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A Brief History of Bureau County

In 2012, Bureau County celebrated it's 175th anniversary. We would like to take this opportunity to give you a glimpse into our home as it was a century ago and highlight some of the important events that helped mold the County we love today.

In 1836, Putnam County was a large county. A large section was carved off of it which formed Bureau County in February of 1837, leaving Putnam county as one of the smallest counties in the state. It was named after Michel and Pierre Bureau, who ran trading post near the junction of Big Bureau Creek and the Illinois River from 1776 to sometime between 1780 and 1790.

Amendt's Cabin Attack,
during the Black Hawk War.

Illinois was a quite wild and unsettled during this period, the Black Hawk War having just ended five years earlier. At the time only a handful of non-native families settled the area that was to become our county, with the only inhabitants living in Native-American villages spread across Northern Illinois. However, by 1837 most of the Native-Americans had moved west of the Mississippi and in June of that year, Princeton was declared the county seat.

By 1840 over 8000 people had made their home in Bureau County, and the county was divided into 23 separate townships. Two additional townships were added several years later. During the same period, the villages of Indiantown and Windsor were consolidated becoming what we recognize today as Tiskilwa. Sheffield was laid out by the Sheffield Mining and Transportation Society in 1852. While Wyanet was the first settlement in the county, it wasn't incorporated until 1856. The village of Depue was originally called Trenton, changing its name in 1866. Ice was often cut from nearby Lake Depue and used by beer manufacturing companies in St. Louis. Likewise, the town of Brawbry was renamed to Neponset in 1866.

The first newspaper, the Bureau Advocate, began publishing in Dec. 1847 and featured columns with viewpoints from Whig, Democratic and Liberty parties. Its name was changed to the Bureau County Republican in 1858. Since then, each of our community has at one point or another also published their own local newspaper.

In 1851 a bounty of $1.50 was offered by the county for wolf scalps. The first railroad in the county was completed in 1854.

The Owen Lovejoy Homestead,
a stop on the Underground Railroad

The first meeting of the Bureau County Agricultural Board was held in 1855 which provided for the formation of a county agricultural society. The next year the first fair was held in October with displays of vegetables, cattle and horses and items manufactured by the ladies. The Bureau County Fair has been held every year since except for one year during the Civil War.

During the period leading up to the Civil War, Bureau County was on a "line" of the Underground Railroad, with a "station" at the home of Owen Lovejoy in Princeton, as well as several other locations throughout the county.

In 1880 the total population of Bureau County was 33,000 people with 17,000 horses and 41,000 cattle and 63,000 hogs. The census of 2010 set Bureau County's population at 34,978 and they didn't list horses, cattle and hogs.

For over 175 years, people have come to Bureau County, made it their home or just visited for a while. We hope you will come and visit and tell your friends to stop in Bureau County to see the simple pleasures and hidden treasures we have to offer.

Bureau County Museums

Bureau County Genealogical Society

629 S. Main St.,
Princeton, IL 61356 Map

The Society is devoted to the preservation of historical and genealogical records for Bureau County. The library is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; other times are available by appointment.

Owen Lovejoy Homestead

Rt. 6 East & Rt. 26,
Princeton, IL 61356 Map
or 815-879-9151

A Former Station on the Underground Railroad, the Lovejoy Homestead is located at the eastern edge of Princeton, Illinois, and was the home of the Denham and Lovejoy families for nearly 100 years.

Also located on the Lovejoy Homestead property is the one room Colton Schoolhouse. It was moved from its original location 2.5 miles east to the Homestead in 1971.

Wyanet Historical Society

320 E. Second St.,
Wyanet, IL 61379 Map
815-699-2559 or

History of town, schools, genealogy, veterans, WWI and II history, uniforms and Civil War diaries available for viewing. By appointment. Donations are welcome.

Mineral Pride Historical Society Museum

115 Main St.,
Mineral, IL 61344 Map

Devoted to the preservation of the memories and history of those who were raised or spent a part of their lifetime in Mineral, Illinois.

Bureau County Historical Society & Museum

109 Park Ave West,
Princeton, IL 61356 Map

Four floors featuring local history, genealogy, pioneers, agriculture, Civil War, library, and natural history. Cherry Coal Mine Disaster Display. Open March through December, Wednesday-Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Groups by appointment. Donation requested.

Spring Valley Historic Association Museum

201 W. St. Paul St.,
Spring Valley, IL 61362 Map

Open Wednesdays & Saturdays Year round 1 - 4PM Featuring items related to John Mitchell, Coal Mining, Area Businesses and Schools.

Henry Thomas Museum

North King St.,
Wyanet, IL 61379 Map

Henry Thomas was the first permanent settler in Bureau County. Born in Virginia; he settled in 1828 in Bureau Township. He was a man of many firsts. Among the firsts in Bureau County, Thomas was responsible for the first furrow plowed; his daughter, Mary was the first settler child born; and the first post office was located at his Bureau County Township home. View a wonderful museum of Bureau County Township and Thomas Family memorabilia. By appointment only.

Sheffield Historical Society

125 Washington St.,
Sheffield, IL 61361 Map

Historic Danish church built in 1880 and museum with 10 exhibit areas and a research and reference room for local history of ten towns and genealogy. Admission is $1 per person. Research fees may apply. Hours are Thursday-Saturday 11a.m.-4pm.

Manlius Historical Society

122 E. Maple Ave
Manlius, Illinois 61338 Map
or 815-454-2532
By Appointment only

The 1915 First State Building was designed by Parker Noble Berry, a Prairie School architect, who was chief designer for Louis H. Sullivan. Building is listed in the National Register of Historic Buildings and Sites in the United States. Berry died at a young age, so there are few visible examples of his work.

Neponset Township Historical Society

113 Commercial St.,
Neponset, IL 61345 Map

Genealogical information and displays. By appointment only.

Tiskilwa Historical Society Museum

110 E. Main St.
Tiskilwa, IL 61368 Map

Recently recognized as "Volunteer Institution of the Year" by the Illinois Association of Museums, Tiskilwa Historical Society offers six galleries displaying Tiskilwa's colorful past: Native American artifacts, village, military and school memorabilia, Hennepin Canal construction photos, old farm implements, early domestic items, railroads, churches, and quite a bit more.

Visit our Museum on Main "Where the past is present" on Saturdays from 9:00AM to 2:00PM.

You'll easily spot our MUSEUM ON MAIN on the south side of Tiskilwa's three block business district. In case you're concerned when you see the 25 steps of the former Methodist Church building (where our museum is housed), don't worry - the museum is on the lower level, and our facility is handicapped accessible.