Visitors Guide to
Pike County, Illinois
"Welcome to Pittsfield, Illinois"
Pittsfield is located between the Mississippi and
Illinois Rivers and is the county’s largest community and county seat.
In 1825 the final boundaries of Pike County were set, the county once
covered all of Illinois north of the Illinois River, and several years
later its citizens desired a central county seat. A commission was
formed and in March of 1833 laid out the site of the town and the first
lots were sold in May. The new town was given the name of Pittsfield
after the town in Massachusetts from where many of the county’s earliest
and most prominent citizens had come from. Immediately after the town
was laid out the first courthouse was erected. It was an unremarkable
frame building built on the north side of the square. A larger
courthouse was erected in 1838-9. The current building is considered one
of the ten most beautiful courthouses in Illinois. The corner stone,
designed by Architect Henry Elliott, for the octagonal shaped building
was laid July 12, 1894.
For years after the settlement of the Pittsfield
nearly all goods being shipped or received were transported by wagon to
the steamboat landing at Florence, twelve miles to the east. In 1851 a
private corporation constructed a plank road connecting Pittsfield and
Florence to make travel easier. When the old Jacksonville and Naples was
extended to Hannibal, and as the new line was located some six miles
north of Pittsfield, it was feared that it would retard the growth of
the town. To prevent this, a branch line was built from Pittsfield to
Maysville in 1870, connecting with the Hannibal and Naples line.
Abraham Lincoln was intimately associated with
Pittsfield. Lincoln had many friends in Pittsfield and spent a great
deal of time here beginning in the 1830's. His law practice and
political ambitions brought him back to Pike County numerous times.
There are probably more houses associated with Lincoln in Pittsfield
that any other city in the state. A car-radio audio tour has been
developed and takes visitors to eight houses and two sites where you can
hear the stories of the houses and the people that knew Lincoln. Nearly
550 documents of cases associated with Lincoln were found in the Pike
County courthouse records. Two of Lincoln’s personal secretaries, John
Hay and John George Nicolay, have Pittsfield roots. In the courthouse
rotunda is a photograph of Lincoln that was taken in Pittsfield on
October 1, 1858 by Calvin Jackson after a speech during his senatorial
campaign versus Stephen A. Douglas. Visitors may tour the courthouse
during business hours at their leisure.
Pork packing became Pittsfield's chief industry and the town proclaimed
itself the "Pork Capital" of the Midwest. Although
pork industry is not what it once was, the town still hosts a yearly "Pig Days" festival
with pork related activities and pork related culinary specialties. The
architecture in the area around the courthouse is basically
two-story business buildings that date to the late 1890's. Most of
the elegant, older houses in town have survived beautifully and
stand along wonderful tree lined streets. A large section of
Pittsfield around the courthouse was declared the Pittsfield
Historic District in 1980. The Historic East School has been turned
into a museum by the Pike County Historical Society. The museum has
limited hours May through October or can be visited by appointment.
The Pike County Visitors Center, with a 24-hour foyer, is located
just several blocks west of the courthouse and provides information
to visitors about events, activities, and attractions.
The official website of the town of Pittsfield. This web site has
detailed information about the town, its history, the things to do, and