National Register Listings in
Wayne County, Illinois

Illinois was the first state in the country to ratify the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery. The amendment was ratified by Illinois on February 1, 1865, before it was ratified by any other state.
Wayne County, located in southeastern Illinois, has a rich and diverse history dating back thousands of years. The area was originally inhabited by Native American tribes, including the Illinois and Shawnee. European settlers arrived in the late 1700s, with the establishment of Fort Massac near the Ohio River. In the early 1800s, the region became a part of the Illinois Territory, and Wayne County was officially organized in 1819.

The county's name pays tribute to General "Mad" Anthony Wayne, a renowned American military officer known for his victories in the Revolutionary War. Wayne County grew in population and prosperity with the construction of the Wabash and Erie Canal in the 1830s, which connected the Great Lakes to the Ohio River, fostering trade and transportation.

The discovery of oil in the late 19th century brought economic prosperity to Wayne County. Oil wells dotted the landscape, and major oil companies, such as Humble Oil (now ExxonMobil) and Shell, established operations in the area. The oil boom led to increased population and wealth, with the county experiencing a significant economic upswing.

In the 20th century, Wayne County faced challenges alongside the rest of the nation during the Great Depression. However, the county rebounded with the development of manufacturing industries, including the production of automobiles and farm equipment. Agriculture has also played a vital role in the county's history, as fertile soils support crops such as corn, soybeans, and wheat.

Today, Wayne County remains a close-knit community with a mixture of rural landscapes, small-town charm, and a rich historical heritage. The county's history is preserved through various museums and historical societies, ensuring that future generations can learn about and appreciate the unique past of Wayne County, Illinois.

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

  • 1819 - Wayne County is established as a county in the state of Illinois
  • 1825 - The first permanent white settler, William Keller, arrives in Wayne County
  • 1839 - Fairfield is established as the county seat
  • 1846 - The first courthouse is built in Fairfield
  • 1860-1865 - Wayne County residents actively participate in the American Civil War
  • 1889 - The first rail line is built in Wayne County
  • 1903 - Oil is discovered in Wayne County, leading to an oil boom
  • 1930 - Wayne County experiences a decline in population due to economic challenges and the Great Depression
  • 1984 - Wayne County celebrates its 165th anniversary
  • 2009 - The Fairfield Public Library is opened