It is once again time to take a look at map resources in the Archives. You can catch up by taking a look at my previous post, covering plat maps. This time, I’m looking at the state as a whole, specifically, the counties.

Image of the cover of the book, Illinois, atlas of Historical County Boundaries. A light blue map of the United States over a dark blue background. Illinois is the only state highlighted in white. John H. Long, Editor, Compiled by Gordon DenBoer
Visit the Archives to view Illinois: Atlas of Historical County Boundaries.

Illinois: Atlas of Historical County Boundaries, complied by Gordon DenBoer, explores the layout and composition of the counties in Illinois. It also includes the chronologies of each county. These timelines include information such as the gain and loss of land to other counties, creation of new counties, counties that were proposed but never realized, and counties that have gone extinct. 

Here is the chronology for Champaign County:

Page 37 shows a timeline of Champaign County's creation and changes through time.
p. 37 shows Champaign County's timeline of creation and subsequent changes.

In the back of the book, there are maps that show how past county lines evolved over the years. This map illustrates that in 1820, Illinois was divided into only 19 counties. 

Map of Illinois counties in 1820.
p. 278 shows Illinois's 19 counties in 1820.

Today, the state has a total of 102 counties. The map has remained mostly unchanged since 1860.

A map of Illinois counties from 1860 to 1990.
p.285 shows the stability of the counties for 130 years!

For a while, between 1845 and 1860, what is now known as Ford County used to be a space not belonging to any county. It was a “non-county.” This was despite the fact that it was surrounded by several other counties.

Image of what would become Ford County, while it was classified as a non-county from 1845 to 1860.
p.282 shows what would become Ford County while it was still classified as a non-county.

In addition to this book on Illinois counties, the Archives has similar books featuring other states such as Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, and South Carolina. Come in and see for yourself how much the states have changed throughout the years!

-Shalini Smith
Archives Librarian