Vandalia, Illinois

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Vandalia is a city in Fayette County, Illinois, United States, 69 miles (111 km) northeast of St. Louis, on the Kaskaskia River. From 1819 to 1839 it served as the state capital of Illinois. Vandalia was the western terminus of the National Road. Today it is the county seat of Fayette County[1] and the home of the Vandalia State House State Historic Site (1836). The population was 6,975 at the 2000 census.



The history of the name Vandalia is uncertain. Different theories can be found in almost all of the books written about Vandalia over the years.

In her book Vandalia: Wilderness Capital of Lincoln's Land, Mary Burtschi tells of a conversation between one of the original surveyors of the town and a Vandalia resident. The surveyor, Colonel Greenup, explained that Van was suggested by one of the men. He recommended this as an abbreviation to the word vanguard meaning the forefront of an advancing movement. Another suggestion was made for the term dalia, derived from the Anglo-Saxon word dale which means a valley between hills. Greenup takes credit in the conversation for connecting the two terms to form the name Vandalia. This theory does hold water since Greenup was one of the surveyors and the terms describe the capital city.

Another possible source of the name is the Vandalia colony, a failed attempt to establish a colony in part of what is now West Virginia and Ohio. The Vandalia colony was named in honor of Queen Charlotte, who claimed descent from the Germanic tribe, the Vandals.

Another theory put forth is that Vandalia was named by those who located the state capitol in the town; according to the story, they mistakenly thought the Vandals were a brave Native American tribe, rather than of Germanic origins.[2]

On November 21, 1915, the Liberty Bell passed through Vandalia on its nationwide tour, returning to Pennsylvania from the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. The Liberty Bell has not been moved since that trip.[2][3]

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