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Post-settlement history


Here are works about people and events from the history of Illinois published in virtually every publication I ever wrote for—history-related magazine features, opinion pieces, book reviews, a government report or two, pamphlets, excerpts from works in progress, and a never-used book preface that explains how I came to be interested in Illinois history. The pieces take in everything from the Woodland period until the 1960s or so, and their topics include frontier Illinois, architectural antiques, ecosystem change, culture high and low, social antagonisms—pretty much everything. 

Please note that articles about Abraham Lincoln appear on the Lincoln page. Click here for more information and excerpts from my book-length history of mid-Illinois, Corn Kings and One-Horse Thieves. For articles about historic preservation, see Architecture. For pieces about Springfield history, click here.


I was surprised, reviewing 40 years of work, to realize how much of it is about Illinois history, broadly defined. I knew the archive was crammed with stuff about Lincoln—every Springfield writer must take up Lincoln as a subject—and I always tried to find markets for reviews of Illinois history books that I was reading for other projects.  What struck me was how many of my non-history pieces—on government operations, child welfare, on the likely return of cougars to Illinois—have an historical dimension.


Over and over in Illinois, the history of each human occupation of a region has been mostly obliterated by its successor, leaving the stories of their regional forbears a mystery. The Euro-Americans knew no more about the Kickapoo than they knew about the ancient tribes of Israel—indeed, some thought Illinois’s ancient Indians had been one of those tribes—but Native American peoples had lost track of the region’s pre-white history too. Curators of the Under the Prairie Museum in Elkhart reminded visitors that a stone ax on display, which was found on the nearby Pine Ridge Farm, “would have seemed as strange to a Kickapoo Indian in 1800 as it does to us today.” Most of the works linked here were merely attempts to explain that strangeness, to satisfy my own curiosity about how things became the way they are, which I assumed other people share.


Historic preservationists use a 50-year rule to demark which buildings and other sites can be officially considered “historic.” In a very few years my own work will be old enough to qualify as historical. Indeed one of my hopes for this archives (stated on the Home page) is to make that work available to historians seeking raw material for new accounts of modern Illinois.

For articles about Chicago history, see here.

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The Man with the Plan

A reconsideration of Burnham and his plan

Reader  June 18, 1993

The Sangamon Valley Collection

History finds a home at Springfield’s public library

Illinois Times  February 11, 1977

How I Became an Historian

Unpublished essay  2016

Some Books About Illinois Towns

Good biographies of Illinois towns abound

See Illinois (unpublished)  2008

Chicago Resurrection

The city's late 20th century rebirth, explained

Illinois Issues November 1995

The Clout of the Irish

Review of The Irish in Chicago

Reader April 3, 1987

Currents of History

Illinois River books by Gray and Masters

Reader April 13, 1990

Uncertain Waters

The rivers of southern Illinois

See Illinois (unpublished)  2002

How the Lakefront Was Won

Why private enterprise fought for public access 

Reader November 8, 1991

A Forward Thinker from Yesteryear

An appreciation of Gov. Thomas Ford

Illinois Issues February 2010

An Overdue Policy on the Library

Is independence feasible for the state’s historical library?

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  February 26, 2015

Drawing the Line
Springfield as a border town on the North-South divide
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times  March 11, 2010

What to Do With Troubled Kids

Illinois's troubled past with dependent children

Illinois Issues  March 1995

The Melting Pot Boils Again

Illinois’ difficult history with the Other

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times November 25, 2015

Forgotten Canon

Illinois literature re-examined

Illinois Issues  March 2004

The Man with the Plan

Burnham explained, again

Illinois Issues  June 2009

On the Essence of Illinois-ness

An introduction to a book

See Illinois (unpublished)  June 2003

Lorado Taft: Chicago's Public Sculptor

How Taft carved a future for himself

Illinois Issues  January 1989

Waves of Change

Illinois's unnatural natural systems

Illinois Department of Natural Resources  1994

Springfield race riots of 1908

Remember to Not Forget

The Springfield riots and community memory

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  October 29, 2009

Summer of Rage

The Springfield Race Riot of 1980

Sangamon County Historical Society  1973


Unforgetting the Springfield race riots of 1908

"Prejudices,"  Illinois Times  August 14, 1980

A Sorry Tale, Well Told

The best account of the 1908 riots reviewed

Illinois Times  September 27, 1990

Not Guilty!

