Mattoon, Illinois

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Mattoon is a city in Coles County, Illinois, United States. The population was 18,291 as of the 2000 census. It is a principal city of the Charleston–Mattoon Micropolitan Statistical Area.

Mattoon was the site of the "Mad Gasser" attacks of the 1940s.



Early settlers from the South lived in forested areas along the headwaters of the Little Wabash River to the southwest of the present town. They distrusted the prairie, which they saw as the source of fevers.

The history of Mattoon is tied to that of local railroads. In 1853, railroad surveyors from the Illinois Central Railroad and Terre Haute and Alton Railroad found their railroads would cross in the Mattoon area, and a burst of investment and land speculation began. The two railroads raced to the meeting point, on the understanding that the first to arrive would not have to pay to maintain the crossing. Local settlers marked out the plots for sale with pegs, and the village was originally known as "Pegtown."

In 1861, the town was officially named after William B. Mattoon, the chief construction engineer working for the Terre Haute and Alton Railroad. The reason for this honor is unclear; some say he won the naming rights because his rail crew arrived first. Others say he beat other claimants in a card game, or that Pegtown residents hoped the wealthy Mattoon would invest in the town if they named it after him. With its combination of excellent transportation and remarkably fertile prairie soils, Mattoon expanded rapidly. By the dawn of the 20th century, Mattoon's growing population and rail access brought manufacturing and industry.

In 1856, The first two babies were born in Mattoon, Charles Cartmell in July and Mollie Puff in September.

On the night before the Lincoln-Douglas debate of September 18, 1858, at the Coles County Fairgrounds, both Lincoln and Douglas had slept in nearby Mattoon, [2],[3]. On June 17, 1861, General Ulysses S. Grant took his first post of the American Civil War when he assumed command of the 21st Illinois Infantry in Mattoon.

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