LaSalle County is a county located in the U.S. state of Illinois. According to the 2010 census, it has a population of 113,924, which is an increase of 2.2% from 111,509 in 2000. Its county seat and largest city is Ottawa.
LaSalle County is part of the Ottawa–Streator Micropolitan Statistical Area. LaSalle County borders Woodford, Marshall, Putnam, Bureau, Livingston, Lee, DeKalb, Kendall, and Grundy counties. Though LaSalle County is in the Chicago media market, it retains a unique identity with a mix of pleasant river towns, and vast expanses of farmland. The county is at the intersection of the Chicago, Peoria, Quad Cities and Rockford television markets, with all four regions advertising (and businesses from the respective regions) and having a strong influence on the area such that despite the county's short distance from Chicago, approximately 60 miles, the county does not necessarily see itself as part of Chicagoland quite yet, but it is seen as being part of either Northern Illinois or North-Central Illinois.
LaSalle County was formed on January 15, 1831 out of Tazewell and Putnam Counties. It is named for the early French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle. La Salle was the first European recorded as entering the area. He traveled the Mississippi River upriver from the Gulf of Mexico, claimed the land for France, or rather as a possession of King Louis XIV of France and named it Louisiana. In 1680 he and two other French traders built Fort Crevecoeur on the Illinois River in present-day LaSalle County, and in 1662, the Fort St. Louis on Starved Rock. By 1857 the county was served by the daily arrivals of two trains of the Illinois Central Railroad.
As W.D. Boyce reportedly founded the Boy Scouts of America in Ottawa, the Council is named for him. He and two other founders established the BSA, but Boyce is given the sole credit since his faction of the BSA adopted the other two competing factions elements within the organization. LaSalle County is within what is called the Lowaneu Region of the W.D. Boyce Council.
Through the discovery of barbed wire in DeKalb to the North, the invention of the Harvester Reaper Combine in Plano to the Northeast, The discovery of Pluto, and the area's contribution to sports, multimedia, and politics, the entire area of DeKalb, LaSalle, and Kendall counties all have contributed to the advancement of westward American expansion, science, astronomy, popular culture, and literary and political knowledge.
Ottawa was the first site of the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates, where Lincoln delivered his "House Divided" speech to the public. The community has a strong association with the 16th President, and elements of the downtown area of the city retain much mid-19th century architecture. People in LaSalle County were predominantly abolitionist in attitude, and many Underground Railroad sites were maintained in the county prior to the American Civil War.
Utica (or the official name of North Utica) is considered the gateway to the Starved Rock area. Visiting three parks provides a full experience of the area. Starved Rock, (south of Utica on Ill 178), is the crown jewel. Matthiessen (south of Starved Rock on Ill 178) has many of the same features of Starved Rock, but is smaller, and faces the Vermilion River to the West. Buffalo Rock (east of Utica, and west of Naplate/Ottawa on Dee Bennett Road) has an enclosure which features buffalo, as well as the mound sculpture complex, known as the Effigy Tumuli. The village is most well known for a tornado in 2004, which ripped through downtown and killed nine people.