Here are a few historic “firsts” for Springfield:
John Kelly and his wife Mary were the first to build a cabin and settle in what is now Springfield. They arrived in the spring of 1819 with their five children and John’s brother, Elisha.
A trail beginning near Beardstown, which was used to bring supplies from the Illinois River, led past John Kelley’s cabin. Elijah Iles, whose store was on this trail, later named it Jefferson Street.
Springfield was incorporated as a town on April 2, 1832. This is the birthdate of Springfield. On April 6, 1840, Springfield was incorporated as a city.
As a town, Springfield was lead by a board of Trustees with Charles Matheny as the first president of the board. As a city, Benjamin S. Clements was elected the first mayor of Springfield along with four alderman.
First Fire Department
Springfield has had volunteer fire fighters since about 1839, but there wasn’t a fire department with paid firemen until 1869.
The Board of Trustees decided in 1835 that Springfield was large enough to need a constable.
The first school opened in a log building during the winter of 1821-22. It was a subscription school, or pay school, located on a hill on the north side of Washington Street between what is now Pasfield and Lewis Streets. Andrew Orr was the teacher who taught school during that first winter session.
Elijah Iles opened a store in 1821. He purchased goods in St. Louis, then had them sent up the Illinois River to the site of present day Beardstown. They were then loaded onto wagons and brought to Springfield.
The Methodists were the first group to organize (1821) and they built a church in 1830. The Presbyterians built the first brick church and opened it just one month later.
Opened one week before the first church (just kidding). Actually, Elijah Slater was the first in Springfield to be granted a license for a tavern; however, his was one of three taverns built in 1822. A tavern at that time was a place for travelers to get food, drink and a place to stay.
Information collected from Springfield Illinois Convention & Visitors Bureau and Lincoln Library materials.