Prophetstown is located along an oxbow of the Rock River in Whiteside County. With a population of about 2000, Prophetstown has a thriving downtown business sector, which can be seen above in a view on Washington Street/Illinois Rt. 78.
Prophetstown gets its unique name after the Native American “prophet” White Cloud, a Sac chief whose people lived where the Prophetstown State Park is now. White Cloud gained a reputation as a seer and a prophet, and he was well respected with the Sac and Winnebago tribes (his mother was Winnebago). He befriended Black Hawk, a leader of the Sac Indians at Saukenuk, the largest Native American settlement in Illinois, which was 36 miles as the crow flies southwest of Prophetstown in what is now the city of Rock Island. White Cloud played a prominent role in starting the Black Hawk War. He along with another Sac chief Neapope advised Black Hawk to bring his starving band east of the Mississippi up the Rock River (even though the governor of Illinois promised such an action would mean war) where they would receive aid from the Winnebago, and more importantly, from the British. Black Hawk took their advice. However, no aid from either was forthcoming, and both White Cloud and Black Hawk fled north into Wisconsin, where the war ended with the capture of White Cloud and Black Hawk and the slaughtering and scalping of scores of their followers (men, women, and children) as they tried to cross the Mississippi into Iowa. Supposedly Captain Abraham Lincoln and his men (even though they never saw action) burned the abandoned village of White Cloud in what is now Prophetstown during the war, but there were still a few hundred Native Americans living at the site peacefully with settlers for a few years after the Black Hawk War ended in what is now Prophetstown State Park.