Effingham County is rich in history. However, some history was lost in a fire at the courthouse in 1868, according to “History of Effingham County, Illinois,” edited by William Henry Perrin, published in 1883. The book mentioned legal papers and documentation were lost due to the fire.
To preserve the history of Effingham County, local historians who wrote the book in 1883 interviewed senior citizens living in Effingham County who remembered coming to the area during their early years of their lives.
The first white man to live in Effingham County, Griffin Tipsword, arrived in either 1814 or 1815, taking up residence with the Kickapoo Indians. Tipsword was characterized as “a strange compound of white man by birth and Indian by adoption. “
Illinois became the 21st state in 1818, with its first capital in Kaskaskia. Vandalia became the Capital of Illinois in 1819 after it was moved from Kaskaskia. Abraham Lincoln started his career as a legislator in Vandalia.
The National Road came through Effingham County in 1829 and stopped west of Ewington in 1833. Road workers set up housing in the Ewington area, about three miles west of the City of Effingham today. The National Road was officially complete when it reached Vandalia in 1838.
Effingham County and Jasper counties officially became counties on the same day through an act of Illinois state legislature on Feb. 15, 1831. The act appointed John Haley, James Galloway and John Hall commissioners to find a “suitable place for the seat of Justice” in Effingham County.
The act also stipulated the appointed commissioners were responsible for making a report of their proceedings about where the seat of Effingham County would be located. For Effingham County, a report was to be filed at the Recorder for Fayette County. However, the report cannot be found in the records in 1833.
They selected Ewington as the county seat named after Gen. William. L.D. Ewing, one of three men responsible for putting together the state bill to incorporate Effingham County. Ewing was an attorney and resident of Vandalia.
In December of 1832, a state act was passed authorizing Effingham County to hold an election for a sheriff, a coroner and three county commissioners. The election was held on Jan. 1, 1833, electing Henry P. Bailey as the first Sheriff of Effingham County and Theophilus W. Short, Issac Fancher and William J. Hankins were the elected commissioners.
The first jail in Effingham County was built by Levi Jordan and James Kral in 1833. T.W. Short, an architect, designed the log structure for $10. It was noted at the time the county didn’t have money to buy a lock for the jail, so the sheriff kept the door secure by propping it shut with poles and rails.
Paying the most tax in Effingham County in 1837 were John Funkhouser, $5, Robert Moore, $3.25, and John Martin, $3.
To the east of Effingham, the village of Teutopolis was laid out and incorporated on Feb. 27, 1845. The area was described as rolling prairie land and in 1847 early settlers started transforming the prairie into farmland. The average cost per acre at the time was $1.25 and significantly increased to $35 an acre.
Early settlers in Teutopolis were predominately Germans. J.H. Uptmor, Henry Vormor, G.H. Bergfeld Niemann and Joseph Bockman are credited as the first settlers in the area arriving in the fall of 1838. They were joined by C. Uptmor in the spring of 1839, who opened a store. All groceries were hauled into the area via wagon.
In 1839, the state capital moved from Vandalia to Springfield.
In 1840, the first school was built in Teutopolis out of logs and in 1855 at a cost of $1,500 a new school was built. A school was built in 1868 for the Sisters of Notre Dame that also included living quarters.
The closest mill to Teutopolis was Newton and roads at the time were not known to be reliable. C. Uptmor solved the problem by building a mill 1882.
A group of Tennesseans settled in west Effingham County, creating a small settlement called Gilmore, named after Mr. Gilmore, who arrived in that area in 1845.
Effingham County Surveyor George Wright surveyed and laid out the city of Broughton and a plat was entered into the record on May, 16, 1853. The city was named after an Ohio man, Mr. Brough, who was instrumental in the early formative stages of The Vandalia Line railroad. The final official addition to the town was made on July 1, 1858. In 1855, a survey plat of Effingham was recorded by Deputy Effingham County Surveyor James M. Healy, on Sept. 12. Eventually, Broughton became a part of Effingham.
