Rep. Brian Stewart's Weekly Column: Illinois' Bicentennial


Thanksgiving has come and gone.  I hope your turkey was juicy, the sides delicious, and the pumpkin pie delectable.  The holiday season is definitely upon us with Christmas and the New Year just around the corner.  To echo Andy Williams, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

The 100th General Assembly convened for the last time in 2018 this past week.  It was the final week of work for 45th District Senator Tim Bivins.  I agree with actress Loretta Young, who said, “Giving credit where credit is due is a very rewarding habit to form.  Its rewards are inestimable.”

Senator Bivins began his public service long before his time in the Illinois Senate.  Before he was Senator Bivins, he was Lee County’s Sheriff Bivins, the longest serving Sheriff in Lee County history.  Overall, Senator Bivins served for 32 years in law enforcement, engraining in him a desire to keep Illinois communities and neighborhoods safe, a commitment he continued in the Illinois Senate.

Since entering the Senate in March of 2008, Bivins has served as the Republican Spokesperson on the Criminal Law Committee.  He also served on the Government Reform, Human Services, Insurance, Local Government, and Veterans Affairs Committees.  Additionally, he served on the Joint Committee on Government Reform, a special committee “working to restore integrity in state government.”

Senator Bivins was chosen as the Republican Senate Whip in 2013.  The role of the Senate Whip is to count votes, ensure discipline, and secure attendance to Caucus meetings.  In 2014, he was elevated to the position of Assistant State Senate Republican Leader.

Senator Bivins retires next week after more than four decades of public service.  I’m sure Terri, his wife of 43 years, will be glad to have him home.  They’ll have plenty of time to visit their daughter Lindsey and her family in Georgia, while also enjoying time with their son Ryan’s family in Dixon.  Ryan is a sergeant in the Dixon Police Department, carrying on the family tradition of service in Public Safety.

Thank you, Senator Bivins for your dedication and hard work serving the 45th District.  You are an example for me, and for legislators throughout Illinois.  Thank you for your faith in me, to serve you and the people of the 45th District as their next State Senator.  And thank you, sir, for your service.

On Monday, December 3rd, Illinois will celebrate 200 years since it became the 21st state in our great nation.  You may not know that the first Europeans to explore Illinois were French.  Jacques Marquette was a missionary travelling with the fur trader Louis Jolliet along the Mississippi River, and travelled up the Illinois River back to Quebec, and spent the winter camped near Lake Michigan in what is now Chicago.

In fact, the first permanent settlement in Illinois was also French.  Missionaries from Quebec followed in Marquette’s footsteps and built the Mission of the Holy Family in Cahokia.  Today, the congregation of the Church of the Holy Family in Cahokia, Illinois is the oldest Catholic congregation in the United States.

Illinois’ first permanent resident was also French.  Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable’s father was a French immigrant to Quebec who later journeyed to Haiti where he started a family.  Du Sable came to North America in 1779, settling along Lake Michigan.  His settlement grew to be a major trading hub for fur and grain.  Today, we call it Chicago.

After the Revolutionary War Illinois and much of the upper Midwest was ceded to the newly formed United States of America.  The Northwest Ordinance, passed under the Articles of Confederation in 1787, and largely affirmed by the Congress of the United States in 1789, established the territory of Illinois.  In 1804, Illinois served as the launching point for the Louisiana Territory expedition of Lewis and Clark.

The Illinois Territory was represented in Congress by Delegate Nathaniel Pope.  Pope was an important player in ensuring Illinois admission as the 21st state in the Union.  He also whipped congressional votes for an amendment to Illinois’ northern boundary pushing it further north. The new boundary included Jo Daviess, Stephenson, Winnebago, Boone, McHenry, Lake, Carroll, Ogle, Lee, Whiteside DeKalb, Kane, Dupage, Will, and Cook counties, bringing Chicago into the new state of Illinois.

We have come a long way in 200 years.  We rejected slavery 40 years before the end of the Civil War.  We built canals and saw the birth of manufacturers like John Deere.  We sent Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama to the White House.  Illinois has been the birthplace of Sears and Walgreens, the Boy Scouts and the NAACP.

We have come a long way.  I’m sure you’ll agree, we have a long way to go.  And I look forward to doing my best to ensure our next 200 years are even better than the last.

If you have any additional thoughts or ideas, you can reach me or Sally at 815-232-0774, or visit my website at www.repbrianstewart.com and use the form to send me an e-mail.

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