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Sunday, June 2, 2013

Decatur Trivia

Here's a list of some fun Decatur trivia that we were able to round up from various sources. Much of this is stuff that every person who was born and raised in Decatur knows by heart (or should know by heart).

If you find any errors, please post those corrections in the box at the bottom.

And, if you know any other great Decatur trivia, please add that in the box at the bottom as well.



Decatur was founded in 1830 and named after Stephen Decatur, a War of 1812 naval hero who died in 1820. 
  • Macon County was formed in 1829 out of Shelby County. It was named for Nathaniel Macon, who served in the Revolutionary War. Nathaniel Macon served as United States Senator from North Carolina. 
  • Macon County is sometimes referred to as "The Heart of Illinois", even though the geographical center of the state lies 19 miles northwest in the village of Chestnut. 

Decatur sits at an elevation of 670 feet [204 m] above sea level. 

Various slogans/mottos for Decatur thru the years have included "Soybean Capital of the World", "The Pride of the Prairie", "Decatur... We Like It Here", "The Soy City" and "America's Agribusiness Center".  At one time, Decatur was known as "Park City U.S.A." because the city had more parks per person than any other city in the United States.

In 1960, Decatur was named an "All-American City" by the National Civic League.

Lake Decatur was formed in 1922 by the damming of the Sangamon River.  It is the largest lake on the Sangamon.... covering over 2,800 acres. 

The Grand Army of the Republic organization was founded in Decatur in 1866.  There is a plaque in downtown Decatur commemorating this event.

Approximately 800 Potawatomi Indians from Indiana were marched thru the Decatur area on September 26, 1838.  There is a marker recognizing the Potawatomi Trail of Death located in Mueller Park.

With regard to Abraham Lincoln, it is widely held that Decatur was his first home in Illinois and was the location where he both gave his first political speech and was first nominated to become President. 

Ronald Reagan is known to have visited Decatur 4 times during his life.  As president in 1984, he flew into Decatur Airport on Air Force One and visited Archer Daniels Midland Company and Millkin University.  Previous to that, he visited in 1977 for a Republican fundraiser, in 1955 as a spokesman for General Electric, and in 1929 during his sophomore season as a starting right guard for the Eureka College Red Devils football team. 
  • Other sitting Presidents who have visited Decatur include Theodore Roosevelt in 1903 and William Taft in 1911.  President Truman visited Decatur the first summer after leaving the White House (1953).

The origin of a library in Decatur dates back to 1875, when the Decatur Free Public Library was established with Richard L. Evans in the role of the first city librarian.

Decatur's first postmaster, Daniel McCall, received his appointment on March 6, 1830.

In 1904, land was purchased at the corner of North Main and Eldorado Streets for the construction of a government building to become the first permanent home of Decatur's post office.   Construction was started in 1907, and the building opened to the public in 1909.

Richland Community College was located at 2 facilities prior to the move to their campus on the northeast side of Decatur.  From 1972 to 1979, the building at 100 North Water Street in downtown Decatur was the home of the "Community College of Decatur".  Then, from 1979 to 1988, Richland's home was in the Park 101 complex at 2425 Federal Drive. 

Some of the buildings on Millikin University's campus were constructed of bricks that had been manufactured just to the west of the campus in Fairview Park.  Millikin opened for business in 1903. 

The original forty acres of what is now Fairview Park were laid out as a fairground for the Macon County Agricultural Society.  The first Macon County Fair was held in October 1856.  The fair was held annually on the grounds until 1884 -- with the exception of 1863, 1864, 1869 and 1870, when Decatur hosted the Illinois State Fair.

A few notable individuals who were born in or lived in Decatur include Abraham Lincoln, Boots Randolph (jazz), Alison Krauss (bluegrass), Richard Oglesby (Illinois politics), George Halas (football), Brian Culbertson (jazz/funk), and
Charles Edward Bowles A/K/A Black Bart  (outlaw).

Decatur's Lincoln Square Theater is regarded as one of the United States most haunted performance halls.

Decatur has been referenced many times in popular culture, including "The Informant" (movie), "Alf" (TV), "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter" (book), and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" (movie).

A carbon sequestration project begun in 2011 in Decatur (near Richland Community College) is playing a major role in developing global carbon dioxide mitigation technologies. 