Springfield’s 1908 race rioters beat the rap

Illinois Times  August 11, 1978


What riot? Springfield still won’t talk about race

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  September 20, 1990

Shoulder to the Wheel

History of the Springfield Chamber of Commerce

Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce  1976

Chicago's Women Take Charge of Change

Another female new dawn is breaking in Illinois

Chicago Enterprise  May 1992

Institutional Amnesia

How government forgets what works and what doesn’t

Illinois Issues  November 2006

Searsmen Marching to a Different Drummer

A history of Sears, Roebuck as big as a catalog

Across the Board  December 1987

Nature's Metropolis

An econo-environmental history of Chicago

Illinois Times December 11, 1991

Touring Springfield As It Was 150 Years Ago

The Town Branch of Spring Creek, rediscovered

Illinois Times  December 24, 1976

Native peoples

Stone Magic 

A trek across a cornfield and hundreds of years  "Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times November 13, 2014  

Oh, For a Prairie Thucydides   

People shaped Illinois, and vice versa

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times  May 18, 2017           

In the Place of the Dead

Young author, old graves at Dickson Mounds

Focus  March 11, 1971

Dealing with the Dead

Learning respect at Dickson Mounds

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  1999

Guilty Consciences
The fantasy of the innocent Native American Eden

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  May 19, 1994

Because We're Curious

Illinois history did not begin with the whites

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  October 5, 1983

Old Bones

Sacrilege and science at Dickson Mounds

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  May 23, 1990

Dance a While in His Moccasins

Chief Illinwekmascot, symbol, or insult? 

See Illinois  (unpublished)  2005

Times Square, A.D. 1100

The Indian metropolis at Cahokia

See Illinois (unpublished)  2007

The Sauk in Illinois

The whites' war on Indian country

See Illinois  (unpublished)  2004

Shadow of a Cloud

Chief Black Hawk in life and legend

See Illinois (unpublished) 2004

The Message from the Graves

What do the Oneota teach us about ourselves?

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times  July 19, 2012

The Spirit of All Indians

Seeking the eternal Indian in northern Illinois

See Illinois  (unpublished)  2002

The French Bottom

Civilization came (and went) early in Illinois

See Illinois (unpublished)  2006

Arcadia at the End of the El Lines

Chicagoland’s parks and green spaces

See Illinois (unpublished)  2008

Midnight at Noon

A history of coal mining in Sangamon County

Sangamon County Historical Society  1975

Politics of Necessity
Mayor Richard J. Daley reconsidered

Reader  January 16, 1998

13 Mayors of Chicago
What a show. What a cast.

Reader  July 17, 1987

Energy for Illinois

A big-picture summary

Illinois Issues  August 1980

An 1843 Guidebook to Illinois

A frontier-era Baedeker

Illinois Times  November 17, 1978

Tales of Adlai

Books about Illinois’s nearly President

Illinois Times  April 8, 1976

Advice for the Old Country

Pioneers travel to Illinois’s new Switzerland

Illinois Times  December 11, 1986

A Graceful History of Illinois

The new Illinois that emerged from the Civil War

Illinois Times  December 23, 1977

A New Picture of Illinois’s Past

A new and controversial history of Illinois

Illinois Times  August 18, 1978

Get Right or Get Out

Fearful Illinoisans confront the Other

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times August 18, 2016

How the Illinois Was Settled

In a word, “steamboats”

Illinois Times  November 18, 1977

The War Against Trees

Humans and nature conspire to make Illinois treeless

See Illinois (unpublished) 2005

The Sangamon

The life and times of Lincoln's river

Illinois Times  June 4 and June 11, 1976

Adam’s Off Ox

Can governors change history?

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times October 16, 2014

Ghosts of the Sangamon Bomb Factories

. . . where worked 12,000 WWII shell-stuffers

Illinois Times  November 26, 1976

Some Books About Illinois the Place

Guidebooks, geographies, gazeteers, and reference books

See Illinois (unpublished)  2016

Vachel’s House

A house, a poet, a parody in 1,000 words

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  March 22, 1990

Jigsaw Puzzle

A plea for public history, not just Lincoln history

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  February 29, 1980

How Chicago Became the Gateway to the West

A review of Cronon’s Nature's Metropolis

Chicago Enterprise  October 1991

Life in the Big House    
Few governors seem at home at the Executive Mansion
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  September 24, 2009    

Commemorative art

The Corrugated Lincoln

Our new sculptors don’t do justice to our history

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  October 12, 1979

Exterior Decoration
Books about public sculpture in Chicago

Reader  August 12, 1988

Bronze Trousers 

Public statuary on the Illinois statehouse grounds

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  undated  

Faith, Hope and Statuary

Today's heroic public memorials trivialize heroism

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  April 5, 2012

Fallen Heroes
Don't remove offending statehouse statues, move them
"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times August 20, 2020

See also "The people's art museum" in The Tourist’s State Capital and   "Outside the museum walls" in “More of Beauty and Less of Ugliness”


Altoona, Natrona, Hike!

