History of Coles County, Illinois

By Charles Edward Wilson

© 1905


©2004, Transcribed by Judy Anderson for Illinois Genealogy Trails


The history of Coles County, as a distinct political entity, begins with Christmas day, 1830, when the act creating the new county was approved by Governor Reynolds. It took its name from Edward Coles, the second Governor of the State.

Under the Territorial Government, Illinois was divided into two counties--St. Clair and Randolph. St. Clair was successively divided by the creation of new counties, so that the territory which now constitutes Coles County has been at different times a part of St. Clair, Madison, Crawford and Clark Counties, and after the creation of Edgar, the area lying west of the latter, including a part of what is now Coles County, was attached to Edgar for governmental purposes.

County Organization.--The limits of the county, as defined by the act creating it, approved December 25th, 1830, were as follows: "Beginning at the northeast corner of Section 4 in Township 16 North, in Range 14 West of the Second Principal Meridian, thence west on the line dividing Townships 16 and 17, to the eastern boundary of Range 6 East of the Third Principal Meridian; thence south on said line dividing Townships 8 and 9 to the southeast corner of Section 31, the east boundary of fractional Range 11 East; thence north on said line, which is the division between fractional Range 11 and Range 14 (W. of the Second P. M.), to the northeast corner of Section 19 in said Range 11 in Township 12 North; thence to the northeast corner of Section 21 in Township 12 and Range 14; thence north on the sectional lines, the center of said range, to the place of beginning."

By the provisions of the same act William BOWEN, of Vermilion County, Jesse ESSAREY, of Clark County, and Joshua BARBER, of Crawford County, were appointed commissioners to meet at the house of Charles EASTIN on the fourth Monday of January following (1831), or within five days thereafter, to determine the location of the county-seat for the new county, and the first election for the choice of county officers-one Sheriff, one Coroner and three County Commissioners-was to be held on the first Monday in February, 1831. Said first election was to be held at the places within the new county at which elections were held while it constituted a part of Clark County, and all courts were required to be held in the home of Charles EASTIN until county buildings were erected or change of location was made by the County Commissioners Court.

The boundaries thus established by the act of 1830 were identical with those now embracing the counties of Douglas, Coles and Cumberland, extending 48 miles from north to south and 28 miles from east to west, except a strip three miles wide off the east side of the south 21 miles, which remained attached to Clark County, from which Coles was taken. In 1843, Cumberland County was created by detaching 14 tiers of sections from the southern part of Coles; and in 1859, the county was again divided by the creation of the County of Douglas out of two and a half northern tiers of townships (a strip fifteen miles wide) except twelve sections north (and at the eastern end) of the main south line of Douglas County, and which constitutes the northeast part of Coles County. In this tract, which would have fallen into Douglas County had the line between Coles and Douglas extended unbroken from west to east, is situated the village of Oakland.

In 1857 as act was passed by the Legislature authorizing a vote to be taken by the counties of Coles and Champaign on the proposition to create a new county to be called Douglas, consisting of a tract three miles wide off the southern portion of Champaign and another fifteen miles wide from the north end of Coles. This proposition failed of adoption and, at its next session, the Legislature changed the boundaries of the proposed new county so as to take nothing from Champaign and leave Oakland to Coles, and in this form the proposition prevailed. As a consequence of these changes Coles County was shorn of three-fifths of its original dimensions, its western border (which was unchanged) being on the line between Towns 6 and 7 East of the Third P. M., its main northern border on the middle of Town 14 N. and its southern border two miles north of the south line of Town 11, while the eastern border is irregular, about one-third in the southern portion being on the eastern line of fractional Township 11 East, and the northern two-thirds in the middle of Town 14 West of the Second P. M. The area embraced within these boundaries amounts to 19 miles from north to south, by about 28 miles from east to west on the northern border and 25 miles on the southern border-making, with the irregularities or projections described, about 520 square miles.

County Seat Located.--The Commissioners appointed for that purpose by the enabling act creating the county of Coles in 1830, fixed the county-seat of the new county on the west half of the southwest quarter of Section 11, Town 12 North, Range 9 East of the Third Principal Meridian. This tract was purchased from the Government by Charles S. MORTON and Benjamin PARKER, and by them given and conveyed to the County Commissioners. In April, 1831, the Commissioners laid out the original town of Charleston on a part of this tract. The land was subsequently re-surveyed, the plat of the town extended to cover the whole tract, and the lots sold by the Commissioners from time to time and the proceeds paid into the county treasury.

County Government.--Isaac LEWIS, George M. HANSON and Andrew CALDWELL were elected County Commissioners at the first special election, held in February, 1831, the voting place being at the house of James ASHMORE, in what is now Lafayette Township, and they held their offices until the regular election in August of the next year, when Isaac LEWIS, Andrew CLARK and James S. MARTIN were chosen. Biennially thereafter three Commissioners were elected until, by a change in the law, it was provided that the Commissioners should hold office for three years and one be elected annually. The commissioners so elected constituted the County Commissioners Court, which had jurisdiction in all matters concerning the county revenue, regulating and imposing the county tax in all cases of public roads and bridges, the auditing of accounts and, in general, the control and management of the county's property and business. They held four sessions each year-in March, June, September and December-and were authorized to hold special (or called) sessions when deemed necessary on account of urgent business, upon five day's notice.

This continued to be the form of government until the adoption of the Constitution of 1848, which provided for a County Court consisting of a County Judge and two Associates. W.W. BISHOP became the first County Judge elected under this Constitution, and the first Associate Justices were John M. LOGAN and Hezekiah J. ASHMORE.

