Prior to incorporation
The Pottawatomi Indian Tribe, nomadic hunters who lived in tepees, inhabited Antioch when white men began to arrive. They fought with the British in the War of 1812 and then with the American settlers in the Blackhawk War of 1832. It was in 1832 that the Indians began to leave the area, although arrowheads and other remnants of their history can still be found today if one knows where to look. The winding Highway 173 was once an Indian trail and Highway 83 was the Muquonago Trail.
The first permanent white settlement in Antioch was the Gage Brothers' cabin on Sequoit Creek, a tributary of the Fox River. In 1839, Hiram Buttrick built a sawmill along the creek, making Antioch a center of commerce. A replica of the mill has been built a few hundred feet downstream from where it once stood.
The influence of the Gage brothers is important when trying to understand the history and names of the Antioch area, as many local businesses, as well as ACHS sports teams, bear the word "Sequoit." There is no Native American tribe named "Sequoit" or any Native American word for that matter stemming from Antioch's Pottawatomi inhabitants. Though the word "sequoit" has Native American origins, the story behind the name is as complicated as it is historically interesting. Fred Willman explains in his in-depth book examining Illinois high school nicknames, "Why Mascots Have Tales", "The word Sequoit is a form of spelling of the Iroquois Indian word Sa-da-quoit, which was the name the Iroquois Indians gave to a stream that flows through Oneida County in New York state. In the Iroquois language, Sa-da-quoit literally means ‘smooth pebbles in the bed of a stream.’ When white settlers moved into Oneida County, they modified the spelling and pronunciation of the stream to Sequoit Creek." This was later transplanted and modified when the Gage brothers moved from New York State to northern Illinois.
Incorporation as village
Antioch was officially founded just prior to the Civil War by a congregation of the Disciples of Christ, also known as the Church of Christ. In 1843, less enthusiastically religious residents mockingly recommended the Christian name "Antioch" (the name of a city in present-day Turkey that was a chief center of early Christianity), and the name stuck. Partly due to being a regional center of the abolitionist movement, Antioch is noted as having sent a disproportionately high number of its young men to the Union Army. Shortly after the Civil War, the town disincorporated, as many of the initial religious settlers moved away.
In 1892, Antioch reincorporated as a village, which it has been continuous to this day. The town grew as new settlers (primarily of English and German descent) established farms and businesses.
In the late 1800s, Antioch became a popular vacation spot for Chicagoans. Tourism grew quickly once the rail line to Chicago was laid in 1886. Originally, farmers near the lake accepted boarders, then they added guest rooms onto their homes. Eventually hotels and subdivisions of summer cottages were built. The tourists took excursion boats through the renowned flowering lotus beds. Hunting, fishing, dancing and gambling were big draws, but most tourists (not to mention year-round residents) simply preferred the quiet country life over the hustle and bustle of Chicago. During Prohibition, one famous Antioch resident was Al Capone, who owned a summer home on nearby Bluff Lake.
Fire destroyed much of downtown in 1891, 1903, and 1904. What remained was a little known cottage, titled "Steve's Cottage", on what is commonly called "Loon Lake." In 1905, the town rebuilt with brick and started a public water system. The base of the first water tower is still found at the corner of Toft and Orchard Streets. A volunteer Fire Department was formed in 1913.
The town grew at a steady pace through the years. Harvesting ice to supply iceboxes was a major industry in the area for many years. Pickard China, a manufacturer of fine china, has been a steady employer in Antioch since 1937. In the 1950s, the village developed a large industrial park along Anita Avenue, which greatly contributes to the tax and employment base.
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