ermilion County is named after the Vermilion River, which passes through the county and empties into the Wabash River in Indiana near Cayuga; the river was so named because of the color of the earth along its route.
The area which became Vermilion County was under the flag of France from 1682 to 1763, as part of New France. It was owned by Great Britain for fifteen years after the French and Indian War; it then became part of the colonies after the Revolutionary War when the area was ceded to Virginia and was known as "the Illinois County of Virginia". Later it was part of the Indiana Territory, then the Illinois Territory, and finally the state of Illinois. The county was officially created on January 18, 1826 from a portion of Edgar County. There was an unorganized territory to the north and west which was attached to the county; Champaign and Iroquois counties were formed from part of this territory in 1833. The remainder was used to create Ford County in 1859; this was the last county to be formed in the state.
The existence of saline springs in the county proved to be a strong attraction to early white men, and were mentioned as early as 1801, when Joseph Barron, an interpreter fluent in a number of Native American languages, stated in an affidavit that he was present at the "Vermilion Salines" that year. The production required 100 gallons of water for one bushel of salt and proved to be profitable from the first run 1822 to 1829, when salt became less expensive and the venture was no longer economical.
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