The Story Of Greenville
It was 160 acres of remote, wooded wilderness in the Illinois Territory that George Davidson purchased in 1815.
Located on the bluff overlooking Little Shoal Creek, the site would become the town of Greenville.
Then still part of Madison County, Davidson built a home and tavern at what is now the intersection of Sixth and Main Streets.
He began selling lots and settlers soon moved there, including the first merchant, Green P. Rice, for whom the town was possibly named.
In 1817 Bond County was formed, and in 1820 a new county seat was sought. George Davidson gave all the land around the present day town square to the county, and in 1821 a courthouse was built on the same site as the existing courthouse.
In the 1840s some homes in Greenville secretly became stops on the Underground Railroad helping former slaves escape north to freedom. During the Civil War many Bond County men served in state regiments, including parts of the Illinois 130th which fought in the Battle of Vicksburg. A monument on the courthouse grounds honors those who served in the Civil War, as well as other monuments to veterans of all wars.
As the growing nation spread west, important transportation routes passed through Greenville. In the 1840s local citizens completed the National Road from Vandalia to St. Louis. Intersecting with the National Road at Greenville was the Black Diamond Trail, later known as Route 127, connecting Southern Illinois with Springfield. In 1870 the St. Louis, Vandalia, and Terre Haute Railroad was completed giving the town vital rail access to major cities in the east and west. In the 1930s building of present US Route 40, then one of the longest roads in the nation, was started in the area. In 1968 the exits for Interstate 70, one of the busiest highways in the country, opened at Greenville.
Education has always been important to the residents of Greenville. In the 1860s school superintendent Samuel Inglis instituted a first to twelfth grade system for students, one of the first communities in the state to do so. Almira College began in 1855 as an all women’s school. In 1892 it became co-educational Greenville College (now Greenville University). In 1905 the Greenville Public Library opened after a grant from Andrew Carnegie was given to the Ladies Social Circle.
Greenville has a long, successful history of manufacturing. In the 1890s DeMoulin Bros., maker of lodge initiation devices and uniforms, and Helvetia Milk Condensing, which later became Pet Milk Company, built factories in town. Many others followed over the next century: Model Glove Company, Coates Steel Products, and Nevco Scoreboard Company. In the 1980s Carlisle Syn Tec, Peterson Spring, and United Stationers (now Essendant) opened facilities in Greenville’s two industrial parks. Mallinckrodt, Donnewald Distributing, Rolling Lawns Farm Milk House, and Masa Milling are some of the other recent additions to the town’s manufacturing and industrial base. Utlaut Memorial Hospital (next Greenville Regional, now HSHS Holy Family Hospital), founded in 1960, continues to be one of Greenville’s biggest employers.
This downtown Greenville map is from the "City-cyclopedia of Greenville" from 1939. Click image above to see the full map!
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