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LaSalle County, Illinois facts for kids

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LaSalle County
LaSalle County Courthouse
LaSalle County Courthouse
Map of Illinois highlighting LaSalle County
Location within the U.S. state of Illinois
Map of the United States highlighting Illinois
Illinois's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  Illinois
Founded January 15, 1831
Named for René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle
Seat Ottawa
Largest city Ottawa
 • Total 1,148 sq mi (2,970 km2)
 • Land 1,135 sq mi (2,940 km2)
 • Water 13 sq mi (30 km2)  1.1%
 • Total 113,924
 • Estimate 
 • Density 99.24/sq mi (38.316/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (Central)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
Congressional district 16th

LaSalle County is located within the Fox Valley and Illinois River Valley regions of the U.S. state of Illinois; as of 2019, it had an estimated population of 108,669. Its county seat and largest city is Ottawa. LaSalle County is part of the Ottawa, IL Micropolitan Statistical Area of Northern Illinois.

LaSalle County borders Woodford, Marshall, Putnam, Bureau, Livingston, Lee, DeKalb, Kendall, and Grundy counties. Though LaSalle County is in the Chicago media market, it retains a unique identity with a mix of river towns and vast expanses of farmland. The county lies at the intersection of the Chicago, Peoria, Quad Cities and Rockford television markets with all four regions broadcasting within its borders and having a strong influence on the area, despite the county being only 60 miles (97 km) southwest of Chicago.


LaSalle County was formed on January 15, 1831 out of Tazewell and Putnam Counties. It is named for the early French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle. La Salle was the first European recorded as entering the area. He traveled the Mississippi River upriver from the Gulf of Mexico, claimed the land for France, or rather as a possession of King Louis XIV of France and named it Louisiana. In 1680, he and two other French traders built Fort Crevecoeur on the Illinois River in present-day Tazewell County, and in 1662, the Fort St. Louis on Starved Rock in present-day LaSalle County. By 1857, the county was served by the daily arrivals of two trains of the Illinois Central Railroad.

As William D. Boyce reportedly founded the Boy Scouts of America in Ottawa, the Council is named for him. He and two other founders established the BSA, but Boyce is given the sole credit since his faction of the BSA adopted the other two competing factions' elements within the organization. LaSalle County is within what is called the Lowaneu Region of the W.D. Boyce Council.

The Tri-County Area of DeKalb, LaSalle, and Kendall Counties have been influential in terms of their political, sports, multimedia, industry, and technology. DeKalb County was the birthplace of plant hybridization (DeKalb, DeKalb Agricultural), the hot-air hand dryer (Sandwich, Sahara-Pak), and is the home of supermodel Cindy Crawford, at least 6 MLB players, two NFL coaches, and three NFL players. LaSalle County was home to the Westclox Company for many years, was the site of the first Lincoln-Douglas Debates, and was the home to the discoverer of Pluto, as well as a Wild West figure, multiple published authors, a legendary NCAA athletic director and coach, and multiple political figures. Kendall County is the home to a seminal piece of 20th Century architecture, the birthplace of the Harvester Reaper, (as well as the precursor to the International Harvester Company), the plastic tackle box and plastic-injection molding, and is the home of multiple athletes, politicians, and a former Speaker of the House of Representatives. DeKalb, LaSalle, and Kendall Counties have all been featured in major films, either having been written by residents or former residents, having been filmed in the communities, or both.

La Salle County was founded largely by immigrants from New England. These were old stock Yankee immigrants, who were descended from the English Puritans who settled New England in the 1600s. The completion of the Erie Canal caused a surge in New England immigration to what was then the Northwest Territory. The end of the Black Hawk War led to an additional surge of immigration, once again coming almost exclusively from the six New England states as a result of overpopulation combined with land shortages in that region. Some of these later settlers were from upstate New York and had parents who had moved to that region from New England shortly after the Revolutionary War. New Englanders and New England transplants from upstate New York were the vast majority of La Salle County's inhabitants during the first several decades of its history. These settlers were primarily members of the Congregational Church, though due to the Second Great Awakening, many of them had converted to Methodism, and some had become Baptists before coming to what is now La Salle County. The Congregational Church has subsequently gone through many divisions, and some factions, including those in La Salle County, are now known as the Church of Christ and the United Church of Christ. As a result of this heritage, the vast majority of inhabitants in La Salle County − much like antebellum New England − were overwhelmingly in favor of the abolitionist movement during the decades leading up to the Civil War. When the New Englanders arrived in what is now La Salle County, there was nothing but dense virgin forest and wild prairie. They laid out farms, constructed roads, erected government buildings and established post routes. In 1834, Norwegian immigrants settled in the northwest corner of the county. In the late 1880s and early 1890s Irish and German migrants began moving into La Salle County; most of these later immigrants did not move directly from Ireland and Germany, but rather from other areas in the Midwest where they had been living, particularly the state of Ohio. Immigrants around the Peterstown, Troy Grove, Meriden, Mendota, and Earlville area were largely of German descent, with the Mendota area directly being the epicenter of the German community in the county. Norwegian population has been strong in the area around Northville, Serena, Mission, and Miller Townships in LaSalle County, along with Little Rock and Fox Townships in Kendall County, and Sandwich and Somonauk Townships in DeKalb County. One such family, the Borschsenius family, runs the Norway Store in the unincorporated community of Norway, in southern Mission Township, and the family has been deeply involved with businesses and the school district of nearby Serena and Sheridan.