An exploration of Illinois place names

Illinois Times  September 5, 1978

Nom de Plume

A digression on Illinois place names

Illinois Issues  July/August 1997

Springpatch, U.S.A.

The lost art of colloquial place-naming.

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  July 29, 1977

A School by Any Other Name

The perils of naming public buildings in a fastidious age

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times March 10, 2011​

Naming Rights and Wrongs

Illinois and the now-dishonored dead

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times July 9, 2015

“Heathen names”

Indian places names in central Illinois

See Illinois (unpublished)  2002

Old Letters
The Dumvilles bring mid-Illinois in the mid-1800s to life
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  November 3, 2016

Dim Reflections
Few Illinois governors write memoirs worth reading
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  November 11, 2010

Town Character
The hometown as hero in mid-Illinois books
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  July 16, 2015

Clio in the Cornfields
Why do so many cities with history not have a history?
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times November 14, 2013

Giving Immortality to Their Littleness

Gov. Thomas Ford’s diagnosis of Illinois politics

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  March 4, 2010

The Alchemy of Galena

A town that turned lead into tourist gold.

Nature of Illinois  Fall 1988

​Barns Full of Machines
Tinkerers make Illinois safe for farming
See Illinois  (unpublished)  2002

Shape Shifting

A new assessment of urban sprawl

Illinois Issues  September 2006

Illinois's Disappearing Frontier

The sun sets on western Illinois

See Illinois (unpublished)  2002

More Floppies in a Shoebox

How should the state deal with dead documents?

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times June 15, 2017

Intentional communities in Illinois

Here are articles about some of the many communal experiments—godly land companies, socialistic agrarian communities, company towns, religious colonies, radical social experiments of several kinds—in Illinois.

For more, see “Realizing the Ideal: The Perfectionist Impulse in Mid-Illinois” in Corn Kings and One-Horse Thieves

Utopia in Pullman

A rail magnate's worker paradise in Chicago

Americana  July–August 1981

Sweden on the Prairie

Bishop Hill, back from the dead

 Americana   March–April 1981

A New City of Joseph

Mormon Nauvoo, reborn

Americana  April 1980

Making a More Perfect City

Utopianism in Chicagoland

See Illinois (unpublished) 2003

"Glasses of Rose Tint”

New-World-making in southern Illinois

See Illinois (unpublished)  2002

Reformers, Zealots, and Dreamers

Communitarianism in western Illinois

See Illinois (unpublished)  2002

Nauvoo, City of Wine and Mormons

Whose town? Whose story?

Illinois Times  May 25, 1979

Historic Bishop Hill Looks to the Future

Restoring a Swedish town without embalming it

Illinois Times  October 13, 1978

The Rise and Fall of Nauvoo

A new book about the Mormons’ New Zion

Illinois Times  September 24, 2020

Teaching Idiots
Self-directed learners
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  January 28, 2010

All History Is Personal
Why a place's past comes to matter
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  May 12, 2011

