Staunton, Illinois

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Location of Staunton in Macoupin County, Illinois.
Location of Staunton in Macoupin County, Illinois.
Location of Illinois in the United States
Location of Illinois in the United States
Coordinates: 39°0′39″N 89°47′16″W / 39.01083°N 89.78778°W / 39.01083; -89.78778
CountryUnited States
Congressional DistrictIllinois 13th
 • Total3.89 sq mi (10.09 km2)
 • Land3.87 sq mi (10.01 km2)
 • Water0.03 sq mi (0.08 km2)
620 ft (190 m)
 • Total5,139
 • Estimate 
 • Density1,305.05/sq mi (503.82/km2)
Time zoneUTC−6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−5 (CDT)
ZIP Code(s)
Area code(s)618
FIPS code17-72403
Wikimedia CommonsStaunton, Illinois

Staunton is the second largest city in Macoupin County, Illinois, United States. As of the 2010 Census, the population was 5,139.


Name origins[edit]

A man named Stanton bought land in the area, and then decided to move on and gave the land to the village for a square. At the meeting to discuss the post office someone suggested they name the village Stanton, a nod to Mr. Stanton. The suggestion was accepted and the application for a post office at Stanton went off to Washington, D.C. There the clerk who handled the request must have thought those westerners couldn't spell. The grant came back with the name spelled S-t-a-u-n-t-o-n, which is the name of a town in the Appalachian region of Virginia. It would take time and effort to have the error corrected, and little attention seemed to be given to the discrepancy.. Staunton, Virginia was and still is pronounced "Stanton". And so it was in Staunton, Illinois for many years. Some say that the people here began saying Staunton as we do today only after their throats were so full of coal dirt that they could no longer say Stanton. (Source 1)


  • 1817: John Wood arrives in the area (blacksmith from Virginia)
  • 1820: Richard Chapman builds first mill in Staunton (saves trips to St. Louis)
  • 1825: First schoolhouse built (William Wilcox taught for $2 a student)
  • 1831: Stephen Hicks opens first general store
  • 1835: David Hendershot plats the first section of a village
  • 1835: Luke Coons becomes first physician in Staunton
  • 1837: First post office (William Bonner is first Postmaster)
    • An important addition because it brought in people and trade
    • Staunton goes from a subsistent farm community to a trade-based one
  • 1859: Staunton becomes an incorporated village (previously unincorporated since 1830)
  • 1870: Railroad arrives (drastic change on the community and the nation)
  • 1873: Royal Gem Mill built
    • Won a gold medal for "Jack Frost Flower" at Paris World Exposition (1875)
  • 1878: Staunton Star Times begins publication
  • 1891: Staunton becomes a city after achieving a population of 2209 in 1890 (sufficient to apply for "City" status)
    • F. E. Godfrey serves as first mayor
  • Early 1900s: Staunton starts to look like what we recognize today
    • Staunton continued to grow in the 20th century. Many of the buildings that make up what is now downtown Staunton were built around the turn of the 20th century.
  • 1904: Illinois Traction System passes through Staunton
  • 1910: Staunton achieves a population of 5049 (biggest city in Macoupin County at that time). A real estate ad taken from the Staunton Star-Times on October 14, 1907 urges citizens to buy land quickly, as "Staunton will become a city of 15,000 people in five years' time and every lot in McKinley Addition will double or triple in value". (source 2)
  • 1913: Staunton Public Library established (first Librarian was Bess Kirkwood)
  • 1918: Staunton experiences two days of mob vigilantism resulting in two men being tarred and feathered and hundreds made to kiss the American flag and sign loyalty pledges.
  • 1922: Staunton Country Club established
  • 1923: Staunton Volunteer Fire Department established
  • 1923: Staunton football team goes 10-0 (including a state record victory of 233-0 over future rival Gillespie after one half of play)
  • 1925: Staunton Community High School built
  • 1925: Staunton's population (unofficially) reaches 6,600 (all-time high)
  • 1927: Lake Staunton (known by locals as "The Rezzy") built for $230,000
  • 1946: Community Memorial Hospital Association organized (building dedicated in 1951)
  • 1956: Illinois Traction System runs its last passenger train through Staunton
  • 1956: Interstate 55 built through Staunton (led to the decline of Route 66)
  • 1959: Staunton celebrates the one hundredth anniversary of Village incorporation
    • The Centennial Celebration lasted from June 28 through July 4, 1959, and included games, a parade, and concessions. One interesting happening was the "Judging of the Beards", or the "Brothers of the Brush" contest, in which members of the community grew long beards to show respect and to honor those of past generations. (source 1) Note: Proprietor of Moore's Barbershop ran this contest, and ironically, since he was a barber, it probably hurt his own business for a while. However, the celebration of Staunton's history must have taken precedence, and many see his actions, as well as others who dedicated time and money towards the Centennial Celebration, as indicative of Staunton's close-knit and dedicated community members. The beards have also been thought to represent a socially acceptable way for males to escape the conformity of the 1950s. Either way, the celebration indicated a proud and thankful citizenry honoring its community's history.
  • 1971: City Complex built (Library, City Clerk's Office, Police Station)
  • 1991: Staunton celebrates the one hundredth anniversary of City Charter (less lavish than 1959 celebration)
  • 1993: Staunton wins IHSA Class A basketball title
  • 2004: Livingston schools are annexed into the Staunton School District
  • 2009: Staunton celebrates its Sesquicentennial (150 years)
  • 2013: Staunton earns IHSA Class 2A Runner-Up title in football after a 40-13 defeat at Northern Illinois University's Husky Stadium to the Comets of Sterling Newman Catholic High School. The Bulldogs hurdled Fairfield, Carlye, rival Gillespie (which had defeated them in the regular season), and Auburn on their historic playoff run before falling to the four-time state champion Comets.

