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St. Clair County, Illinois

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Please add profiles for those who were born, lived or died in St. Clair County, Illinois.

Official Website


After the United States achieved independence in the late 18th century, St. Clair County was the first county established in present-day Illinois; it antedates Illinois' existence as a separate jurisdiction. The county was established in 1790 by a proclamation of Arthur St. Clair, first governor of the Northwest Territory, who named it after himself.

Originally developed for agriculture, this area became industrialized and urbanized in the area of East St. Louis, Illinois, a city that developed on the east side of the Mississippi River from St. Louis, Missouri. It was always strongly influenced by actions of businessmen from St. Louis, who were initially French Creole fur traders with western trading networks.

In the 19th century, industrialists from St. Louis put coal plants and other heavy industry on the east side of the river, developing East St. Louis. Coal from southern mines was transported on the river to East St. Louis, then fed by barge to St. Louis furnaces as needed. After bridges spanned the river, industry expanded.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the cities attracted immigrants from southern and eastern Europe and from the Southern United States during the Great Migration.

In February 1917 tensions in the city arose as white workers struck at the Aluminum Ore Company. Employers fiercely resisted union organizing, sometimes with violence. In this case they hired hundreds of blacks as strikebreakers. White workers complained to the city council about this practice in late May. Rumors circulated about an armed black man robbing a white man, and whites began to attack blacks on the street. The governor ordered in the National Guard and peace seemed restored by early June.

"On July 1, a white man in a Ford shot into black homes. Armed blacks gathered in the area and shot into another oncoming Ford, killing two men who turned out to be police officers investigating the shooting." Word spread and whites gathered at the Labor Temple; the next day they fanned out across the city, armed with guns, clubs, anything they could use against the blacks they encountered. From July 1 through July 3, 1917, the East St. Louis riots engulfed the city, with whites attacking blacks throughout the city, pulling them from streetcars, shooting and hanging them, burning their houses. During this period, some blacks tried to swim or use boats to get to safety; thousands crossed the Eads Bridge to St. Louis, seeking refuge, until the police closed it off. The official death toll was 39 blacks and nine whites, but some historians believe more blacks were killed.

The riots had disrupted East St. Louis, which had seemed to be on the rise as a flourishing industrial city. In addition to the human toll, they cost approximately $400,000 in property damage (over $8 million, in 2017 US Dollars). They have been described as among the worst labor and race-related riots in United States history, and they devastated the black community.

Rebuilding was difficult as workers were being drafted to fight in World War I. When the veterans returned, they struggled to find jobs and re-enter the economy, which had to shift down to peacetime.

In the late 20th century, national restructuring of heavy industry cost many jobs, hollowing out the city, which had a marked decline in population. Residents who did not leave have suffered high rates of poverty and crime. In the early 21st century, East St. Louis is a site of urban decay. Swathes of deteriorated housing were demolished and parts of the city have become urban prairie. In 2017 the city marked the centennial of the riots that had so affected its residents.

Other cities in St. Clair County border agricultural or vacant lands. Unlike the suburbs on the Missouri side of the metro area, those in Metro-East are typically separated by agriculture, or otherwise undeveloped land left after the decline of industry. The central portion of St. Clair county is located on a bluff along the Mississippi River. This area is being developed with suburban housing, particularly in Belleville, and its satellite cities. The eastern and southern portion of the county is sparsely populated. The older small communities and small tracts of newer suburban villages are located between large areas of land devoted to corn and soybean fields, the major commodity crops of the area.

Adjacent Counties


  • Belleville (County Seat)
  • Cahokia Heights
  • Collinsville
  • Columbia
  • East St. Louis
  • Fairview Heights
  • Lebanon
  • Madison
  • Mascoutah
  • O'Fallon

Villages, Townships & Communities

Alorton | Bloody Island | Brooklyn | Cahokia | Canteen | Caseyville | Centreville | Darmstadt | Douglas | Dupo | East Carondelet | Engelmann | Fairmont City | Fayetteville | Floraville | Freeburg | Hecker | Imbs | Lenzburg | Marissa | Millstadt | National City | New Athens | New Baden | North Dupo | Paderborn | Prairie du Long | Rentchler | St. Clair | St. Libory | Sauget | Scott AFB | Shiloh | Shiloh Valley | Signal Hill | Smithton | State Park Place | Stites | Stookey | Sugarloaf | Summerfield | Swansea | Washington Park | Westview



Nat'l Reg. of Hist. Places