Township Organization.--The affairs of the county continued to be managed by the County Court, as thus constituted, for twelve years. But in 1859 the form of county government was again changed by the adoption of the system known as township organization. This was done by vote of the people of the county at the general election, and John MONROE, James T. CUNNINGHAM and John HUTTON were appointed Commissioners to divide the county into townships. Twelve townships were formed, which continue to exist with the same boundaries originally established. The town now known as Humbolt was originally called Milton, and it and the first postoffice here, called Milton Station, received their names from James Milton TRUE, who had a store there and was known over the county as Milton TRUE. Otherwise the names here given have remained unchanged.

Under the system of township organization the control of the business and affairs of the county is vested in a Board of Supervisors, composed of one Supervisor from each of the twelve townships as are authorized by the general law to elect them. At present the Board consists of seventeen members-one Supervisor from each township, with three Assistant Supervisors from Mattoon and two from Charleston. James MONROE was the first Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, which held its first meeting under the new organization of May 7, 1860.

The change in the form of county government involved the organization of the townships as distinct municipalities. The assessment of property and collection of taxes, and the establishment and care of highways, which had before been under the control of the county, came under the jurisdiction of the Township Supervisors. The change was made from the county system, which prevailed generally in the Southern States, to that of the town-meeting plan of New England. The affairs of each township are under the immediate direction of the voters at the town meeting held in the spring of each year. At this meeting the Supervisor is elected who acts as a member of the County Board. He is also the Overseer of the Poor for his township and the custodian of its funds. There are also elected a Town Clerk, and Assessor and Collector of taxes, and Commissioners of Highways, who have charge of the establishment and maintenance of the public roads and bridges of their respective townships.

County Officers.--The following is a list of the persons who have held the different county offices, together with the years of their official incumbency:

Circuit Clerk
James P. JONES 1831-1836
Nathan ELLINGTON previous to 1855
James D. ELLINGTON 1855-1856
George W. TEEL 1856-1864
H. C. WORTHAM 1864-1872
A. H. CHAPMAN 1872-1873
E. E. CLARK 1873-1876
W. E. ROBINSON 1876-1880
James H. MCCLELLAND 1880-1884
Julian J. BEALL 1884-1888
John R. HAMILTON 1888-1892
W. F. PURTILL 1892-1899
R. R. MITCHELL 1899-1900
C. C. INGRAM 1900-1904

Mr. INGRAM resigned in January, 1904, and Fred MORE, the present incumbent, was appointed to fill out the remainder of his term, and, at the November election, was elected for the full term of four years.

Ambrose YOCUM 1831-1834
William R. JEFFRIES 1834-1838
Albert COMPTON 1838-1846
Lewis R. HUTCHASON 1846-1850
Richard STODDERT 1850-1852
Thomas LYTLE 1852-1854
John R. JEFFRIES 1854-1856
H. B. WORLEY 1856-1858
Malden JONES 1858-1860
I. H. JOHNSTON 1860-1862
John H. O'HAIR 1862-1864
James B. HICKOK 1864-1866
G. M. MITCHELL 1866-1868
C. C. STARKWEATHER 1868-1870
A. M. BROWN 1870-1872
Owen WILEY 1872-1874
George MOORE 1874-1876
James ASHMORE 1876-1878
John E. BROOKS 1878-1880
James HAMILTON 1880-1886
James H. MCCLELLAND 1886-1890
William CHECKLEY 1890-1894
Amos H. MESSER 1894-1898
William BYERS 1898-1802
Newton M. BAIRD 1902-

County Judges

James P. JONES 1831-1834
John F. SMYTH 1834
S. M. DUNBAR 1834-1835
William COLLOM 1835-1837
Reuben CANTERBURY 1837-1841
John W. TROWER 1841-1843
Robert S, MILLS 1843-1847
W. W. BISHOP 1847-1857
Gideon EDWARDS 1857-1864
J. P. COOPER 1864
McHenry BROOKS 1864-1869
A. M. PETERSON 1869-1873
W. E. ADAMS 1873-1877
J. R. CUNNINGHAM 1877-1882
Charles BENNETT 1882-1886
L. C. HENLEY 1886-1894
Sumner S. ANDERSON 1894-1898
John P. HARRAH 1898-1902
T. N. COFER 1902-

County Clerk

Nathan ELLINGTON 1831-1839
Loren D. ELLIS 1839
Nathan ELLINGTON 1839-1840
Enos STUTSMAN 1840-184-
Samuel HUFFMAN 184--1853
James MCCRORY 1853-1861
Jacob I. BROWN 1861-1865
W. E. ADAMS 1865-1873
Richard STODDERT 1873-1877
W. R. HIGHLAND 1877-1886
John S. GOODYEAR 1886-1890
Ed ARTERBURN 1890-1894
T. L. GALBREATH 1894-1898
Ambrose C. SELLARS 1898-1902
Samuel RARDIN 1902-


A. C. MITCHELL 1831-1843
Richard STODDERT 1843-1849
Thomas LYTLE 1849-1851
Jacob I. BROWN 1851-1855
D. C. AMBLER 1855-1857
A. Y. BALLARD 1857-1859
Abram HIGHLAND 1859-1863
D. H. TREMBLE 1863-1869
H. M. ASHLAND 1869-1871
George MOORE 1871-1873
William B. GALBREATH 1873-1877
Joseph F. GOAR 1877-1882
Henry FULLER 1882-1886
Elias MONROE 1886-1890
James SHOEMAKER 1890-1894
Randall ALEXANDER 1894-1898
D. C. GANAWAY 1898-1902
Ralph JEFFRIES 1902-


