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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.
Menard County, located in central Illinois, has a rich and intriguing history dating back to its establishment in 1839. Named after Pierre Menard, the first lieutenant governor of Illinois, the county's history encompasses the growth and evolution of the region over nearly two centuries.

The area that would become Menard County was initially inhabited by various Native American tribes, including the Kickapoo and Pottawatomi. In the early 19th century, European settlers began moving to the area, attracted by the fertile land and opportunities for farming. The first permanent settlers arrived in the late 1820s, and the county was officially established in 1839.

Menard County played a significant role in the development of the state and the nation. In the mid-1800s, the county's most prominent figure emerged - Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln, who lived in Menard County from 1831 to 1837, honed his political skills and laid the foundation for his future presidential career while residing here. The county takes great pride in preserving the memory of Lincoln, and today visitors can explore the Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site, a reconstruction of the village where he lived.

The county's economy was primarily agricultural, with farming being the main occupation for its residents. Its proximity to the Sangamon River and fertile soil allowed for successful farming and contributed to the county's growth. Over time, Menard County experienced industrial development as well, with the rise of coal mining during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The mining industry thrived in the region, attracting workers and bringing economic prosperity during this period.

Today, Menard County maintains its rural character while embracing progress and growth. With a population of around 12,000, the county continues to be an important agricultural center, producing crops such as soybeans, corn, and wheat. While many changes have taken place over the years, Menard County's history remains an integral part of its identity, honoring its past while looking towards the future.

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

  • 1839 - Menard County is established, named after Pierre Menard, the first lieutenant governor of Illinois.
  • 1840 - The county seat is established in Petersburg.
  • 1842 - The first courthouse is built in Petersburg.
  • 1850s - The arrival of railroads leads to economic growth in the county.
  • 1875 - The current Menard County Courthouse is constructed.
  • 1898 - Petersburg becomes one of the first cities in Illinois to have electric street lighting.
  • 1908 - The Old Salem Chautauqua is established, becoming a popular outdoor intellectual and cultural event.
  • 1936 - The completion of the Petersburg Power Dam brings electricity to the county.
  • 1950s - Menard County experiences a decline in population due to the rural-to-urban migration.
  • 1986 - The Petersburg Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • 2009 - Menard County celebrates its 170th anniversary.