Jacksonville, Illinois
Jacksonville is a city in Morgan County, Illinois
Illinois is the fifth-most populous state of the United States of America, and is often noted for being a microcosm of the entire country. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and northern Illinois, and natural resources like coal,...

, United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. The population was 18,940 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat
County seat
A county seat is an administrative center, or seat of government, for a county or civil parish. The term is primarily used in the United States....

 of Morgan County.

The town was named in 1825 for future president Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson was the seventh President of the United States . Based in frontier Tennessee, Jackson was a politician and army general who defeated the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend , and the British at the Battle of New Orleans...

, the commander of American forces at the Battle of New Orleans
Battle of New Orleans
The Battle of New Orleans took place on January 8, 1815 and was the final major battle of the War of 1812. American forces, commanded by Major General Andrew Jackson, defeated an invading British Army intent on seizing New Orleans and the vast territory the United States had acquired with the...

 (1815) and presidential hopeful in 1824
United States presidential election, 1824
In the United States presidential election of 1824, John Quincy Adams was elected President on February 9, 1825, after the election was decided by the House of Representatives. The previous years had seen a one-party government in the United States, as the Federalist Party had dissolved, leaving...

. Jacksonville was a major stopping point on the historic Underground Railroad
Underground Railroad
The Underground Railroad was an informal network of secret routes and safe houses used by 19th-century black slaves in the United States to escape to free states and Canada with the aid of abolitionists and allies who were sympathetic to their cause. The term is also applied to the abolitionists,...

. An Annual Civil War reenactment celebration is named for Jacksonville resident U.S. Army General Benjamin Grierson
Benjamin Grierson
Benjamin Henry Grierson was a music teacher and then a career officer in the United States Army. He was a cavalry general in the volunteer Union Army during the American Civil War and later led troops in the American Old West...


Jacksonville is the principal city of the Jacksonville Micropolitan Statistical Area
Jacksonville, Illinois micropolitan area
The Jacksonville Micropolitan Statistical Area, as defined by the United States Census Bureau, is an area consisting of two counties in west central Illinois, anchored by the city of Jacksonville....

, which includes all of Morgan and Scott counties.


On January 6, 1825, John Howard, Abraham Pickett and John C. Lusk were appointed to locate a permanent seat for Morgan County. This county seat was to be as near as possible to the center of Morgan County considering present and future population. Another requirement was that the land must belong to a private citizen or to apply to construction of a courthouse and jail.

On March 10, 1825, Johnston Shelton, the county surveyor, laid out a 5 acres (20,234.3 m²) public square in a 160 acre (0.6474976 km²) tract. The land at the time was owned by the government, but using the Ordinance of 1785 as the authority, the tract was sold to Isaac Dial and Thomas Arnett for $1.25 an acre. They, in turn, deeded forty acres (twice the requirement) to Morgan County. The square as laid out was across the intersection of two roads. The first of these, an east/west road, was to run from Springfield west to the Illinois River at Naples. This became State Street. The north/south road became Main Street and the town developed in square blocks from the intersection of State and Main streets.

By the time Jacksonville was platted with roads and a town square, the first resident, Alexander Cox, was joined by merchants Joseph Fairfield and George Hackett.

Construction of civic buildings began quickly. Construction of the first college building began in 1829 before Illinois College
Illinois College
Illinois College is a private, liberal arts college, affiliated with the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church , and located in Jacksonville, Illinois. It was the second college founded in Illinois, but the first to grant a degree . It was founded in 1829 by the Illinois Band,...

 actually had a faculty or students. The courthouse was built on the square, and 11 lawyers and 10 physicians were in practice by 1834. Since Illinois settled from the south toward the north, with the majority of early settlers coming from southern states, there was a time when Jacksonville was the largest town in the State.

The city arranged to be the site of the Illinois School for the Deaf and the School for the Blind.

In 1851, Illinois opened its first state mental hospital in Jacksonville, which was a major employer for the area. The institution now serves developmentally challenged individuals.


Jacksonville is located at 39°43′55"N 90°14′4"W (39.731936, -90.234394).

According to the United States Census Bureau
United States Census Bureau
The United States Census Bureau is the government agency that is responsible for the United States Census. It also gathers other national demographic and economic data...

, the city has a total area of 10.3 square miles (26.7 km²), of which 10.1 square miles (26.2 km²) is land and 0.2 square mile (0.517997622 km²) (1.84%) is water.


