Coles County History


Coles County was set off from Clark County in 1830. At the time it also included what is now Cumberland and Douglas Counties. Upon its organization, it was named Coles, in honor of Edward Coles, the second Governor of the State, and elected to that position in 1822. It was believed that it is not safe to name a child or country after any man while he is living. People believed that there is no security for a good reputation but in the tomb. This side of that "bourne" the proudest name, however, Coles County's namesake died with a name untarnished. Edward Coles was a man eminently fit to give a name to any country.

Prior to 1824, what is now Coles County was a wilderness waste, uninhabited by civilized man. In 1824, the first settlers came to the county. Originally from Tennessee, they were John Parker and his sons, among whom were Daniel, Benjamin, Silas, George and James Parker and families, and Samuel Kellogg and his wife Mary, in all fourteen souls. These settlers had migrated from Crawford on the Wabash River, where they had lived many years. By 1833, all of the modern townships had begun to be settled.


When the first white people came to Coles County, there were plenty of Indians in this portion of Illinois. They were the Pottawatomies, Kickapoos and Winnebagoes. Coles County claims its Indian battle grounds. Though she can make no pretensions to any such memorable battles as Tippecanoe or the River Raisin, there is a tradition (but somewhat dim and misty) of two battles with the Indians fought on the "sacred soil" of Coles County, at or very near the same place. These battles took place in 1815 and 1818. Not many years after there were no more Indians within the borders of the state of Illinois.


In 1831, the first Courthouse was erected, down on the "town branch," in what is today Charleston. The Courthouse was built of hewed logs, covered with "clapboards," floored with sawdust and provided with wood benches for seats. This served as a temple of justice until 1835, when a brick building was erected. Originally, it was on old-style edifice, of the pattern still to be seen in many of the counties of Illinois, but has been modernized, remodeled and transformed into quite an imposing structure, with an altogether attractive appearance.

When the county was formed, it was divided or laid off into a number of civil townships or election precincts. The names and boundaries of these precincts unknown, as the first record of the County commissioner's Court cannot be found. When the county adopted township organization in the fall of 1859, Coles County was divided into twelve civil townships, as follows: Hutton, Ashmore, East Oakland, Morgan, Seven Hickory, Milton (now Humbolt), North Okaw, Mattoon, Paradise, Pleasant Grove, Charleston, and LaFayette. These boundaries and names remain the same today.

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