Effingham, Illinois

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Old Effingham County Courthouse
"Crossroads of Opportunity"
Location of Effingham in Effingham County, Illinois
Location of Effingham in Effingham County, Illinois
Location of Illinois in the United States
Location of Illinois in the United States
Coordinates: 39°7′15″N 88°32′45″W / 39.12083°N 88.54583°W / 39.12083; -88.54583Coordinates: 39°7′15″N 88°32′45″W / 39.12083°N 88.54583°W / 39.12083; -88.54583
CountryUnited States
 • MayorMike Schutzbach
 • Total10.38 sq mi (26.88 km2)
 • Land10.31 sq mi (26.70 km2)
 • Water0.07 sq mi (0.18 km2)
590 ft (180 m)
 • Total12,328
 • Estimate 
 • Density1,213.60/sq mi (468.58/km2)
Time zoneUTC-6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP Code(s)
Area codes217, 447
FIPS code17-22736
GNIS ID2394628
Wikimedia CommonsEffingham, Illinois

Effingham is a city in and the county seat of Effingham County, Illinois, United States. It is in South Central Illinois. Its population was 12,511 at the 2019 census estimate.[3] The city is part of the Effingham, IL Micropolitan Statistical Area. Effingham is home to a 198-foot-tall cross, The Cross at the Crossroads.

The city bills itself as "The Crossroads of Opportunity" because of its location at the intersection of two major Interstate highways: I-57 running from Chicago to Sikeston, Missouri, and I-70 running from Utah to Maryland. It is also served by U.S. Route 45, which runs from Ontonagon, Michigan to Mobile, Alabama, U.S. Route 40, the historic National Road, which stretches from Atlantic City, New Jersey to Silver Summit, Utah, and Illinois routes 32 and 33 also run through the city. It is also a major railroad junction, the crossing of the Illinois Central main line from Chicago to Memphis with the Pennsylvania Railroad line from Indianapolis to St. Louis. For this reason, Effingham has a much broader range of restaurants and lodging facilities than other typical towns of its size.


Effingham is located at 39°7′15″N 88°32′45″W / 39.12083°N 88.54583°W / 39.12083; -88.54583 (39.120903, −88.545909).[4]

According to the 2010 census, Effingham has a total area of 9.921 square miles (25.70 km2), of which 9.86 square miles (25.54 km2) (or 99.39%) is land and 0.061 square miles (0.16 km2) (or 0.61%) is water.[5]


Historical population
Census Pop.
2019 (est.)12,511[2]1.5%
U.S. Decennial Census[6]

As of the 2000 United States Census,[7] there were 12,384 people, 5,330 households, and 3,187 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,428.9 people per square mile (551.5/km2). There were 5,660 housing units at an average density of 653.0 per square mile (252.1/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 93.31% White, 3.8% African American, 0.19% Native American, 0.59% Asian, 0.38% from other races, and 0.69% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino people of any race were 1.04% of the population.

There were 5,330 households, out of which 29.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.0% were married couples living together, 11.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.2% were non-families. 36.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 15.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.25 and the average family size was 2.96.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 24.9% under the age of 18, 9.0% from 18 to 24, 27.7% from 25 to 44, 20.2% from 45 to 64, and 18.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females, there were 89.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $34,761, and the median income for a family was $45,902. Males had a median income of $31,442 versus $21,543 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,132. About 6.5% of families and 9.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.9% of those under age 18 and 7.9% of those age 65 or over.


Effingham was first settled in 1814, and was known from then until 1859 as Broughton.[8] In 1859, it became the county seat with buildings relocated from nearby (now deserted) Ewington.[9] The community was named after General E. Effingham, a local surveyor.[10]

In the late 1880s, local citizens founded Austin College, which lasted for several decades, and ultimately was purchased to become the Illinois College of Photography, also known as Bissel College. That school closed due to the Great Depression in the 1930s.[11]

On April 4, 1949, St. Anthony's Hospital caught fire and burned to the ground, killing 74 people.[12] As a result, fire codes nationwide were improved. Due to extensive media coverage, including a Life magazine cover story,[12] donations for rebuilding the hospital came from all 48 states and several foreign countries.

