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Illinois: The 21st State in the Union

Illinois became a state in 1818.

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Illinois became the 21st state on Dec. 3, 1818. The first Europeans to visit the area were French explorers Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette in 1673. At first, they lived in peace with the tribes, wanting only to work with them on trapping and trading. However, as more people moved into the area, they began fighting over the land. The tribes were forced to move further west. The British gained control over the territory after winning the French and Indian War in 1763. Just twenty years later, after the Revolutionary War, the land became part of the United States.

The Great Chicago Fire

A great unsolved mystery is what or who exactly started the fire that destroyed Chicago in 1871. Some say it was a cow, others a person, and some even suggest a meteorite is responsible.

Legend has it that on the night of Oct. 8, in a barn located on the property of Patrick and Catherine O’Leary, the fire started after a cow knocked over a lantern. The fire burned continuously, spreading through the town until a much-needed rain helped firefighting efforts two days later on Oct. 10. The fire destroyed much, taking an estimated 300 human lives and leaving 100,000 others homeless. More than 17,000 structures were destroyed, and damages were estimated to be approximately $200 million.

One month after the fire, Joseph Medill was elected mayor. It is suggested he might have won after promising stricter building and fire codes. Another factor might be that most of the city’s voting records were destroyed in the fire, so there was really no way to tell if people were voting multiple times.

In any case, no one may ever know the true cause of the devastating fire. Catherine O’Leary vehemently denied the allegation that their cow kicked over a lantern. Chicago, however, quickly started booming with all of the efforts to rebuild.

Kelli Ballard

National Correspondent at and Kelli Ballard is an author, editor, and publisher. Her writing interests span many genres including a former crime/government reporter, fiction novelist, and playwright. Originally a Central California girl, Kelli now resides in the Seattle area.

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