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Mason County

Mason County and its seat, Havana, have a longstanding history due to locations right along the Illinois River. In the 1600s, French explorers Joliet and Marquette set up camp near present-day Havana during their early explorations. The area's past is highly connected to Native American Indian communities; Havana is the home of the Rockwell Mounds, the second largest Native American burial grounds dating back to about 200 A.D. Rockwell Mounds cover about two acres and stand 14 feet high.

The name for the county was chosen with the influence of immigrants from Mason County, Kentucky. Mason County, on the Ohio River in northeast Kentucky was formed in 1789. The Kentucky County was named for George Mason [1725-1792], a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses. He was also a member of the Virginia Convention of 1775 and the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Mason was the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights which was adopted in June 1776.

The area of Mason County was originally part of Tazewell County, which was formed in 1827. In 1827, while the area was Tazewell County Stephen Dewey surveyed the town of Havana, named for the capitol of Cuba, for Ossian M. Ross and the plat was recorded in Pekin, Illinois. Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas both traveled here on the 8th Judicial Circuit, for the few years it was on the route.

Later, in the days of Chicago gangster Al Capone, Havana was referred to as "Little Reno" because of the floating casinos that were established on the Illinois River. Today, Mason County is known for wildlife and recreational sporting, including fishing and waterfowl hunting. The area is home to a number of wetlands and the Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge, a 4,500-acre habitat for migrating waterfowl.

By looking at the pictures below, you can get an idea of Mason County in Lincoln’s time and as it stands today. Maybe you’ll find something unexpected when you go Looking for Lincoln in Havana and Mason County, Illinois!



Following the route of Lincoln on the Eighth Judicial Circuit is easy, to learn more about the history of the courthouse in this county, just click here!

You may also want to consider a stop by the following sites of interest!

Havana Public Library
Havana Water Tower
Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway
Illinois River Country Nature Trail
Tall Timbers Marina
Emiquon Preserve
Dickson Mounds

For more information on Mason County or the city of Peoria, please visit: