Today in 1818, the Territory of Illinois was admitted to the Union as the 21st state.
A lot of people have come here and fought to stay, starting with those who built the Cahokia Mounds (and disappeared in the 14th century), followed by the Illini, who were pushed out by eastern tribes moving west, in spite of allying themselves with the French explorers and their settlements at Cahokia (1699), Kaskaskia (1703), and Sainte Genevieve across the Mississippi River (c1750), and Forts Crevecoeur (1680), Saint Louis (1682), and de Chartres (1720). As a result of the French and Indian War, the British gained control of the land in 1763 by the Treaty of Paris and lost it as a result of the American Revolutionary War by another Treaty of Paris in 1783.
From Kindred Trails, written by By Rickie Lazzerini:
"Many steps were taken before Illinois became a state. After the Revolution, the territory had to be ceded by Virginia to Congress to begin the progress of statehood. These steps continued with the creation of Indiana Territory in 1800, which included Illinois. On February 3, 1809 Illinois became its own territory, and included what is now Wisconsin. As more settlers moved into the territory, agitation for statehood increased. On April 18, 1818, Congress passed an Enabling Act allowing Illinois to become a state, although there being fewer inhabitants than prescribed by the Ordinance of 1787. A constitution was adopted in August of that year, and on December 3, 1818, Illinois came into the union as the twenty-first state. The town of Kaskaskia was designated the capital of the new state, lasting only until 1820 when the capital would be moved to uninhabited Vandalia for real estate moneymaking purposes."
So what is there to do in the Prairie State? Well! Check out EnjoyIllinois.com, the official site of the Illinois Office of Tourism. [The person in charge of the page has a marvelous sense of humor. Click on the white squirrel image to see 'white squirrel meets black hole'.]
There is camping and hiking in Shawnee National Forest with its Garden of the Gods, and White Pines Forest State Park, or try your hand (and your eyesight) at Bald Eagle watching along the Mississippi River (do it now before they migrate north again in March),
Any Lego enthusiasts in your family? Take them to the Legoland Discovery Center near Chicago. In Chicago, the Navy Pier will keep everyone busy for at least a couple of days. Tour the Mississippi on the Celebration Belle, or if you see yourself as a riverboat gambler, try the Argosy Casino - it's moored, but you won't notice while you hum the Maverick theme and draw to an inside straight.
Drive along the Ohio River Scenic Byway or along the Mississippi on the Great River Road National Scenic Byway. Or follow the overland roads that brought people into the state - the National Road - and took them out again - Route 66 - on the endless trek west.
And, so dear to my heart, Illinois is criss-crossed by wine trails, including the Shawnee Wine Trail, the Heartland Rivers Wine Trail, the Southern Illinois Wine Trail, and the Wabash Valley Wine Trail.
And what cuisine would be suitable to celebrate Illinois' admission? According the The Food Timeline, modern hot dogs and Cracker Jacks were both introduced to the American public at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. I'm sure the youngsters of the house will approve that menu, so see this page for Chicago Style Hot Dogs and pick up a big box of Cracker Jacks for dessert. [You can try making your own; there are a lot of recipes online. I'm more likely to take the path of least resistance on this one.]
And if you believe that such a menu is a little devoid of interest, remember that Carl Sandburg called Chicago "Hog Butcher for the World", and that most of the beef for the table came through Chicago's slaughterhouses, after being fed on Midwestern corn (of which Illinois is second in U.S. production). Grill a couple of good steaks, or fix a ham with a beer glaze, and accompany the entree with a dish of SAUTEED CORN AND MUSHROOMS:
Cut 3 cups of corn kernels from the ears; slice fresh mushrooms to equal 1 cup (or use a small can of mushrooms, drained); mince part of an onion to equal 1 tablespoon. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet, add the mushrooms and onion, and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the fresh corn, 1 teaspoon EACH of sugar and salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper; saute about 5 minutes longer. Dish up, sprinkle with some chopped parsley and a cut-up pimento, and serve.