Did You Know . . .
Fulton County . . .
. . . was named for Robert Fulton who invented the first successful steamboat in 1807.
. . . was part of the lands set aside to be used as payment to veterans of the War of 1812.
. . . was established five years after Illinois became a state in 1823.
. . . extended all of the way to the northern boundary of the state including present day Chicago between 1823 and 1825.
. . . now has a population of 37,069.
Established in 1825 by Isaac Swan and Nathaniel Jones, Canton is now the largest community in Fulton County. Swan chose the name Canton because he thought his town to be directly opposite Canton in China on the other side of the globe.
By 1838 the population had more than doubled, to 780 inhabitants, primarily from the eastern US, Germany, and Ireland. Growth continued, and Canton became a booming place with groceries, distilleries, woolen mills, brick yards, pork packing, and cigar makers. While pork-packing had largely fueled the town’s early growth, by the 1860s when the railroads came to town, direct shipment of live hogs to Chicago packing houses led to its decline. Meanwhile other industries expanded. Just before the turn of the 20th century, Canton dominated the cigar industry in the Midwest, with as many as 20 firms producing 20 million cigars annually. Eventually, it was heavy manufacturing that would come to dominate.
The Parlin & Orendorff Plow Works, established in 1860, became the largest plow manufacturing plant in the world by 1919, when it was purchased by the International Harvester Company. The prominent families behind Canton’s agricultural equipment manufacturing past created trusts that continue to support numerous churches, community organizations and facilities such as the library, and city parks. The Canton Park District includes several parks with a variety of facilities and recreational opportunities.
Its wealth of outdoor activities helped earn Canton recognition as a Gateway Community on the Illinois River Road National Scenic Byway. Canton’s historic downtown and its variety of travel services—including motels, restaurants, auto repair, groceries, gasoline, convenience stores, sporting goods, bowling alleys, miniature golf, roller skating, ATM banking, and shopping of all kinds—make it an excellent hub from which to explore the area.