Ottawa was the first site of the famous Lincoln–Douglas debates on August 21, 1858. The community has a strong association with the 16th President, and elements of the downtown area of the city retain much mid-19th century architecture. People in LaSalle County were predominantly abolitionist in attitude, and many Underground Railroad sites were maintained in the county prior to the American Civil War.

Utica (or the official name of North Utica) is considered the gateway to the Starved Rock area. Visiting three parks provides a full experience of the area. Starved Rock State Park, (south of Utica on Illinois Route 178), is the crown jewel. Matthiessen State Park (south of Starved Rock on Ill 178) has many of the same features of Starved Rock, but is smaller, and faces the Vermilion River to the west. Buffalo Rock State Park (east of Utica, and west of Naplate/Ottawa on Dee Bennett Road) has an enclosure which features American bison, as well as the mound sculpture complex, known as the Effigy Tumuli. The village is most well known for the April 20, 2004 tornado, which ripped through the downtown and killed nine people.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,148 square miles (2,970 km2), of which 1,135 square miles (2,940 km2) is land and 13 square miles (34 km2) (1.1%) is water. It is the second-largest county in Illinois by land area and the fourth-largest by total area.

Adjacent counties

LaSalle County, Illinois, is one of the few counties in the United States to border as many as nine counties. Illinois has two such counties, with Pike County being the other.

Many of the residents of LaSalle County live in cities and towns along the Illinois River. It is the main population core, with some exceptions, including Streator to the south of the county. Large cities along the river include Ottawa, LaSalle, Peru, and Marseilles. The regions north and south of the Illinois River are mostly agricultural, including the Fox River portion of the county, and have few large towns.


Weather chart for Ottawa, Illinois
temperatures in °F
precipitation totals in inches
source: The Weather Channel

In recent years, average temperatures in the county seat of Ottawa have ranged from a low of 12 °F (−11 °C) in January to a high of 85 °F (29 °C) in July, although a record low of −25 °F (−32 °C) was recorded in January 1985 and a record high of 112 °F (44 °C) was recorded in July 1936. Average monthly precipitation ranged from 1.32 inches (34 mm) in February to 4.13 inches (105 mm) in June.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1840 9,348
1850 17,815 90.6%
1860 48,332 171.3%
1870 60,792 25.8%
1880 70,403 15.8%
1890 80,798 14.8%
1900 87,776 8.6%
1910 90,132 2.7%
1920 92,925 3.1%
1930 97,695 5.1%
1940 97,801 0.1%
1950 100,610 2.9%
1960 110,800 10.1%
1970 111,409 0.5%
1980 112,003 0.5%
1990 106,913 −4.5%
2000 111,509 4.3%
2010 113,924 2.2%
2019 (est.) 108,669 −4.6%
U.S. Decennial Census
USA La Salle County, Illinois age pyramid
2000 census age pyramid for LaSalle County

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 113,924 people, 45,347 households, and 30,116 families residing in the county. The population density was 100.4 inhabitants per square mile (38.8/km2). There were 49,978 housing units at an average density of 44.0 per square mile (17.0/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 93.2% white, 1.9% black or African American, 0.7% Asian, 0.3% American Indian, 2.5% from other races, and 1.4% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 8.0% of the population. In terms of ancestry, 33.7% were German, 19.0% were Irish, 9.8% were English, 9.2% were Italian, 7.8% were Polish, 6.0% were American, and 5.5% were Norwegian.

Of the 45,347 households, 30.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.9% were married couples living together, 10.5% had a female householder with no husband present, 33.6% were non-families, and 28.6% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 3.00. The median age was 41.0 years.

The median income for a household in the county was $51,705 and the median income for a family was $62,252. Males had a median income of $49,551 versus $30,207 for females. The per capita income for the county was $24,982. About 8.0% of families and 10.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.3% of those under age 18 and 6.8% of those age 65 or over.




