Jo Daviess County Facts

About Jo Daviess County
(Pronounced "Joe Davis")

Although explorers, Indians and trappers passed through the impenetrable land that is now Jo Daviess County in the late 1700s and the early 1800s, the first permanent settlements by the whites existed about 1820.  In fact, those settlements were the first by whites in all of northwest Illinois.

They settled by the Galena River which was then known as the Fever or Bean River.  Although no evidence confirms it, the river is said to be named for a Frenchman named La Fevre who once visited the area.  The Indian name for the river was "Maucaubee" which if translated means "fever" or "fever that blisters," the Indian term for small pox.

The Indians gave it this name because in the early days of this country, some of the warriors existing on the present site of Galena and the banks of a small creek a little south of town, went to the assistance of their eastern brothers.  On their return, they brought with them a disease that they named "Maucaubee," the fever that blistered.  Hundreds of natives died, and the Indians named both the river and the stream Small Pox River.

The smaller creek is still named Small Pox Creek while the whites changed the river's name to "Fever River," and the frontier hamlet was known as the "Fever River Settlement" or LaPointe until 1826 or 1827 when it was given the name "Galena."

The name "Bean River" came about from the fact that the early French traders and adventurers, who undoubtedly were in the area long before the 1820s, changed the Indian name to "Riviere au Feve," which means "river of the bean."  As early as 1822, the "City" of Galena was mentioned in newspapers while Chicago was referred to simply as "a village in Pike County containing 12 or 15 houses and about 60 or 70 inhabitants."  Galena was more important commercially than Chicago at this time; it served as a trading point and provided work at its nearby lead mines.

During these early years, traders' lives were in constant jeopardy because of the many warlike and dangerous Sac and Fox Indian tribes inhabiting the land.  Treaties were signed in the early 1800s allowing the Indians to work the lead mines in certain areas and to live on reservations.

The Black Hawk War proved that not all Indians complied with the conditions, though neither did all of the pioneers.  As early as the late 1700s, historians report that the white man was etching out a life with his Indian brothers in Jo Daviess County, sometimes for the betterment of each other...and sometimes not.

Jo Daviess County survived those early days to become a haven for those who wanted to strive for something adventuresome, some new way of life.  Whether it was trading with the Indians, working the lead mines or just heading "out West," Jo Daviess County was the destination for many families.

The Black Hawk War and the Civil War provide our history books with the names of many local heroes. However, the day-to-day living that many of those pioneer families had to contend with is the backbone of what has provided us with the beautiful and peaceful rolling hills and quiet communities we enjoy here today.

Who was Jo Daviess?  Click here for the answer.

Other facts and information:

Agricultural Impact in Jo Daviess County