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.
Cuba was formerly two towns, Centerville and Middleton, both founded in the middle 1830s. They merged in 1853, and Cuba acquired its name some time after that. The name appears to have been meant to reflect the degree to which it, like its Caribbean namesake, seemed an island surrounded by water. The ponds and wetlands around Cuba weren’t drained until the 1880s, but the drainage tiles made in Cuba’s factory, once the town’s largest industry, were shipped throughout Illinois.
The Toledo, Peoria, and Warsaw railroad passed through the edge of town in 1868 and later came the Fulton County Narrow Gauge in 1878. Like other communities business boomed with the coming of the railroad which fueled the development of the central business district, including an opera house that still stands on the town square. The square is the focus of activity during Scenic Drive Fall Festival and Cuba’s Soldiers and Sailors Reunion, an annual community celebration.
The first shaft mine for coal was opened near Cuba in 1869, and the first strip mine was opened in 1903 at the site of present-day Putnam Park, just south of Cuba. The restored mine ground of Putnam Park now offers fishing, picnic pavilions, baseball and softball fields, and volleyball sand pit. Near this park, is the new Cuba High School, award winning for its use of “green technology.” Its solar arrays and wind turbine are visible to passersby on Illinois Route 97.
Cuba businesses of interest to travelers include ATM banking, Laundromat, convenience store, gasoline, car wash, as well as bulk foods, and furniture store that are part of the Amish settlement established just southwest of town along Illinois Route 95.