HISTORY OF MATTOON, ILLINOIS
From the "Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois" 1901
Mattoon, an important city in Coles County, 172 miles west of
south from Chicago and 56 miles west of Terre Haute, Ind.; a point of
junction for three lines of railway, and an important shipping
for corn and broom corn, which are both extensively grown in the
surrounding region. It has several banks, foundries, machine shops, brick
and tile-works, flour-mills, grain-elevators, with two daily and four
weekly newspapers; also has good graded schools and a high school. The
repair shops of the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis
Railroad are located here. Population (1890), 6833; (1900), 9622
town's name honors William Mattoon, who helped construct the Terre Haute
and Alton Railroad. The projected junction of this rail line with the
Illinois Central in 1854 convinced local settlers that the land was an
ideal site for a community. Swamp grass and prairie would give way to
steel rails, homes and businesses.
With the westward movement of the
railroads, Mattoon prospered and grew at a surprising rate. The first
churches, schools and businesses were established. The town counted more
than 100 buildings by 1856. The following year, officials of the growing
community started the steps to incorporate. In 1861, the final charter was
adopted. he Lincoln family has long been part of the area's history. They
first settled in Coles County in 1831 on a farm about three miles south of
the future site of Mattoon. Although he never lived in Coles County, the
future President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, frequently
traveled through the area as a circuit-riding lawyer. One of the famous
debates with Stephen Douglas took place in Coles County in 1858.
Manufacturing became an important part of the local economy between World
War I and World War II. The discovery of oil in 1940 gave Mattoon's growth
yet another boost.
Throughout its development, a key to Mattoon's
prosperity has been its location in the great Midwestern farmbelt. The
rich, black farmland around Mattoon is abundantly productive
1830 Charter granted for organizing Coles County 12 years
after Illinois was admitted into Union; named in honor of Gov.Edward
1831 Lincoln family settles in Coles County three miles
southeast of site later chosen for city of Mattoon.
1832 Close of Black
Hawk War; signal for rapid settlement by White Man.
1836-37 Passage of
Internal Improvement Act leading to railroad construction.
of "Coles Court House" changed to Charleston, County Seat.
Illinois Central Railroad is incorporated by Eastern capitalists.
Town site of Mattoon is mapped out; plat filed October 13, 1855.
Terre Haute & Alton Railroad and Illinois Central R. R. right of ways
cross at Mattoon.
1856 Mattoon's first newspaper, the Weekly
Independent Gazette, begins publication.
1857 By vote of 65 to 25,
Mattoon votes to incorporate as village; elected board of trustees.
1858 Lincoln-Douglas debate is held at fair grounds in Charleston.
1860 Lincoln wins presidency; Lincoln electors carry Coles County by
1861 Mattoon receives charter as city.
Broomcorn first grown in county; becomes important cash crop in 70's.
1866 Dole's Opera House, first real theater of Mattoon is opened.
1866-70 Mattoon experiences greatest building boom.
Coal & Mining Co. given permit to mine on land then south of city (now
area of Marshall Ave. & 21 St.); coal mined in 1880.
known as Peoria, Decatur & Evansville begins service.
sidewalks of concrete, then known as "artificial stone" laid on Broadway.
1897 First great street fair is held in Mattoon; first of its kind in
1898 Cornerstone is laid for new Odd Fellows Old Folks' Home.
1899 Eastern Illinois State Teachers College opens at Charleston.
1903 Mattoon dedicates new public library.
1906 Memorial Methodist
Hospital is dedicated.
1907 Interurban wreck between Mattoon and
Charleston kills 18, injures 54 - worst wreck of its type in the history
of the world.
1914 Illinois Central Railroad tracks are lowered to
1917 Devastating tornado strikes on May 26, 1917; 85
are killed, hundreds injured as twister strikes northern parts of city.
1940 Oil is discovered south of city - leads to development of large
oil field with more than 400 wells pumping at height of activity in 1946.
1947 Citizens form unit school system embracing area of 150 square
1950 Coles County dedicates new airport east of Mattoon.
1954 Citizens of Community Unit District No. 2 vote approval of new
high school and other improvements.
Reprinted from Mr. Mattoon's
City 1855-1955 issued by First Mid-Illinois Bank & Trust Formerly
First National Bank of Mattoon, Chartered in 1865.
Mattoon did not
grow gradually as did many other Coles County towns but was a boom town,
the result of economic conditions. A Chicago paper wrote, "In April, 1855,
there was no sign of human activity. By August of that year there was a
large hotel with another in the process of erection, a
Post Office and
two groceries." A year later in 1856, the number of houses had increased
to 113, number of stores to 11 and Mattoon had a population of
approximately 500. The first newspaper, The Mattoon Sentinel, was started
The Village of Mattoon was incorporated in 1857. The vote was
65 FOR and 25 AGAINST incorporation. The City was chartered in 1861
Preceding is from A history of Mattoon Masonry Lodge 1858 to 1958
by F. W. Melling, Historian
FOR A HISTORY OF COLES COUNTY:
This site is courtesy of Kim Torp, editor of the Coles County Section
of the Illinois Trails site.
This 1905 document contais 9 chapters and
each chapter may be read by changing the number in the URL.