IL Trails logo

Illinois State Institutions

As listed in the "Making of Illinois" by Irwin Mather
First published in 1900

Transcribed by Kim Torp


nwline.gif (2138 bytes)

Every state provides for the confinement of its criminals and cares for its unfortunates. To this end, Illinois has provided a beneficent and liberal system of State, penal and charitable institutions.


State Penitentiaries
- See our Prisoner Register Database

A state prison, containing 24 cells, was erected at Alton in 1827. In a few years it proved inadequate and the state erected at Joliet a building that would accommodate 1,000 prisoners. The convicts were moved from Alton to Joliet in 1860. As the population increased, another similar institution was built upon the banks of the Mississippi River near Chester.

The County Poor

In nearly every county is to be found an almshouse located upon an ample farm. Here the poor or sick who have no other home are kindly cared for. Charity is dispensed to others through the County Court or by the Board of Supervisors.

The Deaf and Dumb - Short History and Census Data

It was discovered that some of these dependent classes could be made self-supporting citizens by a careful system of education. To Orville H. Browning of Quincy, who had made an exhaustive study of the subject, belongs the honor of inaugurating a movement to establish an "Asylum for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb." The school was located at Jacksonville and opened on January 26, 1846, with only four pupils. As the work of the school became known, its numbers rapidly increased, until at the present time [c. 1900], it is the largest school of the kind in the world. Here have been trained to lives of usefulness nearly 4,000 persons, who otherwise would have been a burden to society. The boys are taught typesetting, broom-making, carpentry and other useful trades. The girls learn to do housework, to draw, to pain and make many kinds of fancy work.

Asylums for the Insane

No class of unfortunates appeals to us more strongly than the insane. Miss Dorothea Dix early applied herself to the bettering of their pitiable condition. When the State legislature met, she addressed to them an eloquent and convincing argument favoring the establishment of an asylum for the care of the insane. Accordingly, such a hospital was located on a beautiful stretch of prairie-land a mile south of Jacksonville. From 1851, the year in which the first patient was received, the institution has grown and prospered. In 1869, the legislature provided for the erection of two other hospitals: One known as the Northern Home for the Insane, located on the banks of the Fox River, near Elgin [Kane County] the other established at Anna. Although these hospitals are very large, in a few years, the State was compelled to build another, which was located near Kankakee. Illinois now has nine hospitals (or asylums), for the insane. They are located in Elgin, Kankakee, Jacksonville, Anna, Watertown, Peoria (South Bartonville), Chicago (Dunning), Chester (for insane criminals). One of the nine hospitals provided for by law is not yet fully established.

Institutions for the Blind

Yet another beneficent institution had its beginning at Jacksonville. Samuel Bacon, a blind man, in 1847 opened a private school in that city for those who were afflicted like himself. This gave the people the idea of a school for the blind, and in 1849, a bill for the establishment of such an institution passed the Legislature. It was opened during the same year.

An act passed in 1887 provided for the establishment of an industrial home designed to promote the welfare of the blind by teaching them trades and afford them employment that will best tend to make them self-supporting. No steps were taken toward it until 1893. It is located at Chicago.

Other Institutions

School for Feeble Minded Children

In 1875 the School for Feeble Minded Children, which had been an outgrowth of the Deaf and Dumb Institution at Jacksonville, was removed to Lincoln, where it was provided with ample and beautiful buildings. This school, under the management of Dr. Chas. T. Wilbur and those who have followed him, has done noble work in fitting feeble minded children, as far as possible, for earning their own livelihood.

ASYLUM FOR FEEBLE-MINDED CHILDREN -
This institution, originally established as a sort of appendage to the Illinois Institution for the Deaf and Dumb, was started at Jacksonville, in 1865, as an "experimental school, for the instruction of idiots and feeble-minded children." Its success having been assured, the school was placed upon an independent basis in 1871, and, in 1875, a site at Lincoln, Logan County, covering forty acres, was donated, and the erection of buildings begun. The original plan provided for a center building, with wings and a rear extension, to cost $124,775. Besides a main or administration building, the institution embraces a school building and custodial hall, a hospital and industrial workshop, and, during the past year, a chapel has been added. It has control of 890 acres, of which 400 are -leased for farming purposes, the rental going to the benefit of the institution. The remainder is used for the purposes of the institution as farm land, gardens or pasture, about ninety acres being occupied by the institution buildings. The capacity of the institution is about 700 inmates, with many applications constantly on file for the admission of others for whom there is no room. "Historical Encylopedia of Illinois", 1901

Home for Union Army Soldiers' Children

At Normal, the state has established a "Home for the intellectual, moral and physical development of children whose fathers served in the Union army or navy during the war." The idea of founding this home originated in a "most patriotic impulse on the part of the people to fulfill the pledge made to the gallant soldiers who imperiled their lives on the field of battle during the dark days of the Civil War, that if they fell in the fight, the widows and children should be cared for." This pledge is being sacredly kept by the State and nation.

Home for Soldiers and Sailors Soldier and Sailors home
In 1885, the General Assembly established a Home for Soldiers and Sailors. This institution, built at a cost of $200,000, was located at Quincy. It has proved a boon to many a brave veteran, who, without its comfort, would be compelled to spend his old age in poverty and want.

