Lake County has many diverse communities. This page will attempt to mention some of the many racial, ethnic, and religious groups that chose to settle in the county. The growth and completeness of this page is only hampered by a lack of incoming information, so if you have any information on early settlement and racial, ethnic, and religious groups in the county, please mail us.
A reason for early settlement in the county was available land for farming. Many early settlers were from New England. As time went on, later settlers moved in to work in the factories in some of the more industrial communities. Many of those coming to the county to work in the mills and factories were from other countries. An African American migration from the southern states also occurred. Religion played a factor in migration to Lake County; the city of Zion is one example of a place that drew settlers for religious reasons. As the county's many lakes became a resort area for Chicagoans, a new migration occurred. Summer homes became permanent residences after a housing boom followed WWII.
Among racial, ethnic, and religious groups in Lake County:
The earliest known African American settler was Amos Bennett, one of the founders of the Warren Cemetery. He farmed in the Gurnee area in the 1840s and 1850s. Another small African American migration to the county can be seen in a comparison between the 1860 and 1870 censuses. The end of slavery brought several African Americans to settle in Lake County.
A larger migration to the county was from the south after WWI. Jobs in the industries found in the county, mainly along the towns along the Lake Michigan shore, fueled the migration. The county was also having a labor shortage and trying to attract labor. The Bradshaw and Range funeral home in North Chicago has been host to many funeral services for blacks since 1939. Some early black churches included the First Baptist Church of North Chicago, established in 1905, and Shiloh Baptist Church in Waukegan, organized about 1918. The Trinity African Methodist Episcopal Church in Waukegan was formed in 1911.
The Washburn-Moen plant was instrumental in bringing a number of Armenians to Lake County. The Washburn-Moen plant in Worcester, Massachusetts moved to Waukegan. A number of workers moved with the plant. Many Armenian people were escaping oppression in their native land when they came to America. Waukegan housed the majority of early Armenians to the county. Their main neighborhood in Waukegan was between Tenth Street, Genessee Street, Belvidere Road and McAlister. Some Armenian churches included St. Paul's Armenian Apostolic Church, St. George's Armenian Apostolic Church, and the Armenian Evangelical Church.
Christian Catholic Church or Dowieites
This religious group drew members and residents from all over the globe. Zion was founded as a religious utopia and followers wanted to be a part of the experimental city. It began drawing settlers at its founding just after the turn of the 20th century. The early church leaders were very strict, and laws such as no alcohol in the city and no work on Sunday were enforced. The early church owned the property and factories in the city and leased the house to the residents. An entire lace factory with workers was imported from overseas.
Many Croatians moved to the Waukegan area to work at the Washburn-Moen plant, which later became known as U. S. Steel. Early settlement for this group was the south side of Waukegan and the north side of North Chicago. They started to settle in the county about 1895.
Some churches associated with the Croatians include St. Joseph's Catholic Church and Mother of God Church.
Work at the American Steel and Wire Company attracted some of the earliest Finns to Lake County around 1889. The Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church was built in Waukegan in 1899. It lasted for 47 years. St. Mark's Church, built in 1951, was also a Finn church.
Germans were found in many parts of Lake County, especially the southern townships. Long Grove and Buffalo Grove were both heavily populated with people of German ancestry. Waukegan also had a German community. A number of the Germans in Lake County were Lutheran, but there was a Catholic German Group in the Buffalo Grove area.
Waukegan is home to a Greek Orthodox Church.
Irish communities were found in the Lake Forest area and in the area around Wadsworth.
Many Italians were located in the Highland Park and Highwood areas. They were attacted to available factory jobs. Some worked in the building trades. The majority of those who settled in Highwood came from north-central Italy, in a region in the Province of Modena known as the Frignano. Many of these families refer to themselves as Modenese. A number of others came from the Bari region of Italy. These towns still are home to many people of Italian descent. For more on this group see Adria Bernardi's book on Italians in Highwood entitled "Houses with Names." Thanks to Kingsley Langenberg for Help with this section.
Some of the early Japanese in the county worked as servants at Fort Sheridan. These men were treated badly by the newspapers when they asked for exemptions due to nationality during the WWI Draft.
A number of Poles were found in the Libertyville area in the WWI Draft Registration cards. They were mostly working in factories.
This page is a work in progress!