National Register Listings in
Jefferson County, Illinois

The word "Illinois" comes from a Native American word meaning "tribe of superior men." The Illinois were a confederation of several Native American tribes that lived in the region.
Jefferson County, Illinois, located in the southern part of the state, has a rich and diverse history dating back to the early 19th century. The area was originally inhabited by indigenous tribes, including the Shawnee and Osage, who were later displaced by European settlers. The county was officially established in 1819 and named after Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States.

During its early years, Jefferson County relied heavily on agriculture, particularly wheat farming. However, the discovery of coal in the mid-19th century brought about significant growth and industrial development. Coal mining became the dominant industry, attracting immigrants from Europe and other states, resulting in a diverse and multicultural community.

The county played an important role during the American Civil War. Although it was a divided region, with a mixture of Union and Confederate sympathizers, the majority of residents supported the Union cause. The Battle of Jefferson County occurred on August 26, 1861, when Confederate forces attempted to capture the Union artillery stationed in the county. The Union emerged victorious, preventing Confederate control of the area.

In the early 20th century, Jefferson County continued to thrive economically, as the establishment of railroad lines boosted coal production and facilitated transportation. Manufacturing industries, such as pottery and glassware, also contributed to the county's growth. Today, Jefferson County remains an important agricultural and industrial center in Illinois, with a diverse economy and a vibrant community that embraces its historical roots.

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

  • 1819: Jefferson County is established as one of the original 15 counties of Illinois.
  • 1835: Mount Vernon becomes the county seat of Jefferson County.
  • 1855: The Illinois Central Railroad is completed, connecting Mount Vernon to other parts of the state.
  • 1861-1865: Jefferson County residents serve in the American Civil War.
  • 1871: Fires destroy many buildings in Mount Vernon, leading to the city's rebuilding and expansion.
  • 1872: The Jefferson County Courthouse is built in Mount Vernon.
  • 1920s-1930s: The coal mining industry booms in Jefferson County, attracting new residents and economic growth.
  • 1942: Camp Mount Vernon, a prisoner of war camp for German soldiers, is established during World War II.
  • 1950s-1960s: Industrial and commercial development brings new opportunities for growth in the county.
  • 1982: The Rend Lake Recreation Area is established, providing outdoor recreational activities for residents and visitors.