Hancock County, Illinois, USA


Named for John Hancock

John Hancock [1737 - 1793] was the first governor of Commonwealth of Massachussetts. He was a member of the Continental Congress from 1775-80 and 1785-86, serving as President of the Congress from 1775-77.

Hancock is most famous as the first signer of the Declaration of Independence. Hancock made his signature large, "So the King of England could read it without his spectacles" or so the legends say....

Established Seven Years after Illinois became a State

Formed on 13 Jan 1825 from unorganized territory attached to Pike County, Illinois.

The first county courthouse was at Montebello, on the banks of the Mississippi River between Warsaw and Nauvoo. The town site is no longer occupied, but is marked by a plaque placed by the Hancock County Historical Society at the Hoot Owl Rest Area along the River.

In 1833, the General Assembly of the state of Illinois, commisioned the founding of the first permanent county seat at Carthage, in the center of the county. The first log courthouse was built in 1833 on the south side of the square. It was used from 1839-45 for other purposes.

The second courthouse in Carthage, was built in the center of the square 1839 by Moses Stephens, at a cost of $3,700. It was razed in 1906 to make way for the new courthouse.

The present county courthouse was dedicated on October 21, 1908. [More information and photos of the courthouse]

On October 2, 1925, during the Hancock County's centennial year, a plaque was placed on the north side of the Hancock County Courthouse:

The Founding of Hancock County, commemorated by the Six Thousand Children of the Elementary Schools. October 2, 1925 Erected and dedicated in honor of John Hancock.
The plaque was unveiled by 10-year-old John Siepel, a native of Hancock Township, Hancock County, Illinois.

Part of the Military Tract

Land granted to veterans of the War of 1812. [More about the Military Tract]

The Mormons in Hancock County

About 1839, the Mormons came to the town of Commerce. The settlement was renamed Nauvoo (Beautiful Place). From 1839-1846, Nauvoo was Illinois' largest (population 20,000) and most politically powerful town. In June of 1844, the Mormon prophet and leader, Joseph Smith, and his brother Hyrum Smith were killed by a mob while detained in the jail at Carthage. The Mormon exodus from Nauvoo began in early 1846 as they traveled across the Great Plains to their new headquarters in Utah. [More about Historic Nauvoo].

French Icarians - Utopia in Nauvoo

The Icarians came to Nauvoo in 1849. They established a utopian society. Emile Baxter, an Icarian, planted Baxter's Vineyards, now the oldest winery in Illinois.

History of Communities in Hancock County

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