In 1835, the Illinois state legislature bought 62 acres to create a seat of government for Rock Island County. The area, located between 10th and 17th Streets in modern-day Rock Island, was platted into 20 blocks and named after Colonel Benjamin Stephenson in honor of his service in the Black Hawk War. An effort to name the new town after the area’s most famous resident, Colonel George Davenport, was quashed by a state legislator who was angry at the Colonel for criticizing his conduct during the Black Hawk War. A new courthouse was completed in 1837 and town grew quickly (read about the early fight to make Stephenson’s neighbor, Farnamsburg, the county seat); by 1840 Stephenson had 600 residents. The following year, residents requested a name change, turning Stephenson into Rock Island, and simultaneously increasing the town’s size with the annexation of neighboring Farnhamsburg.

© Dean Klinkenberg, 2009