Historical Overview of McLean County, IL

County History

Source: "Historical Encylopedia of Illinois, 1901"

McLean County, the largest county of the state, having an area of 1166 square miles, is central as to the region north of the latitutude of St. Louis and about midway between that city and Chicago -- was named for John McLean, an early United State Senator. The early immigrants were largely from Ohio, although Kentucky and New York were well represented. The county was organized in 1830, the population at that time being about 1,200. The greater portion of the surface is high, undulating prairie, with occasional groves and belts of timber. On the creek bottoms are found black walnut, sycamore, buckeye, black ash and elm, while the sandy ridges are covered with scrub oak and black-jack. The soil is extremely fertile (generally a rich, brown loam), and the entire county is underlaid with coal. The chief occupations are stock-raising, coal-mining, agriculture and manufactures. Sugar and Mackinaw Creeks, with their tributaries, afford thorough drainage. Sand and gravel beds are numerous, but vary greatly in depth. At Chenoa one has been found, in boring for coal, thirty feet thick, overlaid by forty-five feet of the clay common to this formation. The upper seam of coal in the Bloomington shafts is No. 6 of the general section, and the lower, No. 4; the latter averaging four feet in thickness. The principal towns are Bloomington (the county-seat), Normal, Lexington, LeRoy and Chenoa. Population in 1890 was 63,036; in 1900 - 67,843.

Bloomington - the county-seat of McLean County, a flourishing city and railroad center, 59 miles northeast of Springfield; is in a rich agricultural and coal-minin district. Besides car shops and repair works employing some 2,000 hands, there are manufactories of stoves, furnaces, plows, flour, etc. Nurseries are numerous in the vicinity and horse breeding receives much attention. The city is the seat of Illinois Wesleyan University, has fine public schools, several newspapers (two published daily), besides educational and other publications. The business section suffered a disastrous fire in 1900, but has been rebuilt more substantially than before. The principal streets are paved and electric street cars connect with Normal (two miles distant), the site of the "State Normal Unviersity" and "Soldiers' Orphans' Home". Population in 1890 was 20,284; in 1900 - 23,286.

County Formation

Established: December 25, 1830
Named for John McLean - click here for his biography.

Present area, or parts of it, formerly included in:

Eastern Part:

1827 1830 - Shelby
1821 1827 - Fayette
1819 1821 - Clark
1816 1819 - Crawford
1815 1816 - Edwards

Western Part:

1827 1831 - Tazewell
1825 1827 - Peoria
1821 1825 - Sangamon
1817 1821 - Bond
1812 1817 - Madison
1801 1812 - St. Clair
1790 1801 - Knox, Northwest Territory

County Seat:

1831: Bloomington, which was named Blooming Grove until 1831.


Allin - Name changed from Mosquito Grove on March 4, 1867
Anchor - Formed from Cropsey (date unknown, before 1920).
Arrowsmith - Name changed from Pleasant on May 17, 1858.
Bellflower - Name changed from Prairie on May 17, 1858.
Blue Mound
Cheyney s Grove
City of Bloomington - Formed from Bloomington (date unknown, after 1921).
Dawson - Originally named Lee; changed to Padua on May 17, 1858; then changed to Dawson (date unknown, after 1920).
Downs - Name changed from Savanna on May 17, 1858.
Dry Grove
Empire - Name changed from Le Roy on May 17, 1858.
Funk s Grove
Money Creek
Mount Hope
Old Town
West - Name changed from Kickapoo on May 17, 1858.
White Oak
Yates - Formed as Union from Chenoa on June 5, 1862; name changed from Union to Yates (date unknown, before 1920).

Click here for McLean County Township Map

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