Same New Thing

Turning farming into agri-industry

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  June 11, 1987

Coming or Going

Reinventing Illinois passenger rail

Illinois Issues  October 2005

Tag-teaming History

Fun and games during Lincoln's birthday month

“Dyspepsiana” Illinois Times March 1, 2012

Galena Reborn

An old lead mining town mines tourists instead

See Illinois  (unpublished) 2002

Sleeping on the Hill

Lessons from the dead in western Illinois

See Illinois (unpublished)  2002

Ready for Reform

Innovative social action in Chicago

See Illinois (unpublished) 2004

Urbs in Horto

Chicagoland’s natural landscapes

See Illinois (unpublished) 2004

Homage to the Barons Who Built Chicago

Great buildings need great developers

Chicago Enterprise  November 1992

History Lessons

The Iroquois Theatre fire of 1903, remembered

Illinois Issues  June 2004

Promised Lands

A trip prompts reflections on the Donner Party

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  July 3, 2014

Deja Vu

Thirty years of energy policy in Illinois

Illinois Issues  October 2006

Suggestions for the Curious Reader

An annotated list of works on mid-Illinois history


The Breaking of the Prairie

“Improving” Illinois land

Illinois Issues  October 1981

A Profound Trauma

Southern Illinois, the Civil War, and civil rights

See Illinois (unpublished)  2006

Pots and Kettles

Downstate-Chicago enmity explained

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  June 5, 1981

Historic structures

Positive Incentives

Springfield’s lazy, hazy, razing days of summer

"Prejudices" Illinois Times July 24, 1981

New Life in the Lincoln Depot

Will tourists arrive where Lincoln departed?

Illinois Times  August 4, 1978

Saving History from the Wrecking Ball

Richard Nickel and Louis Sullivan's legacy

Illinois Issues October 1986

The Old State Capitol: Tarnished Jewel

Springfield squabbles over an inheritance

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  January 30, 1981

Archaeology Anyone?

Springfield’s “throwaway mentality”

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  July 8, 1982

Saving the “Castle,” Monument to the American Dream

Springfield’s Brinkerhoff House makes new friends

Illinois Times  January 13, 1978

Tolling for the Chapel

Progress rolls over the good sisters of Springfield

“Prejudices”  Illinois Times  June 9, 1994

There Goes the Neighborhood

Finding a new home for historic houses

"Dyspepsiana" Illinois Times February 16, 2012


When a state runs its landmarks on the cheap

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  April 2, 1992

The Tourists’s State Capital

Visiting the statehouse complex in Springfield

See Illinois (unpublished) 2006

Lost and Found

Exploring—and exploring for—historic sites

See Illinois (unpublished)  2004

George Washington’s Ax

When does restoring become destroying?

"Prejudices"  Illinois Times  December 14, 1979

Something About a Man in Uniform
Rep. Mark Kirk suffers a self-inflicted battle wound
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  June 17, 2010 

Re-inventing the Past
Springfield’s tradition of industrial invention
"Dyspapsiana"  Illinois Times  June 24, 2010    

Taking the Christian Out of Christianity
The YMCA picks up a new name but sells an old idea

"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  August 12, 2010

John L. Lewis—A Most Peculiar Man

The legendary mine union chief explained

Illinois Times  September 23, 1977

What They Had to Do
Thanksgiving and the War of 1812 in Illinois
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  November 27, 2013​

Another Woman’s Story
A reminiscence of pioneer Montgomery County worth reading
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  August 22, 2013

Harvesting Electricity
The newest energy crop from Illinois fields
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  January.  21, 2010


Are we not all immigrants from our pasts?

“Prejudices” Illinois Times  April 16, 1987

Historic Omissions
When it’s Illinois history, books aren’t long enough
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  April 6, 2017

Grave Matters
The dead still have things to teach us
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  December 14, 2017

Red Brick Roads
Bringing brick streets back from the grave
"Dyspepsiana"  Illinois Times  January 19, 2017


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click on your browser's back button or "Post-settlement history" in the topics menu 




John Hallwas

Essential for anyone interested in Illinois history and literature. Hallwas deservedly won the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois State Historical Society.

Lee Sandlin Author

One of Illinois’s best, and least-known, writers of his generation. Take note in particular of The Distancers and Road to Nowhere.

Chicago Architecture Center

See Home Page/Learn/

Resources for a marvelous building database, architecture dictionary, even a city planning graphic novel. Handsome, useful—every Illinois culture website should be so good.

The Encyclopedia of Chicago


The online version of The Encyclopedia of Chicago. Crammed with thousands of topic entries, biographical sketches, maps and images, it is a reference work unmatched in Illinois.

Illinois Great Places

The Illinois chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 2018 selected 200 Great Places in Illinois that illustrate our  shared architectural culture across the entire period of human settlement in Illinois.

McLean County Museum

of History

A nationally accredited, award-winning project of the McLean County Historical Society whose holdings include more than 20,000 objects, more than 15,000 books on local history and genealogy, and boxes and boxes of historical papers and images.

Mr. Lincoln, Route 66, and Other Highlights of Lincoln, Illinois


Every Illinois town ought to have a chronicler like D. Leigh Henson, Ph.D. Not only Lincoln and the Mother road—the author’s curiosity ranges from cattle baron John Dean Gillett to novelist William Maxwell. An Illinois State Historical Society "Best Web Site of the Year."

