Welcome to Calhoun County! Calhoun County is a narrow pennisula of mostly high ground located between the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers. The county was organized in 1825, and was named for John C. Calhoun, Vice President of the United States and a proponent of State's rights. Today, Calhoun County has a population of 5,177 people with miles of lush farmland and countryside to explore.
Nestled between the mighty Mississippi and Illinois rivers, the county can be accessed by crossing the Illinois River using either the Brussels Ferry (just north of Grafton, IL) or the Kampsville Ferry, both of which are free of charge. Crossing the Mississippi River, visitors can take the Golden Eagle Ferry (just five miles from Old Town St. Charles) for a fee.
In Hardin, the unique Joe Page Lift Bridge is the only bridge access to the county, spanning the Illinois River and connecting to land routes in north bordering Pike County.
Known for Calhoun County peaches in the summer and apples in the fall, the county offers miles of prosperous farms and orchards, which are enjoyed by day-trippers who visit by car, boat, motorcycle, bicycle or tour bus. It is very popular in the fall when many visitors come to enjoy the beautiful transformation of the leaves.
Additionally, because of its unique location between two rivers, many visitors come to observe migrating birds from the fall through the spring. Calhoun County is the second largest winter nesting area for the American Bald Eagle in North America. As you journey along, the gems of the communities can also be found in the historic sites, such as the Center for American Archeology in Kampsville.
The county offers a restful respite to those journeying from the St. Louis region and beyond. Take the time to explore the quaint communities making Calhoun County Illinois a county for all seasons!
Just a short drive down County Road 6 leads you to the little village of Batchtown. The nearby Mississippi River and two wildlife refuges give the town its unique character. The village was originally named Richwoods, then Sam White's, before becoming Batchelderville, in honor of William Batchelder, a justice of the peace, merchant, and mill operator. When the post office was established in 1879, the town's name was changed to Batchtown. Enjoy a drive along County Road 6, where the scenery is spectacular winding through the Blue Ridge Bluffs. It's worth the small detour in your plans during any season of the year!
In 1831, a post office was established in the Belleview Precinct at a place known as Belleview. Later, a few stores were located there, as well as a mill and blacksmith shop. no large towns or villages ever grew up in this precinct.
The Brussels Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. It consists of 80 contributing structures ranging from commercial buildings and residences to barns, chicken coops and privies. Most of the buildings do not represent any particular architectural style, although the Queen Anne, Italianate, and Greek revival styles are represented. Visitors can stroll down Main and Community Streets and see restored businesses, homes and the historic jail dating back to the 1800s. The free Brussels Ferry (618-786-3636) is the access point on the southeast end of the county.
Located on the west side of Calhoun near the Mississippi River, Gilead was a major steamboat landing. Gilead was home to the well-known John Shaw, and it became the first county seat when Calhoun became a county in 1825. It was also the location of the first jail and corn mill in the county. After a fire destroyed the courthouse in 1847, the county seat moved to Hardin. Today, only a few homes remain in Gilead.
Originally named Winneberg by German settlers, this area was a prosperous brick manufacturing community before the 1880s. Orchards and roadsides stands make Golden Eagle a popular place to visit in the summer and fall for fresh picked produce. Today, it is best known as the point of entry in the southwest tip of the county from St. Charles, Mo., via the Golden Eagle Ferry.
One hundred lots in the town of Hamburg were offered for sales by John Shaw in 1836. Once a thriving river community where apples were loaded and shipped, banks were busy and profitable, stores were laden with goods and shoppers, Hamburg now sits quietly along and sometimes in the waters of the Mississippi. The population is 150, give or take a few, and the only public facility is the Hamburg Post Office. A bluff top monument overlooks the village, indicating the burial of riverboat Captain Swarnes who wished to be buried upright to command a panoramic view of the river. In 1975, National Geographic published a two-page picture with the Delta Queen heading up the Mississippi using Captain Swarnes' monument as the photographer's vantage point.
Hardin is the county seat for Calhoun County. Nearly 48% of the residents report German ancestry and 11% report Irish descent. The only bridge into the county, the Joe Page Lift Bridge, is located in Hardin. The town has several restaurants with riverfront views, making Hardin a popular lunch spot for Bald Eagle watchers in the winter.
Capt. M.L. Kamp, a Civil War veteran, moved into Calhoun County in 1863 and set up a general store and post office in Silver Creek. Kamp flourished as a farmer and merchant, and in 1869, Kamp purchased a tract of land south of Silver Creek and began to develop it. Originally called Farrow Town, the town was later renamed Kamspville in honor of the founding citizen. The wealth and success of Kamp is reflected in his red brick family home, built in 1882, located at the intersection of Routes 100 and 108. Today, Kampsville is a village located on the west bank of Illinois River. The population was 350 at the 2000 census. The village is the base of operations for the Center for American Archeology, an educational and research organization dedicated to the archeological understanding of the Native Americans and of the European settlers in the region. Also, one mile south of Kampsville is the McCully Heritage Project, a cultural and environmental enjoyment, education, and preservation encompassing 940 acres of woodland, wetland, prairies and agricultural land.
Founded by German settlers in early to mid-1800s, Meppen consisted at one time of a few general stores, taverns, a post office and individual homes. In its early beginnings, farming was the main occupation. The village is tucked under the towering limestone river bluffs with the Illinois River approximately two miles to the east. The town is surrounded by rich river bottom farmland, and today, only a few homes remain. About one mile south of town, St. Joseph's Catholic Church sits at the head of a picturesque valley with the cemetery in the background....a beautiful church, much like those remaining in Germany today. It was built of local stone in 1864 and now only has services on an intermittent basis.
A number of families who settled in the Michael area in the early 1850s celebrated mass in homes until a log church was constructed in 1871, followed by a frame building in 1884. The current church was constructed in 1961. The first school was a frame structure erected around the time of the Civil War, but in 1930, the Dominican Hall was built to house the nuns who taught school in a 2-room schoolhouse. A later arrangement allowed the school to be public, but classes were still taught by two nuns, with the parish receiving $1 per year in rent. The old brick Dominican Hall is now privately owned with a new log facade and is dubbed White Tales Lodge. Once a thriving community with an active church, school, mercantile, blacksmith shop, cider mill, post office and KC Hall with the Catholic Order of Foresters, Michael's United States Post Office closed officially in the spring of 2008.