Visitors Guide to
Quincy

Adams County, Illinois
   
Quincy sits on the bluffs on the banks of the Mississippi River. In 1818, John Wood, a New York native, to the Illinois Country and in 1821 he travelled north from nearby Pike County to investigate the claim of a friend who had been granted a land bounty in the Military Tract. The Military Tract was a large tract of land in Western Illinois set aside by act of Congress as payment to soldiers who served in the War of 1812. John Wood was so impressed with the natural resources of the locality purchased the 160 acre bounty from the veteran for $60 and the next year became the first European settler in the area. Wood was impressed with the location’s timber, fertile soil, abundance of game, by the fact that it was the only site within 100 miles where the bluff reached the Mississippi River, and by the fact that the site had a natural harbor. Wood was joined by others who had come to settle on land grants or to engage in trade and a small settlement known as Bluffs grew. In 1825 the state of Illinois sent commissioners to the newly created Adams County to locate a county seat.  The commissioners drove a stake into the public square of Bluffs (John’s Square) and named the settlement Quincy in honor of the newly-elected U.S. President, John Quincy Adams. The county had at this time an estimated population of about seventy.
 
Quincy was incorporated as a town in 1834 and as a city in 1840. Quincy’s earliest settlers came primarily from New England. By 1838, Quincy becoming an economic boom town. The city boasted a new flour mill, a stove-making facility, a wagon and carriage business and a successful steel plow enterprise. Besides these Quincy had its share of coopers and cabinetmakers, saddlers and leather makers. Its pork-packing and meat-processing center rivaled any other on the Mississippi north of St. Louis. The climate and soil of Adams County is ideal for agriculture and farms yielded excellent crops of grain which allowed flour mills to flourish in Quincy. The native forests provided saw mills with abundant quantities of oak, hickory and walnut timber. Riverboat trade flourished and because of these conditions Quincy acquired the nickname “The Gem City.” Quincy was an energetic city that doubled in size from 1838 to 1840 and would grow to a city of 30,000 by the end of the 1840s.The early settlers of Quincy were soon joined by a large number of immigrants who were escaping the political turmoil in Germany began arriving in the region in the late 1840s bringing to the community a number of skilled craftsmen.
 
In early 1839 the first of thousands of Mormons would come to Quincy seeking refuge from an October 1838 executive order by Missouri Governor Lilburn W. Boggs that “the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary for the public peace” and be out of Missouri by March 8, 1839. The Mormons found refuge in Quincy where they were kindly treated and sheltered before they founded Nauvoo, 50 miles to the north, in the spring of 1840. Quincy by this time, with its strong German and New England population base, was developing a reputation as a center for intellectual inquiry, equality, and humanitarian care and relief. The question of slavery became an issue as most Quincy inhabitants were abolitionists and the city became an important part of the Underground Railway system. In 1842 Dr. Richard Eells was caught helping slave named Charley in his attempt to escape from his owner in Missouri. Eels was tried and found guilty by Judge Stephen A. Douglas. The case was appealed and made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court where the justices upheld Eells conviction in 1853 even though he had died by that time. The Dr. Richard Eells House (photo left) is recognized by the National Parks Service, as one of the 42 most important Underground Railroad sites deserving national recognition and is operated a museum to explain both the Underground Railroad, the lifestyles of the era, and the architectural techniques of the period.
 
As a river town, Quincy was not only an important commercial center but a political center as well. The sixth of the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates was held in John’s Square (now known as Washington Park), on October 13, 1858 before an estimated crowd of over 15,000 people. It was here that Lincoln got Douglas to admit that he favored permitting the states to settle the question of slavery within their borders. This statement helped Douglas win the election for the Senate seat, but was used against him two years later when he lost the presidential election to Lincoln. In 1860, Quincy native John Wood was elected Lt. Governor and became Illinois’ 12th Governor when Governor William H. Bissell died. Wood successfully petitioned the Illinois Legislature to stay in Quincy to oversee the construction of a new home he was building and his existing mansion temporarily became the Governor’s Mansion. The John Wood Mansion (photo left) has been restored and is the centerpiece of a complex operated by the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County.
 