Robert A. MILLER First -1836
Ichabod RADLEY 1836-1838
Preston R. MOUNT 1838-1842
A. G. MITCHELL 1842-1844
William HARR 1844-1846
Stephen STONE 1846-1858
James W. MORGAN 1858-1860
S. F. CRAWFORD 1860-1861
Dr. S. VAN METER 1861-1862
D. P. LEE 1868-1864
A. G. MITCHELL 1864-1868
O. D. HAWKINS 1868-1870
Joel W. HALL 1870-1872
D. H. BARNETT 1872-1874
Lewis C. TRUE 1874-1882
Luther ADAMS 1882-1884
William KEMP 1884-Mar 1888
Jesse K. ELLIS Mar - Nov 1888
Z. D. WHEAT 1888-1892
M. W. ROBBINS 1892-1896
Moses KERSHAW 1896-1904
Thomas GRIMES 1904-


Thomas SCONCE 1831-1835
Joseph FOWLER 1835-1839
Thomas SCONCE 1839-1843
Lewis R. HUTCHASON 1843-1847
Thomas LYTLE 1847-1852
John MEADOWS 1852-1855
William A. BROWN 1855-1859
Lewis B. RICHARDSON 1859-1861
Thomas LYTLE 1861-1864
James S. YEARGIN 1864-1867
George A. BROWN 1867-1869
John H. CLARK 1869-1875
John L. AUBERT 1875-1878
Zelora GREEN 1878-1892
Orville COX 1892-1896
William B. WATSON 1896-1904
Joseph A. TRIMBLE 1904-

State's Attorney

Prior to the adoption of the Constitution of 1870, Prosecuting Attorneys were elected in circuits consisting of several counties, and James R. CUNNINGHAM was the first Coles County man to hold the office. He defeated Joseph G. CANNON, the present Speaker of the National House of Representatives, who was then a resident of Douglas County. CUNNINGHAM served until 1864, when Joseph G. CANNON was elected. In 1868 General BOYLE, of Paris, was elected, and it was provided by law that such Attorneys should remain in office for the full term of four years, even though the new Constitution of 1870 provided for a State's Attorney to be elected by the people of each county. The first election, therefore, under the new order of things was in 1872, and James W. CRAIG was then elected. The list in full from that time is as follows:

James W. CRAIG 1872-1876
Robert M. GRAY 1876-1880
Samuel M. LEITCH 1880-1888
John H. MARSHALL 1888-1896
Emery ANDREWS 1896-1900
John F. VOIGT 1900-1904
John MCNUTT 1904-

School Commissioner

Charles S. MORTON was the first School Commissioner and held office until 1841, when he was followed by James ALEXANDER, who held office until 1845. Other incumbents were;

James B. HARRIS 1845-1849
H. MANN 1849-1851
Gideon EDWARDS 1851-1853
James A. MTCHELL 1853-1855
Gideon EDWARDS 1855-1861
W. H. K. PILE 1861-1863
Perry MATTHEWS 1863-1865

The Legislature then changed the law so that, from that time on, the County School official was called County Superintendent of Schools, instead of Commissioner, and his term of office was four years. The list of Superintendents follows:

Elzy BLAKE 1865-1869
S. J. BOVELL 1869-1873
Allen HILL 1873-1877
T. J. LEE 1877-1886
A. J. FUNKHOUSER 1886-1890
Charles T. FEAGAN 1890-1894
J. L. WHISNAND 1894-1898
John SAWYER 1898-1902
W. E. MILLER 1902-

The following is believed to be a complete list of those citizens of Coles County who have represented the county in the Legislature, in Congress and other important official position:

State Senators

Byrd MONROE 11, 12 1838-1842
George M. HANSON 15 1846-1848
William D. WATSON 19, 20 1854-1858
Thomas A. MARSHALL 21, 22 1858-1862
Charles B. STEELE 28, 29 1872-1876
Horace S. CLARK 32, 33 1880-1884
William B. GALBREATH 34 1884-1886
Thomas L. MCGRATH 35 1886-1888
Lewis L. LEHMAN 36, 37 1888-1892
Isaac B. CRAIG 38, 39 1892-1896
Stanton C. PEMBERTON 40, 41, 42, 43, 44 1896-1906


John CARRICO 8 1832-1834
James T. CUNNINGHAM 9, 10, 11, 12 1834-1842
Orlando B. FICKLIN 9 1834-1836
Orlando B. FICKLIN 11 1838-1840
Orlando B. FICKLIN 13 1842-1844
Orlando B. FICKLIN 31, 31 1878-1880
Alex P. DUNBAR 10 1836-1838
Alex P. DUNBAR 14 1844-1846
Usher F. LINDER 10 1836-1838
Usher F. LINDER 15, 16, 17 1846-1852
Thomas TREIKELD 12 1840-1842
Joseph FOWLER 13 1842-1844
George M. HANSON 13 1842-1846
William D. WATSON 15 1846-1848
William D. WATSON 18 1852-1854
James E. WYCHE 20 1856-1858
William W. CRADDOCK 21 1858-1860
Smith NICHOLS 22 1860-1862
John TENBROOK 23 1862-1864
George W. PARKER 26 1868-1870
Azariah JEFFRIES 27 1870-1872
James R. CUNNINGHAM 27 1870-1872
James A. CONNOLLY 28, 29 1872-1876
E. W. VAUSE 29 1874-1876
Henry A. NEAL 30, 31 1876-1880
Eugene B. BUCK 32 1880-1882
Isaac B. CRAIG 36, 37 1888-1892
Isaac B. CRAIG 40 1896-1898
Isaac B. CRAIG 44 1904-1906
William H. WALLACE 38, 39 1892-1896
Charles C. LEE 41 1898-1900
Robert G. HAMMOND 42 1900-1902