Census-designated places

Other unincorporated communities


LaSalle County is divided into thirty-seven townships:

  • Adams
  • Allen
  • Brookfield
  • Bruce
  • Dayton
  • Deer Park
  • Dimmick
  • Eagle
  • Earl
  • Eden
  • Fall River
  • Farm Ridge
  • Freedom
  • Grand Rapids
  • Groveland
  • Hope
  • LaSalle
  • Manlius
  • Mendota
  • Meriden
  • Miller
  • Mission
  • Northville
  • Ophir
  • Osage
  • Ottawa
  • Otter Creek
  • Peru
  • Richland
  • Rutland
  • Serena
  • South Ottawa
  • Troy Grove
  • Utica
  • Vermillion
  • Wallace
  • Waltham

Ghost towns

Visitor attractions


School districts

Secondary schools


  • Earlville High School (CUSD 9), also has district area in DeKalb and Lee Counties
  • LaSalle-Peru High School, LaSalle
  • Leland High School, Leland, also has district area in DeKalb County
  • Mendota Township High School, Mendota, also has district area in Bureau and Lee Counties
  • Newark Community High School, located within Kendall County, but serves Mission Township
  • Ottawa Township High School, Ottawa
  • Sandwich Community High School (CUSD 430), located within DeKalb County, but serves Northville Township
  • Seneca High School, also has district area in Grundy County
  • Serena High School (CUSD 2)
  • Somonauk High School, located within DeKalb County, but serves Northville and Adams Townships
  • Streator Township High School, Streator
  • Woodland High School, Streator


  • Marquette Academy, Ottawa
  • Ottawa Christian Academy, Ottawa
  • St. Bede Academy, Peru

Colleges and universities

  • Illinois Valley Community College, Oglesby




  • Earlville Airport, closed in 2010
  • Illinois Valley Regional Airport, Peru

Major highways

  • I-39.svg Interstate 39
  • I-80.svg Interstate 80
  • US 6.svg U.S. Highway 6
  • US 34.svg U.S. Highway 34
  • US 51.svg U.S. Highway 51
  • US 52.svg U.S. Highway 52
  • Illinois 17.svg Illinois Route 17
  • Illinois 18.svg Illinois Route 18
  • Illinois 23.svg Illinois Route 23
  • Illinois 71.svg Illinois Route 71
  • Illinois 170.svg Illinois Route 170
  • Illinois 178.svg Illinois Route 178
  • Illinois 251.svg Illinois Route 251
  • Illinois 351.svg Illinois Route 351


  • LaSalle County Nuclear Generating Station, Marseilles

Notable people

  • James T. Aubrey (LaSalle) longtime president of CBS Television network
  • Bill Brown, (Mendota) former running back for the Minnesota Vikings
  • Herbert "Fritz" Crisler, (Earlville, Mendota) head football coach at the University of Michigan (1938–1947), namesake of the school's basketball stadium, and is credited for created the helmet design for the Michigan football team
  • Doug Dieken, (rural Streator) former tackle with the Cleveland Browns (1971–1984); color commentary for Browns radio broadcasts
  • Walter T. Gunn, Illinois Supreme Court justice, born in LaSalle County
  • J. A. Happ, (Peru) pitcher for New York Yankees; pitched for 2008 World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies
  • Michael Hermosillo, (Ottawa) outfielder for the Los Angeles Angels and minor league affiliates
  • Wild Bill Hickok, (Troy Grove) noted historical Western Figure
  • Helen Hokinson, (Mendota) cartoonist for The New Yorker
  • Silas Johnson, (Sheridan) credited as the last pitcher to strike out Herman "Babe" Ruth; played for the Cincinnati Reds
  • Harry Kelly, (Ottawa) 39th governor of Michigan
  • Terrence Malick, (Ottawa) film director, known for Badlands and The Thin Red Line; born in Ottawa
  • Bob McGrath, (Ottawa), Sesame Street performer
  • Esther Hobart Morris, (Peru) First Female Judge in United States
  • Clarence E. Mulford, (Streator) wrote the "Hopalong Cassidy" cowboy novels
  • Cleng Peerson, established the community of Norway
  • Edward H. Plumb, (Streator) film composer, worked with Walt Disney on Fantasia; nominated four times for an Academy Award
  • Maud Powell, (Peru) violinist
  • Thomas E. G. Ransom, Civil War general, lived in Peru, namesake of Ransom
  • Adam Shabala, (Streator) former outfielder for the San Francisco Giants
  • Aaron Shea, (Ottawa) player for the Cleveland Browns
  • Clyde Tombaugh, (Streator) astronomer, discovered Pluto
  • Martin R. M. Wallace, (Ottawa) Civil War general
  • W.H.L. Wallace, (Ottawa) Civil War general
  • Walt Willey, (Ottawa) actor, known for All My Children
  • Gary K. Wolf, (Earlville) author of Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, adopted into the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit
  • Clay Zavada, (Streator) pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Condado de LaSalle para niños

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