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The famous Route 66, one of the first highways in the U.S., passed through Illinois. The highway, which stretched from Chicago to Santa Monica, California, was a popular route for tourists and truckers and played an important role in American culture and history.
Kankakee County, located in northeastern Illinois, has a rich history dating back thousands of years. Before European settlement, the area was inhabited by Native American tribes, including the Potawatomi and Miami tribes. These tribes primarily lived off the land, utilizing the Kankakee River Valley for farming, hunting, and fishing.

The first European settlers arrived in the early 19th century, establishing small farming communities in what is now Kankakee County. In 1834, the county was officially established, named after the Kankakee River that flows through the area. The introduction of the Illinois Central Railroad in the 1850s played a pivotal role in the county's development, facilitating trade and attracting more settlers to the region.

Kankakee County experienced significant growth and industrialization in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The arrival of the Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad in 1871 further boosted the economy, expanding transportation and enabling the establishment of various industries. Factories, including those in the apparel, steel, and machinery sectors, flourished, providing employment opportunities for residents.

The 20th century brought both challenges and growth for Kankakee County. The Great Depression of the 1930s impacted the local economy, leading to closures and job losses. However, World War II sparked a period of economic recovery and expansion, as defense industries thrived. The county experienced suburbanization in the latter half of the century, with more people moving from Chicago to the surrounding areas. Today, Kankakee County continues to evolve, maintaining its agricultural roots while also embracing diverse industries such as healthcare, transportation, and technology.

This timeline provides a condensed summary of the historical journey of Kankakee County, Illinois.

  • 1825: Kankakee County is established.
  • 1830: First settlers arrive in the county.
  • 1851: Kankakee County's first courthouse is completed.
  • 1853: The Town of Momence is incorporated.
  • 1865: Kankakee County's first railroad, the Kankakee and Indiana Railroad, is completed.
  • 1893: Coal mining becomes a major industry in the county.
  • 1917: Kankakee State Hospital (now known as Shapiro Developmental Center) is opened.
  • 1939: Kankakee River State Park is established.
  • 1968: Kankakee Community College is founded.
  • 1975: Kankakee County Farm Bureau Agricultural Museum opens its doors.
  • 1998: The Kankakee River floods, causing significant damage in the county.
  • 2003: Exploration Station, a children's science center, is opened in Bourbonnais.