Representatives in Congress

Orlando B. FICKLIN 1843-1849
Orlando B. FICKLIN 1851-1853
Henry F. H. BROMWELL 1865-1869

Members of State Board of Equalization

John F. DRISH 1879-1880
Joseph C. GLENN 1884-1896
Richard CADLE 1896-1900

Lieutenant Governor

Thomas A. MARSHALL  
President pro tem of Senate 1861

Members of Constitutional Conventions

Thomas A. MARSHALL 1847
Thomas B. TROWER 1847
Orlando B. FICKLIN 1862
Henry P. H. BROMWELL 1869-1870

Attorney General

Usher F. LINDER 1837-1838

Judges of the Circuit Court

James F. HUGHES 1885-1891
Frank K. DUNN 1897-1908
James W. CRAIG 1908

In all of its history Coles County has furnished only two Congressmen. O. B. FICKLIN, whose biography has been briefly given heretofore in these papers, was first a Whig and later a Democrat. J. P. H. BROMWELL was a Republican. He was a tall, straight, fine looking man, of pleasing address, and excellent public speaker, and a creditable Representative. He lived in Charleston. In the early seventies he moved to Denver, Colo., where he died with the last two years.

Coles has been allowed by the other counties of its judicial circuit to have only three Judges of the Circuit Court during its history, notwithstanding the excellent material among its members of the legal profession. The first was James F. HUGHES, of Mattoon, who served faithfully and well, so much so that he was afterwards made the first Judge of the City Court of Mattoon. The second was Frank K. DUNN, of Charleston, who, through comparatively a young man, proved himself to be a man of judicial temper and well qualified legally. His record upon the bench is most excellent. The third, James W. CRAIG, of Mattoon, is at present upon the bench. He is making a reputation as a Judge of ability and of judicial fairness second to none who have been upon the bench in this circuit, and is noted for the promptness with which he dispatches the business of his court without curtailing any of the rights of the litigants.

Presidential Vote.--In its earlier years Coles was a Whig county in National campaigns. The last Presidential election in which the Whigs has a candidate was in 1852, and, commencing with that year, the following table gives the vote of Coles County at Presidential elections up to 1904:

1852--SCOTT (Whig), 997; PIERCE (Dem.), 733; HALE (F.S.), 2.

1856--FREMONT (Rep.) 783; BUCHANAN (Dem.), 1,178; FILLMORE (Am.), 796.

1860--LINCOLN (Rep.), 1495; DOUGLAS (Dem.), 1467; BELL (Un.), 79; BRECKENRIDGE (Dem.), 0.

1864--LINCOLN (Rep.), 2,210; MCCLELLAN (Dem.), 1,555.

1868--GRANT (Rep.), 2,658; SEYMOUR (Dem.), 2,247.

1872--GRANT (Rep.), 2,647; GREELEY (Lib.), 2,411.

1876--HAYES (Rep.), 2,957; TILDEN (Dem.), 2,822; COOPER (Gr'nb'k), 102.

1880--GARFIELD (Rep.), 2,991; HANCOCK (Dem.), 2,905; WEAVER (Gr'nb'k), 141

1884--BLAINE (Rep.), 3,193; CLEVELAND (Dem.), 3,234; BUTLER (Peo.) 69; ST. JOHN (Pro.), 73.

1888--HARRISON (Rep.) 3,424; CLEVELAND (Dem.), 3,286; FISK (Pro.), 145 STREETER (U.L.), 28

1892--HARRISON (Rep.) 3,693; CLEVELAND (Dem.), 3,611; BIDWELL (Pro.), 203; WEAVER (Peo.), 97

1896--MCKINLEY (Rep.) 4,534; BRYAN (Dem.), 3,963; LEVERING (Pro.), 54; PALMER (Gold Dem.), 51;

MITCHELL (Soc. Lab.), 5. BRYAN also received 19 "Middle of the Road" votes this year.

1900--MCKINLEY (Rep.), 4,706; BRYAN (Dem.), 3,921: WOOLEY (Pro.), 110; DEBS (S.D.), 18; ELLIS (U. R.), 11;

BAKER (Peo.), 6; MALONEY (Soc. Lab.), 5.

1904--ROOSEVELT (Rep.), 4,901; PARKER (Dem.), 3,435; SWALLOW (Pro.), 270; WATSON (Peo.), 23;

CORREGAN (S.L.), 19; DEBS (Soc.), 169; HOLCOMB (Cont.), 11.

Congressional Districts.--Under the first congressional apportionment after Coles County was organized, made in 1831, Coles County was placed in the Second Congressional District with White, Hamilton, Jefferson, Wayne, Edwards, Wabash, Lawrence, Clay, Marion, Fayette, Montgomery, Shelby, Vermilion, Edgar, Clark and Crawford counties.

