Great River Road, 2016

Border History of Madison County

April 18, 2017

Last modified: October 30, 2019

The borders of Madison County changed seven times after it was first established in 1812, with its present borders set in 1843. This article shows maps of all nine versions of Madison County, with Madison County in red. Other county labels have red text if their borders differ from their present boundaries.

As county boundaries evolved, occasionally regions in Illinois were not enclosed within a county. For example, between 1821 and 1829, the region that would become Macoupin County was not within any county’s borders. These regions would be placed under the jurisdiction of another county; in this case the region was attached to Greene County. This never occurred with Madison County. Arrows indicate a county was attached to a non-county area.

Finally, each map shows the Illinois Counties as they existed on December 31 of the first year of each period. For example, the period 1825 to 1829 has a map that shows the counties as they existed on December 31, 1825.

All maps were created by the author.

Illinois Borders Prior to 1812

Illinois was one of six states formed out of the Northwest Territory, the region west of Pennsylvania, northwest of the Ohio River, south of the Canadian border, and east of the Mississippi River. The territory was ceded to the United States from Great Britain in the 1783 Treaty of Paris.((The Paris Peace Treaty of September 30, 1783, The Avalon Project: Documents in Law, History, and Diplomacy, accessed April 3, 2017.)) The Northwest Territory was officially organized by the U.S Congress on August 7, 1789.((Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statues at Large of the United States of America: Volume I (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1845), 50.))

On July 4, 1800, the Indiana Territory was created out of the western half of the Northwest Territory, with its eastern border mostly the same as the eastern border of Indiana today.((Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statues at Large of the United States of America: Volume II (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1845), 58.)) On March 1, 1809, the Illinois Territory was created out of the western half of the Indiana Territory. The eastern border of the Illinois territory ran from the Wabash River north to Vincennes, Indiana, and then further north in a straight line to the Canadian border. This remains the eastern border of Illinois today.((Ibid., 514.))

September 14, 1812 to November 27, 1814

Illinois Territorial Governor Ninian Edwards proclaimed the creation of Madison County on September 14, 1812. It took up a massive portion of the Illinois Territory, with the Mississippi River as the western border, Canada the northern border, and the Indiana Territory as the eastern border. Edwards defined Madison County’s southern border as two township lines north of the Centralia Baseline, a part of the Northwest Territory’s Township and Range system.((Clarence Edwin Carter, ed. The Territorial papers of the United States: Volume XVII, The Territory of Illinois, 1814 – 1818. (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1950), 643;  for more on township and range system, see “Rectangular Survey System,” Federal Township Plats of Illinois (1804- 1891), accessed April 3, 2017.))

November 28, 1814 to January 3, 1817

The eastern half of Madison County became Edwards County on November 28, 1814. Madison County’s eastern border became the 3rd Principal Meridian.((Francis S. Philbrick, ed., The Laws of Illinois Territory, 1809-1818, volume 25 of Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library (Springfield, Il.: Illinois State Historical Library, 1950), 128.))

January 4, 1817 to December 2, 1818

Madison County’s eastern border moved further west with the creation of Bond County on January 4, 1817. Its eastern border became the fourth township line west of the 3rd Principal Meridian, which is Madison County’s furthest eastern border today. This marked the last change to Madison County’s southern border.((Ibid., 254.))

December 3, 1818 to February 10, 1821

Illinois’ present northern border was established when it became a state on December 3, 1818. The northern border was set at 42° 30′ north latitude, which thus became Madison County’s northern border.((Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statues at Large of the United States of America: Volume III (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1846), 429.))

February 11, 1821 to January 2, 1825

Madison County shrank tremendously in 1821, losing its territory to the creation of Greene, Sangamon, Pike, and Montgomery Counties in January and February of 1821. As a result its shape closely resembled its current boundaries. Its western border received its last change; running through the center of the Mississippi north until it reaches the western border of Godfrey Township (Township 5 North, Range 10 West). It then runs north along the western border of Godfrey Township to the township’s northwest corner. The northern and eastern borders became fairly similar to their shape today. The only difference was the inclusion of a small rectangular section in the northeast that would become part of Bond County in 1843. The northern border was set at six township lines above the Centralia Baseline, and the eastern border remained at the fourth township line west of the 3rd Principal Meridian, as set in 1817.((Laws Passed By the Second General Assembly of the State of Illinois, At their First Session (Vandalia: Brown and Berry, 1821), 26, 45, 59, and 142 – 143.))

January 3, 1825 to January 17, 1829

Madison County gained a northern rectangular segment out of the area attached to Greene County on January 3, 1825. The segment began at the southwestern corner of Montgomery County and ran north for eighteen miles along Montgomery County’s western border. The northern border then ran twenty miles east to west and then south eighteen miles back to Madison County’s original northern border.((Laws Passed By the Second General Assembly of the State of Illinois, At their First Session (Vandalia: Robert Blackwell & Co., 1825), 53.))

January 17, 1829 to March 2, 1843

Madison County lost the northern segment to the creation of Macoupin County on January 17, 1829. It returned to the borders of 1821 to 1825.((The Revised Code of Laws of Illinois (Shawneetown: Alexander F. Grant & Co., 1829), 26.))

March 2, 1843 to Present

Madison County’s borders changed one final time on March 2, 1843 when a rectangular segment in the county’s northeast was transferred to Bond County. This segment is two sections wide and nine sections tall (a Township is made up of 36 square sections). Specifically, this segment’s southeast corner is the southeast corner of section 13 in Leef Township (Township 5 North, Range 5 West), and its sourthern border runs west two sections from that corner to the southwestern corner of section 14 in Leef Township. The border then runs north along the section line to the northern border of Madison County and New Douglas Township (Township 6 North, Range 5 West). It then runs two sections east to New Douglas Township’s northeastern corner. Madison County’s borders have not changed since it lost this rectangular segment in 1843.((Laws of the State of Illinois Passed By the Thirteenth General Assembly of the State of Illinois (Springfield: Walters and Weber, 1843), 98 – 99.))

Illinois Counties Today

The last change to Illinois county borders occurred February 17, 1859 when Ford County was created.((Laws of the State of Illinois Passed By the Twenty-First General Assembly of the State of Illinois (Springfield: Bailhache & Baker, 1859), 29.))

Cite this article: Ben Ostermeier, "Border History of Madison County," Madison Historical: The Online Encyclopedia and Digital Archive for Madison County, Illinois, last modified October 30, 2019,
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