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Illinois was part of the French colonial empire, and the city of Cahokia, located near present-day Collinsville, was one of the largest pre-Columbian cities in North America. At its peak, around 1250 CE, Cahokia had a population of around 20,000 people.
Coles County, Illinois has a rich and diverse history that dates back thousands of years. The area was originally home to Native American tribes, including the Kickapoo, Wea, and Piankashaw, who inhabited the region before European settlement. In the early 1800s, settlers from the east began moving into Coles County, attracted by its fertile soil and natural resources.

The county was officially established in 1830 and named after Edward Coles, the second governor of Illinois. During the early years, agriculture played a vital role in the county's economy, with farmers growing crops such as corn, wheat, and soybeans. The county also became known for its prominent agricultural fairs and exhibitions, which showcased the latest farming techniques and technology.

Coles County saw significant growth in the mid-1800s with the construction of railroads, which opened up new opportunities for trade and transportation. The county became an important hub for the Illinois Central Railroad, attracting industries such as coal mining and manufacturing. Charleston, the county seat, experienced rapid development as a result, with the establishment of businesses, schools, and a growing population.

In the 20th century, Coles County continued to evolve, experiencing both the challenges and successes of a changing economy. The decline of coal mining in the region led to the loss of jobs and economic downturn. However, the county managed to diversify its economy, attracting new industries such as healthcare, education, and retail. Today, Coles County is known for its vibrant communities, natural beauty, and a balance between its rich history and a vision for the future.

This timeline provides a condensed summary of the historical journey of Coles County, Illinois.

  • 1816 - Coles County is established as a county in Illinois.
  • 1821 - The first settlement in Coles County is made by Thomas Russell.
  • 1830 - Coles County experiences significant growth with the arrival of the National Road.
  • 1831 - The town of Charleston is founded and becomes the county seat.
  • 1858 - The Illinois Central Railroad is completed, further boosting the county's growth.
  • 1877 - Eastern Illinois University (then known as Eastern Illinois Normal School) is founded in Charleston.
  • 1919 - The Charleston Riot, a race riot, occurs in Coles County.
  • 1977 - Coles County celebrates its sesquicentennial (150th anniversary).
  • 1996 - Coles County becomes a participant in the Illinois Main Street Program.
  • 2019 - Coles County celebrates its bicentennial (200th anniversary).