The next apportionment was in 1843, when Coles was placed in the Third District, with Lawrence, Richland, Crawford, Jasper, Effingham, Fayette, Montgomery, Christian, Shelby, Moultrie, Clark, Clay, Edgar, Macon, Dewitt and Piatt counties.

In 1852 Coles was assigned to the Seventh District, with Logan, Macon, Piatt, Moultrie, Edgar, Clark, Cumberland, Effingham, Jasper, Clay, Crawford, Lawrence, Richland and Fayette.

In 1861 (still remaining in the Seventh District) Coles was associated with Macon, Piatt, Champaign, Douglas, Moultrie, Cumberland, Edgar, Vermilion, Iroquois and Ford.

In 1872 it became a part of the Fourteenth District with Macon, Piatt, Champaign, Douglas and Vermilion.

In 1882 the Fifteenth District consisted of Coles Edgar, Douglas, Vermilion and Champaign.

In 1893 the Nineteenth District was composed of Coles, Edgar, Cumberland, Clark, Effingham, Jasper, Crawford, Richland and Lawrence.

In 1901 Coles County was again placed in the Nineteenth District, with Douglas, Champaign, Piatt, Dewitt, Macon, Moultrie and Shelby Counties.

Legislative Districts--Prior to 1848 the number of Senators and Representatives elected from the whole State underwent many changes, on account of the rapid changes in population in the different counties of the State. The Constitution of 1818 made it the duty of the Legislature, at its first session, to apportion the Senators and Representatives among the several counties or districts, to be established by law, according to the number of white inhabitants in the same. The only restriction as to numbers prescribed that the Representatives should not be less than 27, nor more than 36, until the population of the State should amount to 100,000, and that the number of Senators should never be less than one-third nor more than one-half the number of Representatives. Under this provision the first Senate consisted of 14 members-one from each county except Franklin, which was united with Johnson-and 28 Representatives, or in the proportion of one Senator to two Representatives.

Upon the adoption of the Constitution of 1848, the State was divided into twenty-five Senatorial and fifty-four Representative Districts. Each Senatorial District was allowed one Senator, and each Representative District was allowed one or more Representatives, according to population, the total representation of the latter being 75 members each. Senatorial and Representative Districts were not identical as now, but each underwent changes after each decennial census. Coles County was then placed in the Tenth Senatorial District with Vermilion, Edgar and Cumberland Counties, and was associated with Moultrie as the Twenty-fifth Representative District, which was given one member of the House.

In 1861, Coles with Douglas, Champaign, Ford, Vermilion and Iroquois Counties, constituted the Ninth Senatorial District, and with Douglas, Vermilion, and Edgar Counties was made the Thirty-ninth Representative District, which was allowed three members of the House. That arrangement continued until the adoption of the Constitution of 1870, which provided for the division of the State into Senatorial Districts, each to have one Senator, whose term is four years, and three Representatives, whose term is two years. It provided further for the plan of "minority representation," by which one party could not elect more than two out of the three members of the House in each district unless the minority party was able to poll less than one-fourth of the total vote, and also that Senators should be elected every two years, in odd and even numbered districts, alternately, beginning with the even numbered districts in 1872. It further provided that the State should be re-apportioned every ten years.

The Governor and Secretary of State were instructed and empowered to make the apportionment for the First General Assembly (the Twenty-seventh) after the adoption of the Constitution. They organized the Ninth Senatorial District with counties of Coles, Douglas, Champaign, Ford, Vermilion, and Iroquois, with two Senators, and made of Coles County the Forty-sixth Representative District, giving it two Representatives. This arrangement was merely temporary, continuing in force only one term.

The first regular apportionment made by the Legislature to conform to the requirements of the new Constitution was in 1872, and Coles, Douglas and Moultrie Counties were placed in the Thirty-second District, with the power to elect one Senator and three Representatives.

In 1882 the Thirty-second District was made to consist of Coles, Douglas and Cumberland Counties.

In 1901 (the last apportionment), Coles, Douglas, and Clark Counties were placed together in the Thirty-fourth District.

Judicial Circuits.--In 1831 the Second Judicial Circuit consisted of Coles, Wabash, White, Edwards, Lawrence, Wayne, Clark, Crawford, Edgar, Vermilion and Clay.

In 1833 the same counties were kept together constituting the Fourth Circuit.

In 1841 Jasper County was added to the list, which was continued as the Fourth Circuit.

In 1851 there was a rearrangement and Coles, with Crawford, Lawrence, Richland, Clay, Effingham, Jasper, Cumberland and Clark Counties constituted the Fourth Circuit.

In 1853 the Fourth Circuit was changed by taking out Effingham and substituting Edgar County.

In 1857 Coles, with Macon, Piatt, Fayette, Effingham, Shelby and Moultrie, was organized in the Seventeenth Circuit.

In 1859 Coles County was again assigned to the Fourth Circuit, in association with Edgar, Clark, and Cumberland.

In 1873 the Fifth Circuit was organized, consisting of Coles, Vermilion, Edgar, Clark and Douglas Counties.

In 1877, again as the Fourth Circuit, Coles was associated with Champaign, Piatt, Moultrie Macon, Vermilion, Edgar, Clark and Douglas Counties.

The last apportionment, in 1897, organized the Fifth Circuit, with Coles, Vermilion, Edgar, Clark and Cumberland Counties.


The following is a list of village plats that have been made and recorded in Coles County, in the order in which they were surveyed:


Surveyed April 23, 1831, by Thomas SCONCE.

