- Category: Communities
- Published on Monday, 28 November 2016 15:03
- Written by Administrator
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Each of our charming hometowns has a unique story to tell. Explore our communities, and experience what makes Mercer County a great place to come home to.
Named after Revolutionary War hero General Hugh Mercer, Mercer County was chartered in 1835 as part of the old Northwest Territory and the Military Tract. Abraham Lincoln, as part of the militia in the Blackhawk War, marched through the county in 1832 and returned in 1834 to survey the town of New Boston.
A stroll down Main Street or through its historic residential neighborhoods is an architectural history tour, as Aledo looks much like it did at the turn of the century. As the county seat, many of Mercer County’s 15,858 residents travel to Aledo for business and pleasure.
Located in the northwest portion of Mercer County, the Eliza area offers immediate river access and a picturesque view of Bay Island. An agricultural community, the area features a strong social network via the Eliza Community Center.
The Village of Joy stands at one of Mercer County’s highest points, with a quarter of its residents under the age of 18. Laid out in 1848, the village was originally named High Point before its post office was formally moved from a private residence into the village. Today Joy is home to The Boon Docks restaurant, one of Mercer County’s biggest modern day successes. Each summer Joy Fest attracts a large crowd to Joy Park, featuring a full Saturday of festivities.
Fishing, boating and camping are deeply embedded in the culture of Keithsburg. Big River State Forest lies just four miles south of Keithsburg. The city holds Fish Fest in September, Fall Fest in October, and the Keithsburg Boat Club has held its hugely popular Boat-In Breakfast every August since 1970.
The railroad industry gave birth to Matherville in the late 1800s. As railcars roared by, George Mather sold articles to railroad workers, earning the town's namesake. Part of the Sherrard School District, Matherville Intermediate currently educates 230 5th and 6th grade students. Just 20 miles from Rock Island, many people enjoy country life - with a dose of convenience - in the Village of Matherville.
A quaint town on the Mississippi River, New Boston was surveyed by Abraham Lincoln in 1834. Driven by agriculture, the town also features immediate river access via Lock and Dam #17. Whether it’s boating, fishing or camping, New Boston is a local favorite among outdoor enthusiasts.
Known for cowboys, broncs and saddles, the Village of New Windsor is a strong rural community offering the best of small town living. Nestled on the eastern edge of Mercer County, New Windsor is located on State Highway 17 and offers convenient access to both Galesburg and the Quad Cities.
Just under 200 people call this quaint farming village home. Known for its ball diamonds and annual livestock show, North Henderson provides quiet, country living.
Seaton’s quaint downtown includes a post office, café, fire station & a new, state-of-the-art park playground thanks to SPARKS, a local grassroots effort.
Located in the northeast corner of Mercer County, Sherrard features small town life with a hint of the city. Just 15 miles from the Quad Cities, Sherrard is a popular bedroom of the QC. The village is home to the Fyre Lake community, which includes a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, tennis courts and a recreational lake.
Viola is located at the true ‘crossroads’ of Mercer County. Intersected by US Highway 67 and State Highway 17, Viola provides easy transportation access and a high quality of life.
The western portion of the county along the Mississippi River is part of the Yellowbanks Territory, named by the Sauk and Fox Indians because of the yellow, sandy soil along the riverbank. New Boston and Keithsburg are focal points of Yellowbanks in Mercer County. Aledo, with a population of 3,588, is the county seat and known for its old stone houses built during the Civil War. Today, Mercer County offers a high quality of life and economic opportunity through river access, location near major roadways, and proximity to colleges, universities and training centers.
Aledo offers a wide variety of restaurants, recreational opportunities, specialty shops and more. The downtown business district, located just off the main route of Illinois 17 and 94, is now on the National Register of Historic Places.
Discover Aledo’s rich history first hand with a unique experience at “The Slammer” – the former Mercer County Jail turned historic bed & breakfast. Aledo boasts Mercer County’s oldest family entertainment center with the newly reopened Aledo Opera House. Built in 1904, the venue currently presents feature-length movies. Step back in time and tour the grand Mercer County Courthouse. Built in 1894, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Aledo is also the home of the Essley-Noble Museum, Rhubarb Festival, Antique Days, and since 1869, the Mercer County Fair.
Aledo is just 35 minutes from the heart of the Quad Cities. Follow Highway 67 south from Milan, turn west at the stoplight in Viola onto Route 17 which will take you directly into Aledo. If you enjoy a small-town atmosphere, a trip to Aledo will feel like coming home.
The Village of Joy stands at one of Mercer County’s highest points. Laid out in 1848, the village was originally named High Point. Located 7.5 miles east of the Mississippi, river travel and commerce has always been a factor in Joy’s existence, but not to the extent of its sister towns New Boston and Keithsburg. The village was named after top C, B & Q Railroad boss James Joy.
In 1869 a one-room school house was built on the site of the current Joy Park, holding classes September to March to avoid the farming schedule. By 1896 a two-story brick school was built on the site of the current Joy Park; downstairs - a grade school, upstairs - Joy High School.
As the population grew, a new high school was constructed on the edge of town, where students began classes after Christmas break in 1936-37. For nearly the next quarter century, the building would be home to the maroon and green of the Joy Bulldogs. Beginning in the fall of 1960, the Joy school district combined with New Boston, Keithsburg & Eliza to form Westmer CUSD #203. Westmer High School would be located in Joy. On July 1st, 2009, Westmer CUSD #203 consolidated with Aledo CUSD #201 to form the Mercer County CUSD #404, ending the 49-year run of the Warriors. Today the former Westmer High School building now serves as the Mercer County Junior High.
Near the river, Keithsburg was popular during the railway boom. Warsaw & Rockford Railroad Company built a line through Keithsburg in 1855, and over a decade later the Keithsburg route joined the American Central Railway before transferring to the large Chicago Burlington & Quincy Company. From 1879-1886 Keithsburg became a railway hub, complete with a hotel near the depot. An $800,000 bridge was finished in 1886 to cross the Mississippi at Keithsburg, completing the Peoria to Central Iowa route, and spawning two new rail bridges which allowed Keithsburg to join the Minneapolis-St. Louis Railroad. Dubbed “The Louie” St. Louis railcars traveled through Keithsburg until the late 1960s.
The town’s newspaper, "The Keithsburg Times" merged with '"The Aledo Weekly Record" in 1894 to form today’s incarnation, "The Times Record". Keithsburg native and Times publisher Theodore Glancy left to publish "The Los Angeles Frees" in 1870 before being curiously murdered by an L.A. district attorney candidate. Ben Olcott, another famous Keithsburg native, became governor of Oregon in the early 1900s. Hailed by Cincinnatians as "the greatest second baseman in the world", New York-born John Alexander "Bid" McPhee played pro baseball in Davenport in the late 1870s, before landing a starting role with the Cincinnati Red Stockings. McPhee turned his opportunity into a Hall of Fame career. Keithsburg's other baseball star, Parke Wilson, caught for the New York Giants from 1893 to 1899. At one point both Major Leaguers played for a local team near Keithsburg called the 'Ictorias'.
Fishing, boating and camping run deep in the culture of Keithsburg. Big River State Forest lies just four miles south of Keithsburg. The city holds Fish Fest in September, Fall Fest in October, and the Keithsburg Boat Club has held its hugely popular Boat-In Breakfast every August since 1970.
Part of the Mercer County School District, New Boston Elementary currently educates over 200 students. The beautiful New Boston Museum offers a look into the town’s rich history. Located on State Highway 17, New Boston offers convenient access to Aledo, Burlington, IA and Muscatine, IA.
Established in 1937 as an event to celebrate current and former residents, the "New Windsor Homecoming & Horse Show" centered on exhibits, carnivals and horse shows common at local county fairs. World War II forced cancellation of the event from 1942 - 1946, before returning in '47 with a full-scale rodeo. The prestigious New Windsor Drill Team was added in 1972, and the Queen Pageant in '75. Go-karting, flea markets and rodeo runs have all been part of the event's festivities over the years. In 2016 "The Biggest Little Rodeo in the Midwest" celebrated its 77th anniversary.
Each year a memorial golf outing and memorial baseball tournament benefit the Bryant J. Luxmore Memorial Fund, created for the New Windsor native who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2012. In April 2016 the stretch of State Highway 17 between Viola and New Windsor was named the 'CPL Bryant J. Luxmore Memorial Highway'.
The renovated New Windsor Depot has become a popular restaurant/bar, and Depot Park offers live music and concessions every other Thursday night during the summer at "Twilight & Music".
For 53 years (1898-1951) the Seaton Wolves donned purple & gold on gameday, capturing a boys’ hoops District title in 1943. Seniors scrambled to find that perfect look for their picture in “The Arch”, the school’s yearbook. In April 1951 Seaton CUSD #126 voted to join Aledo CUSD #201 by a 167-116 vote. The Seaton Elementary School/High School would serve K-6 students in Aledo CUSD #201 until 1982. The school was torn down in 1985, but if you drive down Hickory Street today you’ll find its front sidewalks and baseball field.
Born of the coal mining industry in the 1890s, Sherrard has experienced growth over the years thanks to collaboration. From 1969 to 1972 local residents came together to make the Fyre Lake Homeowners’ Association a reality.
In 1975 the Sherrard Junior Women’s Club first pursued the idea of a local library. The following year the ‘Sherrard Community Library’ was established. Individual donations, community fundraisers and donations from local civic organizations powered the formation of what is now the Sherrard Public Library. Books were donated from locals, as well as the Western Illinois Library System (WILS). By 1995, the library operated library stations in the Matherville and Coyne Center grade schools. Today the Sherrard Public Library District serves portions of Preemption, Richland Grove, Bowling and Rural townships.
In the summer of 1988, Sherrard CUSD #200 annexed New Windsor and Viola, which had joined to form the Winola school district in the summer of 1952. Today Sherrard CUSD #200 serves Sherrard, Coyne Center, Viola, New Windsor, Matherville, Preemption, Swedona, Cable, Boden, Oak Grove and the surrounding areas. In total CUSD #200 educates 1,627 students.
The village offers housing options to suit all incomes, a tight-knit business community and recreation opportunities. Miles Memorial Park includes a pavilion, playground and baseball facility. The Tri-County Red Devils youth baseball program is based in Viola. Part of the Sherrard School District, Winola Elementary School currently educates over 320 students. The Viola Community Center is a hub of village activity, and the town offers everything from used car sales to banking and insurance services.