State Reform School

In response to a movement set on foot by the State Teachers' Association, the legislature in 1867 passed an act providing for the establishment of a State Reform School. This institution is located at Pontiac. It is for the confinement, education and reformation of boys between the ages of 10 and 16 years who have been convicted of crimes. Male criminals between the ages of 16 and 21 years, who have not before been sentenced to a penitentiary, may also be sentenced to the reformatory instead of a penitentiary at the discretion of the court.

The Eye and Ear Infirmary

The Eye and Ear Infirmary is located at Chicago. Its object is to provide gratuitous board and medical treatment for all indigent residents of Illinois who are afflicted with diseases of the eye or ear.

Soldiers' Widows' Home of Illinois

In 1895, the Soldiers' Widows' Home of Illinois was established. It is located at Wilmington, Will County.

Illinois State Colony for Improvable Epileptics

The Illinois State Colony for Improvable Epileptics is located at Lincoln. The nature of this institution is disclosed by its title.

The State Training School for Girls 

Established in 1893. Its permanent location is at Geneva (Kane County). It is for the confinement, education and reformation of girls between the ages of 10 and 16 years who have been convicted of offenses punishable at law.

[Illinois State Industrial School for Girls (Geneva Girl's School) - closed in 1978. The site is now the Fox Run subdivision. A cemetery used by the "Girls Home" is still located on the grounds.]

The St. Charles School for Boys

The St. Charles School for Boys is located at St. Charles [Kane County]. It was established as a home for delinquent boys.

Sanitarium & Hospital in Springdale

From the scrapbook of Ida Trimmer Fowler, who wrote below the Picture post card:

"Where Sister Sarah was operated upon and only lived 2 years to the day afterwards. This was in May 28th, 1909 - Died in May 28th, 1911. Arrow shows room."
Note: arrow is by the top right window.
Note: Ida Trimmer Fowler and sister, Sarah were born in Bader, Schuyler County, Illinois. They lived most of their lives there.
Contributed by Sara Hemp


Frederick Gerhard
Public Institutions
ThE ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY, at Springfield, was established by an act of the Legislature, in the year 1855. Although the main object of its establishment was to diffuse useful knowledge, science, and art, in general, yet there have been established principally -

1. A department for the education of teachers of the common schools. -

2. An agricultural department, for the education and accom plishment of farmers; and

3. A mechanical department, for instruction in the mechanical sciences. The management of the University is entrusted to the care and supervision of a president and twelve trustees, while a number of professors impart instruction in the various branches. The number of students is about 130.

The Northern Illinois University, at Henry, Marshall county, was likewise established in the year 1855, and is placed under the patronage of four Methodist conferences. The Illinois College, at Jacksonville, was established in the year 1829. It has from seven to eight professors, and about 140 alumni and students.

The Shurtleff College, at Upper Alton, under the superintendency of the Baptists, and in connection with a theological semninary, was established in the year 1835. It has seven professors, and about 70 alumni and students.


PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS. The McKendree College, at Lebanon, under the superintendency of the Methodists, and likewise established in the year 1835, has six professors, and about 150 alumni and students.

The Knox College, at Galesburg, was established in the year 1837. It has seven professors, and the number of its students and alumni is from 90 to 100.

The Rush Medical College, at Chicago, established in the year 1842, has nine professors, and counts about 130 students and graduates.

The lllinois hospital for the Insane is at Jacksonville. In the years 1851 to 1854, there were 404 persons admitted into it, of which number 148 were cured, and 27 died. Of the 404 patients admitted, 46 were born in Illinois, and the rest partly in other States of the Union, and partly in Europe. The majority of these patients were males. In 197 of the patients, causes of their insanity were unknown. Of the other cases, among the known causes, the following deserve to be mentioned: - 37 in consequence of other diseases and defects of the constitution; 33 from child-bearing and certain female diseases; 12 through hereditary imperfections; 13 of injuries to the head; 2 by sun-stroke (coup de soleil); 4 from intemperance; 35 through grief; 22 from pietism; 8 by "spirit rappings," or spiritualism; 17 from unhappy love; 6 from excessive study; 2 of home-sickness; 4 from distress for money; 1 through jealousy; 1 by seduction, and 1 through ambition. Of the 22 patients whose insanity was caused by pietism, 17 were males and 5 females; of those from unhappy love, 11 were males and 6 females; and of those who suffered through the influence of spiritual manifestations, 7 were males, and 1 a female. Since the 16th of June, 1854, the institution has been under the superintendency of Dr. McFarland, late superintendent of the New Hampshire Asylum for the Insane. During the two years, from the 1st of December, 1852, to the 1st of December, 1854, the receipts of the institution amounted to $104,696-59, and the expenditures to $100,680.93. 37

The Institution for the Education of the Blind is at Jacksonville, and stands under the superintendency of Joshua Rhoads, Esq. According to the Report of the first of January, 1855, there were at that time 35 pupils in it. The ]nstitution for the (Education of the Deaf and Dumb is likewise at Jacksonville. At the beginning of the year 1855, there were 99 pupils in it, of whom 59 were males, and 40 females. Ninety-five were of Illinois, and four from Missouri. Thte State Penitentiary is at Alton, and the usual number of its inmates is from 450 to 500


nwline.gif (2138 bytes)

The Illinois State Archives holds institutional records.
Search their
Descriptive Inventory Section for more information.

nwline.gif (2138 bytes)

Return To The Illinois State Data Page

©2000, Kim Torp