Plat filed for record June 4, 1831.

Located on part of the W. 1/2 of the S. W. 1/4 of Sec. 11-12-9.

Owners: County Commissioners of Coles County, Ill.


Surveyed April 14, 1835, by Thomas SCONCE.

Plat filed for record May 21, 1835.

Located on part of the N. 1/2 of the N. E. 1/4 of Sec. 9-12-14.

Owner: James HITE.

Independence (Oakland)

Surveyed May 12, 1835, by Thomas SCONCE.

Plat filed for record May 21, 1835.

Located on the S. E. 1/4 of the S. E. 1/4 of Sec. 13-14-10

Owner: Gideon M. ASHMORE.


Surveyed July 29, 1836, by Joseph FOWLER.

Plat filed for record August 11, 1836.

Located about the middle of Sec. 35-13-10.

Owners: Christian SOUSELY and Christopher GROVES.


Surveyed August 8, 9 and 10, 1836, by Joseph FOWLER.

Plat filed for record August 18, 1836.

Located on S. W. Cor. Sec. 18 and N. W. Cor. Sec. 19-13-11.

Owners: James CLARK, Arthur JOHNSON and Solomon BOYER.


Surveyed August 16, 17 and 18, 1836, by Joseph FOWLER.

Plat filed for record August 27, 1836.

Located at junction of State Road with Secs. 27 and 34-12-7.

Owner: John HOUCHIN.


Surveyed August 19, 20,21, 22 and 23, 1836, by Joseph FOWLER.

Plat filed for record August 26, 1836.

Located on part of the S. E. 1/4 of the N. W. 14 of Sec. 33-12-7 on the State Road.

Owner: Charles SAWYER.


Surveyed February 1, 2, 3 and 4, 1837, by Joseph FOWLER.

Plat filed for record March 30, 1837.

Located on N.E. 1/4 of S. E. 1/4 of Sec. 8-11-7, on Palestine and Shelbyville Road.

Owners: Miles W. HART and Thomas BRINEGAR.

Salsbury (Hutton)

Surveyed December 28 and 29, 1837, by Joseph FOWLER.

Plat filed for record January 15, 1838.

Located on N. E. 1/4 of S. E. 1/4 of Sec. 9-11-10.

Owners: John HULEN and George K. HARRIS.


Surveyed April 25, 1852, by Thomas LYTLE.

Plat filed for record May 1, 1852.

Located on N. W. 1/4 of S. W. 1/4 of Sec. 16-11-9.

Owner: John J. ADAMS.

St. Omer

Surveyed August 20, 1852, by Thomas LYTLE.

Plat filed for record September 5, 1854.

Located on S. W. Corner of W. 1/2 of S. E. 1/4 of Sec. 24-13-10.

Owner: J. W. HOGE.


Surveyed December 12, 1854, by John MEADOWS.

Plat filed for record October 13, 1855.

Located on Sec. 13-12-7.

Owners: Charles Floyd JONES, Davis CARPENTER, JR., Usher F. LINDER, Ebenezer NOYES, James T. CUNNINGHAM, Stephen D. DOLE, John CUNNINGHAM, John L. ALLISON, Elisha LINDER, H. Q. SANDERSON, Harrison MESSER, Samuel B. RICHARDSON, William B. TUELL and Josiah HUNT.


Surveyed February 24, 1855, by John MEADOWS.

Plat filed for record February 24, 1855.

Located on N. 1/2 of Sec. 31-13-11.

Owners: H. J. ASHMORE and James D. AUSTIN.


Surveyed March 14, 1855, by John MEADOWS.

Plat filed for record March 14, 1855.

Located on S. W. 1/4 of Sec. 31-13-8.

Owner: David A. NEAL.

Milton (Humbolt)

Surveyed November 12, 1858, by S. B. MOORE.

Plat filed for record March 4, 1859.

Located on part of the S. W. 1/4 of the N. W. 1/4 of Sec. 4-13-8.



Surveyed March, 1860, by Lennaeus B. RICHARDSON.

Plat filed for record August 20, 1860.

Located on part of N. E. 1/4 of the N. E. 1/4 of Sec. 21 and part of S. E. 1/4 of S. E. 1/4 of Sec. 16-11-7.

Owners: Daniel R. BLAND and Richard SAYER.

Stockton (Loxa)

Surveyed November 3, 1863, by J. J. PETERSON.

Plat filed for record February 8, 1864.

Located on N. W. 1/4 of the S. W. 1/4 of Sec. 12-12-8.

Owner: B. F. JONES.


Surveyed September 23, 1872, by John H. CLARK.

Plat filed for record October 12, 1872.

Located on S. W. Corner Sec. 31-13-7.

Owner: Dexter S. D. DOLE.


Surveyed April 10, 1879, by William JONES.

Plat filed for record April 29, 1879.

Located on S. E. 1/4 of S. W. 1/4 of Sec. 19-11-9.

Owner: John FURRY.


Surveyed August 18, 1881, by George W. DICKINSON.

Plat filed for record June 22, 1882.

Located on part of Lots 1 and 2 in E. 1/2 of N. E. 1/4 of Sec. 5-13-10.

Owners: John H. RARDIN, Nancy RARDIN, John T. TAYLOR and Mary E. TAYLOR.


Surveyed December 17, 1881, by George W. DICKINSON.

Plat filed for record December 13, 1882.

Located on N. W. 1/4 of N. W. 1/4 of Sec. 7-13-10.

Owners: David BUSH and John BUSH.


