Petersburg, Illinois

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Petersburg is a city in Menard County, Illinois, 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 2,299 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Menard County.[1] Petersburg is located approximately two miles north of New Salem, the original settlement where Abraham Lincoln first settled when he came to Illinois. It is also home to the Illinois Duel Team State Champions in the sport of wrestling.



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. [2]

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.

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