Village of Oquawka

History

In 1814, the land now known as Henderson County was part of the Military Tract.  The Village of Oquawka, now the county seat, was just another good place on the Mississippi River to land a canoe. One settler, Isaac Galland, decided that it was also suitable for trading.  So in 1827 he built the areas first log cabin. Brothers Summer and Alexis Phelps and their families were the next settlers to establish homes and businesses on the site known as Yellow Banks or by its Indian name Oquawkick. In 1836, the Phelps brothers platted the town and it officially became Oquawka.

We hope you'll take a day, or two, or more to find out why, for over 150 years, people have found Oquawka a hospitable place to live, work, and visit. Big River State Forest, a 3,000 acre forest complex located northeast of Oquawka features miles of hiking trails for the summer, and snowmobile and skiing paths in the winter. The many miles of sandy fire lanes provide horse-riding trails galore. Boaters have access to the Mississippi with a long sandy beach as well as camping along the water. The upper camping area has amenities such as electrical power, pavilions, and playgrounds. The forest has the distinction of having the only remaining fire tower in Illinois.

Points of Interest

Lincoln/Sac Indian Trail & Pioneer Cemetery, this segment of the early pioneer trail was used by Abraham Lincoln during the Black Hawk Wars. The trail and cemetery were rediscovered in 1982.

Delabar State Park, just north of Oquawka, the 89 acre park offers outdoor experiences for anglers, birdwatchers, hikers, campers, and picnickers. More than 50 species of birds have been identified in the park. The facilities include boating access to the river, good hunting and fishing, a large pavilion for reunions and picnics, childrens play area, and shady oak camping sites.

Henderson County Courthouse, was created January 1, 1841. Oquawka has been the county seat since that time. The four large columns and south portion of the building we see today are of the original structure. The building (circa 1843) is the second oldest courthouse in Illinois still in continuous use. Judge Stephen Douglas presided over the first court in Oquawka.

Alexis Phelp's house, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the two-story house (circa 1833) was built for Alexis Phelps. Alexis and his brother Sumner, both successful businessmen, were longstanding friends of both Lincoln and Douglas. The house has been restored by the Henderson County Historical Society. You can watch the river traffic from the high bank overlooking the Mississippi River. The Phelps House is available for luncheons and receptions by appointment at (309) 627-2069.

Oquawka Museum, the former home of Justice Schlotzhaur, an advance man for Ringling Brother Circus, is located on North Second Street and now serves as the village's museum.

Grave of Norma Jean, Norma Jean, a 6,500 lb. elephant with the Clark and Walters Circus, was struck down by lightning when a very ominous summer thunderstorm roared into town. July 17, 1972 was Norma Jeans last show day. With permission of the State of Illinois, Norma Jean was interred on the spot where she had fallen.

Riverside Park, a great place to catch the barge traffic or the sun set.

Municipal Pool, nothing like Summer fun at the pool. Typically open Memorial Day thru Labor Day.

Lincoln Memorial Monument, on October 9th, 1858, Abraham Lincoln traveled to visit his friends, the Phelps. In 2009, this monument was placed to celebrate his 200th birthday.

Obama Monument, on July 31st 2004, Barack Obama visited during his race for U.S. Senate. In 2009, this monument was placed to honor President Obama.

Oquawka Videos

Annual Events

  • 4th of July Celebration, fun filled day kicked off with parade and fireworks later that night.
  • Catfish Cookoff, bring your best recipe or come hungry on this action packed day with a competitive catfish cooking contest. Sample some unique recipes and enjoy a catfish dinner with homemade sides. Live entertainment, beer tent, and fun family games for all ages.
  • Lighted Christmas Parade, start the Christmas holiday season with a lighted parade through town.
  • Henderson County Heritage Trail, Oquawka is a scheduled stop on the Trail the last full weekend of September.