History of all 16 Counties: #12 Morgan County

MORGAN COUNTY

Map of Illinois highlighting Morgan County

POPULATION: 35,547

INTERESTING FACTS: Named for Revolutionary war figure Daniel Morgan.  Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln often served as lawyers in Morgan County. Two of the oldest colleges in the midwest,  Illinois College founded in 1829  and MacMurray College founded in 1846, are located here. The first president of IL College was Edward Beecher, brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe.  MacMurray College was originally known as the ¨Illinois Female Academy.¨  The school was renamed for Senator James E. MacMurray and didn’t become coed until 1955.

MAJOR CITIES:

  1. Jacksonville: Population – 19,446. The city was named after Andrew Jackson.  During the 1830s, the city was one of the most populated in the state.  Due to their emphasis on education, Jacksonville was nicknamed the ¨Athens of the Midwest.¨  Jacksonville has a rich history of humanitarian influences as three institutions for the care of the handicap were located here.  The Illinois School for the Deaf was chartered in 1839.  The Illinois School for the Visually Impaired began in 1847.  And Dorothea Dix advocated for a Mental Health and Developmental Center which was founded in Jacksonville in 1847.  Some prominent figures in Jacksonville were Senator Stephen A. Douglas, the former presidential candidate and famous rival to Abraham Lincoln, who served as state´s attorney in Morgan County. Jacksonville was also a major stop on the Underground Railroad.  Another former presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan was an Illinois College graduate who practiced law in Morgan County from 1883-1887. Three governors came from Jacksonville – Joseph Duncan (1834-1838), Richard Yates (1861-1865) and Richard Yates Jr. (1901-1905).  The father of modern dentistry, Dr. Greene Vardiman Black, began his practice in Jacksonville. Ferris wheels were manufactured in Jacksonville by William E. Sullivan and his Eli Bridge company which is still the oldest manufacturer of amusement rides today. A Capitol Records vinyl record pressing once employed over 1,000 people in Jacksonville, but closed in 2004.  
  2. South Jacksonville: Population – 3,475. Founded in 1911. Home to the Prairieland Heritage Museum which celebrates farming methods and old machinery. Home to the George Waters Memorial Railroad.  
  3. Waverly: Population – 1,346. Known for hosting the Waverly Holiday Basketball Tournament and the Old Fashioned Picnic.
  4. Meredosia: Population – 1,041 The name is French for willow swamp.  Home to the Meredosia National Park. In 2011 Ameren closed a power plant in the community which resulted in the loss of around 50 jobs.
  5. Murrayville: Population – 644.
  6. Chapin: Population – 592. Town was founded by IL settler Horace Chapin in 1858. The Northern Cross Railroad built a line through the town in 1869 which caused several people to begin moving here. The first businesses were a brick yard, a tile factory, and a coal mine. Several businesses began flourishing in the early 20th century like the bank, hardware store, drugstore, creamery, jewelry store, butcher shop, etc. A movie theatre was also there but it burnt down.
  7. Franklin: Population – 576. Home to Hamilton’s Catering Service.
  8. Woodson: Population – 559.
  9. Concord: Population – 176.
  10. Lynnville: Population – 137.

*Link to Meredosia National Wildlife Refuge

*Link to Morgan County History website

*Link to Jacksonville, IL website

*Link to Historic Places in Morgan County

*Link to Village of Chapin, IL

*Link to South Jacksonville, IL website

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