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You Are Here: Home > Community Information > History   Hardin County Video

 Hardin County is nestled in the scenic Shawnee Hills of southeast Illinois. With the Ohio River serving as a main artery of transportation, the county served as a gateway to Illinois during the late 1700s and 1800s. Pioneers passed through these lands on their way west. Many stayed to settle in beautiful Southern Illinois.


  Hardin County was established by legislative act on March 2, 1839.  The county was named for John Hardin, an officer in the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War. An interesting and thorough history of the county was written by Judge Arthur A. Miles in 1921. 


The county seat was located at McFarlan’s Ferry (Elizabethtown) in 1840. Legend holds that Elizabethtown was named for Elizabeth McFarlan, who arrived here with her husband, James B. McFarlan around 1804-1812. The land was formerly a part of Pope and Gallatin Counties. 

  The McFarlan’s built a brick home overlooking the Ohio River in 1812. It was known as McFarland’s Tavern and later The Rose Hotel. The State of Illinois purchased the building and completed renovation in 1998. The Rose Hotel is the oldest hotel in Illinois. It majestically overlooks the Ohio River, serves many guests and is on the National Register of Historic Places.



  The Elizabethtown court house burned on two occasions (1884 and 1921) and many facts about the early history of Elizabethtown was lost. 

  Just up the Ohio River from Elizabethtown is Cave-In-Rock. Named for a cave visible from the Ohio, the village was settled approximately in 1816 but was not incorporated until 1901. The area is rich in colorful history mainly connected to the “Cave” and what went on there. Inhabited by Native Americans prior to European settlement and then becoming a haven for river pirates and counterfeiters, it is today a part of the Cave-In-Rock State Park. The natural beauty is spectacular and is a recreational area well worth seeing.



  The Ohio River was the hub of Cave-In-Rock and the surrounding communities. Mail and commodities were transported on the river as well as passengers. Larger boats, known as “packets”, traveled to Evansville, Indiana and Paducah, Kentucky. Drummers, or salesmen, used the boats as their means of transportation. Farming and fluorspar mining were the early industries in the area. Cave-In-Rock boasts the last operating ferry between Illinois and Kentucky and still offers free passage.



  Just downriver from Elizabethtown is Rosiclare. According to legend, Rosiclare got its unusual name from two young girls, Rose and Clare. They were the daughters of an early settler of French descent. By the 1890’s the name of the town on maps had been changed to one word, Rosiclare. Settled around 1807 and originally known as Ford’s Ferry, the discovery of lead and fluorspar in 1843 marked the beginning of significant growth of the village. Eventually it was the site of the largest, and last, fluorspar mining operation in the United States. The mine closed in 1996.

  Rosiclare was incorporated into a village in 1874 and became a city in 1932. During World War II, when the demand for fluorspar, lead and zinc was at its greatest, the city’s population grew to about 2000. The U.S. Government built a housing project in 1942-43 known as “Spardale”. It provided homes for 150 families. After the war boom was over the project was sold and eventually torn down


  Today, with 1400 residents, Rosiclare is the largest incorporated community in Hardin County and is the home of the American Fluorite Museum.

  Two other communities important to Hardin County history are Karbers Ridge and Shetlerville.
Karbers Ridge was named for an early settler, Frank C. Karber, circa 1879. Frank’s father, Louis Adam Karber and his family came from Germany and settled in this area. The community grew around Frank’s blacksmith shop and was known as Crossroads.

  As the community grew, Frank helped establish a post office. It was then that the people of the community decided on a name change. The area was on a high ridge and the founder was a Karber. So, the name Crossroads was changed to Karbers Ridge.

  Karbers Ridge has become well known by the many people touring the Shawnee National Forest because it is in the center of all its beauty. The Garden of the Gods and Rim Rock/Pounds Hollow Recreational area are the main attractions in this area.

Shetlerville was settled by Joseph Shetler. Joseph migrated to America from Bavarian Germany at the age of 21. He came down the Ohio River and settled in a small community known as Parkinson’s Landing. It is located four miles down the river from Rosiclare. It became Hardin County’s largest shipping port exporting potatoes, wheat, corn and beans.

During the 1800’s Shetlerville was a thriving community with more population and businesses than Cave-In-Rock, Elizabethtown or Rosiclare (the other river towns in Hardin County)

Some of the early settlers were Parkinsons, Shetlers, Herrmanns, Humms, Sieners, Rotes, Zimmers, Kochs, Foes, Smocks and Andersons. Many of them from Germany. While the thriving business community of Shetlerville is gone, many of their descendents are residents in Hardin County today.



Aerial Photo Album
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Rosiclare Elizabethtown





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