Ottawa, Illinois - Encyclopedia

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OTTAWA, a city and the county-seat of La Salle county, Illinois, U.S.A., on the Illinois river, at the mouth of the Fox, about 84 m. S.W. of Chicago. Pop. (1900) 10,588, of whom 1804 were foreign-born; (1 9 10 census) 9535It is served by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, and the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific railways, by interurban electric railways, and by the Illinois & Michigan Canal. There is a monument at Ottawa to the 1400 soldiers from La Salle county who died in the Civil War, and among the public buildings are the County Court House, the Court House for the second district of the Illinois Appellate Court, and Reddick's Library, founded by William Reddick. Ottawa is the seat of the Pleasant View Luther College (co-educational), founded in 1896 by the Norwegian Lutherans of Northern Illinois. There is a medicinal spring, the water of which is called "Sanicula" water. The water supply of the city is derived from eight deep wells. There are about 150 privately owned artesian wells. In the vicinity are large deposits of coal, of glass-sand, and of clay suitable for brick and tile. The city's manufactures include glass, brick, tile, carriages and wagons, agricultural implements, pianos and organs and cigars. The value of the factory products increased from $1,737,884 in 1900 to $2,078,139 in 1905, or 19.6%.

The mouth of the Fox was early visited by French explorers, and Father Hennepin is said to have discovered here in 1680 the first deposit of coal found in America. On Starved Rock, a bold hillock about 125 ft. high, on the southern bank of the Illinois, about midway between Ottawa and La Salle, the French explorer La Salle, assisted by his lieutenant Henri de Tonty and a few Canadian voyageurs and Illinois Indians, established (in December 1682) Fort St Louis, about which he gathered nearly 20,000 Indians, who were seeking protection from the Iroquois. The plateau-like summit, which originally could be reached only from the south by a steep and narrow path, was rendered almost impregnable to Indian attack by a sheer cliff on the river side of the hill, a deep ravine along its eastern base and steep declivities on the other sides. On the summit La Salle built store-houses and log huts, which he surrounded by intrenchments and a log palisade. The post was used by fur traders as late as 1718. The hill has borne its present name since about 1770, when it became the last refuge of a small band of Illinois flying before a large force of Pottawattomies, who believed that an Illinois had assassinated Pontiac, in whose conspiracy the Pottawattomies had taken part. Unable to dislodge the Illinois, the Pottawattomies cut off their escape and let them die of starvation. Ottawa was laid out in 1830, incorporated as a village in 1838 and chartered as a city in 1853. On the 21st of August 1858 the first of the series of political debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas, in their contest for the United States senatorship, was held at Ottawa. The semi-centennial of this debate was celebrated in 1908, when the Illini Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, caused a suitably inscribed boulder weighing 23 tons to be set up in Washington Park as a memorial.

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