History of Joliet, Illinois

If you’re looking for a place that has been at the forefront of some of the most important incidents in history, Joliet in Illinois is a good place to start with.


Early Settlement

The earliest recorded history of Joliet, Illinois, is a camp that is believed to have been set up by Lois Jolliet and a churchman, Father Jacques Marquette in 1673.

This site is believed to have been located in the present day Will County, 35 miles southwest of Chicago, upstream of the famous Des Plaines River.

The site was later mined upon by early settlers and named Mound Jolliet, after Lois Jolliet, one of the early settlers.

Years later, in 1833, after the Black Hawk War, a cabin was built on the west side of the river, a site previously believed to have been occupied by the Lois Jolliet. Charles Reed led the building of this minor settlement. The following year in 1834, the commissioner of the then canal commissioners, James B Campbell, founded the village by extensive planning and paving of the plains. He also modified the name to Juliet, which happened to be the name of one of his daughters.

The village was initially included in the Cook County, but later elected to be the county seat of the newly formed Will County. It was hence no longer a part of the Cook County. In 1845,  local community people moved to have the name changed from “Juliet” to “Joliet”, after the first people to set up camp in this spot.



In 1852, it was made a city again, the previous incident being before the depression of 1837.

As the city developed, the transportation system expanded extensively. As a result, Joilet now extended till the Des Plaines River.

With time, you also had new places like the Illinois and Michigan Canal, and the Rock Island Railroad- both developed around the 1850’s – which stated how important Joilet, Illinois had come to be known as a business center.

The city today consists of several railroads built as offshoots of the above mentioned railway, the Rock Island Railroad.

The city was dubbed the “City of Stone”, due to the presence of huge amounts of limestone rock in the area. The speciality of this limestone was the characteristic bluish white tinge it carried. The quarrying and shipping of stone to the neighbouring areas was done through the Illinois & Michigan Canal.

The building of the Joliet Penitentiary in 1858 further raised the demands for stone. The demand was spurred by the rebuilding of several parts of Chicago – after the infamous Chicago Fire happened in 1871.

By 1890, the Joliet quarries were doing so well that they were sending over three thousand railway cars of stone a month to the state capital.

The building of the Joliet mill earned the city another nickname as the “City of Steel” in 1869. This mill began attracting several traders and pioneers who chose Joliet as the town to set up new industries.

The extensive waterways system of Joliet attracted the Irish immigrants, while the newly built steel mill attracted Europeans, chiefly from southeastern Europe. The large droves of people moving into the city led to an abundance of cheap labour, which further contributed to the growth and development of the city. Coupled with the steel mill, Joliet became a prime spot for the development of many other industries.


Joliet Today

The city also built the earliest public community college in America, the Joliet Junior College. The Joliet Junior College, the oldest public community college you would find in the country, is also located here. The local economy entered a lag phase in the 1970s, which did not last long as the economy bounced back by the 1990s.

The city soon gained fame for its NASCAR tracks and the casinos located on its rivers, and the city today proudly stands as a developed urban community. The city attracts many affluent people and tourists today.