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Illiopolis Business Association 

Local History

 

ILLIOPOLIS, THE FIRST

The original town of Illiopolis, for which our village is named, was platted in 1814 to be laid out on a tract of 8000 acres at the geographical center, Section 18.  This site is one half mile south of the present village.  On account of its location it was believed by some legislators to be the ideal place for the capital soon to be removed from Vandalia.  Promoters for the selection of State Center were Governor Joseph Duncan, John Taylor, Eli Blankenship, and the Sangamon Land Company.  Beautiful lithographic maps were drawn to show the attractive features of the proposed new city, lots were offered for sale and some were sold.

With faith in their choice this group of men built a large two-story hotel and warehouse.  Jesse Kent, son of Josiah Kent, the pioneer settler, was put in charge as manager.  Illiopolis was chosen as a suitable name for the "future capital," Illi, an abbreviation of the state name, polis from the Greek meaning "city of the sun." The Illini Indians for whom the state was named were a robust tribe of the Algonquins, their name denoting "men"; the French added "ois" signifying tribe.  Thus, Illiopolis, Sangamon County, Illinois, except for the suffixes, is consistently of Indian derivation, and incidentally it might be noted that the rivers which form the boundaries of the state are so charted as to give its shape the resemblance of an arrow, head.

The story of how the controversy over the location of the capital was settled is a familiar one.  In 1837 there was a strong agitation in the state for public improvements such as railroads, canals, and highways.  In order to secure these advantages for their own counties, there was much trading of votes, or "log rolling," as it was called, among the members of the Assembly.

Sangamon County was represented by two Senators and seven Representatives who, because of their combined height of fifty-four feet, were called the "Long Nine." Ab­raham Lincoln, a member of the House, described his sta­ture as being "six feet, four inches nearly." As the im­provement bill was hanging fire these men assisted locali­ties to attain their special ends wherever votes for Spring­field for capital could be gained.

On February 28, 1837, the two Houses met in joint session and Springfield was chosen on the fourth ballot, receiving 73 votes.  On the second ballot there had been ten votes for Geographical Center, on the third, three, on the first and last none.  Further building plans were aban­doned by the proprietors and a prairie fire swept away the only landmarks of this aspiring town.

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