When the Terre Haute, Alton and
St. Louis Railroad announced
that they were going to come through the area, the town of Litchfield
was born. In the late fall of 1853 the County Surveyor, Thomas Gray,
laid out the town in a cornfield purchased by the Litchfield Town
Company. Soon 80 acres of cornfields and prairie grass became 236 lots
About two miles southwest of the site of
Litchfield, another settlement called Hardinsburg was also founded in
anticipation of the coming railroad. However, when it was determined
that the railroad would bypass Hardinsburg’s 50 residents in favor of
Litchfield, its residents began to move their buildings, on runners
over the prairie grass, to Litchfield.
The first to arrive was a man named J.
M. McWilliams, who moved his small store and house from Hardinsburg in
January, 1854. By the time the railroad reached Litchfield in the fall
of 1854, most all of the citizens of the doomed Hardinsburg had
relocated to the new town of Litchfield.
On April 4, 1856, Litchfield formally
incorporated its village, and soon elected trustees and appointed its
first Justice of the Peace and Police Magistrate.
When the Civil War started in April,
1861, Litchfield was the first town in
to respond to the President’s call for men.
In 1875, the first hospital was
established by the nuns from the Order of St. Francis. This has since
grown to a 138 bed facility dedicated in 1971.
the 1880's, two coal mines were started in the area which soon put
many men to work and provided another boost to Litchfield's economy.
Soon, another discovery was made of a small pocket of oil and
Litchfield became the site of
the first commercial oil production in
Illinois. However the oil was
As the years passed, Litchfield
gained five more railroads which gave a further boost the town. Today, two
of those remain, including the
Chicago, Burlington and Quincy and the Norfolk