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History of Macomb

Macomb is a city located in McDonough County, Illinois.

First settled in 1829 on a site tentatively named Washington, the town was officially founded in 1830 as the county seat of McDonough County and given the name Macomb after General Alexander Macomb of the War of 1812. War veterans were given land grants in the Macomb area, which was part of the "Military Tract" set aside by Congress. In 1855 the Northern Cross Railroad, a predecessor to the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, was constructed through Macomb, leading to a rise in population.

Macomb has been visited by several US Presidents over the years. Ulysses S. Grant, Andrew Johnson, Rutherford B. Hayes, William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt have all made short addresses in Macomb. On two, occasions, Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama addressed large audiences prior to their elections as president. A modest brick courthouse, where Lincoln spoke in 1858, was replaced by the building that is now a well-recognized pillar of the community in 1872. Still in use today, the courthouse is on the National Historical Register.  Surrounding the courthouse is a distinct town square, that reflects the later 19th century and is now being preserved as an historic district.

Founded in 1899, Western Illinois University (WIU) is an educational asset to Macomb. It was originally named, Western Illinois State Normal School. Representative Lawrence Sherman was instrumental in locating the school in Macomb and is now acknowledged by the highly recognizable, Neoclassical style Sherman Hall. WIU's nickname, the Leathernecks, and its mascot, the English Bulldog (Rocky), are taken from the traditions of the United States Marine Corps. The university has had permission to the use the official nickname and the mascot of the Corps since 1927, when Ray Hanson, then athletic director and coach of the baseball, basketball and football teams, gained permission the use the symbols as homage to the his service in the military branch during WWI. The university holds the distinction of the being the only non-military institution to offically have its nickname derived from a branch of military service.

In 1903 the Macomb and Western Illinois Railway was built from Macomb to nearby Industry and Littleton by local financier Charles V. Chandler. Though this railroad was abandoned in 1930, the park located in the center of Macomb, known as Chandler Park, still bears his name.

In 1918, Construction on Illinois Route 3 was begun as a state financed highway from Cairo to Rock Island, passing through Macomb. In the late 1920's, U.S. Route 67 was extended along this route to Dubuque, Iowa.

Several local events, festivals and traditions continue on an annual basis to celebrate the rich history of Macomb, Illinois.