Submitted by scott on

The Bloomington area was at the edge of a large grove occupied by the Kickapoo people before the first Euro-American settlers arrived in the early 1820s.

A good case could be made for dividing the history of Bloomington into two distinct eras:
“Before Railroads,” or B.R., and “After Railroads,” or A.R.
Railroads first arrived here in 1853—the Illinois Central in May and the Chicago & Mississippi
(later known as the Chicago & Alton) in October. One would be hard pressed to conjure up a
more earth-shaking event in the subsequent 134 years of city history.
A Landlocked Bloomington, B.R., often relied on river “packets” (regularly scheduled riverboat
steamers) that ran between Peoria-Pekin and St. Louis to reach the wider world of commerce. In
early 1853, the “new, fast-running” steamer Garden City could make it to St. Louis and back in
about five days, “touching at all the intermediate ports along the river.” Since so many goods and
services floated up and down the Illinois, Mississippi and Ohio rivers, the economic outlook of
Central Illinois had a decided southern tilt. For instance, the pages of The Bloomington
Intelligencer newspaper (a predecessor to The Pantagraph) published in the early 1850s were
filled with advertisements for firms in St. Louis, Louisville, and Cincinnati.

McLean County Museum of History

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