History of all 16 Counties: #7 Hancock County


Map of Illinois highlighting Hancock County


INTERESTING FACTS: Named for John Hancock, signer of the Declaration of Independence. Originally set aside as land for military veterans of War of 1812 but not settled until after the Blackhawk Indian War in 1832. Home to Nauvoo which was one of the biggest cities in the 1840s and headquarters of the Mormon Church. Home to Carthage where Mormon founder Joseph Smith was killed. Many Mormons visit as part of a pilgrimage today.


    1. Hamilton: Population – 2,951. Located directly across the Mississippi River from Keokuk, Iowa. Named for early town founder Artois Hamilton.
    2. Carthage: Population – 2,605. Best known as the site of the 1844 murder of Mormon founder Joseph Smith at the Carthage jail. Abe Lincoln unsuccessfully defended Efram Fraim who was the only person ever hanged in the county. Lincoln also spoke here in 1858 when campaigning for Senate. The only city in IL to have original jails still in existence. Was home to Carthage College from 1870-1964 which relocated to Kenosha, WI.  
    3. Warsaw: Population – 1,607. Was an important fur trading post and one of the earliest settlements in northern IL. Served as a center of opposition to Mormons during the Mormon-IL War. Home to the Warsaw brewery which opened in 1861 and remained open until 1971. They reopened after renovations in 2006 as a bar and restaurant. Home to John Hay, personal Secretary to Abe Lincoln and Secretary of State from 1898-1905.  
    4. La Harpe: Population – 1,235. Named for famed French explorer Bernard de La Harpe who was forced to spend a winter here in the 18th century.
    5. Nauvoo: Population – 1,149. Located on the Mississippi River near Fort Madison, Iowa. In 1840 the town was called Commerce when it was purchased by Joseph Smith. The name Nauvoo is a Hebrew term taken from Isaiah 52:7 ¨How beautiful upon the mountains.¨ In 1844 the population was 12,000, almost the size of Chicago and 2nd biggest in the state. After Smith´s death and other persecutions, Mormons under Brigham Young fled west to Salt Lake City. A utopian movement known as the Icarians settled in the region shortly after. They were based on the teachings of French philosopher Etienne Cabet. When he died in 1856 the movement collapsed and many Roman Catholics settled the area (and also remain today). The LDS church owns many of the buildings today which attract several tourists.
    6. Dallas City: Population – 945. Town is actually split in Hancock and Henderson County. Named for 11th V.P. George Mifflin Dallas, 1845-1849.
    7. Augusta: Population – 587. Founded in 1832 by Joel Catlin and W.D. Abernathy.  Catlin named the town for after Augusta, Georgia. Lincoln gave a speech and stayed overnight at the city in 1858. In 1864 congressman and future president James A. Garfield spoke in the town. Other presidents who have visited include William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. Augusta also plays host to the Hancock County Fair. Southeastern High School is also located in Augusta.
    8. Plymouth: Population – 505.
    9. Bowen: Population – 494.
    10. West Point: Population – 178.
    11. Elvaston: Population – 165
    12. Ferris: Population – 156.
    13. Pontoosuc: Population – 146. A Union Naval vessel during the Civil War was named for this town located on the Mississippi River.
    14. Basco: Population – 98.
    15. Bentley: Population – 35.



*Link to Historic Places of Hancock County

*History of Carthage

*Hancock County Historical Society

*History of Dallas City

*History of Hamilton

*History of La Harpe

*History of Nauvoo

*History of Warsaw

*Photos of a replicated USS Pontoosuc

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