Sangamon County is located in central Illinois. Its county seat, Springfield, has been the state capital since 1839. Sangamon County was established in 1821, from parts of Madison and Bond Counties, and covered a much larger area than the current boundaries. Starting with Morgan County, in 1823, new counties were drawn out of the original borders of Sangamon County over the next couple decades. By 1847, the county had been drawn to the current form, though its original borders covered all or part of modern Morgan, Tazewell, McLean, Putnam, Cass, Menard, Christian, Logan, Marshall, Mason, Macon, and Woodford Counties.
The county takes its name from the Sangamon River that flows through it, though the origin of the river's name is not known. Possibly named by Pottawatomie natives as Sain-guee-mon, translated as, "Where there is plenty to eat." Another possibility is by French explorers as San-Gamo, from the Benedictine monk "Saint Gamo."
Some of the earliest settlers to what would become Sangamon County include Robert Pulliam, his hired men, and a sister to one of the men, Ms. Strickland, who arrived in the fall of 1817, and built a cabin on the east side of Sugar Creek. This was the first known habitation built by anyone of European descent in what is now Sangamon County. In the spring of 1818, Robert Pulliam returned to his family in St. Clair County.
William Drennan, his half-brother, Joseph Drennan, son-in-law, Joseph Dodds, along with George Cox, and all the able young men and boys from their families arrived next, in March of 1818, and built two cabins on the northwest side of Sugar Creek. By that winter they were joined by their families, who had been waiting near Wood River. Also, by that time, the cabin built by Robert Pulliam had been found empty and, so then, occupied by Zachariah Peter.
Robert Pulliam returned, with his family, in the spring of 1819. Zachariah Peter then moved three miles north and built his cabin. Also, that spring, John Kelly built the first cabin in what would be the city of Springfield, at what is now the northwest corner of Second and Jefferson Streets.
In April of 1821, Zachariah Peter, William Drennan, and Rivers Cormack were elected as the first Sangamon County commissioners, at the cabin of John Kelly. Later that month, William Drennan and Zachariah Peter would mark the county seat with a stake near John Kelly's field, on the waters of Spring creek, to be known as Springfield. The next year, public land surveys would record the town plat as Calhoun, though many refused to recognize the name, and Springfield was incorporated in 1832.
Please contact me if you have any questions, you need help finding a resource, or want to contribute information or resources to the site.
- Michael King ([email protected])
Sangamon County Coordinator
Site Updated on 16 May 2019.