Early Settlements of Rock Island County

Undoubtedly the first white men to cast their eyes upon Rock Island soil were Louis Joliet and Father Jacques Marquette, when they and their five French canoe-men, in June 1673, floated from the mouth of the Wisconsin River down the broad Mississippi. We do not know that they landed at any spot in the boundary of what is now Rock Island County, but as they came over the Rock Island rapids, gliding down the swift flowing water, they could not fail to notice the Island of Rock Island with its rocky shores and beautiful groves, for their canoes must needs take the channel on the north shore of the island. All early voyagers remarked upon this locality, and it was generally considered "the handsomest and most delightful spot of the same size on the whole globe."

We have no record of the first white man who stepped on Rock Island soil. We know that as early as 1690 Nicholas Perrot, French commandant of the west, built a  post opposite to where Dubuque, Iowa, now is and that in 1695 Pierre Le Sueur built a fort on a large island in the Mississippi River between Lake Pepin and the mouth of the St. Croix, which Charlevoix says became "the centre of commerce for the western parts." Le Sueur discovered lead mines on both sides of the Mississippi River (at Dubuque and Galena), and Penicault, his reporter and companion, speaks of the rapids at Rock Island. We know that agents of Anthony Crozat at some time between the years 1712 and 1717 worked the lead mines around Dubuque and Galena; that as early as 1792 printed maps of this country show the Rock Island Rapids, naming them "Nine-mile Rapids," and we further know that from 1788 to 1810 Julien Du Bisque with a force of Spanish, French and Indian miners operated the lead mines near where Dubuque, Iowa, now is, and floated his lead down the Mississippi to St. Louis and New Orleans, and it is not impossible that some of these people may have explored this county and even lived here; but the first record we have of a white man stopping at this locality is when Lieutenant Pike in 1805 made his trip up the Mississippi.

 

Rock County, Illinois Genealogy

 

Source: Historic Rock Island County, pub. Kramer & Company, Rock Island, Illinois, 1908

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