Retreating Ice Age glaciers certainly left their mark on large areas of Illinois, giving way to a landscape of rolling hills and prairies, thus earning Illinois the nickname, "The Prairie State."
An advanced mound-building culture (called the Mississippians) flourished in this area of North America from 800 A.D., up to the mid-15th century. That civilization vanished for unknown reasons.
In the early 16th century (the Illiniwek Confederation) a political alliance of local Native American Indian tribes was formed. The name Illiniwek later gave Illinois its name. Eventually, the Pottawatomie, Miami, and Sauk Indians also inhabited the area.
In 1673 French explorers Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet began their exploration of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. Others followed, and for much-needed protection from indigenous Indians, forts were built.
The French claimed all of this new land for their home country, and it became part of a vast slice of land across North America called New France.
It remained a part of the French Empire until the Treaty of Paris of 1763 when it passed to the victorious British in the French and Indian War (1754-1763).
During the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), an estimated 2000 Native American hunters inhabited the area. In 1778, George Rogers Clark, a military officer from the Virginia Colony, led American forces into Illinois to fight the British and to claim the land.
After the war, in 1783, this entire region was ceded to the United States by the State of Virginia, and it became part of the Northwest Territory; land that would be settled, and eventually divided into individual states within the United States.
From the previously established Indiana Territory, the Illinois Territory was created on March 1, 1809, by an Act of U.S. Congress. By 1810, settlers poured into the area, many arriving via river barges that traveled down the Ohio River. Subsequently, the southern part of the state developed first.
Illinois became the 21st U.S. State in 1818 with its capital in Kaskaskia. In 1819 the capital was moved to Vandalia, and later to Springfield.
The Black Hawk War of 1832 resulted in all of the remaining native American tribes being driven west of the Mississippi River. The expansion of railroads in the 19th century facilitated the arrival of a large number of immigrant farmers from Sweden and Germany.
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