Beginning in 2007, Decatur is the biennial host for the Farm Progress Show (FPS), the nation's largest outdoor agribusiness trade show.  The FPS is held on the exhibition grounds north of Richland Community College which are known as "Progress City USA".

In 2011, Decatur's Scovill Zoo received accreditation from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA), classifying it as one of the U.S.'s best-managed, best-operated zoo facilities.

The "fly-killer" (later known as the flyswatter) was first patented in 1900 by Robert R. Montgomery of Decatur.

A 1920 patent by James B. Blair of Decatur for an "Automobile Direction-Indicator" is considered by some to be the first turn signal.

The Decatur Celebration, first started in 1986, is known as Illinois' largest free family street festival.  Thru the years, some of the great entertainment acts that have performed for free at Decatur Celebration include B.J. Thomas, Rick Springfield, Tiny Tim, the Mamas and the Papas, Eddie Money, The Tokens, Loverboy, Lou Gramm, The Outfield, and the Charlie Daniels Band.

Icon for Hire, a rock band formed in Decatur in 2007, released their debut album in 2011 on Tooth & Nail Records.  "Scripted" hit #7 on the U.S. Hard Rock Billboard chart.

Operations for Ray's Brand Chilli (note the 2 "L"'s), a well-known and great-tasting regional brand of chili, are based in Decatur.  Since 1997, the company has been owned/operated by Jay Nicole and family. 

Decatur is the corporate headquarters for Continental Carbonic, one of the largest manufacturers of dry ice in the United States. 

Decatur Electronics (now a part of the Soncell North America network of companies) is the U.S.'s oldest manufacturer of police radar units.  The radar speed gun was invented by Bryce K. Brown of Decatur Electronics in 1954. 

Decatur's Union Iron Works, now a part of Ag Growth International (AGI), was founded in 1852 (just 22 years after Decatur was founded) and originally was a manufacturer of steam engines.


In 2005, the Millikin Women's Basketball team won the NCAA Division III National Championship;  coach was Lori Kerans. 

In 2012, Lake Decatur hosted the finals of the Bassmaster Elite Series fishing tournament, which featured 12 of the best anglers in the United States competing for the Evan Williams Bourbon All-Star Championship.  The winner was Aaron Martens. 

Power boat races, many held on Memorial Day weekend and sanctioned by the American Power Boat Association, were held on Lake Decatur from 1970-1986, and again from 1991-2004.  Many of the races were held on Memorial Day weekend as the main attraction at the "SummerStart" event. 

During its 21-year run ending in 2001, Decatur's men's fast-pitch softball team, the "Decatur Pride" (in the early years, known as "Team ADM"), won 4 Amateur Softball Association (ASA) championships and 2 International Softball Congress World Tournaments.  The team disbanded in 2001 primarily due to high sponsorship costs, but reemerged for a brief 2-year stint during 2009/2010.

The NFL's Chicago Bears were organized in Decatur Illinois (1919) as the Staley Bears.  (

Since 1985, the Hickory Point Golf Course in Decatur (Forsyth) has hosted an annual golf tournament on the LPGA's Symetra Tour (formerly the LPGA Futures Tour).  The "Decatur-Forsyth Classic", formerly known as the "Tate & Lyle Players Championship", is held each June. 

For various stretches of time between 1887 and 1974, Decatur was the home of a minor league baseball team -- primarily the Decatur Commodores, but also the Decatur Cubs for 1 year and the Decatur Nomads for another.  (

For a time, the Decatur Commodores were known by the nickname "Commies" before that became a slang term for Communist.

Reminder... if you know any other great Decatur trivia that we've missed, please post it below.

1 comment:

  1. Howard C. Burks came to Decatur in 1897 and established Decatur Drug the Powers Opera House Bldg. Burks was one of the most well known businessman and pharmacist in all of the Midwest. His son Arthur W. Burks invented Burks Pump in 19 and held patents on turbine pump' a new style water pump and a air charger as well as numerous other patents. Burks built Decatur Pump Co was in 1928 directly across from Nelson Park and his company expanded world wide and the pumps are sold still today. He married Bertha Burks and they had three children and five grandchildren, some of which still living in Decatur Illinois today


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