Rockford, Illinois has a deep and rich history. Let's time travel back to the 1800s.

History is fascinating. If only the streets could talk here in Rockford, we would learn so much.

Thankfully, we now have the power of the internet and resources such as the City of Rockford's website GoRockfordto teach us all about what Rockford was like in the 1800s.

While scouring their website, I came across plenty of very interesting facts about what Rockford was like in the 1800s. Here are some of my favorites:


  • Henryk Sadura, ThinkStock
    Henryk Sadura, ThinkStock

    Rockford Was FIrst Settled in 1834

    Rockford, Illinois, was first settled in 1834-1835 by Germanicus Kent, Thatcher Blake, and Lewis Lemon, who came from Galena and established themselves on the west bank of Rock River; and Daniel Shaw Haight, who founded a settlement on the east bank. (Lemon, a slave, later bought his freedom, but stayed in the area as a truck farmer.)

  • Rob Carroll, Townsquare Media
    Rob Carroll, Townsquare Media

    Rockford Wasn't Always Named Rockford

    Halfway between Chicago and Galena, the community was briefly known as "Midway", but quickly became known as "Rockford", because of the excellent ford across Rock River.

  • Brian Jackson, Thinkstock
    Brian Jackson, Thinkstock

    The First Newspaper Was Published in 1840

    The first weekly newspaper was published in 1840 and the first successful daily newspaper appeared in 1877. Between 1890 and 1930 the city had three daily papers.

  • Getty Images
    Getty Images

    English Wasn't The Only Language Spoken Commonly

    The earliest settlers were chiefly from New York state and New England, but the city early acquired a modest cosmopolitan character. Large numbers of Irish-born immigrants arrived in the 1850s, and a few Swedish immigrants in 1852. After the Civil War, the Swedes began to come in large numbers and quickly became the largest ethnic group in the city. They settled chiefly on the east side, and in areas along 7th Street or Kishwaukee Avenue the Swedish language was as common as English as late as the 1920s.

  • gualbertobecerra, ThinkStock
    gualbertobecerra, ThinkStock

    You Could Send a Letter in 1837

    A post office was established in 1837.

  • vojkan-photography, ThinkStock
    vojkan-photography, ThinkStock

    The Mendelssohn Club was Born

    The Mendelssohn Club, the oldest sustaining music club in the United States, is founded. (1884)

  • Comstock Images, ThinkStock
    Comstock Images, ThinkStock

    Rockford High School's First Yearbook

    Rockford High School issues a yearbook, allegedly the second publication of its kind. (1882)

  • Ramon Purcell, ThinkStock
    Ramon Purcell, ThinkStock

    Baseball is King in the 1800s

    In the six years following the Civil War, Rockford became nationally known in baseball circles, with the remarkable success of its Forest City Baseball Club. Led by Albert Spaulding (pitcher) and Ross Barnes (infield), the team had become the most prominent western club and joined the first professional baseball league, the National Association, for the 1871 season. Both stars had been hired away by Boston after the 1870 season, so the club's season was not particularly successful, despite the presence of Adrian Anson, playing his first major league season. Spaulding, Barnes, and Anson went on to significant careers in the National Association and its successor, the National League. Barnes, the first batting champion of the National League, is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Rockford. The city was a member of the Northwestern League, the first minor league, in 1879, and since that time has frequently had a minor league club.

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