Welcome to Illinois
The marker is located in a turnout area on the south side of Route 54, west of Atlas, and east of Pike.
Illinois Department of Transportation and The Illinois State Historical Society
In 1673 the areas of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers were explored by Frenchmen Louis Jolliet and Father Jacques Marquette. Their voyages resulted in French claims on the area until 1763 when, by the Treaty of Paris, France ceded the land to Great Britain. During the American Revolution, the Illinois Territory was won for the Commonwealth of Virginia by George Rogers Clark and his army. In 1784 it became part of the Northwest Territory and on December 3, 1818 Illinois entered the Union as the twenty-first state.
US Route 54 enters Illinois east of Louisiana, Missouri and stretches northeast towards Pittsfield. The route in Illinois was dedicated as the 33rd Division Memorial Highway on Memorial Day 1963. The designation commemorates the WW I Division organized in 1917 from Illinois National Guard units. The Division played an important role in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. In WW II it was used in the Pacific in the Philippines.
Route 54 ends its sixteen mile journey in Illinois four miles west of Pittsfield where it meets US Route 36. Pittsfield is the county seat of Pike County. John Nicolay, author of ten-volume biography of Lincoln, began his career in Pittsfield. He met John Hay there and formed a life-long friendship. Hay collaborated on the Lincoln biography and went on to a fruitful career as a diplomat. He was ambassador to great Britain and Secretary of State from 1898-1905.
The "open door" policy with China and the Hay-Paunceforte Treaty were his major accomplishments.
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