The village of Mason was surveyed and platted by Effingham County resident George Wright on February 26, 1853. Mason is located approximately 12 miles south of Effingham on the Illinois Central Railroad in what was described as a “beautiful rolling prairie.”
A Ewington attorney, W.B. Cooper, started the first newspaper in Effingham County when he traveled to Vandalia and purchased a printing press in Vandalia from Tevis Greathouse and brought it back to Ewington. Cooper published the The Pioneer starting in 1855. The printing press Cooper purchased was thought to be the first printing press in Illinois.
The printing press was brought to Kaskaskia, Illinois, from Kentucky by Col. E.C. Berry, the first State Auditor for the State of Illinois, When the capital moved from Kaskaskia to Vandalia in 1819, the press moved with it.
According to “Illinois Historical Effingham County Biographical” published in 1910, in 1857 the newspaper became the property of Col. J.W. Filler, who moved the newspaper to Effingham when the county seat was moved from Ewington to Effingham.
In 1861, Col. Filler left Dr. D.T. Vandeveer in charge of the The Pioneer when Filler left to serve in the Civil War. Vandeveer soon after purchased the newspaper.
Vandeveer then purchased Effingham’s first newspaper, The Gazette, started in 1861, combining the two publications.
According to the “History of Effingham County, Illinois,” published in 1883, the village of Edgewood was surveyed and platted on Dec. 24, 1857. James Buckner built the first house in Edgewood followed by Byron Woodhull. Ichabod Stedman opened the first store in 1859. A. Goodnight was the first blacksmith to work in Edgewood and Byron Woodhull was appointed postmaster when the post office was established in 1858.
Edgewood was incorporated as a village in 1869. The first trustees of the city were E. Barbee, James Johnson, J.F. Erwin, Joseph Fiechs and Joseph Hall. E. Barbee was named the President of the board of trustees while Joseph Hall served as clerk.
Edward Woodrow, a St. Louis engineer working for one of the railroads, surveyed and platted Beecher City on April 8, 1872. The town was named after H.L. Beecher, a local businessman. Soon after Beecher City was platted, H.L. Beecher was appointed postmaster.
Montrose was laid out by J.B. Johnson and platted by County Surveyor Calvin Mitchell on July 19, 1870. The first building in Montrose was built as a storage facility. In 1871, a three-story building was erected for the Montrose Anchor Flouring Mill. The Vandalia Line railroad passes through the village.
Shumway lies on a piece of land originally owned by Hugh Dennis and sold to the Chicago and Paducah Railroad Company, which created town lots in 1874. An early settler in the Shumway area was Robert Shumard.
Elliotstown became a village in Effingham County June 17, 1854, when R.A. Howard surveyed land owned by Smith Elliot. The Baptist Church was thought to be the oldest structure in Elliotstown established on March 27,1852.
In 1869, the village of Funkhouser was surveyed and laid out by C.A. Van Allen for John J. and William L. Funkhouser. Wilson Funkhouser had a store while John Funkhouser handled grain for several years. However, in later years, the grain operation moved closer to the railroad tracks. In 1883, there were only six houses left in Funkhouser.
Altamont was laid out by J.W. Conologue, then surveyed and platted by C.A. Van Allen on July 19, 1870. Conologue was the first superintendent of The Vandalia Railroad and felt the east-west Vandalia rail line intersecting with the north-south Springfield Division of the Ohio and Mississippi railroads was a desirable place to start a town.
According to the “History of Effingham County, Illinois,” published in 1883, the village of Dieterich or Dieterichsburg was laid out by landowner M. Dieterich and platted by Effingham County Surveyor C.A. Van Allen on Jan. 8, 1881.
The town was said to be “an outgrowth of the Springfield, Effingham and South-Eastern Railroad.” A train station was established and three warehouses were built and operated by Jennings and Minor, M. Dieterich and M.V. Parks.
At the time, there were two stores, two blacksmith shops and two brickyards. A postmaster, John Richards, was appointed in 1881 when the post office was first established.