful a scenery to be found anywhere in the Middle West.

Settlers to the area began to come in the 1830’s after the national government signed the Treaty of Camp Tippecanoe, and inexpensive land became available. A large portion of land in Kankakee County was originally swamp land, much of which was drained and put under cultivation by the sweat of pioneers’ brows. While it was still swamp, it was the lair of horse thieves, counterfeiters, and general criminals on the run. When the swamps were drained, organized communities became possible. Kankakee County was created by the Illinois state legislature on February 11, 1853 out of the northern part of Iroquois County, and the southern part of Will County. The original six townships were: Aroma, Bourbonnais healthcare, Limestone, Momence, Rockville, and Yellowhead. At that time the county population was eight thousand. In 1855 two western townships, Essex and Norton, were annexed from Vermilion County by Kankakee County.

In the mid-nineteenth century, industrialist David Bradley established the Bradley Plow Works, which was later known as the Bradley Factory, to manufacture farm tools and implements. He was also author of the well-known Bradley Plan. Bradley was also an early patron of architect Frank Lloyd Wright in the early 1900’s. North Kankakee was renamed Bradley and incorporated in 1891.

The City of Kankakee itself grew beneath the shadow of nearby Bourbonnais Illinois healthcare, which was a French settlement. Nonetheless, Kankakee became the Kankakee County seat of government. It also, in 1855, became a depot on the Illinois Central Railroad.

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