Effingham was a sundown town;[13] daytime segregation was enforced until at least the mid-1960s.[14]

Rail transportation[edit]

Effingham is historically important as a rail junction. The old Pennsylvania Railroad and the former Illinois Central Railroad crossed in downtown Effingham. Even today, Amtrak's City of New Orleans passes through daily.

Amtrak, the national passenger rail system, provides service to Effingham under the daily City of New Orleans route to New Orleans and Chicago, Saluki, and Illini routes to Chicago and Carbondale. Until October 1, 1979, the station also served Amtrak's former National Limited line between Kansas City and New York City.


Effingham has several schools, both public and private. The private schools are both religiously affiliated and include Saint Anthony and Sacred Heart. Saint Anthony Grade School (SAGS) serves grades preschool (age 3+) to eighth grade. SAGS has the Bullpup as its mascot. Sacred Heart Grade School (SHS) serves preschool (age 3+) to eighth grade. SHS's mascot is the Shamrock. The public schools include the Early Learning Center, South Side Elementary, Central Grade School, Effingham Junior High School (EJHS), and Effingham High School. The Early Learning Center serves preschool and kindergarten age children. South Side Elementary serves first and second graders. Aspire is a school for students who are likely to drop out or those who get expelled. Central Grade School serves third through fifth grade students. Central Grade school's mascot is the Mustang. EJHS serves junior high students in grades six to eight. EJHS's mascot is the Mustang.

Effingham High School (EHS) is the public high school.[15] The new EHS opened in the fall of 1998, and has a current enrollment of 849.[16] The former EHS building, built in 1939 as a WPA project and expanded in 1965, is currently the junior high, serving grades 6–8. The old junior high, Central School, is now a grade school serving grades 3–5. EHS athletics were originally known as the Warriors but the name was changed after Ada Kepley, a city resident, referred to Effingham as the "Heart of America" in a campaign to attract visitors to the city. The name stuck, with references in the city government and the downtown movie theater named the Heart Theater. EHS athletics are now known as the Flaming Hearts.

Effingham is also home to St. Anthony High School, a private Roman Catholic High School. SAHS athletics are known as the Bulldogs.

SHS athletics and extra-curricular activities currently consist of boys' baseball, girls' softball, girls' basketball (grades 4-8), boys' basketball (grades 4-8), girls' track (grades 5-8), boys' track (grades 5-8), girls' cross country (grade 5-8), boys' cross country (grades 5-8), volleyball, cheerleading, band (grades 5-8), chorus (grades 5-8), musicals, plays, student council, and scholar bowl.[17]

SAGS athletics and extra-curricular activities currently consist of boys' baseball, girls' softball, girls' track, boys' track, girls' cross country, boys' cross country, volleyball (grades 7-8), girls' basketball (grades 6-8), boys' basketball (grades 6-8), cheerleading,[18] student council, scholastic bowl, spring musical, art club, eco-meet, and bridge club.[19]

SAHS athletics and extra-curricular activities currently consist of soccer, boys' golf, girls' golf, girls' volleyball, girls' tennis, girls' and boys' cross country, boys' fall baseball, boys' basketball, girls' basketball, cheerleading, wrestling, bellettes (dance), swimming, boys' tennis, spring baseball, girls' track, boys' track, softball, bass fishing, National Honor Society, WYSE (world youth in science and engineering), Society for Academic Achievement (SAA), scholar bowl, Spanish club, band, chorus, fall musical, spring play, drama club, book club, chemistry club, Spanish scholar bowl, and pep club.[20]

EJHS athletics and extra-curricular activities currently consist of baseball, soccer, cross country, tennis, golf, cheerleading, football, volleyball, basketball, swimming, chorus, band, theatre, and scholar bowl.