As of the census
A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring and recording information about the members of a given population. It is a regularly occurring and official count of a particular population. The term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common...

of 2000, there were 18,940 rural people, 7,336 households, and 4,416 families residing in the city. The population density
Population density
Population density is a measurement of population per unit area or unit volume. It is frequently applied to living organisms, and particularly to humans...

 was 1,869.1 rural inhabitants per square mile (721.9/km²). There were 8,162 housing units at an average density of 805.5 per square mile (311.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 90.33% White, 6.66% African American, 0.21% Native American, 0.69% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.70% from other races
Race (United States Census)
Race and ethnicity in the United States Census, as defined by the Federal Office of Management and Budget and the United States Census Bureau, are self-identification data items in which residents choose the race or races with which they most closely identify, and indicate whether or not they are...

, and 1.40% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.54% of the population.

There were 7,336 households out of which 27.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.4% were married couples
Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found...

 living together, 12.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.8% were non-families. 34.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.26 and the average family size was 2.89.

In the city the population was spread out with 22.0% under the age of 18, 14.2% from 18 to 24, 25.1% from 25 to 44, 21.9% from 45 to 64, and 16.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 91.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $33,117, and the median income for a family was $45,595. Males had a median income of $31,474 versus $22,615 for females. The per capita income
Per capita income
Per capita income or income per person is a measure of mean income within an economic aggregate, such as a country or city. It is calculated by taking a measure of all sources of income in the aggregate and dividing it by the total population...

 for the city was $17,482. About 7.2% of families and 12.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 13.2% of those under age 18 and 9.0% of those age 65 or over.


The city's daily newspaper, the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, is the oldest continuously published newspaper in Illinois (since 1830).

Jacksonville is the home of the Eli Bridge Company, manufacturer of Ferris wheel
Ferris wheel
A Ferris wheel is a nonbuilding structure consisting of a rotating upright wheel with passenger cars attached to the rim in such a way that as the wheel turns, the cars are kept upright, usually by gravity.Some of the largest and most modern Ferris wheels have cars mounted on...

s and other amusement rides such as the Scrambler. W.E. Sullivan founded the firm with the introduction of his first portable "Big Eli" Wheel on the Jacksonville Square on May 23, 1900. Jacksonville was once home to the J. Capps & Son Company, one of the largest manufacturers of textiles and clothing in the United States, and owned by the Capps family, which was intermarried with the family of Jacob Bunn and John Whitfield Bunn of Springfield, Illinois
Springfield, Illinois
Springfield is the third and current capital of the US state of Illinois and the county seat of Sangamon County with a population of 117,400 , making it the sixth most populated city in the state and the second most populated Illinois city outside of the Chicago Metropolitan Area...

, and Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...


EMI (formerly Capitol Records), Pactiv (formerly a Mobil Textile plant), Nestle Beverage Co. and ACH Foods (formerly a Kraft Foods plant) have facilities in Jacksonville.


Jacksonville is somewhat unusual for a city of its size in that it is home to two private four-year colleges, Illinois College
Illinois College
Illinois College is a private, liberal arts college, affiliated with the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church , and located in Jacksonville, Illinois. It was the second college founded in Illinois, but the first to grant a degree . It was founded in 1829 by the Illinois Band,...

 and MacMurray College
MacMurray College
MacMurray College is a career-directed liberal arts college located in Jacksonville, Illinois. Its enrollment in fall 2011 was 548. It is from Springfield and from Chicago....

. Illinois College is the second oldest college in Illinois, founded in 1829 (and the first to grant a degree - 1835) by one of the famous Yale Bands—students from Yale University that traveled westward to found new colleges. It briefly served as the state's first medical school from 1843–1848, and became co-educational (Jacksonville Female Academy was founded in 1836 by John Adams (educator)
John Adams (educator)
John Adams was an American educator noted for organizing several hundred Sunday schools. His life was celebrated by Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr...

) in 1903. Beecher Hall, the first college building erected in Illinois, is named after its first president, Edward Beecher
Edward Beecher
Edward Beecher was a noted theologian, the son of Lyman Beecher and the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Henry Ward Beecher. He was born August 27, 1803 in East Hampton, New York. He graduated from Yale College in 1822. After this he studied theology at Andover. In 1826, he became the pastor...

