Indians hunted in Illinois as far back as 5000 B.C. and today you can still view the remains of their civilization at places such as Chahokia Mounds-North America's largest and most valuable prehistoric earthnwork relic. Dickson Mounds Indian Museum near Lewiston features special exhibits which chronicle the Indian's valuable place in Illinois history.
The first European explorers in Illinois were Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet, Frenchmen who paddled by birchbark canoe along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. They traveled the length of the state-from what is now Chicago to the southernmost reaches of Illinois.
More French explorers followed, building military outposts and establishing a fur trading empire with local Indians. In 1673, at the close of the French and Indian War, the Treaty of Paris ceded to England all lands France had claimed east of the Mississippi River, except for New Orleans in Louisiana. The British continued to control what is now Illinois until 1778 when George Rogers Clark, a Revolutionary War hero, and his band of American colonists captured Fort Kaskaskia. The Illinois country became a possession of Virginia until 1787 when it joined the Northwest Territory under the government of the United States. Kaskaskia became Illinois' first capitol in 1818. Two years later the seat of Illinois government was moved to Vandalia. In 1839, largely through the efforts of a young legislator named Abraham Lincoln, the capitol was again moved-this time to Springfield, where it is now open to the public as an historic site. The Capitol in use today dates back to 1868, when ground was broken for its construction. Although the General Assembly moved in eight years later in 1876, it took 20 years to complete the building at a cost of $4.5 million. During 1988, Illinois celebrated the centennial of the completion of the Statehouse.
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