The towns of the present Douglas County had not been in existence very long before the residents tired of the long journey to Charleston, the county seat. A group of citizens prepared a bill for the state legislature, setting apart the north portion of Coles County as a new county.
The bill was passed in March 1859, and although the area, as now, was predominantly Republican, it was named for Stephen A. Douglas, a Democrat. The name of Douglas was accepted because legislature was mostly Democratic at the time. It was planned to change the name at a later date but this was never done. It was actually desired to call the county “Richman” after the first white inhabitant, John Richman, who arrived in Camargo Township in May 1829.
An election was held to determine whether the county seat would be at Camargo, Arcola, or Tuscola. This event turned out to be a farce, with thousands of votes being polled in an area where the citizens were counted in hundreds.
A second election, held May 30, 1859, resulted in the choice of Tuscola. By 1860, the population of the county was 7,140.
A convention was held and the first county officers were as follows: James Ewing, judge; John Chandler, clerk; Andrew G. Wallace, circuit clerk and recorder; Samuel B. Logan, sheriff; William Hancock, assessor and treasurer; and Henry Niles, surveyor.
The people of the county voted in 1867 to adopt township organization and Lucious McAllister of Arcola, Joseph B. McCown of Camargo and Henry B. Evans of Tuscola were named commissioners to accomplish this objective. They divided the county essentially as it is today.
The first supervisors were Caleb Garrett of Garrett, Lemuel Chandler of Bourbon, Asa T. Whitney of Arcola, Oliver C. Hackett of Tuscola, George W. Henson of Camargo, Benjamin W. Hooe of Newman, Isaac W. Burgett of Sargent, and Benjamin Bowdre of Deer Creek.
When it was found that Deer Creek conflicted with a township of Tazewell County, the name was changed to Bowdre, for its first supervisor.
Douglas County found itself in the 15th judicial circuit, which also included Vermillion, Coles, Edgar and Clark Counties. The judges were Harlan, Steele and Davis, the first named presiding in sessions here.
The first court was held in the newly completed Illinois Central depot. Later, court was held on the second floor of the J.M. Maris store, at the northeast corner of Parke and Sale Streets.