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Jacksonville is a city in Morgan Countymarker, Illinoismarker, United Statesmarker. The population was 18,940 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Morgan Countymarker.

The town was named in 1825 for future president Andrew Jackson, the commander of American forces at the Battle of New Orleansmarker (1815) and presidential hopeful in 1824. Jacksonville was a major stopping point on the historic Underground Railroad. An Annual Civil War reenactment celebration is named for Jacksonville resident U.S. Army General Benjamin Grierson.

Jacksonville is the principal city of the Jacksonville Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Morgan and Scottmarker 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 five acre public square in a 160 acre 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 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 (39.731936, -90.234394).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 26.8 km² (10.3 mi²). 26.2 km² (10.1 mi²) of it is land and 0.5 km² (0.2 mi²) of it (1.84%) is water.


As of the census of 2000, there were 18,940 people, 7,336 households, and 4,416 families residing in the city. The population density was 721.9/km² (1,869.1/mi²). There were 8,162 housing units at an average density of 311.1/km² (805.5/mi²). 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, 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 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 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.


Big Eli Wheel on corner of E.
Morton and S.
city's daily newspaper, the Jacksonville Journal-Courier, is the oldest continuously published newspaper in Illinois (since 1830).

Jacksonville is the home of Eli Bridge Company, manufacturer of Ferris Wheels 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.

EMI (formerly Capitol Records), Pactiv, Nestle Beverage Co. and ACH Foods 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 and MacMurray College. 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 ) in 1903. Beecher Hall, the first college building erected in Illinois, is named after its first president, Edward Beecher, sibling to Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

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 released Illinois, 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 (President from 1829-1837) after whom the town's officials say it is actually named.[17099]

The Grammy-winning album Stones in the Road by singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter 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.

Notable residents


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

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