History of Macomb
Macomb was first settled in 1829 on a site tentatively named Washington. Officially founded in 1830, it was given the name Macomb after General Alexander Macomb of the War of 1812. With a population boom brought on by the emerging railroad industry, Macomb is still a proud Amtrak community to this day bringing local and visitors alike to the heart of Downtown Macomb.
More than just a rich agricultural area or a vibrant university town, Macomb and the McDonough County region are filled with rich history and notable figures. Macomb archives are packed full of stories of famous visitors, such as Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Barak Obama, who have all made significant stops in Macomb as part of their political careers.
Macomb is known for our Midwest hospitality and there is no greater example of our hometown pride than Macomb native, minister, author, and civil rights pioneer, Rev. Dr. Cordy Tindell “C.T.” Vivian. A distinguished leader and organizer in the Civil Rights Movement, Vivian paved the way for future activists and opportunities for justice through sit ins, educational speeches, and a lifelong passion for equality. His likeness is commemorated on a 75-foot mural depicting his legacy, along with a city street bearing his name, and future plans for a community center and park at his childhood home.
Besides hosting several dignitaries, Macomb is also a great place to play. Macomb born actress, writer, poet, inventor, and pioneering feminist, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Magie-Phillips created what has now become the most popular board game in the world, known as Monopoly. Her original 1903 Landlord’s Game was later sold to Parker Brothers and has become a global sensation. Macomb has officially proclaimed May 9th, Lizzie’s birthday as “Lizzie Magie Day.”
Macomb is also a community with a unique sense of humor. In the late 1960s, a group of concerned citizens dubbed a sixteen-county section of west-central Illinois “Forgottonia” in protest of the lack of state and federal investment in highways and other infrastructure in the region.
What started as a tongue-in-cheek name grew into a satirical movement by the early 1970s, when Forgottonia leaders appointed a governor, selected a capital, and threatened secession so they could declare war, immediately surrender, and then petition for foreign aid. They even had their own flag: the white flag of surrender.
Thanks in part to these efforts, our region now enjoys a passenger train route to Chicago and an improved system of bridges and highways that allow for easier access to our little slice of Illinois.
Over the years, Forgottonia has come to stand for the deep connection the people of west-central Illinois feel to our region and the playful and irreverent refusal to let ourselves be forgotten.
These are just a few examples of the many people, places, and stories who have worked their way into the culture of the community that is now called Macomb. We invite you to explore our city streets, rural areas, and famed landmarks to get the change to embrace the past and admire how it continues to shape our region for years to come.