A lot of famous and influential people throughout history have been born in Illinois, but usually, we hear of them coming from Chicago. There are four small towns in Illinois that have produced people who have had a major impact on others, including a Supreme Court Justice, a World War II hero, a women’s rights activist, and a Wild West icon. Great people often come from humble beginnings.
The quaint little town of Nashville, IL is like a blip on the map in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by farmland and not much else. However, from this humble place came a person who had an enormous impact on supporting women's control over their bodies.
Harry A. Blackmun (left) originally wanted to be a doctor but started out as a judge's clerk.
He had a passion for medicine and become resident counsel for the Mayo Clinic. President Eisenhower noticed that work and appointed Blackmun to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Later, Nixon nominated him to the Supreme Court. Quiet and reserved at first, Blackmun eventually chose to base his rulings on pragmatic, factual aspects, becoming more independent and focused on who would be most affected by his decisions. His medical experience inspired him to draft an opinion that pushed through Roe v. Wade.
Abingdon, IL is an unassuming tiny town about 50 miles west of Peoria. Most of us have never heard of it, yet a soldier who went on to earn the Medal of Honor was born here. Robert Hugo Dunlap was born on October 19, 1920. During his time at Monmouth College, Dunlap was a strong football player and track runner.
He was a slightly built man at just 5'6" and 148 lb when he enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1942. Dunlap soon become a parachutist and fought in the invasions of Vella Lavella and Bougainville in the Solomon Islands.
He was awarded a Letter of Commendation after his unit was pinned down and he exposed himself to enemy fire to rally his platoon and recover lost ground. After returning home, he departed again - now as Captain of Company C, 1st Battalion, 26th Marines - and fought at Iwo Jima.
While artillery, mortars, and gunfire rained down, he crawled alone 200 yards to a vantage point. He returned armed with accurate information on the placement of enemy positions, allowing the island to be won. On February 26, 1945, a bullet hit him, and he was evacuated. While in the hospital, Dunlap was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Truman for his bravery.
The tiny, bucolic town of Cedarville, IL is a quiet, hidden place that could be easy to miss, yet it was the birthplace of a social activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner. Jane Addams was the eighth of nine children and had a congenital spinal defect that kept her from being very physically active. She graduated as valedictorian from Rockford College for Women and started to study medicine, but her own health curtailed this. She traveled to Europe and visited a settlement house, where she decided to dedicate her life to helping others.
After returning to Illinois, she worked tirelessly to improve the conditions of industrial neighborhoods and opened Hull House, where 2000 people per week were helped with kindergarten classes, club meetings, and night school for adults.
Addams went on to take larger positions and gave impassioned speeches for women's rights. She became the president of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Her health began to fail and she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo the same day she was admitted to a Baltimore Hospital. She passed away in 1935 after undergoing surgery for unsuspected cancer.
4. Troy Grove
Troy Grove, IL is the tiniest small town on this list, but it's famous for birthing a Wild West legend whose stories are still being told today. Wild Bill Hickock is a name that everyone in America knows. While many stories were exaggerated by himself and others, what we know is that he was born James Butler Hickock on May 27, 1837, and that he was a frontiersman, soldier, scout, actor, gambler, and showman who was involved in some rather famous gunfights.
He was a spy for the Union Army during the Civil War and was well known for his marksmanship. He was a major figure of the time, accomplishing several lifetimes full of adventures. He was shot and killed in a saloon while playing poker in Deadwood in what is now South Dakota in 1876.
OnlyInYourState may earn compensation through affiliate links in this article. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.