DeWitt County, ILGenWeb Project


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The DeWitt County, ILGenWeb Project extends a very special thank you to our past County Coordinators and volunteers.  To Earliene Kaelin, Sheryl Byrd, and Judy Simpson for all the time and effort that they put into the website both writing content, proofreading, correcting typos, and formatting and re-formatting the web pages. To our volunteers who have typed biographies, transcribed censuses, copied land records, submitted pictures, and have shared their own personal memorabilia.  Without their help, this site would not be what it is today. Our thanks to all our volunteers and contributors, past, present, and future. We could not do it without you.

History of DeWitt County

Map of Dewitt County Illinois.

DeWitt County is situated on 405 square miles of land in Central Illinois that was first inhabited by Kickapoo and Pottawatomi Indians. Around 1820, the first Caucasian settlers began to occupy this region. Its boundaries are met by the neighboring counties of McLean on the north, Macon on the south, Piatt on the east, and Logan on the west.

The county of DeWitt, DeWitt Township, and county seat (Clinton) were named after DeWitt Clinton (1769-1828); a distinguished lawyer, financier and statesman, Mayor of the City of New York and Governor of the State of New York, United States Senator, and promoter of the Erie Canal. DeWitt Clinton also ran, unsuccessfully, for president in 1812.

DeWitt County was officially organized on March 01, 1839. Prior to this, the county of DeWitt (or parts thereof) had been included in the following counties: Knox (Northwest Territory), 1790-1801; St. Clair, 1801-1812; Madison, 1812-1815; Edwards, 1815-1816; Crawford 1816-1819; Clark, 1819-1821; Fayette, 1821-1827; Shelby, 1827-1831; Tazewell, 1827-1831; Macon, 1831-1839; McLean, 1827-1839.

Townships in DeWitt County include Barnett, Clintonia (formerly Clinton), Creek, DeWitt (formerly Marion), Harp, Nixon, Rutledge (formerly Douglas), Santa Anna (formerly Mt. Pleasant), Texas, Tunbridge, Wapella, Waynesville, and Wilson.

During the 1840s, Abraham Lincoln had a law office in Clinton. It is said that Mr. Lincoln often dined at the (then) new hotel, owned by Dr. John Warner and Harry Merriman. Indeed, you will find many connections between prominent DeWitt County residents and Abraham Lincoln; including Clinton's first resident attorney, Clifton H. Moore. Other famous residents include Vespasian Warner, who served in the House of Representatives from 1895 to 1905 and served as a delegate at the Republican National Convention in 1904; Lott Russell Herrick who served as Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court from 1933 to 1937 and was Chief Justice in 1936; and Frank K. Lemon who was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1920, alternate in 1924 and 1932, again served in 1936, and was a U. S. District Attorney for the Eastern District of Illinois from 1931 to 1935.

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