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The Illinois Theater downtown

Jacksonville is in western Illinois. It's a small town but packed with history, exuding an inexplicable charm captured in the eponymous song "Jacksonville" by Sufjan Stevens.


The town was named for Andrew Jackson, although some say it was actually named after a "colored preacher" named A.W. Jackson. There's plenty of unique history in this Illinois town. Illinois College is here, the first college in the state. The college, as well as the rest of the town, was a center of abolitionism and a major spot on the Underground Railroad. Other major schools are headquartered here as well, including MacMurray College, the Illinois School for the Deaf, the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired, and Jacksonville Mental Health and Developmental Center. Ulysses S. Grant and his Illinois division of troops camped in the area during the Civil War. And both William Jennings Bryan and Stephen Douglas practiced law here.

Get in[edit]

Map of Jacksonville (Illinois)

Jacksonville is about 40 miles west of Springfield and is best accessed by car from Highway 72.

Get around[edit]

Like any small town, car is the best way to get around.


  • Big Eli No. 17 in Community Park was built in 1907 by the Eli Bridge Company, which is still in business making wheels and other carnival rides (such as the Scrambler). It's small but neat in that very fact, and also that it's over 100 years old.
  • Underground Railroad. Jacksonville was a major stop along the fabled Underground Railroad in the 19th century, and you can drive by or tour some of the homes that provided food, shelter, and assistance to the escaped slaves. Probably the best site is Woodlawn Farm, just east of town, which is being converted into a living history museum. There's also the Talcott Home (859 Grove St.), the Gillett Home (1005 Grove St.), and the Clay Home (1019 W. State St.). For tours contact the Jacksonville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.
  • Illinois College is the first college in Illinois, established in 1829 in part by Harriet Beecher Stowe's brother Edward Beecher. It was considered a center of abolitionism and today is mostly a long cluster of pretty red-brick buildings and some more modern additions.
  • The David Strawn Art Gallery, housed in a brick mansion, showcases both local and national artists, as well as permanent collections of antique dolls and Native American pottery.






Go next[edit]

Springfield, the beautiful capital of Illinois, is 45 minutes away.

Routes through Jacksonville
Hannibal ← Junction to Quincy  W  E  SpringfieldChampaign
DavenportMacomb  N  S  AltonSt. Louis

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