History Of Waukegan, Illinois

Waukegan, Illinois is home to the State Career college, bit that’s not the only thing that makes the place worth remembering. Here is a look at the history of Waukegan, Illinois.

Early Settlement

The early history of Waukegan is unclear, but it is noted to have been first visited by Pere Marquette in 1673. The earliest recorded settlement is a small log cabin built at the junction of a small river situated at the south western shore of Lake Michigan.

It is believed that it was a trading post built to mark the site of cargo ferrying from the great lake to the river.

This spot marked the settlement of Thomas Jenkins and several pioneers from New England, who saw the area as a potential spot for further growth and development.

The area was formally transferred to the federal government in 1833, and named the county seat of the Lake County in 1841.

The settlement had been called “Waukegance” by the Potawatomie Indians, meaning “Little Fort”. The name slowly changed to Waukegan, which was later adopted in 1849.

Development and Industrialization:

Due to the naming of Waukegan as the county seat, it experienced a commercial and industrial boost in the 1840s, and the development of the railways in 1855 brought with it a population boost. The city officially took its name as the City of Waukegan in 1859.

Another population boost was seen during the 1890s, which is believed to be due to the setting up of Ashburn & Moen barbed wire manufacturers.

As with the greater part of the Midwest, the immigrant population largely consisted of people from the Scandinavian countries, namely Sweden, Finland and Norway. A large influx was also seen from South eastern Europe, Lithuania and Armenia.

The migrant groups established themselves in set geographical communities with separate churches, Waukegan schools, and community centers. This enabled them to blend in with the other ethnicities while keeping their native land close to their heart.

Race Riots:

The early 1900s saw the migration of large groups of African-Americans from the south. The town, like many others, saw its share of racial discord between communities, especially during the June of 1920, when there was widespread discord. The rioting began at the Sherman House, and largely involved the white sailors from the Great Lakes Naval Base.

The town was also no stranger to labor protests, and a strike in 1919 at the US Steel and Wire Company reached such proportions that the state military was required to intervene.

Johnny Torrio, the Italian American founder of the organized crime group, Chicago Outfit, was arrested and kept prisoner at the Lake County Jail in Waukegan in 1925. He is said to have had bulletproof covers installed in his cell for personal safety due to his fear of an  assassination attempt.

Waukegan Today:

Due to the city’s proximity to the state capital of Chicago, the city has retained an industrial core. The constant need for products of various types kept the industries of the city going and provided a wide array of jobs for the locals to choose from. Our attorneys now provide services throughout the Waukegan area.

A gradual disappearance of manufacturing was later seen, which led to the unequal distribution of wealth amongst the masses. This played a major role in the Waukegan Riot of 1966.

The end of the twentieth century saw the manufacturing activities of the town come to an end, and witnessed the closing of three of the four major industries. An immigration wave of Latinos from the South was seen around this time as well.

Despite the cessation of industrial activities, it remains a well developed urban town with a rich heritage. It has strongly rooted values and an overall sense of community which make the city what it is today.

You have a vibrant community today that you can call home today – just like the 95,000 other residents of Waukegan does!