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Quality of Life | History


Ottawa has a long and storied past, earning a reputation for hard work, growth and good living. Its beginnings are closely tied to the industrial and commercial development of the region. As early as 1823, settlers, trappers and traders moved into the area, trading with the native tribes living along the Illinois River. The name "Ottawa" comes from the Indian phrase "Awdawe," meaning - to trade.


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During the 1830s, a settlement formed at the confluence of the Illinois and Fox Rivers around Fort Ottawa. The Green brothers cleared land and built a sawmill and a gristmill, grinding the first wheat by water power in northern Illinois in 1830. That year, the town of Ottawa was platted and, in 1831, with the creation of LaSalle County, was named the county seat. It consisted of Fort Johnston - the county court - and a plank trading house. With the surrender of all native lands in Illinois to the federal government, the Ottawa area was opened to settlement. The rich soil in Illinois attracted the attention of European immigrant families, who began to arrive on a regular basis.


When work on the Illinois and Michigan Canal began in 1836, it attracted hundreds of Irish immigrants. Canal operations led to the growth and economic development of Ottawa. In 1837, Ottawa officially became a village. Sixteen years later, in 1853, it was an important industrial center and received its City Charter from the State.


By the 1850s, its population had grown to between 4,000 and 6,000. It attracted the first of a series of debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. By the turn of the century, Ottawa’s population had reached more than 10,500.

Today, Ottawa, "The Friendly City," treasures its heritage, preserving its historical buildings and homes while looking to the future with confidence.




Do you have historic Ottawa photos you'd like to contribute to this page? Mail them to OAC, PO Box 888, Ottawa IL 61350. Or e-mail in JPEG format to info@ottawachamberillinois.com


Please indicate if you wish to have them returned.





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