The state of Illinois played a crucial role in the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safe houses used by slaves to escape to freedom in the 19th century. Many abolitionists in Illinois provided safe houses for escaping slaves, and Chicago was a key hub on the Underground Railroad.
Alexander County, Illinois, located in the southernmost part of the state, has a rich and diverse history. The county was first settled by Native American tribes, including the Shawnee and the Chickasaw. European explorers, such as French traders and missionaries, began to explore the area in the early 18th century. The region was also a significant transportation route along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

The county was officially established in 1819 and named after Alexander M. Jenkins, a prominent lawyer and politician in the Illinois Territory. In the mid-19th century, Alexander County played a crucial role in the development of the railway system in the United States. The construction of the Illinois Central Railroad in the 1850s made the county a major transportation hub, connecting southern Illinois to the rest of the country.

During the Civil War, Alexander County witnessed several important events. Due to its strategic location, both Union and Confederate forces sought to control the area. The Battle of Fort Defiance took place in Cairo, the county seat, in 1861, as Union troops worked to secure the county and the surrounding region.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Alexander County thrived economically. The county became known for its agricultural production, particularly cotton and corn. Additionally, the presence of the railroad brought about a growing industry and commerce in the region. However, in the later part of the 20th century, the economy declined, resulting in population loss and a decrease in job opportunities.

Today, Alexander County continues to grapple with economic challenges. Efforts are being made to revitalize the area and attract new businesses and industries. Despite the difficulties, the county's rich history, natural beauty, and proximity to the Mississippi River make it a unique and significant part of the state's heritage.

This timeline provides a glimpse into the major events and milestones that have shaped the history of Alexander County, Illinois.

  • 1818 - Alexander County is established as one of the original 15 counties of the Illinois Territory.
  • 1837 - The county seat is established in the town of Unity.
  • 1843 - The county seat is moved to the newly established town of Thebes.
  • 1843 - The county courthouse is built in Thebes, but it is later destroyed by fire in 1848.
  • 1848 - The county seat is moved to Cairo, a strategic location at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.
  • 1850s - Cairo becomes a flourishing city due to its role as a transportation hub for river commerce.
  • 1861-1865 - Cairo serves as an important base for Union troops during the Civil War.
  • 1878 - The county courthouse in Cairo is completed and still stands as a historic landmark today.
  • 1930s - The Great Depression leads to economic decline in Alexander County.
  • 2011 - The county experiences significant flooding due to the rising waters of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.
  • Present - Alexander County continues to be an important location for river trade and is home to a diverse natural landscape.