Illinois Digital Archives


Created in 2000, the IDA is a repository for the digital collections of the Illinois State Library and other Illinois libraries and cultural institutions. The holdings include photographs, slides, and glass negatives, oral histories, newspapers, maps, and documents from manuscripts and letters to postcards,  posters, and videos.

The Illinois State Museum


The people's museum is a treasure house of science and the arts. A research institution of national reputation, the museum maintains four facilities across the state. Their collections in anthropology, fine and decorative arts, botany, zoology, geology, and  history are described here. A few museum publications can be obtained here.

Chronicling Illinois

“Chronicling Illinois” showcases some of the collections—mostly some 6,000 photographs—from the Illinois history holdings of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.


I will leave it to the authors of this interesting site to describe it. "Chicagology is a study of Chicago history with a focus on the period prior to the Second World War. The purpose of the site is to document common and not so common stories about the City of Chicago as they are discovered." 

Illinois Labor History Society

The Illinois Labor History Society seeks to encourage the preservation and study of labor history materials of the Illinois region, and to arouse public interest in the profound significance of the past to the present. Offers books reviews, podcasts, research guides, and the like. 

Illinois Migration History 1850-2017

The University of Washington’s America’s Great Migrations Project has compiled migration histories  (mostly from the published and unpublished work by UW Professor of History James Gregory) for several states, including Illinois. The site also includes maps and charts and essays about the Great Migration of African Americans to the north, in which Illinois figured importantly. 

History on the Fox

An interesting resource about the history of one of Illinois’s more interesting places, the Fox Valley of Kendall County. History on the Fox is the work of Roger Matile, an amateur historian of the best sort. Matile’s site is a couple of cuts above the typical buff’s blog. (An entry on the French attempt to cash in on the trade in bison pelts runs more than

2,000 words.)




Southern Illinois University Press 2017

A work of solid history, entertainingly told.

Michael Burlingame,

author of Abraham 

Lincoln: A Life 

One of the ten best books on Illinois history I have read in a decade.

Superior Achievement Award citation, ISHS Awards, 2018

A lively and engaging study . . .  an enthralling narrative.

James Edstrom

The Annals of Iowa

A book that merits the attention of all Illinois historians

as well as local historians generally.

John Hoffman

Journal of Illinois HIstory

A model for the kind of detailed and honest history other states and regions could use.

Harold Henderson 

Midwestern Microhistory

A fine example of a resurgence of Midwest historical scholarship.

Greg Hall

Journal of the Illinois

State Historical Society

Click  here 

to read about

the book 

Click  here 

to buy the book 


Southern Illinois University Press

SIU Press is one of the four major university publishing houses in Illinois. Its catalog offers much of local interest, including biographies of Illinois political figures, the history (human and natural) and folklore of southern Illinois, the Civil War and Lincoln, and quality reprints in the Shawnee Classics series.

University of

Illinois Press

The U of I Press was founded in 1918. A search of the online catalog  (Books/Browse by subject/Illinois) will reveal more than 150 Illinois titles, books on history mostly but also butteflies, nature , painting, poetry and fiction, and more.  Of particular note are its Prairie State Books,  quality new paperback editions of worthy titles about all parts of Illinois, augmented with scholarly introductions.

University of

Chicago Press

The U of C publishing operation is the oldest (1891) and largest university press in Illinois. Its reach is international, but it has not neglected its own neighborhood. Any good Illinois library will include dozens of titles about Chicago and Illinois from Fort Dearborn to

Vivian Maier.

Northern Illinois University Press

The newest (1965) and the smallest of the university presses with an interest in Illinois, Northern Illinois University Press gave us important titles such as the standard one-volume history of the state (Biles' Illinois:
A History of the Land and Its People) and contributions to the history of Chicago, Illinois transportation, and the Civil War. Now an imprint of Cornell University Press.


Reviews and significant mentions by James Krohe Jr. of more than 50 Illinois books, arranged in alphabetical order

by book title. 


Illinois Center for the Book

Run by the Illinois State Library, The Center promotes reading, writing and author programs meant to honor the state's rich literary heritage. An affiliate of the Library of Congress’s Center for the Book, the site offers award competitions, a directory of Illinois authors, literary landmarks, and reading programs.

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