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The area that would become Des Plaines was first settled by French farmers in the late 18th century, when it was part of the Northwest Territory. The town's name comes from its location at a "plain" created by two rivers (the Des Plaines and Chicago Rivers). In 1833, following an act of Congress, Douglas County was organized out of land previously belonging to Will County; this included present-day Des Plaines. In 1850 residents had built a courthouse and county jail near today's downtown area. A village named Salem Center soon developed nearby along the riverfront; both were annexed by neighboring Riverview in 1870 as it continued to grow eastward toward Chicago with new railroad tracks opening up more land for development westward towards Joliet along what is now Illinois Route 53 (which originally ran through downtown until 1939).