East Peoria History

East Peoria Historical Society Logo

East Peoria Historical Society Website

History provided by Norma Smith

Located in Central Illinois, East Peoria has long drawn life from the Illinois River and from the rich soil and natural resources of its location. From the time of the earliest Indians through its development as a suburban manufacturing community, East Peoria, with its rich plain, scenic hills and abundant water, has grown and prospered.

  1. Origins
  2. Industry
  3. Transportation
  4. The Great Flood
  5. Education & Organizations

Origins as Bluetown

Many of the earlier settlers of the area now known as East Peoria were from Alsace Lorraine. The homes were built in the swamp lands where Caterpillar Inc. now stands. In 1864, Joseph Schertz platted an area known as Bluetown, possibly named from one of three theories: first, it was the custom for the Alsace Lorraine men to wear blue smocks; second, the homes, built on stilts, were painted blue to combat the corrosive action of the swamps; and third, a large number of the homes belonged to a mining company and a large quantity of blue paint had been purchased to paint the houses. Bluetown became known as Hilton, Illinois, in 1869.

Peoria was prospering, crowding the land along the shore and causing developers to look across to the East. One of the first was Almiron S. Cole. Captain Cole, who had grown wealthy as a merchant, steamboat captain and distiller, built the first toll bridge in 1848, connecting the two shores, and eventually moved to the east side. His home was located at the site of the present First United Methodist Church, corner of Washington and Almiron streets. The area developed as Coleville, and streets such as Almiron, Cole, Johnson and Cole Hollow commemorate Captain Cole and his descendants.

In July 1884, the residents of Bluetown and Coleville incorporated under the name of Hilton. The vote, 30 to 12, established the first incorporated village where East Peoria now stands. In October 1889, the name was changed to the Village of East Peoria. It was changed to the City of East Peoria and the commission form of government adopted in April 1919.