History of Christian County, Illinois
Prior to 1839, that portion of Illinois now known as Christian County, was part of Sangamon, Montgomery, and Shelby Counties, and was originally named Dane, which title it held for one year. The name Dane was in compliment to Nathan Dane of Massachusetts who had been a member of Congress and was rendered prominent as the author of that celebrated Northwestern Ordinance by which that large territory was forever consecrated to freedom. Many were not happy with this name. On the 2nd of March, 1840 official records of the county court, the change is thus noted, Christian (alias Dane) County. The name of Christian was suggested from the fact that so many of the inhabitants at that time were from Christian County, Kentucky. The change was effected and legalized by the legislature, passed Feb 1, 1839. The first will on record was that of Joel Wadkins on Dec 6, 1839. The first license issued at the September term of County Commissioner Court was to John Sampson to keep a grocery in the town of Taylorville for the term of three months for the sum of $6.25.The county of Dane was attached to the 8th judicial circuit. It embraced the counties of Sangamon, Tazewell, McLean, Livingston, Macon, Dane, Logan, and Menard. The first term was held at Taylorville, Nov 4, 1839. In the absence of a courthouse, its sessions were held in a small frame house, 12 by 14 feet, owned by HW Vandeveer and situated on the north side of the public square. This small house had served the purpose of a hotel, stage office and courtroom. In jury cases that body had to retire for it’s deliberation out of doors, under a black-jack tree where the calaboose later stood. The first venire of Grand Jurors included John Young, foreman, Berry Rose, Thomas P Bond, George D Pierson, John Martin, David Cagle, James Weeden, Thomas Young, Robert Richardson, John Finley, Jacob Widick, Emanuel J Leigh, Allen B Peabody, Christopher Ketcham, Joshua Brents, Alfred Currie, and Louis Jernigan, who were sworn in pursuance of law, and charged by State’s Attorney, David P Campbell.
The first petit jury for the county of Dane included Henry C Dickerson, George Oller, Oberton Williams, Simeon Brents, William Sheldon, Ezekiel S Young, Robert P Langley, Wesley Westbrook, Henry Judy, William Wallis, Isaac Richardson, and Wiley Blount.
The second venire of Grand Jurors, June 1840, were James McKinney, foreman; Moses Pearson, William Sharp, David Stokes, James Young, Phil C Ferguson, Fred Hammer, Martin Hannon, James W Radford, Ellington Adams, James Funderburk, John Durbin, Thomas Anderson, George Vandeveer, Peter Wydick, and Jacob Wydick.
The second petit jurors were Josiah Langley, Levi W Goodan, Abram Peters, Henry Blount, Daniel Miller, Job B Davis, Joshua Brents, Louis H Jernigan, James R Lucas, Isaac Denton and Thomas Langley for the June term, 1840.
Joseph Bugg was the first man issued naturalization papers at the October term of court, 1840.
In 1967, the Christian county Historical Society received a pre-Civil War Home from the heirs of James Canty Morrison. This home, built about 1854-1855, is built of brick which were made on the farm. The stone and lime came from the Ralston Quarry located about 10 miles northwest of Taylorville. It sets on 1 acre of ground. The Morrison Home has been made into a County Museum and the old courthouse has been moved to a site near the Morrison Home. This courthouse was built in 1839 by order of the Commissioners Court of Dane County (now Christian) at the cost of $2350. It was advertised for sale and sold at auction on June 24, 1854, for $276. It was moved from the site in the center of the public square in downtown Taylorville, at that time to the north edge of Taylorville and was used for a barn. In 1925, Mr. Phil Haner, a very civic-minded citizen, insisted that it not be torn down but moved to the Christian County Fairgrounds. Here it remained until 1967 when the Park District Board decided to restore it to a museum and moved it to the Christian County Historical Museum Park. In this courthouse, Abraham Lincoln, a circuit-riding lawyer, pleased cases for his Christian County clients. The Christian County Historical Museum Park is located just northwest of the junction of Routes 29 and 48 east of Taylorville.