View of Downtown Paxton
|Elevation||798 ft (243 m)|
|Area||2.30 sq mi (6 km2)|
|- land||2.30 sq mi (6 km2)|
|- water||0.00 sq mi (0 km2)|
|Density||2,031.4 / sq mi (784 / km2)|
|Mayor||J. William Ingold|
|- summer (DST)||CDT (UTC-5)|
|Wikimedia Commons: Paxton, Illinois|
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (April 2012)|
The town was initially named Prairie City in the late 1840s, then Prospect City by an Illinois Central Railroad official in 1855. However, as Wilbur W. Sauer points out in his study of the early history of Ford County, residents noted that the town was "all prospect and no city." In 1859, it was renamed for Sir Joseph Paxton, architect of the Crystal Palace, who was a major shareholder in the Illinois Central Railroad, which in 1856 was the longest span of railroad in the world (Chicago to Cairo). It was rumored that Paxton was interested in organizing an English settlement in Illinois. The colony never materialized, but the town kept the name. Founded in 1859, Paxton celebrated its sesquicentennial in 2009.
Augustana College was located in Paxton from 1863–1875, aided by a community effort led by recent Swedish immigrants to fund educational and cultural opportunities for citizens. An early public high school was established in 1872; it served the surrounding area for the next several decades, culminating in the formation of a community high school district in May 1920.
On June 22, 1919, former President William Howard Taft visited Paxton while on his way to Champaign. After disembarking from a long train ride, Taft delivered a speech in the Pells Park Pavilion in favor of U.S. entry into the newly formed League of Nations. An excerpt of his speech can be found in the June 26, 1919 edition of the Paxton Daily Record, which is available on microfilm at the Paxton Carnegie Library.
On April 7, 1979, Paxton made the national news after a gun battle along Interstate 57 two miles (3 km) south of the city left two law enforcement officers and three civilians dead. "The I-57 Shootout" as it is known locally, began on a seemingly ordinary Saturday night. Illinois State Trooper Michael McCarter was patrolling the area north of Paxton, accompanied by his civilian brother-in-law Donald Vice, when he clocked two southbound vehicles near Buckley going 65 miles per hour, 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. He eventually pulled them over a mile south of Paxton and radioed for assistance from Paxton police. Officer William Caisse  responded, as did Officer Larry Hale, who first stopped to ticket a motorcyclist.
Just a few minutes later, five people died in a shootout: McCarter and Vice, Caisse, and Cleveland and David Lampkin, two of four brothers who were headed from their homes in Union Pier, Michigan to Mississippi for their grandmother's funeral. The only survivors would be Hale, Clyde Lampkin, who was never implicated in the incident, and Monroe Lampkin, who, police would later contend, killed McCarter and Vice. Hale was wounded in an exchange with David Lampkin, whom he later fatally shot. Monroe Lampkin escaped the scene on foot, setting off a massive manhunt, but was captured the following day walking on the outskirts of Paxton. How the shootout started is not entirely clear. Monroe Lampkin claims that his brothers only pulled their guns after one of the officers cursed and fired at them and that he never fired a shot. Known by police to be part of auto parts theft ring based in Detroit, it is believed that the Lampkin brothers were worried that police would find the weapons they had in the trunk of their cars, and opened fire on the officers.
In 1979, Monroe Lampkin was convicted and sentenced to death, but that decision was overturned by the Illinois Supreme Court five years later. In 1985, Lampkin was convicted and sentenced again, this time to life in prison, but that conviction was later overturned in 1990 because of inadmissible evidence given by a witness. Finally, in 1991, Lampkin was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole, a sentence that was upheld by appellate court in 1993. He is currently serving time at Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, Illinois.
From 1897-2007, the Paxton Daily Record was published in Paxton, making the paper one of the longest-running daily newspapers of its size in the state of Illinois. Today, the Paxton Weekly Record is owned by the Champaign News-Gazette and continues to publish local news, sports, and other events.
Paxton is the home of the Illinois Central Historical Society, a railroad depot historic preservation group that centers on the history of the Illinois Central Railroad. Due to Paxton having the highest elevation points in the area, the Illinois Central dug out ground so that the railroad could move at the same elevation, but underneath the city of Paxton. When the railroad was cut (around the 1920s), several bridges were built across the railroad to connect the east and west sides of Paxton. Presently, there are three vehicular bridges, which are located at Holmes Street, Pells Street and Patton Street. There is also a pedestrian bridge at Orleans Street. The vehicular bridges at Pine Street and Center Street and the long-abandoned pedestrian bridge at Franklin Street were removed in the spring of 2010.
The town also hosts the Historic Brick Water Tower & Ford Country Historical Society Museum, which opened on July 4, 2007. The 80-foot (24 m) tall brick water tower was built in 1887 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The community has many homes built in the late 19th century, some of which are now part of an historic homes walking tour designed by P.R.I.D.E. in Paxton, a not-for-profit organization and charter member of the Illinois Main Street program. Many of the home owners have won awards from various preservation and restoration societies for their efforts in maintaining the architectural heritage of these important landmarks.
The town is a major setting for the 2013 book, The Grave Robbers, which relates the story of the 1997 Oregon Cemetery Desecration as well as the history of rural Central Illinois between 1840-1997.
Paxton is located at (40.458745, -88.095784).
According to the 2010 census, the city has a total area of 2.30 square miles (6.0 km2), all land.
Paxton is directly served by three major highways (I-57, U.S. Route 45, and Illinois Route 9), the Illinois Central Railroad, and a municipal airport with a 3,500 feet (1,100 m) landing strip .
As of the census of 2000, there were 4,525 people, 1,776 households, and 1,198 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,031.4 people per square mile (783.5/km²). There were 1,888 housing units at an average density of 847.6 per square mile (326.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 90.3% White, 7.5% African American, 0.07% Native American 3 total Asians Asian, 0.55% from other races, and 0.86% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.64% of the population.
There were 1,776 households out of which 33.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.7% were married couples living together, 8.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.5% were non-families. 29.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 3.02.
In the city the population was spread out with 26.1% under the age of 18, 7.7% from 18 to 24, 28.0% from 25 to 44, 19.4% from 45 to 64, and 18.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 92.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.5 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $37,804, and the median income for a family was $44,256. Males had a median income of $31,140 versus $23,555 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,617. About 4.2% of families and 4.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.7% of those under age 18 and 4.8% of those age 65 or over.
The education level of the population age 25 and older in Paxton is as follows:
- High school or higher: 88.0%
- Bachelor's degree or higher: 13.4%
- Graduate or professional degree: 4.4%
- Curtiss LaQ. Day (1895-1972), Born and raised in Paxton. Early pioneer of aviation.
- Pete Larson, running back for the Washington Redskins; grew up in Paxton.
- Lena Morrow Lewis (1868-1950), political activist, orator, and journalist, graduated from high school in Paxton.
- Tom Meents, champion monster truck driver; lives in Paxton.
- William H. Plackett, (1937 - ), Born and raised in Paxton. The sixth Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy.
- "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
- Hari, Michael (2013). The Grave Robbers. Bruederbote Press. ISBN 1490548750.
- "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
- "2010 Census U.S. Gazetteer Files for Places – Illinois". United States Census. Retrieved 2012-10-13.
- "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
- Solon DeLeon with Irma C. Hayssen and Grace Poole (eds.), The American Labor Who's Who. New York: Hanford Press, 1925; pg. 138.
- Plackett, William H. "Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy". San Diego's Naval Heritage. Retrieved 25 September 2014.
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