About Jacksonville

Jacksonville is a community rich in historical treasures, with thriving arts, education, and culture, and wrapped in Midwest hospitality. Centrally located between St. Louis and Chicago, and near Springfield, Jacksonville offers an excellent place to live, work, and play.

Learn more about the City of Jacksonville at their website here.
For tourism, attractions, and recreation information, visit the Visitor and Convention Bureau here.
For School District #117 information, click here.


To the first time visitor, Jacksonville is full of the unexpected. From our Civil War and Abraham Lincoln connections, to the modern businesses of today, the area offers something for everyone. There is a small-town friendliness mixed with a vibrancy from a richness of natural sites, intellectual institutions, and businesses. Morgan County was established in 1823 and named for General Daniel Morgan, a Revolutionary War hero. In 1825 the Morgan County surveyors staked out land at the center of a 160-acre tract, and the seat of government was established in the new town of Jacksonville. Thanks to early settlers Alexander Cox, Joseph Fairfield and George Hackett, the Jacksonville town square quickly developed.

Education was always a primary concern for city founders. Illinois College was founded in 1829. The Reverend John M. Ellis, a Presbyterian missionary in the West, felt the need for a “seminary of learning” in the new state. His plans came to the attention of a group of Congregational students at Yale University. Seven of them, in one of the now famous “Yale Bands,” came westward to help establish the college. As one of the earliest institutions of learning in the Midwest, the college was named after the state in which it was located, and the first president of the college was Edward Beecher, brother of Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

The courthouse was built on the square, churches were constructed, railways were planned, and before long, stores and taverns were flourishing. Jacksonville had the largest population in the state in 1834, outnumbering even Chicago.

Jacksonville’s educational foundation grew stronger with the Illinois School for the Deaf, the School for the Blind (later Illinois School for the Visually Impaired), and the Illinois Conference Female Academy (later MacMurray College), in addition to the public schools. By 1850 Illinois College had conferred Illinois’ first college degrees and opened the first medical school in the state. Because of this commitment to education, many referred to the community as “The Athens of the West.”

Beginning with Capps Woolen Mills, established in the 1839, businesses located in Jacksonville because of the excellent economic climate and convenient access for transporting goods. Farmers appreciated the fertile soil of central Illinois, and agriculture enriched the economy as well. In 1900, W.E. Sullivan, founder of the Eli Bridge Company, introduced the “Big Eli” ferris wheel on the Jacksonville square. In 1919 the company relocated to the city. It is the world’s oldest manufacturer of ferris wheels and other amusement rides.

Jacksonville has contributed three governors to the state: Joseph Duncan, Richard Yates, and Richard Yates, Jr. Governor Duncan’s home still stands on West State Street. Built in 1834, this home served as the official Executive Mansion of Illinois from 1834-38.

The Jacksonville area has carefully built upon the foundation established by its forefathers. It is now a thriving community rich in educational, business and leisure activities, making the area an enjoyable place to live, work, play, shop and learn.