Surveyed December 21, 1881, by J. L. AUBERT.

Plat filed for record August 23, 1882.

Located on S. W. 1/4 of the S. E. 1/4 of Sec. 19-11-8.

Owner: Jacob FICKES.


Surveyed November 25, 1882, by John L. AUBERT.

Plat filed for record November 28, 1882.

Located on N. E. 1/4 of N. E. 1/4 of Sec. 10-11-8.

Owner: Azariah JEFFRIES.

Fair Grange

Surveyed September 14, 1883, by George W. DICKINSON.

Plat filed for record November 10, 1883.

Located on S. E. 1/4 of the S. W. 1/4 of Sec. 11-13-9.

Owners: A.B. TRIMBLE, J. C. BABBS and J.B. GRAY.

Post Offices

Below is a list of Post offices located within the county, given in the order of their establishment, with names of the first Postmasters and dates of appointment.

The following offices are identical, the name simply being changed:

Coles C. H. and Charleston

Milton Station, Humbolt and Humboldt

Selina and Lerna

Clara and Doran

Arena and Fair Grange.

The following offices, named in the order of their establishment, are located within territory now included in the several townships named in the last column:

Paradise Geo. M. HANSON Feb. 18, 1830 Paradise
Bachelorsville Laban BURR May 14, 1830 Ashmore
Coles Court House Chas. S. Morton Mar. 31, 1831 Charleston
Oakland Whitfield W. MORRISON July 26, 1833 East Oakland
Hitesville James HITE Aug. 24, 1835 Ashmore
Bethsaida John M. TRUE Mar. 15, 1836 La Fayette
Campbell Eugenia CAMPBELL Dec. 22, 1838 Pleasant Grove
Charleston Edmund ROACH Apr. 29, 1843 Charleston
Stewart David WEAVER Feb. 8, 1844 Hutton
Springville Henry WILSON Dec. 23, 1847 Pleasant Grove
Fuller's Point Jackson T. JOHNSON Sept. 18, 1849 North Okaw
Modrell's Point William J. KEIGLEY Oct. 24, 1849 Ashmore
Ashby David PORTER Apr. 9, 1850 Hutton
Wabash Point Gideon EDWARDS July 23, 1851 Mattoon
Republican Chas. W. NABB Mar. 31, 1852 Mattoon
Saint Omer Jno. W. HOGE Oct. 7, 1852 Ashmore
Rural Retreat Robt. SANDERS Nov. 16, 1853 Seven Hickory
Mattoon Jas. M. TRUE July 14, 1855 Mattoon
Ashmore Jas. M. ASHMORE Nov. 9, 1855 Ashmore
Milton Station A. A. SUTHERLAND Mar. 16, 1858 Humboldt
Etna Robt. S. MILLS Dec. 31, 1859 Paradise
Hutton Valentine MCGAHAN Dec. 5, 1861 Hutton
Loxa Stephen Y. VANCE July 22, 1862 La Fayette
Curtisville Jno. C. MITCHELL July 11, 1867 Morgan
McPherson Jas. B. KILGORE Feb. 19, 1869 Ashmore
Diona Jno. M. MCMORRIS Oct. 12, 1869 Hutton
Cooks Mills Elam COOK July 7, 1870 North Okaw
Rardin Sam'l RARDIN Mar. 30, 1875 Morgan
Humbolt Geo. W. GRAY July 25, 1875 Humbolt
Selina Geo. B. BALCH June 6, 1878 Pleasant Grove
Lerna Geo. B. BALCH Dec. 11, 1878 Pleasant Grove
Fieldsville Wm. L. R. FUNKHOUSER May 26, 1879 Pleasant Grove
Janesville C. P. R. ROGERS Sept. 1, 1879 Pleasant Grove
Coles Station Jas. B. COOPER Dec. 3, 1879 North Okaw
Clara Jacob EASTER April 15, 1880 Humbolt
Bushton David BUSH Aug. 22, 1881 Morgan
Butte Redic C. HODGE Feb. 1, 1882 Hutton
Folger Wiley MATTHEWS April 6, 1882 Pleasant Grove
Trilla Henry MCPHERSON June 28, 1882 Pleasant Grove
Arena Cortez B. O'HAIR May 4, 1883 Seven Hickory
Fair Grange Cortez B. O'HAIR June 15, 1883 Seven Hickory
Doty James S. DOTY Oct. 22, 1885 Charleston
Dirigo Basil BAKER May 7, 1892 Hutton
Humboldt Clark ELKINS June 20, 1892 Humboldt
Magnet Isaac SAWYER Aug. 19, 1893 Mattoon
Hites Leonard HITES Mar. 17, 1898 Ashmore
Doran Jennie FROST May 16, 1898 Humboldt

The following offices are still (1905) in operation: Ashmore, Bushton, Charleston, Cooks Mills, Doran, Etna, Fair Grange, Humboldt, Lerna, Loxa, McPherson, Magnet, Mattoon, Oakland, Rardin and Trilla.


It is interesting to note the rate of growth of the county in population in the different decades of its history. In 1830, just at its beginning, the population of the territory which became Coles County (including the present Cumberland and Douglas Counties) was stated to be 4,500. In 1835 it had increased to 5,142. In 1840 it had grown to 9,615. In 1850 (Cumberland County having, in the meantime, been cut off) it had 9,335 people, of which 36 were colored. In 1860 (Douglas County having been detached in 1859) its population was 14,203, of which 29 were colored. The census of 1870 showed a population of 25,235, of which 1,053 were stated to be foreign born, and no enumeration of colored people seems to have been made, as the war was over and all colors were alike to the census enumerators in Illinois. By 1880, the authorities ceased to make distinctions of any kind, and the total is given as 27,042. In 1890 the number was 30,093, and in 1900, 34,146.

