Douglas County History
In order to get a true history of Douglas County, it is necessary to go back to the treaty of peace between France and England, after the French and Indian War, in 1763, when the latter obtained the Illinois County. In 1778, the American troops, under Col. George Rogers Clark, conquered this territory and wrested it from the English, and a county called Illinois was then organized, it being included in the vague term, Northwest Territory. Another division took place in 1809, when the Territories of Indiana and Illinois were formed. The name Illinois means Tribe of Men, and certainly none more appropriate could have been chosen, for this great Commonwealth.
While many settlements were made on the borderland of the territory, little was known of the interior, where savage Indians guarded their ancient rights, but after Illinois was admitted to the Union, a steady influx of white settlers began.
Douglas County is watered by the Embarras and Kaskaskia Rivers and their many tributaries. on account of a large proportion of the county being low land, until the installation of the present drainage system, much of it was valueless, but it has been increased in value, and crops are grown upon it that are astonishing. The soil is well adapted for the cultivation of corn, although wheat is also a staple product.
The trees found in Douglas County are varied, embracing white, black, Spanish and red oaks, shellbark and white hickory, sugar and white maple, white and red elm, black and honey locust, white and black walnut, swamp and upland ash, sycamore, cottonwood, mulberry and wild cherry.
Douglas County is within the coal region, Vermillion County on the northeast being one of the largest coal producing counties in the state, while coal has also been mined to some extent in Edgar county on the east. There are some deep mine still active in eastern Douglas County.
The soil is a rich, deep, black loam on the prairies, and a light grayish clay in the timber.
A peculiar feature of Douglas County is the granite boulders which are found in various localities, the largest being on a farm in Garrett township, which measures about 1,000 cubic feet.
There is a fine spring of living water, known as Patterson's Spring, and another which is called Sulphur Spring in the county. In Bourbon Township there have been Indian Mounds discovered, which present evidence of having been built by human hands.
Douglas is the 101st county from the northing portion of Coles, with Edgar on the east, Champaign on the north, Piatt and Moultrie on the west and Coles on the south and has 265,497 acres of the richest soil in the state, devoted mainly to agriculture.
Until its formation in 1859, Douglas County was part of Coles County, and all early history was incorporated into the records of that county's history. the new county was formed on February 8, 1859, the county being named in honor of Stephen A. Douglas.
Originally the proportion of timberland to prairie was estimated as 1 to 8. Now, most of the former is cleared up and indigenous trees are grown upon the farm, along the roadways in the country, and the streets of the towns, while evergreens and orchards thrive wherever planted in strange contrast to the bleak environment surrounding the early settlers, the rich fruits of whose efficient soil are now manifested in the evolution of the physical and social conditions of today.
When the Illinois legislature passed the bill on the 16th day of February, 1859 granting to the new county a legal status, it also provided for an election of county officials on the 2nd day of April, following on that date James Ewing was elected Judge, and Robert Hopkins and John D. Murdock Associate Judges; Andrew G. Wallace, Circuit Clerk and County Recorder; John Chandler, County Clerk; Samuel B. Logan, Sheriff; William H. Sipple, County Superintendent of Schools; William Hancock, Treasurer; and Henry C. Niles, Surveyor, all having been nominated at a previous meeting of the citizens called for that purpose.
The three judges elected, constituting the County Court, held their first official meeting in Camargo on the 28th day of April and during that session ordered an election on the 30th day of May, following for a purpose of choosing permanent County Seat. Tuscola was selected.
The courthouse was finished in 1868, and is an imposing structure, built of brick, with ample accommodations for all the official business. It is in the center of the city of Tuscola, and the land was deeded to the county by the original town company. The original cost of the building was $42,000, including the furnishings and interior decorations, and many additions of the furniture have been made since then, while the entire structure has been re-decorated a number of times.
Today, Douglas County remains primarily an agricultural county, with few factories located within its boundaries. An Amish community is also located within the county, and has settled in the Arthur area.
There are approximately 3500 Amish in the Arthur area. An average family consists of six children. when the young people are married they are often given a parcel of land by one of the fathers from which they are to make their living. An average Amish farm, in the Arthur area, consists of approximately 80 acres. Their main crops being wheat, oats, clover, and corn. Until a few years ago, farming was their only way of life. Due to the fact that available farm ground is no longer plentiful, some of them are leaving farming for other ways of life such as woodworking, canning, watch repair, and several are now employed at various manufacturing jobs in the Arthur area.