History of all 16 Counties: #5 Fulton County


Map of Illinois highlighting Fulton County


INTERESTING FACTS: Named for Robert Fulton, the inventor of the steamboat. Home of Camp Ellis a WWII prisoner of war camp. Home of Edgar Lee Masters author of Spoon River Anthology. Known for Spoon River Scenic drive, a tradition since 1968 that happens on the first 2 weekends of October attracting thousands of tourists. Home to Dickson Mounds, a museum honoring local Native American heritage in the IL River Valley. Fulton County has the largest collection of Woodland Mounds in Illinois with 35 known as  the Ogden-Fettie Site (dating from 100 BC to 400 AD) which is associated with the Havana Hopewell Culture.  Also home to the Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge.


  1. Canton: – Population 15,703. Founded in 1825 by settler Isaac Swan who believed the town was diametrically opposite of Canton, China. Canton was a factory town due to the railroad, abundance of coal, and the Illinois River. At one time was the largest cigar-manufacturer in the midwest. Also was home to a major farming manufacturing company known as P & O (Parlin and Orendorff)  which later became International Harvester, closing in 1983. The remainder of the plant was destroyed in an arsonist fire in 1997. A major employer of the town is a prison called the Illinois River Correctional Center. A medical plant called Cook Medical opened in 2010 specializing in products made in only 5 places in the world. Suffered a major gas explosion on the downtown square in November 2016 that left 1 dead and 12.  injured. Canton is also home to Spoon River Community College. Notable people from Canton include former NFL player and College football Hall of Famer Tony Blazine, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and founder of Cook Group William ¨Bill¨ Cook, University of Illinois basketball great Dave Downey, the engineer of the first ever American gasoline powered-car Charles Duryea, Academy Award nominated filmmaker Jack Fisk, NFL pro and college football All-American Boomer Grigsby, former AFL football player Harry Jacobs, Elizabeth Maggie inventor of The Landlord’s Game which became the board game Monopoly, astronaut Steven R. Nagel, mystery author Barbara Mertz, and Hollywood legend Ian Wolfe.
  2. Farmington: – Population 2,448. Once inhabited by Potawatomi Indians, the city was named after Farmington, CT. Several remaining homes participated in the Underground Railroad. Abe Lincoln once gave a speech here why traveling for the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Farmington was also involved in the Underground Railroad before the Civil War. Notable people include early Hollywood actor Lewis Russell, former Major Leaguer baseball star Bill Tuttle known for speaking out against chewing tobacco after suffering oral cancer as well as being one of the more reliable outfielders in baseball,
  3. Lewistown: – Population 2,384. The county seat of Fulton County. The source material for Edgar Lee Masters Spoon River Theology.  Home to Dickson Mounds Museum near  Native American memorial burial mounds. Home to the Rasmussen Blacksmith shop, one of the few left in the US. Founded by Ossian M. Ross who named the town for his oldest son Lewis M. Ross, an anti war peace advocate during the Civil War (Copperhead) who was a close friend of Stephen Douglas. Other notable people include former US Civil War era Congressman Thomas A. Boyd, former University of IL football great Jack Depler, Lloyd Loar a respected luthier (someone who builds string instruments) who is famous for his F5 mandolin and L5 guitar, Edgar Lee Masters author of Spoon River Anthology, Civil War brigadier general and also the other founder´s son Leonard Fulton Ross, merchant and farmer Isaac Newton Walker who was also a close friend of Abraham Lincoln who would play his fiddle for Abe in exchange for a humorous story.
  4. Cuba: – Population 1,294. Founded in 1837 when 2 rival towns Centerville and Middleton merged. Located right in the center of Fulton County.  Home of sociologist Paul H. Landis who pioneered rural sociology, university president Harry K. Newburn, and Guinness Record holder ¨Fittest Man in the World¨ Joe Decker (see link below).
  5. Astoria: – Population 1,141.
  6. Avon: – Population 799. First the town was named Woodsville, than Woodstock but ultimately the name was changed to Avon to avoid being mistaken with another IL town. Was once a thriving town as a stop on the Chicago to Quincy Railroad. Home to longtime TV and radio announcer Ken Carpenter.
  7. Vermont: – Population 667.Founded in 1835 by James and Joseph Crail. Home to former US Congressman Thomas Ray Hamer who has the city Hamer, Idaho named for him. And former Arizona governor John Calhoun Phillips.
  8. St. David: – Population 589.
  9. Fairview: – Population 522.
  10. Ipava: – Population 470. Home to actor and director Jack Fisk the husband of actress Sissy Spacek. Also home to one of the 1st Socialists members in America Frank Lovell.
  11. Table Grove: – Population 416.
  12. London Mills: – Population 392. Also a portion of this town is in Knox County.
  13. Dunfermline: – Population 300. The name is pronounced ¨Done-fern-lien¨ and was named for the 1st Scottish settlers there from Dunfermline, Scotland.
  14. Smithfield: – Population 230.
  15. Bryant: – Population 220.
  16. Norris: – Population 213.
  17. Banner: – Population 189.
  18. Liverpool: – Population 129.
  19. Marietta: – Population 112.
  20. Ellisville: – Population 96. Named for founder Levi D. Ellis.

*List of Historic Places in Fulton County

*Further information about the history of Canton, IL

*Further information about the Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge

*Farmington Historical Society and Museum Facebook Page

*Link to Canton, IL Official Website

*Link to Story about Elizabeth Maggie, the original inventor of Monopoly

*Link to Story about Cuba, IL native Joe Decker winning the title of the World´s Fittest Man

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