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A Brief History of Bureau County

While officially founded in 1837, Bureau County can trace its roots back before the birth of our nation. During this period, traders and settlers began to arrive throughout what is now North Central Illinois, finding an abundance of rich fertile prairie land. Those early years were extremely tough on our early settlers, often struggling to survive both the untamed wilderness and the dangers of the Indian Wars. Around the time our fore fathers were declaring independence from the British, a French trader by the name of Pierre de Beuro established a trading post near the mouth of a creek along the Illinois River. He would eventually become the namesake for that creek, Big Bureau Creek, a small community near by, Bureau Junction, and after several decades, our county itself.

Originally, the surrounded area was organized into Bond County in 1821, shortly thereafter became part of Pike County. In 1823, Pike county was divided into several parts, including the newly formed Fulton County. Later, Fulton County was reorganized into Putnam County.

In 1836, settlers west of the Illinois River began discussions regarding separation from Putnam County. Our early citizens signed and forwarded a petition to do just so to the Illinois State Legislature. On February 28, 1837, the State Legislature passed an act preliminarily setting the boundaries of the new formed County of Bureau pending the outcome of a local election. The election was a fierce battle between those east of the Illinois River wishing to remain a single county and those west of the river hoping to earn final approval to form a new one.

The west prevailed in this election and Bureau County was officially established in 1837. The first official election was held that summer. County officers were elected including Cyrus Langworthy as Sheriff, Thomas Mercer as Clerk, John Howard Bryant as Recorder, Jacob Galer as Coroner and Robert Heward as County Surveyor.

-History taken from Big Bureau and Bright Prairies, 1968

Additional Historical Resources

Current Cities & Villages


Originally known as Lost Grove in the 1900’s, this town was one of the fastest growing communities during the coal boom years. Later it was renamed after a town in New York.



In 1854 this town originally named French Grove started with a single store and growth continued until it reached 900 in population.


Bureau Junction

This “City of Side Tracks” was the nickname given because it was the junction where two railroads met.



Best known for the Cherry Mine Disaster in 1909. As you enter Cherry today, visit the stone monument built in memory of the local miners.



The village was named after a coal magnate named Sam Dalzell and was home to many miners.



Established in the mid 1800’s, this town boasted a brisk river trade. DePue State Fish & Wildlife Park is home to eagles, herons and migratory fowl.



One of the oldest towns in Bureau County, Dover was originally named Livingston. Later the name was changed and was incorporated in 1858.



Settled by German immigrants in 1846, this town has always been a farming community.



Established in 1890, this small town has a rich history of coal mining, railroading and farming.

Map | Website


Originally named Greenfield, the named was changed in 1840. It is one of four towns in Bureau County to use a village green layout.



Due to a large number of settlers from Malden, Mass. The name of the town was changed from Wiona to Malden in 1867.



The first village was moved in 1901 from its original to its present location to make use of the Union Pacific Railroad which was being built.



Home of the Witness Tree just 3 miles south on County AA. This tree served as a reference point for surveyors when the railroad was being built.



Established in 1865, this town was originally named Brawby. Just north of town is a farm with an underground barn which was used during the Civil War.


New Bedford

Located on the Green River, this village was incorporated in 1940.



Incorporated in 1876, this town is one of the many small towns along the Reagan Trail.



The seat of county government, Princeton is the largest city in Bureau County. It offers unique shopping, live theatre and more.

Map | Website


In its prime, this town was considered one of the best mining towns in the area. Seatonville was incorporated in 1889.



Established in 1832, this town produced coal for the railroad. Sheffield has one of the oldest Danish Lutheran churches in America.

Map | Website

Spring Valley

This city hosts one of the biggest Walleye competitions in the state. Part of the Illinois River Road, this area has many parks and nature areas.

Map | Website


Known as the “Gem of the Valley” Tiskilwa is nestled in a valley surrounded by wooded bluffs and was home to the Potawatomi.



Established in 1872, this lovely town is home to Avanti’s plus many other businesses. Host to a wonderful July 4th fireworks display.

Map | Website


Located near Wyanet is Lock 21 of the Hennepin Canal. This is where you can view an old lift bridge and one of the oldest surviving Lock Tender Houses.

Map | Website

*Only Part of Village Lies within the County

**County Seat and Largest City

Current Townships

Bureau County is currently divided into twenty-five townships:

  • Arispie
  • Berlin
  • Bureau
  • Clarion
  • Concord
  • Dover
  • Fairfield
  • Gold
  • Greenville
  • Hall
  • Indiantown
  • Lamoille
  • Leepertown
  • Macon
  • Manlius
  • Milo
  • Mineral
  • Neponset
  • Ohio
  • Princeton
  • Selby
  • Walnut
  • Westfield
  • Wheatland
  • Wyanet