In the early 1800’s, as the population of the eastern states increased, available land for homesteading sites became hard to find. Those who sought to avoid the crowd set out to conquer the prairies of the West. In the new state of Illinois they sought a new life.
Woodford County was organized in 1841 by a committee of pioneers headed by Thomas Bullock ,who came to the Walnut Grove community (now Eureka) in 1835 from his birthplace in Versailles, Woodford County, Kentucky. Eureka was incorporated by an act of the Illinois Legislature on February 23, 1859 and was designated as the Woodford County seat in 1894.
Walnut Grove was a community extending about five miles north and south along Walnut Creek and a mile or so east -and west of the creek. Some sixty families settled in this area between 1828 and 1855. There was no local government. There was no store before 1852, and there were only 2 institutions before 1855. The first was the Christian Church, organized in 1832. The second was Walnut Grove Academy, which opened in 1848. The academy over time became the center of local interest and a membership on its board was a mark of both power and leadership.
Around 1850 the beginnings of a town began to sprout along what is now Cemetery Street, near the church and the academy. This development soon lapsed around the same time as the arrival of John Darst. Originally from Dayton, Ohio, Darst arrived at Walnut Grove in 1851 at the age of 35. He bought land, and when conditions were favorable in 1855 he platted the original town of Eureka. On January 1, 1856 he sold lots around what is now the courthouse square. Eureka’s population since 1860 has continued to flourish throughout the years, growing from 604 people in 1860, to 1,661 people in 1900, and to 4,871 people in the year 2000.
Eureka Greeters is a free service to guide visitors on tours of Eureka and Eureka College, especially the Reagan Museum. We help tour buses, civic groups from out of town, family reunions and individuals.
For more information and to arrange a tour contact Sam Harrod 1-309 – 467-2247