Historical Markers in
DeKalb County, Illinois

Illinois was part of the French colonial empire, and the city of Cahokia, located near present-day Collinsville, was one of the largest pre-Columbian cities in North America. At its peak, around 1250 CE, Cahokia had a population of around 20,000 people.

DeKalb County, located in northern Illinois, has a rich and diverse history that spans several centuries. The area was initially inhabited by Native American tribes, including the Pottawatomie and the Miami, who thrived here long before European settlers arrived. In the early 19th century, the region was opened up for settlement, mainly attracting pioneers of English, German, and Scandinavian descent.

The county was officially established in 1837 and named after Johann de Kalb, a German-born hero of the American Revolutionary War. Agriculture played a vital role in DeKalb County's early years, with settlers primarily engaged in farming and the cultivation of crops like corn and wheat. The establishment of the railroad in the mid-19th century further accelerated the county's growth, connecting it to major cities like Chicago and providing a vital transportation link for goods and people.

One of the most significant events in DeKalb County's history occurred in the late 19th century when Joseph Glidden, a local farmer, invented barbed wire. This invention revolutionized the livestock industry, leading to an increase in fencing and land enclosure, and transforming DeKalb County into one of the leading agricultural regions in the nation.

In the 20th century, DeKalb County experienced a shift towards industry and education. In 1899, Northern Illinois University was established in the city of DeKalb, bringing a wave of students and faculty to the area. The county also faced challenges during this time, including the Great Depression and several recessions, but continued to adapt and diversify its economy.

Today, DeKalb County remains a vibrant and growing community, known for its agricultural heritage, educational institutions, and manufacturing industries. It is home to a diverse population and offers a range of recreational activities, historical sites, and cultural events that showcase its rich history and promising future.

  • 1837 - DeKalb County is established as a county in the state of Illinois.
  • 1839 - The first permanent settlement, known as "Bushnell's Grove," is established in DeKalb County.
  • 1852 - The town of DeKalb is incorporated.
  • 1853 - The first railroad, the Chicago & Northwestern Railway, is completed in DeKalb County.
  • 1871 - Northern Illinois University is founded in DeKalb.
  • 1885 - The first electric streetcar system is introduced in DeKalb County.
  • 1895 - The DeKalb AgResearch Center, later known as the Northern Illinois Agronomy Research Center, is established.
  • 1918 - The Great War Veterans Association, later known as the American Legion, is formed in DeKalb County.
  • 1938 - The Chicago Burlington & Quincy Railroad introduces streamlined passenger service in DeKalb County.
  • 1965 - The Interstate 88, also known as the Reagan Memorial Tollway, is completed in DeKalb County.
  • 1984 - DeKalb Genetics Corporation, a major biotechnology company, is founded in DeKalb.
  • 1996 - The DeKalb County Courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.