EHS athletics and extra-curricular activities currently consist of boys' baseball, coed soccer, cross country, girls' and boys' tennis, boys' and girls' golf, coed wrestling, basketball cheerleading, girls' track, boys' track, football cheerleading, competition cheerleading, football, girls' softball, volleyball, girls' and boys' basketball, girls' and boys' swimming, chorus, band, marching band, theatre, student council, dance, WYSE, National Honor Society, Society for Academic Achievement (SAA), color guard, FACS club, math club, Young Heart Writers club, chemistry club, Spanish club, French club, book club, pep club, and scholar bowl.


Cross at Interstate 57 and 70

A 198-foot (60 m) steel cross erected by the Cross Foundation is located in Effingham. The cross is made out of over 180 tons of steel and cost over $1 million.[21] The Cross Foundation claims that the cross is the "largest" in the United States, standing at 198-foot (60 m) with a span of 113-foot (34 m).[22] While the 208-foot (63 m) Great Cross in St. Augustine, Florida, is believed to be the tallest freestanding cross in the western hemisphere, it is thinner than the cross in Effingham and has a narrower span.[22][23]

Notable people[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

Comedians and authors have poked fun at the "Effing" portion of the name Effingham and its use in American and UK slang as a minced oath for the "F" word.[27] For example, radio comedians Bob and Tom produced a segment on their national radio show.[28] Ben Folds's album Way to Normal uses a similar play on words in a track that was inspired while driving by Effingham, although the song refers to the city as "Effington".[29]


  1. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 14, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  3. ^ "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved May 21, 2020.
  4. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  5. ^ "G001 - Geographic Identifiers - 2010 Census Summary File 1". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on February 13, 2020. Retrieved December 27, 2015.
  6. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  7. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  8. ^ History of Effingham Archived July 28, 2012, at archive.today
  9. ^ "EDN Bicentennial Series: Ewington was first Effingham County seat".
  10. ^ Illinois Central Magazine. Illinois Central Railroad Company. 1922. p. 46.
  11. ^ Perkins, Kevin. "Austin College". www.frontiernet.net. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  12. ^ a b LIFE. Time Inc. April 18, 1949.
  13. ^ Loewen, James W. (July 9, 2006). "Honda's All-American Sundown Town". History News Network. The George Washington University. Retrieved August 20, 2017.
  14. ^ Loewen, James W. (September 29, 2005). Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension Of American Racism. The New Press. p. 231. ISBN 1595586741.
  15. ^ "EFFINGHAM HIGH SCHOOL". Effingham Community Schools. Retrieved December 29, 2012.
  16. ^ "EFFINGHAM HIGH SCHOOL". Illinois Report Card. Illinois State Board of Education. Retrieved April 5, 2015.
  17. ^ "SACRED HEART TEAMWORK OPPORTUNITIES". SACRED HEART PARISH. SACRED HEART SCHOOL. Archived from the original on November 25, 2015. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
  18. ^ "SAINT ANTHONY GRADE SCHOOL". GRADE SCHOOL SPORTS. SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA PARISH. Archived from the original on November 25, 2015. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
  19. ^ "SAINT ANTHONY GRADE SCHOOL". GRADE SCHOOL EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES. SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA PARISH. Archived from the original on November 25, 2015. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
  20. ^ "SAINT ANTHONY HIGH SCHOOL". HIGH SCHOOL EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES. SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA PARISH. Archived from the original on November 25, 2015. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
  21. ^ "World's Largest Cross FAQ". worldslargestthings.com. Retrieved May 6, 2012.
  22. ^ a b Gregory, Ted. "Landmark speaks volumes". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  23. ^ Clark, Jessica (April 6, 2015). "Building St. Augustine's Great Cross". First Coast News. Archived from the original on April 15, 2015. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  24. ^ "Nick Gardewine Stats".
  25. ^ "Chad Green Amateur, College & Minor Leagues Statistics & History".
  26. ^ "Daniel Winkler Register Statistics & History | Baseball-Reference.com". Baseball-Reference.com. Retrieved July 5, 2016.
  27. ^ "Eff". dictionary.cambridge.org. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  28. ^ The Effing House Family Restaurant, retrieved September 19, 2017
  29. ^ Charlie Amter (October 21, 2008). "Small town Mayor to Ben Folds: We will bury you". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 15, 2009.

External links[edit]