Black History in McDonough County, Illinois

An attempt to increase access to knowledge of and appreciation for those African Americans who have contributed to McDonough County, Illinois.

The Earliest Settlers (Pre-Civil War)

1850: The 1850 federal census of McDonough County, Illinois enumerated  7,616 residents (756 in Macomb). Among those outside of Macomb were 5 people identified as free colored.  Those pioneering residents were Charlotte Bacon, Sely Waling, Jack Welsh, and Peter and Betsey Clarke. Peter and Betsey were unique, in that Peter owned $400 of real estate in 1850.

1860: The population of McDonough county grew by almost 3 fold from 1850 to 1860. The 1860 Federal Census enumerated 20,061 people. Of those 1,213 (6%) were born outside the United States.  Among the 20,061,  were 8 free colored persons: 4 males, 4 females. Those 8 people were living in Blandinsville, Bushnell, Chalmers, Emmet, and Prairie City Townships.  By comparison with McDonough, nearby counties had larger populations of African Americans: Hancock: 20 persons; Knox:38 persons; and Warren: 43. (Macomb population 1,834, no blacks)

Post-Civil War

Central Missouri was the home of the majority of blacks who moved to McDonough County following the Civil War. Counties of origin included many of the counties in Missouri that composed the “Little Dixie” region.  For info about Little Dixie, see, for example:

1870: The population of McConough county was 26,523. Of those, were 43 people of color.  Macomb’s population was 2,734.

Macomb (16): William H. Ball (5), Jane Black (w/Burtons), Browns (w/Baileys) (2), Burkheads (w/Chandlers) (2), Kate Dalton (w/Irvins), Henry Fields (4), Sally Freeman (w/Clisbys),
Blandinsville (8): Henry Braxton (w/Hollidays), Peter Clark (6), Robert Hamilton (w/Haines)
New Salem (11): Daniels (8), Sims (3)
Lamoine (1): George Washington (w/Searles)
Walnut Grove (1): G. J. Cogg (2)
Prairie City (1): Keynolds (w/)
Mound (4): James McKinney (w/Works), Wright (3)

By 1875, an estimated 60 blacks lived in Macomb.


In 1880, Macomb’s black population numbered 87 (enumerated as black or mulatto) The rest of the population numbered 3,053. A special school census in 1888 counted 136 blacks and 3,464 others.


US Census enumerated 158 blacks and 3,894 whites in Macomb.

From The Quincy Daily Journal, September 27, 1895, page 6 (quoted from Yesterday’s Macomb Journal)

“Edgar H. Patton, of St. Louis, and Miss Alice Ball, of this city, were married at the residence of the bride’s mother, Mrs. Wm. Ball, last evening at 8 o’clock, Rev. J. H. Bratton performing the ceremony.  The young couple left on the Eli last night for St Louis, where they will make their future home.”

20th Century



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