History of Elgin St. Mary Academy
Elgin (population: 101,903 as of 2007) is located in northeastern Illinois
about 40 miles west of Chicago. The community is based
primarily in Kane County, although some of it has now spilled over into Cook. The Fox River
runs thru the city as does Illinois Routes 25 & 31, along with US 20, and Interstate 90.
Elgin’s founding took place after
the the Black Hawk Indian War of 1832 as many soldiers and militarymen marched thru the area that had been vacated
by Native Americans. Those that stopped to look around to notice the Fox River Valley decided to stake their land,
and accounts of the area's fertile soils and flowing springs soon filtered east to others. Two of those people came from New York State as James
T. Gifford and his brother Hezekiah were interested in settling down in the Midwest.
On a stagecoach ride from Chicago to Galena, their coach found
a place where the Fox River could be crossed, and they were impressed enough that they established
the city in 1836, in honor of a Scottish hymn, "The Song of Elgin."
As the city grew, the stagecoaches
were replaced by the railroads as the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad reached Elgin
in 1849, and other railroads would be running along both banks of the Fox River to connect the town to Chicago and other urban centers. That connection to the Windy
City was important to Elgin’s
fame for the butter and dairy goods it sold to their denizons. The city also
became the home of the Elgin Watch Company in 1866, and it was the largest producer of fine watches in the United States until its closure in 1964 when the company moved to Elgin, South Carolina.