Jersey County Historical Society
601 N. State Street
Jerseyville, Illinois 62052
webmaster: Beth McGlasson
A Quick History of Jersey County
The first known settlers in what is now known as Jersey County were Daniel Allen and his
two sons, Daniel and James. The year was 1815.
Others soon followed, mostly from such southern states as Tennessee, Kentucky, and the
Carolinas. These were woodsmen, who tucked their cabins into tracts of timber rather than
building on the prairie, where native grasses grew up to eight-feet tall, providing an ideal
hiding spot for hostile Indians and wild animals. An even greater danger posed by the
prairies, however, was fire. By late summer, the grass became dry as tinder, and a
lightening strike could send a fire raging across the prairie, consuming everything in its
The tide of immigrants gradually shifted, and soon Germans from New Jersey accounted for
the majority of the area's newest members.
Jerseyville, the county seat, began as Hickory Grove, a very small settlement consisting of
three log cabins and the Red House. In 1834, a post office was established, and the city's
name was changed to Jerseyville in honor of its many New Jersey immigrants. Other names
bandied about were Liberty, Livingston, and New Hampshire.
In 1839, Jersey County broke from Greene County. When Jerseyville was declared the
county seat, some said it had little hope of competing with the bustling town of Kane or
prospering so far from an abundance of timber.
The population of Jersey county has grown steadily since its inception, from 4,535 in 1840
to nearly 23,000 in 2010, but agriculture still provides the base of the local economy. Today
Jersey County includes two cities (Jerseyville and Grafton); four villages (Brighton, Elsah,
Fidelity, and Fieldon); and one town (Otterville, one of only 17 unincorporated towns in
Illinois). It also is home to Illinois' largest state park, Pere Marquette, and Principia College.