Ethnic background of settlers[edit]

  • Mostly from Germany in the mid-1800s (first German family in 1846)
  • Irish immigration in the 1870s
  • Italian immigration in the early 1900s

Coal mining[edit]

  • Henry Voge opens first coal mine in 1869 ("The Gin Shaft")
  • Coal mining characterized the city for nearly a century
    • Two large mounds of slag that rise from prairie farmland on the outskirts of Staunton tell much about the history and the present status of the small city. The size of the piles indicates many years of deep shaft coal production, while the weeded erosions indicate the tipples have been idle for years. Mining started here shortly before the Civil War. It ended shortly before World War II. When the shafts were operating, they provided most of the employment in the town. (Source 3) Note: although it has been said that coal mining had started in Staunton before the Civil War era, I found no indication of that in any other source. All of these indicate that coal mining first started in Staunton in 1869.
    • Staunton Local 755 becomes largest coal miners' union in the state
    • The Labor Temple was built in 1914 by the Local Miners' Union. The front doors of this fine structure opened onto an attractive lobby with a wide stairway to the second floor on the right and a ticket office centered between two entrances to a large auditorium which had a sloping floor, aisles between three sections of comfortable seats and in front a large, well-arranged stage. This auditorium had the first air conditioning system to be found anywhere within thirty-five miles of Staunton. From Tuesday through Sunday it was a theatre showing first-run movies for many years. The musical film Don't Give Up the Ship gave inspiration to local high school students in writing the Staunton High School fight song Don't Give Up the Fight. The first Monday of each month the Miners Union held their meeting there. The other Mondays could be booked for graduations, dramatic or musical productions by local groups, speakers, etc. Upstairs were toilet facilities, several small conference or committee meeting rooms, and a large hall where lodges met and dances and receptions could be held. (Source 1)

The last coal mine in Staunton closed down in 1951.

Mob vigilantism during World War I[edit]

Beginning on February 12, 1918 Staunton experienced two days of mob vigilantism and rioting that gained attention nationwide. Two men were tarred and feathered, with scores of others forced to kiss the American flag and sign loyalty pledges.[4] The demonstration was initiated by members of the United Mine Workers, Local Union 755, who decided to "Americanize" the city through vigilante tactics.[5]

The riot began at 9 p.m. at a meeting of Local Union 755 at Labor Temple where a $100 donation was being ratified to help defend Severino Oberdan from a previous charge of seditious talk that violated the Espionage Act.[5][6][7] Oberdan's lawyer, John L. Metzen, had been summoned from Chicago by telegram to attend, but after being barred entrance went to his hotel. After Oberdan was accused of being an organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World, a fight broke out, with twenty members of a newly deputized police force ("the American Vigilantes") charging the hall and handcuffing Oberdan.[7] Metzen was seized from the hotel lobby, and he was clubbed by police before being marched down a dark street where he was stripped and a bucket of tar poured over his head. Both men were driven to the outskirts of Staunton where they were pointed in opposite directions and told not to return.[8]

Working under the direction of the American Protective League,[9] the mob of men and women was reported to be as large as 400 persons, many who began storming homes of suspected pro-Germans and IWW supporters. They were dragged from their homes to a stand where, under threat of being tarred, they were forced to kiss the American flag and sign a pledge of loyalty. These actions were continued into the early morning and resumed the next day. More than 100 homes were visited, including that of former County Clerk William C. Seehausen, who was forced to kiss the flag next to a boiling pot of tar. Brothers Harry and John Mlekush were socialists who had flown the red flag from their home, but were forced to replace it with a U.S. flag and sing "The Star Spangled Banner."[10]

The police did nothing to stop the attacks, claiming citizens were exercising their patriotic duty during a special emergency.[10] Chief of Police Benjamin G. Volentine stated "No official report of a disturbance has been made to me. The only report I have received is that there are a lot more Americans in Staunton today than there were yesterday."[11] Nine alleged "pro-Germans" were arrested on February 13.[7]

Metzen claimed he had walked naked for three hours before being helped by some farmers who gave him clothing. When he returned to Chicago the Chicago Bar Association moved that he be disbarred for unprofessional conduct.[8] Oberdan made it to Worden, Illinois where he was treated by a physician.[12] Two months later U.S. Marshal Vincent Y. Dallman reported 82 "German alien enemies" living in Staunton.[13] In May the Staunton Vigilance Corps of the State Council of Defense posted signs that demanded that only English be spoken in public.[14] The German language was also dropped from the curriculum at Zion.

The area press gave enthusiastic support to the actions. The Staunton Star-Times announced that "the members of Local Union 755 [were] to be heartily congratulated on what they accomplished." Other district papers not only supported them but implied that such actions were required elsewhere in the area. The Mt. Olive Herald congratulated the vigilantes and issued a warning: "To Staunton belongs the honor of being first in the county in a real loyalty demonstration...In the future anyone with pro-German tendencies will do well to keep their mouths shut." The Gillespie News commended the citizens and explained that while "we are not believers in mob violence...under the existing circumstances we are for it, and every man who took part in the Staunton demonstration should be given a medal." The Chicago Tribune commended the crowd for its "zealous Americanism". (Source 4) The governor of Illinois, Frank Orren Lowden, also supported what the local union did. "The people in Staunton who took the ‘Pros to a cleaning are not mobs...They were the best citizens that can be found in the great state of ours." (Source 4)

Great Depression and World War II[edit]

  • New Deal art
  • Post Office Mural "Going to Work" (Ralf Henrikson, completed 1941). Note: This mural, often mistakenly referred to as WPA art, was funded by the Treasury Department administered Section of Fine Arts.[15] Along with several others in Illinois, it was the subject of a documentary film about art completed with federal sponsorship during the Great Depression. The film, which was tentatively titled Silver Lining, was sponsored by the Illinois Bicentennial Commission and the Illinois Arts Council. (Source 5)

o Post Office Mural "Going to Work" (Ralf Henrikson, completed 1941). Note: This mural, often mistakenly referred to as WPA art, was funded by the Treasury Department administered Section along with several others in Illinois, was the subject of a documentary film about art completed with federal sponsorship during the Great Depression. The film, which was tentatively titled Silver Lining, was sponsored by the Illinois Bicentennial Commission and the Illinois Arts Council. (Source 5)

  • Many joined the Armed Forces
  • Staunton becomes a commuter work force (as it is today)


Staunton is located at 39°0′39″N 89°47′16″W / 39.01083°N 89.78778°W / 39.01083; -89.78778 (39.010777, -89.787711).[16]

According to the 2010 census, Staunton has a total area of 3.088 square miles (8.00 km2), of which 3.06 square miles (7.93 km2) (or 99.09%) is land and 0.028 square miles (0.07 km2) (or 0.91%) is water.[17]


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 20184,972[2]−3.2%
U.S. Decennial Census[18]

As of the census[19] of 2010, there were 5,139 people and 2,258 households in the city. The population density is 1,678.3 inhabitants per square mile (647/km²). There are 2,153 housing units at an average density of 943.6 per square mile (364.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 97.6% White, 0.3% African American, 0.3% Native American, 0.5% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.01% from other races, and 1.1% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.74% of the population.

In 2000, there were 2,020 households out of which 32.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.6% were married couples living together, 11.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.5% were non-families. 28.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.5% 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 3.00.

In the city, the age distribution of the population shows 25.6% under the age of 18, 8.1% from 18 to 24, 27.4% from 25 to 44, 20.5% from 45 to 64, and 18.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.8 males.

The median income for a Staunton household rose from $35,893 in 2000 to $43,720 in 2010, and the median income for a family was $44,630 at the turn of the millennium. Males had a median income of $35,000 versus $21,121 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,905. About 4.0% of families and 6.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.0% of those under age 18 and 4.0% of those age 65 or over.

The city reached its peak population in 1920, with a population of 6,027.[19][20][21][22][23] It suffered a decline until 1950, when it reached 4,047.

Population of Staunton and nearby cities and villages[edit]

1900 1910 1920 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000
US 76,212,168 92,228,531 106,021,568 123,202,660 132,165,129 150,844,547 179,325,671 203,210,158 226,545,805 248,709,873 281,421,906
Illinois 4,821,550 5,638,591 6,485,280 7,630,654 7,897,241 8,712,176 10,081,158 11,113,976 11,426,596 11,430,602 12,419,293
Staunton 2,786 5,048 6,027 4,618 4,212 4,047 4,228 4,396 4,744 4,806 5,030
Livingston† 1,092 1,365 1,447 1,115 999 964 916 949 928 825
Litchfield 5,918 5,971 6,215 6,612 7,048 7,208 7,330 7,190 7,204 6,883 6,815
Edwardsville 4,157 5,014 5,336 6,235 8,008 8,776 9,996 11,070 12,480 14,579 21,491

†No census data gathered for Livingston in 1900, since it was not yet incorporated.

As the above data shows, Staunton experienced quite robust growth in the early part of the 20th century. Compared to other cities/villages in the area, Staunton has held its own relatively speaking. While standouts such as Edwardsville have continued to experience robust growth even to this day, Staunton's modest growth is favorable when compared to neighboring Livingston.


The City of Staunton is split into four wards in order to maximize efficiency in civic maintenance and representation. The city is divided into its east and west by Union Street and into its north and south by Main Street. The first, second, third, and fourth wards are in the northeast, southeast, southwest, and northwest corners respectively. Each ward is represented on the city council by two alderman, one serving a four-year term, and one serving a two-year term.


  • Lutheran Church established in 1847 (first school building in 1881, though some instruction took place before that time)
  • Catholic Church established in 1867 (first school building in 1904, though some instruction took place before that time)
  • Many other denominations have establishments in Staunton


The Staunton Star-Times has been Staunton's newspaper since 1878.[24]

Kwik-Konnection was a well-circulated newspaper as well.

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ "2016 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved Jun 30, 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  3. ^ Kilduff, Mary (1989). Staunton in Illinois. Staunton: Mary Kilduff. LCCN 92184331
  4. ^ War-Time Prosecutions and Mob Violence, published by the National Civil Liberties Bureau, 1919.
  5. ^ a b Labor, Loyalty, and Rebellion: Southwestern Illinois Coal Miners & World War I, Carl R. Weinberg, 2005.
  6. ^ "Mob Goes After I.W.W." East St. Louis Daily National Live Stock Reporter, Feb. 13, 1918.
  7. ^ a b c "Drag Pro-Germans from Homes; Force Kissing of American Flag, in Illinois" New Castle News, Feb.13, 1918.
  8. ^ a b "Slacker's Lawyer Gets a Coat of Tar and Feathers," Freeport Journal Standard, Feb. 14, 1918.
  9. ^ "Tar and Feathers for the Alleged Preachers of Disloyalty," Mansfield News, Feb. 13, 1918.
  10. ^ a b "Staunton Sees Another Night of Excitement," Centralia Evening Sentinel, Feb. 14, 1918.
  11. ^ "Tar Treatment Makes Patriots," Washington Post, Feb. 14, 1918.
  12. ^ "Tar and Feathers Taken Back Home," Washington Democrat, Feb. 15, 1918.
  13. ^ Arlington Heights Cook County Herald, Apr. 12, 1918.
  14. ^ "Get Notice to Speak English," Burlington Gazette, May 17, 1918.
  15. ^ "New Deal/WPA Art Project". Retrieved 2016-10-01.
  16. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  17. ^ "G001 - Geographic Identifiers - 2010 Census Summary File 1". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2020-02-13. Retrieved 2015-12-27.
  18. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  19. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  20. ^ "US Census Bureau, Census '90"
  24. ^

External links[edit]