The greatest relative growth, it will be noted, was in the two decades from 1850 to 1870. The coming in of the two railroads in 1855 gave it that impetus. The opening up of the Far West in the 'seventies, and the expansion of railroad facilities in every direction since, has made the growth slower. Many have come in, but many have also gone out, and natives, or former residents, of this county are scattered all over the United States. The county is quite largely represented in all of the newer States and the Territories of the West.

The following table shows the population of the county by townships, according to the census of 1900:

Ashmore Township 2, 081
Charleston Township 6,760
East Oakland Township 2,403
Humboldt Township 1,761
Hutton Township 1,984
Lafayette Township 1,246
Mattoon Township 10,583
Morgan Township 1,165
North Okaw Township 1,848
Paradise Township 900
Pleasant Grove Township 1,914
Seven Hickory Township 1,501
TOTAL 34,146

School Statistics

The following table shows the enrollment of pupils, the number of teachers, and amount of wages paid to teachers in the school term

of 1904-1905:

11 7 ...... ..... 110 112 222 ..... ..... 6 5 11
11 8 90 92 106 88 376 3 2 4 3 12
11 9 ..... ..... 117 82 199 ..... ..... 3 5 8
11 10&11 ..... ..... 123 131 254 ..... ..... 2 9 11
12 7 1391 1280 100 73 2844 4 49 1 6 60
12 8 ..... ..... 175 152 327 ..... ..... 6 7 13
12 9 ..... ..... 76 88 164 ..... ..... 3 7 10
12 10&11 ..... ..... 159 185 344 ..... ..... 6 10 16
12 14 ..... ..... 25 27 52 ..... ..... 2 ..... 2
13 7 ..... ..... 158 122 280 ..... ..... 4 7 11
13 8 41 52 105 115 313 1 1 4 7 13
13 9 ..... ..... 107 95 202 ..... ..... 7 6 13
13 10&11 ..... ..... 184 161 345 ..... ..... 5 6 11
13 14 ..... ..... 60 42 102 ..... ..... 4 2 6
14 7 ..... ..... 74 49 123 ..... ..... 1 3 4
14 8 ..... ..... 82 66 148 ..... ..... 1 4 5
14 9 ..... ..... 51 51 102 ..... ..... ..... 9 9
14 10&11 239 238 56 49 582 2 8 4 1 15
14 14 ..... ..... 71 58 129 ..... ..... 4 4 8
Union   526 487 ..... ..... 1013 6 22 ..... ..... 28
Union   92 107 ..... ..... 190 1 3 ..... ..... 4
TOTALS   2379 2256 1989 1746 8320 17 85 67 101 270

Amount paid to male teachers.............................................$29,873.07

Amount paid to female teachers........................................... 55,270.83

Highest monthly wages paid any male teacher................... 188.23

Lowest monthly wages paid any male teacher.................... 27.50

Highest monthly wages paid any female teacher................ 85.00

Lowest monthly wages paid any female teacher................. 25.00

Average monthly wages paid to male teachers................... 60.28

Average monthly wages paid to female teachers................ 45.94

County Indebtedness

Until recent years Coles County has never been very deeply involved in debt. During most of the county's history its warrants were readily convertible into cash and were taken up promptly by the County Treasurer.

The building of the new jail and court house brought about a different condition in the finances of the county. The construction of the jail made a small debt which was never paid entirely, and the cost of the court house and heating apparatus and furnishing made a total which, according to an official statement of the Board of Supervisors issued in January, 1905, approximates $195,000. The following figures are taken from the statement referred to:

The judgments rendered against the county amount to $98,795.62, less interest, while the claims not in judgment amount to $14,661.32. The above are on account of court house construction and furnishing. The money borrowed by the County Board from banks and individuals aggregates $57,540, less interest.

The above makes a total of $170,996.94, which constitutes the net debt of the county for the court house and money borrowed for the jail and sundry uses. Adding interest on the judgments and on money borrowed, figured to January 1, 1905, carries the total approximately to $195,000.

Besides this regular debt, the statement referred to mentions arrearages for 1904 of something over $50,000.

The City of Charleston has a bonded debt of $30,000. Charleston Township's bonded debt is $67,000, and the Charleston School District has a bonded debt of $16,600.

Mattoon (City) has outstanding bonds aggregating $70,000. The Township bonds outstanding amount to $96,000 and the Mattoon School District bonded debt is $54,000.

Citizens of Mattoon and Charleston have, during the past ten years, spent large sums in public improvement, such as paving, permanent sidewalks and drainage, and a considerable amount is still owing in deferred payments of such work. But as these improvements are paid for by special assessment against individual property owners, they are not classed a public debts.

The Oakland School District has a bonded debt of $9,000. the Township of East Oakland issued bonds to the amount of $75,000 in aid of the Terre Haute and Peoria Railroad. About 1877 the courts decided the issue invalid and the debts of both township and village are now merely nominal.

The same is true of Ashmore, which has no bonded debt.

Several School Districts in the County have small debts for the construction of buildings.

Return to the main index page for Coles County

©2004, Transcribed by Judy Anderson for Illinois Genealogy Trails