|Ottawa, Illinois which now has the distinction of being the largest city in La Salle county as well as the county
seat, is located in a spot of surpassing beauty, at the junction of the Fox and Illinois rivers. The city is
operated under the commission form of government by a mayor and four commissioners, the present city
council being comprised of Mayor H. J. Hilliard and Commissioners John F. Bulger, John G. Schumacher, Henry F.
Miller and Walter B. Palmer. Ottawa has a population of 15,094, according to the last federal census.
This city was early chosen by the state authorities as an eligible site for a town along the proposed line of the
Illinois and Michigan canal. While the city later spread out on both banks of the two rivers, the original town
was laid out by the canal commissioners on December 5, 1830, on the south side of the Illinois river. This plat
extended a short distance across the river to the south line of the present court house square.
On January 15, 1831, La Salle county was organized and Ottawa was made the county seat. There was no court
house, the first court being held under trees on the river bank. The next court was held in a double log house on
the south side of the river. One side of this house was used by the court and the other by Dr. David Walker and
family. In 1839 Ottawa was incorporated as a village. The records of this proceeding were burned, thus the
names of the first trustees are not known. During a session of the state legislature in 1852 and 1853 a
charter for the city of Ottawa was obtained and approved by the governor on February 10, 1853. On the
succeeding 3d of May, the first city officers were elected, William Hickling being chosen mayor. Among those
who became leading men in Ottawa before 1840 may be mentioned : Dr. Jesse Walker, prominent in that group
of itinerant Methodist preachers and missioners, including Beggs, St. Clair and Peter Cartwright, came to
Ottawa from Virginia in 1825. He established missions and schools among the Pottawattomie Indians who,
however, in spite of the earnest efforts of missionaries, both Catholic and Protestant, remained pagan. Dr.
David Walker, a practicing physician, came to Ottawa from Virginia in 1826. He and his numerous family played
an important part in the settlement and early business of Ottawa. His son, Wilbur, brought the first keel -boat
up the Illinois river in 1825. George E. Walker, son of Dr. David Walker, followed his father to Ottawa in 1827.
He was a captain of scouts in the Black Hawk war and an Indian trader. Indeed his trading house and the log
house used jointly as a court house and residence were the only two houses in the new settlement in 1831. Mr.
Walker served as the first sheriff of La Salle county. Col. Daniel F. Hitt came to Ottawa from Ohio in 1830 as
one of a corps of engineers and surveyors locating the route of the Illinois & Michigan canal. He became county
surveyor of La Salle county. He served through the Black Hawk war and was Lieut. Col. of the 53d Illinois
regiment of volunteers in the Civil war. Col. T. Lyle Dicky came to Ottawa from Kentucky in 1831. He was a
veteran of the Mexican war, a colonel of cavalry in the Civil war and was during one year on the staff of Gen.
Grant. He was U. S. Assistant adjutant general from 1868 to 1870. He then removed to Chicago, where he
served as corporation counsel until elected to the supreme bench of Illinois in 1875. Col. William H. W. Cushman
came to Ottawa from Massachusetts in 1834. He was a banker and capitalist, was twice a member of the
legislature and he raised the 53d regiment of volunteers in the Civil war and was commissioned its colonel.
William Hickling came from England to Ottawa in 1831. He was Ottawa's first mayor and was the first
president of the First National bank of Ottawa. Judge Edwin S. Leland came to Ottawa from Massachusetts in
LS35. He became judge of the ninth judicial circuit from 1852 to 1866, and of the sixth judicial circuit in
1873. Burton C. Cook came to Ottawa from New York in 1835. He was elected state's attorney for the ninth
judicial circuit in 1846 and in 1848. In 1852 he was elected to the state senate and re-elected in 1856. He was
elected to congress in 1864-66, 1868 and 1870.