The "Illinois" steamboat was built for the Rock River by former Rockford Mayor Amasa Hutchins and
John T. Buker. The flat bottom boat was one of the most popular entertainment
resources in Illinois.
While it was mostly used for pleasure, it was also occasionally used for
business. Midway Village Curator of Education Mark Herman says, "They actually
formed the Rockford Chamber of Commerce in a meeting on board the Illinois." The "Illinois" travelled from Mulberry Street,
seven miles up the river at a maximum speed of 10 mph. Its baritone whistle was
a familiar sound on the river as the boat was regularly booked for cruises and
parties. Herman says, "It sank in 1908 because it was over loaded and it
completely went under. Nobody was hurt but they were able to raise it and bring
it back." They refitted the "Illinois"
with new lights including this lantern. It was a big draw for tourism until
March of 1924 when it mysteriously caught fire during the night.
After the fire, what remained was dragged up
river to the site of the current YMCA where it sunk. Most of the hull still rests
on the bottom of the river.