Rockford History Timeline 1818-1832 – In 1818, Illinois becomes a state. In 1828 the Winnebago Native Americans give up their land to white settlers. In 1832, all Native Americans have left for the west side of the Mississippi River. 1834 – Germanicus Kent, his slave Lewis Lemon, and Thatcher Blake, arrived as the first settlers on the west side of the Rock River. Kent constructed a sawmill, and Blake maintained a farm. April, 1835 – Daniel Shaw Haight arrived on the east side of the Rock River and constructed a cabin. Haight and Kent fought for settlers to come to their side of the river in order to sell them land. October, 1835 – Dr. Josiah Goodhue gave Rockford its name. There was a rock ford (a shallow path) that allowed settlers to cross the river. 1837 – An economic depression wipes out Kent’s money holdings. He saw no future staying in Rockford and left for Virginia in 1847 (he died in 1862). 1842 – Lewis Lemon, Kent’s slave, received his manumission (freedom) papers from Kent. Lemon lived the rest of his life in Rockford selling vegetables until his death in 1877. 1847 – Rockford Female Seminary (later known as Rockford College) is established in order to teach women only to be teachers, music, art, history, classics, etc. 1852 – The first train, pulled by the engine Pioneer, arrives in Rockford. The train connected Galena, which was south of Rockford, and Chicago to the east. Businesses were established in Rockford because they used power from the river and transported their goods by train. Summer, 1855 – John Manny made reapers (machines that harvested crops) in Rockford. McCormack, another reaper maker from Chicago, charged that Manny stole some of his ideas for his machines and took Manny to court. Abraham Lincoln helped Manny in his legal case against McCormack of Chicago and Manny won. 1862 – Rockford was chosen as the sight of a temporary Civil War soldier training site along the Rock River (where Harlem Boulevard now is). One of its most famous trainee soldiers was not a man but a woman named Jennie Hodgers. She dressed as a man and fought in many battles without any of her fellow soldiers knowing she was a woman. 1865 – Robert Tinker began to build his Swiss Cottage along Kent Creek. Tinker served as mayor and helped establish the Rockford Park District. 1870 – John Nelson and William Worth Burson make a sock on an automatic machine for the first time. The socks have a red heel and a red toe, and become more popular as workers at the knitting companies make “sock monkey” toys out of them. 1875 – Jonas Peters organizes the first Swedish furniture company in Rockford. Furniture companies produced the main products of Rockford from the 1870s-1890s. 1877 – Tragedy struck downtown when during the new courthouse’s construction, the dome collapsed and seven workers were killed instantly. Two workers died later and twelve were seriously injured. 1881 – Rockford Street Railway Company was given the right to transport Rockfordians all around downtown and the surrounding areas. Horses replaced mules as the major way of transportation. 1893 – A national economic depression hit Rockford and put 27 businesses in Rockford out of business in one day! June 3, 1903 – President Theodore Roosevelt visited Rockford and dedicated Memorial Hall in the memory of all armed service veterans of Winnebago County. 1917 – Rockford was granted the right to construct a World War I training camp in south side of town. Camp Grant, as it was known, trained about one million people from all over the US and was one of only 16 built in the entire country. September, 1918 – The Spanish Influenza, a deadly sickness, struck Camp Grant. So many soldiers died of the disease that one of the higher ranking officers committed suicide over the huge death toll. The death toll in Rockford was 323. September 14, 1928 – A tornado rips through Southern Rockford destroying entire factories and tearing homes from their foundations. July 3, 1926 – Boxer Sammy Mandell of Rockford knocked “Rocky Kansas” to win the World’s Lightweight Boxing Championship. The fight lasted for ten rounds in the rain at Comiskey Park before 20,000 rain-soaked fans. Early 1930s – Rockford was hit hard by the Great Depression. Despite the banks failures and lost jobs, Rockford still celebrated a parade while people crammed into banks to get to their money. People got jobs through the Works Progress Administration (WPA). West and East High Schools were built by workers from this program in 1940. 1935 – Professor James Henry Breasted died. Born in Rockford in 1865, he was the second person in King Tut’s tomb because he could read the hieroglyphics on the walls. His death was suspected to be connected to the curse of Tut, but nothing supernatural was found. 1941 – Rockford helped with World War II by reopening Camp Grant, making armed service machinery, and 16,000 Rockford citizens entered military service. 1943 – The first season of the All American Girls Professional Baseball League opened. The Rockford Peaches won a couple of championships and became a national sensation in national magazines. Most people know of the Peaches because of the 1991 movie, “A League of Their Own.” The Peaches played from 1943-1954. July-November 1945 – Rockford’s children (382 cases) were stricken with polio in a city-wide epidemic. A vaccine was later developed. Rockford improved its garbage disposal and sprayed for mosquitoes. 1956 – The Illinois Tollway Authority authorized the toll way to pass east of Rockford. The Toll way changed Rockford forever by focusing development towards the east, and downtown businesses throughout the 1960s and 70s were drawn towards it. 1960 – Rockford officially becomes the second largest city in Illinois. Record numbers of births were recorded in the city during the 1950s, and many people came to Rockford for manufacturing jobs. Many new schools were built as well. 1960 – Presidential hopeful John F. Kennedy makes a stop in Rockford. So many people come to see his plane that they knock his sister-in-law to the ground. After making a speech at the Coronado Theater, Kennedy tried to “slip out the back” but is mobbed by people there too. 1967 – A tornado rips through Belvidere. Rockford and Winnebago County helps with relief efforts. 1970s – Rockford’s industries feel the pain of foreign competition, the rise in oil prices, and increasing automation (machines doing jobs that people once did). 1980 – Rockford Congressman John Anderson runs as an independent for president of the United States. He was defeated by Ronald Reagan, but had the highest number of votes for an independent in a long time. 1982 – Newsweek, a national newspaper/magazine published an article about Rockford’s economy. The city had the highest unemployment rate for a city its size in the country. 1989 – Charles Box is elected the first African-American mayor of Rockford. Some doubted that Rockford citizens would elect an African American, but Box proved them all wrong. Mayor Box funded public programs, approved bicycle policemen, improved garbage dumps (increased recycling from 1 to 35 percent), and increased shopping districts on the east side of town. 1989 – Ed Wells and The People Who Care filled a discrimination lawsuit against the Rockford Public Schools after West High School was closed and re-opened as a Middle School. The trial lasted through the early 1990s and resulted in the “Choice” program.