I currently write a column each Tuesday for the DeKalb
Daily Chronicle. The column will also appear on this website
each week and be added to the archives.
The Articles started December 2007.
If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates
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How Nathaniel Pope put us in Illinois
By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist...................May 8, 2012
The closure of the intersection of Lincoln Highway and Fourth
Street in DeKalb this week for railroad track repairs may remind
a few longtime residents of the spectacular train derailment
in August 1961 that caused chaos in downtown DeKalb during the
noon hour on a Friday.
David Hegberg brought the accident to my attention when he emailed
me a photo of the wreck that had appeared in the Daily Chronicle
the same afternoon. The Daily Chronicle photographer had apparently
gotten on top of the DeKalb Trust & Savings Bank across the
street and recorded the scene as crowds began to gather. The
timing was fortuitous for the Chronicle, as the paper published
in the afternoon then and could put the accident on the front
page with a detailed story, photo and banner headline that read
DEKALB HAS TRAIN WRECK.Anyone taking a leisurely
drive around south county may discover an interesting chapter
in Illinois history that is probably unknown to most residents.
Along Route 34 between Somonauk and Sandwich is the Sannauk Forest
Preserve, and in the middle of that 72-acre woodlands is a state
historical marker placed there in 1989. It reveals how this county
and 13 others in northern Illinois almost ended up in Wisconsin.
I just came across this bit of trivia last week and went to the
library to learn more about Nathaniel Popes influence on
This historical marker stands in the middle of the Sannauk
Forest Preserve on Route 34 between Sandwich and Somonauk. It
shares some little-known history about the creation of the state
of Illinois. (Barry Schrader photo)
In 1818, the U.S. Congress was considering making a state out
of the territory of Illinois. A line had been drawn in 1787 due
west from the southern tip of Lake Michigan to the Mississippi
River to map out the territory; everything south of that line
was Illinois, and north of it eventually would become Wisconsin.
The bill to make Illinois a state was already written, but the
Illinois delegate to Congress, Nathaniel Pope, saw an opportunity
to expand the new states area. He believed Illinois needed
more access to Lake Michigan, so he pushed through an amendment
to move the line 61 miles north, thus adding 8,500 square miles
of land that has become the most valuable real estate in our
Pope was one of the greatest influences in Illinois history
when you think of what the state would be without this valuable
land and Chicago. (Well, Im not so sure about the value
of having Chicago in our state, but thats another issue.)
He also knew that to become a state, Congress wanted a population
of at least 40,000 people, which this territory did not have
at the time. So another census was taken by counting every traveler
on major roads.
This method was questionable because many people traveled on
more than one major road during the census, thus boosting the
total to the critical number to meet the minimum requirement.
He wrote an article for the Western Intelligencer newspaper explaining
his maneuvers in Congress. It turned out to be a brilliant plan
because it gave Illinois a better foothold on the Great Lakes
to help commerce, added thousands of acres of fertile farmland,
and because half the population lived in this northern section,
it later proved valuable in assuring the state would vote to
stay in the Union and oppose slavery.
Could Abraham Lincoln even have become president if he didnt
have this part of the state behind him?
Pope did well in his political career, which began when he was
appointed secretary of the Illinois territory by President James
Madison probably because of the influence of his brother,
John Pope, who was a U.S. senator from Kentucky. Beside this,
his cousin was territorial governor of Illinois at the time.
After serving two terms as a delegate when the state was
admitted into the Union he was appointed first a register
of the land office at Edwardsville, then a district court judge.
He later lost a bid for the U.S. Senate, but he continued to
serve as a federal judge until he died at age 66. He did have
a downstate county and an elementary school in the Chicago area
named after him.
So now you know more about this forest preserve marker and Nathaniel
Pope than you ever thought you would.
The columnist can be reached via email at :
or by snailmail at:
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115