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Coles County Courthouse

Coles County

My name is Billie Walsh. I am your host while visiting the Coles County site on ILGenWeb.

Happy Birthday Illinois

Coles County was organized on December 25, 1830 out of Clark and Edgar counties. It was named after Edward Coles, the second governor of Illinois, from 1822 to 1826.
Thomas Lincoln, father of future President Abraham Lincoln, moved to Coles County in 1831. Thomas Lincoln died at his Goosenest Prairie home on January 17, 1851, age 73 years and 11 days. The cause of his death is reported to have been kidney trouble. He had been ailing for some time.
Abraham Lincoln practiced law in Coles County for a number of years, most frequently from 1841 to 1847 and occasionally after that, although the county was not a part of the Eighth Judicial Circuit which included Springfield where Lincoln lived and had his law office.
When the Eighth Judicial Circuit was organized on January 23, 1839, Decatur in Macon County was the nearest courthouse town on the Circuit to Charleston, Coles County seat, which was in the Fourth Judicial Circuit. Shelby County was added to the Eighth Circuit on February 23, 1841, making Shelbyville the nearest county seat on that circuit to Charleston. It was following this change in the circuit that Lincoln began to take cases at Charleston in considerable number. The addition of Moultrie County (Sullivan) when that county was created on February 16, 1843, brought another county seat town which was near Charleston. When Edgar County (Paris) was added to the circuit on February 21, 1845, Shelby County was detached, but was returned to the circuit on February 11, 1847. Thus from 1847 to 1853, Edgar, Shelby, and Moultrie counties were on the circuit. In 1853 the Eighth circuit was reduced in size and all counties south of DeWitt and east of Sangamon were detached.
Thus it was that Charleston, although not on the Eighth circuit, but on the Fourth, was a logical stopping place for those following the courts in Shelby, Edgar and Moultrie counties. The presence of his relatives in Coles County gave Lincoln an additional reason for stopping at Charleston.
Saturday, September 18, 1858, was the biggest day in the history of Charleston, that quiet little county seat amid the cornfields of eastern Illinois. It was the day that Abraham Lincoln met Senator Stephen Arnold Douglas in the fourth of their seven historic debates in the campaign for the United States Senate. Lincoln, "the first and only choice of the Republicans of Illinois for the United States Senate," did not gain a Senate seat, but more importantly, achieved a renown in these encounters with the "Little Giant" that opened the road to the White House.
Coles County is home to several well-known legends and folktales, including the Mad Gasser of Mattoon and the ghost of Mary Hawkins at Pemberton Hall. Michael Kleen has documented many of these tales, including the “witch’s grave” of St. Omer Cemetery and story of “Rag Doll Cemetery,” in his book Tales of Coles County, Illinois. The legend of “Rag Doll Cemetery” formed the basis of the independent film Rag Doll, which was filmed primarily in and around Mattoon, Illinois in 2010. Additionally, the novel A Family Possessed by L. W. Stevenson is based on poltergeist activity experienced by a rural family living in Coles County in the 1980s. Ashmore Estates has long been a part of local folklore. Originally the almshouse at the Coles County Poor Farm, it is now a haunted attraction and a place of interest for paranormal investigators.

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Coles County Resources

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History Coles County & the Civil War WWII List
1910 Historical Directory Patron's Reference Directory
IRAD Holdings Obituaries Mailing List
Roselawn-Mound Cemetery office
Will do lookups on location of people buried in cemetery
Dodge Grove Cemetery
PDF of cemetery listings
IL County Boundaries 1790 to Present
Family Reunions
Coles County Resources Coles County Genealogical Society Illinois Soldiers' and Sailors' Home Residents
Gravestone Symbols Coffelt Database of
Vietnam Casualties
Land Patent Records Secretary of State Databases
Illinois Newspaper Project Illinois Digital Newspaper Collection Illinois GenWeb Illinois Genealogical Society
IL Courthouses Primitive Baptist Church Library Simple Name Chart Illinois in the Mexican War

More resources coming soon - check back again

Miscellaneous Resources
IL County Boundaries Online Birth and Marriage Records Indexes for the USa
Internet Sources for Transcribed Passenger Records and Indexes Online Searchable Naturalization Indexes and Records (USA)
Finding U.S. Naturalization Records - a Genealogy Guide Online Military Indexes and Databases - USA
Online Searchable Death Indexes and Records USGenWeb Project
ILGenWeb State Page WorldGenWeb
Rootsweb Mailing Lists John Fuller's List of Mailing Lists of Names
US GenWeb Census Project - IL IL GenWeb Special Project-History
Outfitters Illinois History Page  

USGenWeb Archives Project

IL files Census Project Census Images Court Cases
Church Project Maps Marriages Naturalizations
Obits Penny Postcards Pensions Special Collections
Tombstone Project - IL African American Griots Family Group Sheets Genealogical Events

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Moultrie Douglas Edgar
Shelby Coles violet
Effingham Cumberland Clark

Our thanks to Linda Lang for her many, many years of dedication to Coles County genealogy and ILGenWeb as a project.