The biggest question everyone asks about Rockford, Illinois is; how did it get its name?

Before I start let me just say I'm not trying to diss our fair city, but I was expecting grand things when it came to how Rockford got its name.

Getty Images
Getty Images

What Is Rockford, Illinois Most Known For?

When it comes to what Rockford, Illinois is best known for, I'm assuming the list is pretty small...

  1. Home of Cheap Trick
  2. Home of the Rockford Peaches
  3. Home of Fred Van Vleet

Yes, our Rockford is probably a little less well known for things like the birthplace of the sock monkey, our long history of manufacturing, the awesomeness of Anderson Japanese Gardens, or the fact that a large number of Swedish immigrants moved here after the Civil War, but I'm guessing there's a whole bunch of other interesting things about Rockford that even the people who live here don't know.

How Did Rockford Become Rockford?

I've lived in Rockford all of my life, and until today I've never taken the time to find out how Rockford got its name. Honestly, I was expecting a grand historical story, but according to the City of Rockford's website;

Halfway between Chicago and Galena, the community was briefly known as "Midway", but quickly became known as "Rockford", because of the excellent ford across Rock River.

So we're literally named after a river ford. Not so creative is it?

More Interesting Facts About Rockford, Illinois

During my quest to find how Rockford got its name, I also discovered a few other things I never knew about the city on;

  1. Irish immigrants were some of the first to settle here in large numbers
  2. Rockford was the center of an 'avid anti-slavery region' before the start of the Civil War.
  3. When the Civil War began in 1861, the first Illinois military contingents to mobilize were the "Rockford Zouaves".
  4. Rockford was a principal target from the Palmer Raids in January of 1920, and around 180 citizens were arrested.

Here are some more fun things you might not know about Rockford, or the entire state of Illinois...

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