As a small town in northwestern Illinois, Erie may not garner much attention on a national level. However, this quiet community has been witness to a number of important historical events over the years. From battles to natural disasters, here are just a few of the significant events that have taken place near Erie.
1. Battle of Credit Island - In the summer of 1814, a group of Native Americans and British soldiers attacked an American military installation on Credit Island, which sits in the Mississippi River near present-day Davenport. Captain Benjamin F. Pike led an American force to retake the island, resulting in a fierce battle that lasted several days. The Americans ultimately emerged victorious, securing control of the Mississippi Valley and leading to the eventual end of the War of 1812.
2. Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Bridge Collapse - On April 9, 1886, the bridge spanning the Rock River just east of Erie collapsed, killing 14 people and injuring dozens more. The disaster was caused by a combination of factors, including a weak design and unusually heavy train traffic due to the Easter holiday. The tragedy led to calls for stronger safety regulations in the railroad industry.
3. Tornado Outbreak - On June 3, 1980, a massive tornado outbreak struck the Midwest, causing widespread damage and loss of life. One of the strongest tornadoes in the outbreak hit just north of Erie, destroying several homes and injuring numerous people. The community rallied together to provide aid and support to those affected by the disaster.
4. Murder of Deputy Sheriff Charles E. Schmidt - On November 6, 1926, Deputy Sheriff Charles E. Schmidt was shot and killed by an escaped convict near Hooppole, a small town just south of Erie. The criminal, Charles Ferdon, went on to commit several other violent crimes before being apprehended weeks later. Schmidt's death served as a reminder of the dangers faced by law enforcement officers in rural areas.
5. Emergence of the Mormon Church - While not strictly an event that took place in Erie, the nearby town of Nauvoo played a significant role in the early history of the Mormon Church. After leaving New York in 1839, founder Joseph Smith led his followers to Nauvoo, where they established a thriving community and built a temple. However, tensions with non-Mormon residents ultimately led to the group's expulsion from the area.
6. Underground Railroad - Like many communities in the North, Erie was a stop on the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses used to help enslaved persons escape to freedom in the mid-19th century. Abolitionist settlers in the area risked their lives to provide aid and shelter to those seeking liberty.
7. Lincoln-Douglas Debates - In 1858, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas engaged in a series of famous debates as they vied for a seat in the United States Senate. One of the debates was held in Freeport, a town situated between Erie and the Mississippi River. The debates helped to define the issue of slavery in the run-up to the Civil War and solidified Lincoln's position as a national political figure.
These events serve as a reminder that even small towns can play a significant role in shaping history. As Erie continues to evolve and grow, it's important to remember and honor the events that have taken place in and around the community.
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