The Civil War had a great effect on Quincy. Ex-Governor Wood was appointed Quarter Master of the Illinois Militia and mass meetings were called to promote enlistment. With the exception of Cairo, Quincy was the most important military point in the state and became a center of great military activity. Companies gathered here from various parts of the state to be organized into regiments. Manufacturers were busy in making munitions of war and orators made patriotic speeches and pastors preached patriotic sermons. There were two hospitals established, and numbers of sick and wounded soldiers, were brought from the camps and battlefields. Two societies of women, "The Needle Pickets" and the "The Good Samaritans," organized to make provisions for the sick and wounded in hospital and camp. In 1886 Quincy was chosen as the site for a soldiers' and sailors' home for disabled Illinois veterans of the Mexican and Civil Wars. This facility is still in operation and is the largest and oldest veterans’ home of the four in Illinois. In 1975 The All Wars Museum opened on the grounds of the Illinois Veterans Home at Quincy and has over 5,000 artifacts from every United States military engagement dating from the Revolutionary War through to today’s current conflicts.
 
In 1868 the Chicago Burlington &Quincy Railroad completed a bridge over the Mississippi River at Quincy, Illinois and the coming of the railroads meant the demise of river traffic at Quincy. Quincy has always kept up with the modern innovations of the times. The Quincy Gaslight and Coke Company started providing light for homes and street lights since the 1850s and Street Railway and Carrying Company laid its first track in 1867 from the post office on Maine Street to the northern city limits. Franciscan friars arriving as missionaries in the late 1850s responded to the need for education in frontier Illinois by founding St. Francis Solanus College in 1860. The State of Illinois chartered the College in 1873, which was renamed to Quincy College and Seminary in 1917 and finally Quincy College in 1970.
 
For several decades during the middle of the nineteenth century Quincy was the second largest city in Illinois primarily because of the commerce that its steamboat landings brought to the community. Quincy had its rapid growth stunted when business activities swung away from the river and other industrial communities in the state experienced boom eras. During the last quarter of the 19th century the city’s industrial output shrank to the capacity of a single spur line railroad. The economic contraction helped shaped contemporary Quincy. Its current population of just over 40,000 is not much higher than the 31,000 that lived in Quincy in 1890. This stable population has allowed Quincy to retain a 19th century atmosphere. There are four major historic districts with more than 2,000 structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Gardner Museum of Architecture and Design conducts a series of tours of these historic neighborhoods paying special attention to social and cultural history. Quincy has an extensive park system and is known for having a large population of dogwoods. The city has been a member of Tree City USA since 1986 and holds a Dogwoods Festival every May.
 
The city over the past several decades has redeveloping while holding onto its German roots. It has established an extensive park system and because of its large population of dogwoods has been a member of Tree City USA since 1986. Quincy has a vibrant arts community and is the home to many performing arts organizations including the Quincy Symphony Orchestra, Quincy Community Theater and the Muddy River Opera Company. A juried art exhibit, the Midsummer Arts Faire, is held in Washington Park, every June. Quincy’s rich history has been preserved through museums such as the Quincy Museum. Quincy is a charming, progressive community that offers a wonderful destination for a daytrip or an extended stay. Visitors can stop at the Villa Kathrine, a wonderfully unique example of Mediterranean architecture located on a bluff with a breath taking view of the Mississippi River. In addition to tours of the house built by world traveler George Metz, the Villa Kathrine (photo left) houses Quincy’s Tourist Information Center.
 



www.seequincy.com
The official site if the Quincy Area Convention & Visitors Bureau which promotes Adams, Hancock, and Pike Counties as destinations for overnight visitors.

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