History of Pike County

Pike County, Illinois is rich in history- history that dates back to the stone age.  Many thousands of artifacts have been uncovered here to substantiate the history of this area.

Originally a part of Madison County, Pike County was created by an act of Legislature in 1821.  From 1821 through 1822, Pike County consisted of all of the land between the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, which included, at the time, the small town of Chicago.  In 1825, Pike County was reduced to its present size.

The first settlers to Pike County were New Englanders.  Col. William Ross who came here from Massachusetts, was a prominent early settler of the county and contributed a great deal to its growth and prosperity.  He provided the money that purchase land for our county seat, Pittsfield. 

Pike County, along with many areas of Illinois, has a strong connection with Abraham Lincoln.  Lincoln practiced law and made campaign stops in Pike County, and it was a Pike County newspaper, The Free Press, that first suggested he was presidential material.  John Nicolay, who wrote the editorial, would later become one of Lincoln's personal secretaries.  John Hay, another Pike County associate, was also a personal secretary to Lincoln and later served as Secretary of State.

Pike County has a history of many unique towns and villages.  Among them is New Philadelphia, the first town in Illinois to be platted by an African-American.  Pike County was also home to an early Mormon settlement.  Additional information can be found by clicking on the green "visit" tab on our home page.

For further information about Pike County history, contact the Pike County Historical Society, located in the historic East School in Pittsfield or visit the museums in Barry, Griggsville, Pleasant Hill and Hull.  They will help you learn more about Pike County's colorful past.