The wrench, the dishwasher, the first John Deere tractor, the tallest man ever born and the Twinkie. All BIG things that happened in small Illinois towns.

Some of Illinois' BIGGEST moments in history, took place in the state's SMALLEST towns.

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1. Alton - Population 30,496 (as of 2020)

A town in southern Illinois about 15 miles north of St. Louis, MO. Alton is the birth place of Jazz legend Miles Davis and Robert Wadlow.

Robert is the tallest person ever born.

Robert grew to 8 feet 11 inches tall. I still remember being frightened the first time I saw his picture in my mom and dad's copy of the Guinness Book of World Records.

9 Small Towns in Illinois Where Big Things Happened
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Open dishwasher with dirty dishes and surrounding cabinets

2. Shelbyville - Population 4,700 (as of 2010)

Josephine Cochrane, sick of doing dishes by hand, invented the mechanical dishwasher in Shelbyvile in 1885. She is said to have exclaimed,

"If nobody else is going to invent a dish washing machine, I'll do it myself!"


Mechanic holding wrench

3. Hutsonville - Population 554 (as of 2010)

Albert A. Coon invented the wrench in 1886 in this small town.

Hutsonville sits on the Illinois/Indiana border. The total area of Hutsonville isn't even a full square mile.


9 Small Towns in Illinois Where Big Things Happened
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4. Grand Detour - Population 429 (as of 2010)

Have you heard of John Deere? Of course you have.

John invented the cast steel plow in Grand Detour in 1837.

Deere & Company began when John Deere, born in Rutland, Vermont on February 7, 1804, moved to Grand Detour, Illinois in 1836 in order to escape bankruptcy in Vermont.



9 Small Towns in Illinois Where Big Things Happened
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5. River Forest - Population 11,172 (as of 2010)

The Twinkie was invented by James Dewar in River Forest in 1930.

Dewar's plant (which eventually became Hostess) was making strawberry shortcakes. When the strawberry season passed, James had the idea of making the shortcake with cream inside instead of using strawberries.

River Forest is a rather affluent suburban village in Cook County and has been home to many notable residents:

Paul Harvey, famed radio commentator/story teller

Chris Columbus, writer/director. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Mrs. Doubtfire, Home AloneGremlins and The Goonies

Edwin Perkins, who invented Kool-Aid

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