Petersburg, Illinois

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Menard County Courthouse
Location of Petersburg in Menard County, Illinois.
Location of Petersburg in Menard County, Illinois.
Location of Illinois in the United States
Location of Illinois in the United States
Coordinates: 40°0′41″N 89°51′5″W / 40.01139°N 89.85139°W / 40.01139; -89.85139Coordinates: 40°0′41″N 89°51′5″W / 40.01139°N 89.85139°W / 40.01139; -89.85139
CountryUnited States
 • MayorRick Snyder
 • Total1.56 sq mi (4.05 km2)
 • Land1.56 sq mi (4.05 km2)
 • Water0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
520 ft (160 m)
 • Total2,258
 • Density1,445.58/sq mi (558.08/km2)
Time zoneUTC−6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP Code(s)
Area code(s)217
FIPS code17-59312
Wikimedia CommonsPetersburg, Illinois

Petersburg is a city in and the county seat of Menard County, Illinois, United States,[2] on the bluffs and part of the floodplain overlooking the Sangamon River. It is part of the Springfield, Illinois Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 2,260 at the 2010 census, and 2,226 at a 2018 estimate. Petersburg is located approximately two miles north of New Salem, the original settlement where Abraham Lincoln first settled, as he started his career.


The town began as a planned community organized by real estate speculators Peter Lukins (for whom the town is named) and George Warburton. Abraham Lincoln worked as the surveyor who first mapped, measured and help to divide lots on the land. Petersburg quickly grew, due to an advantageous placement on the river, becoming the county seat in the 1830s and eventually drawing off the population of New Salem, which was abandoned in 1840.[3]

Many of the lush Victorian-era homes built by early wealthy inhabitants still stand on the bluffs of Petersburg. The town itself takes great pride in these structures, which has even preserved some of the original cobblestone streets to complement the classical architecture.

Local legend has it that town's name came about when Peter Lukins and George Warburton, two notorious sots, argued over what to call it. The matter was allegedly settled over a game of cards, which Lukins is credited as winning. Most versions of the tale claim that Warburton had it in mind to name the village "Georgetown." This story, though often told in the area, has not been historically verified.


Petersburg began as a trade center for agriculture in the region and a shipping point, where a railhead met a point in the Sangamon River that was both navigable and crossable. In recent decades, the depth of the Sangamon River at Petersburg has become too shallow for navigation, due to silting from local farming and from the diverting of natural runoff into artificial reservoirs such as Lake Petersburg and Lake Springfield.

The economy of the area is still derived primarily from agriculture, particularly in corn production. Tourism is a steady (if small) industry, and the town caters to Lincoln enthusiasts as a gateway to New Salem and in housing some relics of Lincoln's early life in Illinois. There are also a growing number of bed and breakfast inns, many of which are located in restored Victorian homes. Recent developments have also turned the town into a bedroom community for the state capital of Springfield, Illinois, which is some twenty miles to the southeast.

Notable people[edit]


Petersburg is located at 40°0′41″N 89°51′5″W / 40.01139°N 89.85139°W / 40.01139; -89.85139 (40.011503, -89.851505).[4]

According to the 2010 census, Petersburg has a total area of 1.46 square miles (3.78 km2), all land.[5]

The bulk of Petersburg lies on the bluffs overlooking the Sangamon River, though a portion of it, including the downtown/courthouse square area is technically on the floodplain of the river.

The town itself is moderately forested, a stark contrast to the flat plains around it. The trees are mostly deciduous maples and oaks, and New Salem State Park is home to sizable stand of old growth forest.

Natural disasters[edit]

Petersburg was damaged by an earthquake originating in the New Madrid Fault, on July 18, 1909. The earthquake was felt over most of central Illinois, but Petersburg suffered the most widespread damage.

The portions of Petersburg located below the bluffs suffered major flood damage during the intense flood season of 1993. The city and Menard County have since undertaken a campaign to buy and eliminate the low income housing located in the most flood-prone areas, creating a small series of parks near the Sangamon River.

Shortly after 12:30pm on December 31, 2010, an estimated 40 homes were damaged by a tornado which 22 of them were listed as uninhabitable by local officials. The tornado was caused by springlike weather which the temperature was in the 60s across central Illinois.[6]


Historical population
Census Pop.
U.S. Decennial Census[7]

As of the census[8] of 2000, there were 2,299 people, 997 households, and 612 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,705.7 people per square mile (657.5/km2). There were 1,076 housing units at an average density of 798.3 per square mile (307.7/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 97.78% White, 1.09% African American, 0.39% Native American, 0.22% Asian, 0.35% from other races, and 0.17% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.78% of the population.

There were 997 households, out of which 31.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.8% were married couples living together, 13.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.6% were non-families. 35.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 18.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.23 and the average family size was 2.89.

In the city the population was spread out, with 24.5% under the age of 18, 8.2% from 18 to 24, 27.4% from 25 to 44, 20.7% from 45 to 64, and 19.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females, there were 83.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 79.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $34,688, and the median income for a family was $42,500. Males had a median income of $32,292 versus $22,396 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,718. About 13.8% of families and 16.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 26.6% of those under age 18 and 6.9% of those age 65 or over.


Petersburg is served by WCIA, WICS, WAND, WSEC, WRSP Television Stations. Petersburg is also served by The State Journal Register Newspaper in Springfield and The Petersburg Observer.

Points of interest[edit]

  • Lincoln's New Salem State Park: This park, with its log cabin village, is situated two miles south of Petersburg. This is where Abraham Lincoln lived from 1831 to 1837. Along with the rebuilt cabins, the park also boasts a historical center and an outdoor theater. It now has more than one-half million visitors each year.
  • Starhill Forest Arboretum
  • Edgar Lee Masters Home: Located on the corner of Eighth and Jackson Streets in Petersburg. Open from 10:00 a.m. to noon and 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, Memorial Day through Labor Day.


  1. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 15, 2022.
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  3. ^ Petersburg History
  4. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  5. ^ "G001 - Geographic Identifiers - 2010 Census Summary File 1". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2020-02-13. Retrieved 2015-12-27.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  8. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.

External links[edit]