, sibling to Henry Ward Beecher
Henry Ward Beecher
Henry Ward Beecher was a prominent Congregationalist clergyman, social reformer, abolitionist, and speaker in the mid to late 19th century...

 and Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe was an American abolitionist and author. Her novel Uncle Tom's Cabin was a depiction of life for African-Americans under slavery; it reached millions as a novel and play, and became influential in the United States and United Kingdom...


Jacksonville is also home to four state-run institutions including the Illinois School for the Deaf, the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired, the Jacksonville Developmental Center (formerly a state hospital), and the Jacksonville Correctional Center. Lincoln Land Community College's Western Region Education Center is also located in Jacksonville.


In 2005, Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens is an American singer-songwriter and musician born in Detroit, Michigan. Stevens first began releasing his music on Asthmatic Kitty, a label co-founded with his stepfather, beginning with the 1999 release, A Sun Came...

 released Illinoise, a concept album making reference to various people and places associated with the state. Its fifth track, "Jacksonville," refers to various landmarks in the town, such as Nichols Park. It also contains a story about A. W. Jackson, a "colored preacher" urban legend supposes the town is named after, as well as President Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson was the seventh President of the United States . Based in frontier Tennessee, Jackson was a politician and army general who defeated the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend , and the British at the Battle of New Orleans...

 (President from 1829–1837) after whom the town's officials say it is actually named.http://www.jacksonvilleil.govoffice2.com/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC={A69B0752-CE5B-46E8-8CA9-E297734325BB}

The Grammy-winning album Stones in the Road
Stones in the Road
-Personnel:As listed in liner notes.*Kenny Aronoff – drums*Paul Brady – tin whistles, background vocals*J. T. Brown – fretless bass, bass guitar*Mary Chapin Carpenter – lead vocals, background vocals, acoustic guitar*Jon Carroll – piano, accordion...

 by singer-songwriter
Singer-songwriters are musicians who write, compose and sing their own musical material including lyrics and melodies. As opposed to contemporary popular music singers who write their own songs, the term singer-songwriter describes a distinct form of artistry, closely associated with the...

 Mary Chapin Carpenter
Mary Chapin Carpenter
Mary Chapin Carpenter is an American folk and country music artist. Carpenter spent several years singing in Washington, D.C. clubs before signing in the late 1980s with Columbia Records, who marketed her as a country singer...

features the song "John Doe #24" that describes a series of events that occurred in Jacksonville relating to the person on whose life the song is based. The song tells the story of a blind and deaf man who was found wandering the streets in Jacksonville in 1945. The man was hospitalized for diabetes and kept in various institutions until he died nearly 50 years later in 1993. During his 48 years of institutionalization, nobody ever found out his name, nor did anyone who knew or was related to him come to Jacksonville to establish his identity. It was speculated that he was originally from New Orleans, but this was never verified. Likewise, how he came to Jacksonville remains a mystery to this day.

Cultural offerings include the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, the Jacksonville Theatre Guild, the Art Association of Jacksonville and its David Strawn Art Gallery, as well as many public events and activities hosted by MacMurray College and Illinois College. Recent additions to the cultural scene include the Imagine Foundation and the Eclectic art gallery, both located in the city's revitalized downtown.

Jacksonville also holds the unusual distinction of having a large number of pipe organs for a city of its size - eleven in all - found at various local churches, as well as both of its four-year colleges.


On May 21-22, 2011 the first Downtown Turnaround Celebration was held in Jacksonville's historic downtown area. This event marked the end of years of construction in the area. The finished construction finally restored downtown to its original glory. The Jacksonville Rotary Club hosted a parade and various other activities. There was a Health and Wellness Fair provided by the Sherwood Eddy YMCA. The Budweiser Clydesdales also made an appearance and posed for pictures. There were ferris wheel rides and many activities for children. A beer garden event was held Saturday, May 21 and the event also had live music. The Downtown Turnaround Celebration marked the opening of many new stores and businesses to the downtown area and signified the rejuvenation of Downtown Jacksonville's local economy.

Further reading

  • Don H. Doyle, The Social Order of a Frontier Community: Jacksonville, Illinois, 1825-70, 1978
  • Vernon R.Q. Fernandes, The People of Jacksonville—A Pictorial History, 1991
  • Vernon R.Q. Fernandes, Faces & places—a Morgan County family album, 1995
  • Vernon R.Q. Fernandes, Passavant Area Hospital : 125 years of caring, 1999

External links

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