This week in Illinois history: May 14-20
May 14, 1832 - Stillman Valley. The Battle of Stillman’s Run occurred. According to historians, a corps of up to 50 Black Hawk warriors was enough to disperse Major Isaiah Stillman’s force of 275 U.S. militiamen at this battle, also known as the Battle of Sycamore Creek. Although there were few casualties on either side, it didn’t bode well for future peace talks, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. The Black Hawk war continued until the native Americans surrendered in late August of that year.
May 14, 1804 - St. Louis. Lewis and Clark launch their exploration mission. With the blessing of President Thomas Jefferson, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out to see what the nation was buying with the Louisiana Purchase. Jefferson hoped to enhance U.S. interests in the region against its European competitors. Much of the expedition of areas surrounding the Mississippi River took place in 1803, but the final westward push to the Pacific Ocean (ending Sept. 23, 1806) began on this date in history.
May 15, 1911 - Cleveland. Feds order end of Rockefeller’s Standard Oil. How big a corporation can become, or, perhaps, how much of the market one company can control, was answered in part with the Supreme Court’s decision against the oil juggernaut under the Sherman Antitrust Act. Founded in 1870 by John D. Rockefeller and others, the company at one point controlled "almost 90 percent of refined oil flows in the United States,” according to Finding Dulcinea. Although an 1892 ruling grounded the company in Ohio, the high court ruling in 1911 ended the monopoly for good.
May 16, 1860 - Chicago. Republican National Convention convenes to nominate Abraham Lincoln. Although the Wigwam, the two-story, wood-frame venue minted for the convention, only lasted a decade, it nevertheless assumes a place in history for housing the convention that nominated the president who freed the slaves. Now the site of a historic landmark, the Wigwam could hold crowds of 10,000 people, which is the perfect size for a mall, which is what it became before its destruction.
May 17, 1943 - Chicago. Wrigley Field makes history by hosting All-American Girls baseball tryouts. If players made it through the competition, they went on to one of four teams for women’s baseball: the Rockford Peaches; the Racine, Wisconsin, Belles; the South Bend, Indiana, Blue Sox; or the Kenosha, Wisconsin, Comets. The league’s website says the players’ salaries allowed them to earn “a pathway to higher education, professional careers, and the middle class.”
May 18, 1865 - Belleville. Death of former Gov. John Reynolds. The future governor moved to Illinois as a child in 1800 and became a key figure in Illinois politics over the next half-century. His law degree prepared him for a state Supreme Court seat in 1818, according to his congressional biography, and paved the way for his future as a governor and multiterm congressman. As governor, he also saw battlefield command during the Black Hawk War in 1832.
May 19, 1875 - Chicago. Lincoln heir has mother committed. Although Mary Todd Lincoln had no issues with her husband’s policies, her time in the White House was marked by mood swings, outbursts in public and a temper. Twenty years post-assassination, a final episode of believing her son, Robert Todd Lincoln, a practicing Chicago lawyer, was dead prompted him to assume conservatorship of her estate upon a court’s declaration that she was legally insane.
May 19, 1926 - Victoria. Birthdate of composer Paul Cooper. Earning a degree in music theory and composition from the University of Southern California rewarded Cooper with an award-winning musical career after the end of his military service as a flight instructor around the time of the Korean War. After studying in France (once at the Sorbonne), Cooper earned Fulbright and Guggenheim fellowships, as well as a National Endowment for the Arts award. His work consisted of original symphonies, concertos, string quartets and other compositions. “The music, although framed in classical forms, developed new ways of expression to provide a fresh sound,” according to his bio on the Texas State Historical Association. He was on the faculty of Houston’s Rice University for 22 years.