St. Charles is a Chicago suburb in Kane and DuPage counties of Illinois, United States, and is roughly west of Chicago on Illinois Route 64. According to a 2004 census estimate, the city has a total population of 32,134. The official city slogan is Pride of the Fox, after the Fox River that runs through the center of town. St. Charles is part of a tri-city area along with Geneva and Batavia, all western suburbs of similar size and relative socioeconomic condition.
St Charles was the location of the Indian community for the chief of the Pottawatomie that inhabited the area. A city park overlooking the river was dedicated to this Indian past. After the Black Hawk War in 1832, the entire area of the Fox Valley was opened to American settlement. Evan Shelby and William Franklin staked the first claim in what is now St. Charles in 1833. They came back in 1834 with their families from Indiana, and were joined by over a dozen other families later that year. The township was initially known as Charleston, but this name was already taken by the downstate city of Charleston, Illinois so the name of St. Charles (suggested by S. S. Jones, a lawyer) was adopted in 1839. St. Charles became incorporated as a city in 1834, 3 years before the city of Chicago.
Several "stations" of the slavery-era Underground Railroad were in St. Charles homes, complete with tunnels and false doorways; there was also an open abolitionist group called the Kane County Anti-Slavery Society, founded in 1842, with about 180 members.
St. Charles was a very isolated place early on in its existence. The village was located three days away from Chicago, and the Fox River was not navigable for large boats. By the 1850s, St. Charles had begun construction of a plank road to Sycamore but turned down an offer by the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad to construct a line through the town, which was eventually built in nearby Elgin. Lack of regional connections in the early years kept the town relatively small. St. Charles was without a railroad until 1871 when a branch line from Geneva was constructed, and was without a direct connection to Chicago until the 1880s with the coming of the Chicago Great Western Railway.
Streetcar lines along the Fox River between Elgin and Aurora were built through the city in 1896, operated by the Aurora, Elgin and Fox River Electric company. A direct automobile route to Chicago, which eventually became Route 64 (Main Street), was constructed in 1920. Four Illinois state routes, including Routes 64, 38 (Lincoln Highway), 25 (5th Avenue) and 31 (2nd Street) now run though the city. Two major Kane County roads also cut through the city; Randall Road on the west side and Kirk Road on the east side.
St. Charles was also the place of settlement for diverse groups of European immigrants, including those from Ireland and Sweden during the 1840s and 1950s, and later, groups from Belgium and Lithuania.
Selected census results for St. Charles over time are: