Carthage, Illinois

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Carthage is a city in Hancock County, Illinois, United States. The population was 2,725 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Hancock County.[1] Carthage is most famous for being the site of the 1844 murder of Joseph Smith.



Hancock County, and Carthage, saw its first settlers arrive sometime in the first few decades of the 19th century. By 1833, simple buildings had been erected in Carthage, and the town was platted in 1838. By this time Carthage had become the county seat of Hancock county.

The only person legally hanged in Hancock County, Efram Fraim, was defended in his trial by roaming country attorney Abraham Lincoln. Fraim was found guilty of murder. Lincoln filed an appeal with the judge in the trial, which was as far as appeals in those days mostly went. Because at the time Carthage had no jail, Fraim was kept at the Courthouse,[2] which was next to the school. Fraim would converse with the children from his second floor window. As a result of these conversations, most of the school children were present when their new friend, Efraim, was hung. The hanging is believed to have taken place in the vicinity of the current city sewer plant east of town, where a natural amphitheater allowed for a crowd to view the spectacle.

On October 22, 1858, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech in Carthage while campaigning for the Senate. The speech spot is commemorated by a large stone on the south side of the Courthouse square.

While incarcerated in the Carthage Jail in June 1844, Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, was assassinated by a mob.

Over the years the jail had been modified and utilized for different purposes. For a period the jail was home to Carthage College. The jail has been restored to a close approximation of its appearance in 1844 and is now owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The site, a full city block, is operated as a historical visitor's center.

Regionally-noted botanist, philanthropist, and traveler Dr. Alice L. Kibbe called Carthage home. Along with Dr. Kibbe's personal collections, Carthage's Kibbe Hancock Heritage Museum houses a variety of exhibits celebrating local and regional history.

Carthage is the only county in Illinois to have all of the jails that were ever used still in existence: The old jail, called the Mormon Jail; the jail next built which was also the Sheriff's residence and is on the south side of the Courthouse square; and the new jail, located on Highway 136 on the west side of the City.


Carthage is located at 40°24′52″N 91°8′0″W / 40.41444°N 91.133333°W / 40.41444; -91.133333 (40.414327, -91.133472).[3]

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