National Register Listings in
Hardin County, Illinois

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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.
Hardin County, Illinois holds a rich and storied history dating back thousands of years. The area was originally home to indigenous Native American tribes, such as the Shawnee and Chickasaw, who were attracted to the abundant natural resources, including fertile soil and ample game. European exploration of the region began in the 17th century when French explorers Louis Jolliet and Jacques Marquette ventured down the Ohio River.

In the early 1800s, settlers from Kentucky and Tennessee began to establish permanent communities in what is now Hardin County. The county itself was officially formed in 1839 and was named after John Hardin, a prominent Kentucky legislator and soldier. The early settlers subsisted on farming, hunting, and trapping, and the region saw its first boom with the rise of steamboat transportation on the Ohio River.

Hardin County also played a significant role in the Civil War. Located along the Ohio River, it was a strategic location for both Confederate and Union forces. The county experienced guerrilla warfare and several skirmishes throughout the war. The most notable battle was the Battle of Belmont in 1861, where Union forces led by General Ulysses S. Grant clashed with Confederate troops in what was considered an important early engagement.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Hardin County underwent changes with the arrival of railroads and the discovery of coal reserves. Coal mining became a major industry in the region, attracting immigrants from Europe and the Southern United States. However, the decline of the coal industry in the latter half of the 20th century brought economic challenges to the county.

Today, Hardin County is known for its natural beauty, with attractions such as the Garden of the Gods, the Shawnee National Forest, and the Ohio River. The county continues to rely on agriculture, tourism, and small businesses to sustain its economy while preserving its historical heritage.

This timeline provides a concise overview of the key events in the history of Hardin County, Illinois.

  • 1812 - Hardin County is established in the Illinois Territory.
  • 1839 - The town of Elizabethtown is founded and becomes the county seat.
  • 1848 - Significant gold discoveries are made in Hardin County, leading to a gold rush.
  • 1860s - Hardin County experiences a decline in population due to the Civil War and economic hardships.
  • 1900s - The iron ore industry becomes prominent in the region, bringing new economic opportunities.
  • 1949 - The Ohio River floods, causing extensive damage to Hardin County and its towns.
  • 1955 - The Hardin County State Fish and Wildlife Area is established, providing recreational activities for residents and visitors.
  • 1970 - The Shawnee National Forest is established, covering a significant portion of Hardin County.