Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Kay J. Carr  

Pen Name: None

Genre: History Non-Fiction

Audience: Adult; Young Adult;


-- Kay J. Carr on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

The Author received her Ph. D. from the University of Chicago in 1987 and joined the faculty in the History Department at SIU in 1989.

Biographical and Professional Information

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

Belleville, Ottawa, and Galesburg: Community and Democracy on the Illinois Frontier
ISBN: 0809320177

Southern Illinois University Press. 1996

Because Illinois stood at the center of the changes wrought by the national evolution from an agrarian to an industrial society, the history of the state’s settlement, Carr argues, serves as an excellent laboratory in which to observe the momentous transformations of the time. With a few notable exceptions, however, historians have essentially ignored the social history of Illinois during that crucial period. Filling that gap, Carr examines the development of community social and political structures in Belleville, Ottawa, and Galesburg.

Each of these towns was founded in the first half of the nineteenth century. Belleville, the seat of St. Clair County, was originally dominated by the French and, later, by Anglo-Americans. By the l830s, the majority of the population was German. Ottawa, the seat of LaSalle County, was founded as the original western terminus of the Illinois and Michigan Canal and was dominated by Anglo-Americans until the 1840s when Irish canal workers became the majority. Galesburg, the eventual seat of Knox County, was founded by New England. Protestants who dominated the community into the twentieth century, despite the presence of large Swedish and Irish minorities.

Belleville, Ottawa, and Galesburg grew at about the same rate during the antebellum period and were forced by the circumstances of the day to deal with common problems: attracting railroads to their towns to ensure economic prosperity instituting public schools and establishing workable local political systems to guarantee the community’s continued existence in the changing society.

Although they shared common problems, the people of these three towns chose different paths toward their eventual community development. Because Belleville’s German population was divided on political, religious, and social grounds, its people eventually established a local political system relying on competitive democratic decision making to take them into the industrial age. In Galesburg, the dominant Yankee elite maintained control of local politics during that period eventually they joined with the Swedes to exclude the Irish from participation in a community that stressed cooperative decision making. In Ottawa, the initial Yankee developers joined with savvy Irish leaders to establish a political system that was both competitive and cooperative. Belleville’s extreme political competitiveness and Galesburg’s extreme political cooperation were the unusual cases. Ottawa’s reaction to the challenges of American society during this period, Carr contends, was the more usual, reflecting the way many communities developed.

The Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor: A Guide to Its History and Sources
ISBN: 0875801285

Northern Illinois University Press. 1988

Book by

A Woman's Story of Pioneer Illinois (Shawnee Classics)
ISBN: 0809319810

Southern Illinois University Press. 1995

Christiana and John Tillson moved from Massachusetts to central Illinois in 1822. Upon arriving in Montgomery County near what would soon be Hillsboro, they set up a general store and real estate business and began to raise a family.

A half century later, Christiana Tillson wrote about her early days in Illinois in a memoir published by R. R. Donnelley in 1919. In it she describes her husband’s rise to wealth through the speculative land boom during the 1820s and 1830s and his loss of fortune when the land business went bust after the Specie Circular was issued in 1836.

The Tillsons lived quite ordinary lives in extraordinary times, notes Kay J. Carr, introducing this edition. Their views and sensibilities, Carr says, might seem strange to us, but they were entirely normal to people in the early nineteenth century. Thus Tillson’s memoir provides vignettes of ordinary nineteenth-century American life.

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