Springfield was originally named "Calhoun", after Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina. The land that Springfield now occupies was settled first by trappers and fur traders who came to the Sangamon River in 1818. The first cabin was built in 1820, by John Kelly. It was located at what is now the northwest corner of Second Street and Jefferson Street. In 1821, Calhoun was designated as the county seat of Sangamon County due to fertile soil and trading opportunities.
Settlers from Kentucky, Virginia, and North Carolina came to the developing city. By 1832, Senator Calhoun had fallen out of the favor with the public and the town renamed itself as Springfield. According to local history, the name was suggested by the wife of John Kelly, after Spring Creek, which ran through the area known as "Kelly's Field".
Kaskaskia was the first capital of the Illinois Territory from its organization in 1809, continuing through statehood in 1818, and through the first year as a state in 1819. Vandalia was the second state capital of Illinois from 1819 to 1839. Springfield became the third and current capital of Illinois in 1839. The designation was largely due to the efforts of Abraham Lincoln and his associates; nicknamed the "Long Nine" for their combined height of 54 feet (16 m).
The Potawatomi Trail of Death passed through here in 1838, as the Native Americans were forced west to Indian Territory by the government's Indian Removal policy.