Effingham County Courthouse

The old Effingham County courthouse was built in 1872 in the Second Empire style, which was popular in the United States 1855-1885. Following the Shelbyville, Tennessee plan for county seats and courthouses, the courthouse in located in a central square in downtown Effingham.

The building is constructed of brick and limestone with the usual mansard style roof and dormers. Windows have stone arched window headers. The foundation is made of sandstone slabs laid on top of one another. In 1895 the exterior wall of the southwest corner collapsed. County officials had been warned that that portion of the building was structurally unsafe. Upon close examination, one can see the repair lines in the brick mortar still today.

Effingham County's only hanging took place on June 18, 1875 on the southeast corner of the courthouse square. In the fall of 1874 Nathan Burgess allegedly murdered Joseph Robbins, a watchman on the Vandalia bridge just east of Vandalia. After his indictment in Fayette County, a change of venue was requested to Effingham County. He was found guilty in the March session of the court in 1875 and ordered to be hanged on June 18. Before his hanging, Burgess recanted his guilty confession. A local historical description in the Effingham Democrat newspaper states "at 16 minutes before 2 o'clock, he swung into eternity."

Years later Nathan's father, upon his deathbed, confessed to the murder. His father felt Nathan should have been hired for the watchman's job instead of Robbins. Nathan's father described how he stole Robbins' missing shotgun, wore Nathan's shoes, and shot and killed Robbins. The father thought the courts would not convict and hang an innocent man. He had told Nathan this before the trial, but failed to implicate himself.

There used to be a wrought iron fence around the courthouse lawn prior to 1910. It was dismantled and reassembled around the Catholic cemetery in the north part of Effingham. The fence was dismantled again and sold to local people. Some portions of it were sold to an architectural salvage firm. There is one remaining fence post at the Catholic cemetery.

There have been minor exterior changes such as the cupola being enclosed and changing its roofline. An exterior entry for handicapped persons was added on the southeast corner of the building. A window was bricked up on the northeast corner to accommodate a safe for the county clerk’s office.
The interior underwent significant changes starting in the 1940s when courtrooms were paneled, stairways changed, an elevator was added, and the domed ceiling of the main courtroom was hidden with a suspended ceiling.

Because of its unique architectural style, Phil Lewis wrote the nomination for the courthouse to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places. He presented the nomination in person before the National Register committee in Oak Park, Illinois, and it was accepted in 1985.

Hours & Location

100 E. Jefferson Ave.,
Effingham, IL 62401

Daytime Hours:
(January-February)- By appointment only and some special evening hours, TBA
Phone: 217.240.2471 to leave a message

(March through December)
Tuesday and Saturday 10 a.m-2 p.m.

Evening Hours:
6:00-7:00 p.m. on night of lecture series, November-March
Other times by appointment: Call (217)240-2471 to leave a message

ECCCMA Meeting Schedule

Board Meetings are held on the second Tuesday of each month at 6:00 p.m. at the court-house first floor courtroom. For information contact Delaine Donaldson, President at: delainedonaldson@mchsi.com.

General Membership Meetings are held once a month of the second Tuesday of the month at 6:00 p.m. at the court-house first floor courtroom.

Our MISSION is to preserve our Historic Register structure, to collect artifacts from county history, and to use them to educate our local and external communities, while immersed in the broader context of American history.

Our VISION is that the 1872 Effingham County Courthouse remains as an architectural gem that instills a sense of community pride and provides a venue to
educate and showcase the history, art, and transportation of Effingham County.

Get Involved

On November 11, 2012, the Museum opened its doors to the public. Currently there are exhibits on the first floor and the second floor. On the second floor there is exhibit space as well as room for lectures and other types of public gatherings.