Last year Kate spoke at the Chicago Maritime Festival on how the first homesteaders of Naperville traveled from Ohio through the Great Lakes on the schooner Telegraph. An enthusiastic crowd attended the presentation and was slightly surprised to learn that about the journey. Certainly Chicagoans know that there is some serious maritime history involving Lake Michigan, but we often forget it wasn't all merchant ships and Christmas tree ships.
Many of the state's earliest settlers arrived on ships, particularly those from New England and especially after the Erie Canal was finished. Because of the mountain ranges, easterners migrated around the southern or northern range of the mountains rather than go straight west over the mountains. Illinois was settled then from the top down by New Englanders and from the bottom up by Southerners. Springfield was about the middle -- the farthest north that Southerners wished to go and the farthest south New Englanders were comfortable.
Those two cultures were very different in how they viewed education, industry and a host of other subjects and often did not see eye-to-eye. Looking at politics today, it often seems that not much has changed!
The homesteading part of Illinois' history didn't last long, but although it did correspond with the very beginning of the Golden Age of Great Lakes Maritime History. If you wish to learn more, the Chicago Maritme Festival is a wonderful event full of information, crafts and songs for adults and children alike. It will be held at the Chicago History Museum on Saturday, February 25. For ticket information and a schedule of events, see www.chicagomaritimefestival.org.