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Saline County, Illinois facts for kids

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Saline County
Former Saline County Courthouse in Harrisburg
Former Saline County Courthouse in Harrisburg
Official seal of Saline County
Map of Illinois highlighting Saline County
Location within the U.S. state of Illinois
Map of the United States highlighting Illinois
Illinois's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  Illinois
Founded 1847
Named for Saline River
Seat Harrisburg
Largest city Harrisburg
 • Total 387 sq mi (1,000 km2)
 • Land 380 sq mi (1,000 km2)
 • Water 7.0 sq mi (18 km2)  1.8%
 • Total 23,768
 • Density 61.42/sq mi (23.713/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (Central)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
Congressional district 15th

Saline County is a county in Southern Illinois. At the 2020 census, it had a population of 23,768. The largest city and county seat is Harrisburg. This area of Southern Illinois is known locally as "Little Egypt".

Three major towns in Saline County are connected by U.S. Route 45, and formerly by the now abandoned Cairo and Vincennes/Big Four/New York Central Line, from north to south, Eldorado, Harrisburg, and Carrier Mills.

Saline County is currently the 79th wealthiest county in the state, out of 102.


Saline County was formed from Gallatin County in 1847. It is named for the Saline River and the springs from which salt was produced in the early history of Gallatin County.

Saline County was almost named "Moredock County", in honor of John Moredock, who was known the "Indian slayer". A militia officer and a member of the territorial legislature, Moredock had lost his mother and brother in an Indian attack when they were travelling from Pennsylvania to Illinois on the Ohio River in 1786. Young Moredock had been travelling with another group, and he arrived on the scene to find his mother's body terribly mistreated. He not only managed to tracked down and kill every member of the band that did it, but he spent much of his life ambushing and killing Native Americans, whether they were hostile or not. Somewhat controversial because of this, he nevertheless was a popular figure in early Illinois. He died in 1830.

The creation of Saline County was extremely controversial. Illinois originally had a small number of very large counties. As settlement proceeded, new counties were formed out of the original counties as a routine matter. Gallatin County was an early county that was formed in 1812, and quickly split into around fifteen counties, with Gallatin County remaining with what is now Saline County. This persisted for several decades after the era of rapid formation of counties.

Old Shawneetown was the original county seat of Gallatin County. At that time Old Shawneetown was the largest city and commercial center of Illinois. It was, however, located on the eastern edge of the County. In 1826, the county seat was moved to the new village of Equality, near the center of what was then Gallatin County. Old Shawneetown opposed this move, and sought redress by splitting off Saline County, with the aim of moving the County seat of what remained back to Old Shawneetown. Thus the impetus for the formation of Saline County came not from settlers at the fringe of the county, but from the core of the original county.

Saline County was created by a voice vote in the General Assembly in 1847. Completion of the formation of the county, however, involved three acts of the General Assembly, four decisions of the Illinois Supreme Court and two referendums. The controversy came to involve the leading attorneys of Illinois, including Abraham Lincoln.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 387 square miles (1,000 km2), of which 380 square miles (980 km2) is land and 7.0 square miles (18 km2) (1.8%) is water.

The Saline County area is mostly rolling hills throughout gradually rising to the Hills of the Shawnee National Forest. The Saline River flows through the central point of the county in three forks: North, Middle, and South. To the north of Eldorado there are flat lowlands.

Climate and weather

Weather chart for Harrisburg, Illinois
temperatures in °F
precipitation totals in inches
source: The Weather Channel

In recent years, average temperatures in the county seat of Harrisburg have ranged from a low of 22 °F (−6 °C) in January to a high of 89 °F (32 °C) in July, although a record low of −23 °F (−31 °C) was recorded in February 1951 and a record high of 113 °F (45 °C) was recorded in July 1936. Average monthly precipitation ranged from 3.04 inches (77 mm) in September to 4.98 inches (126 mm) in May.

Adjacent counties

National protected area

  • Shawnee National Forest (part)

State protected areas


Major highways

  • US 45.svg U.S. Highway 45
  • Illinois 13.svg Illinois Route 13
  • Illinois 34.svg Illinois Route 34
  • Illinois 142.svg Illinois Route 142
  • Illinois 145.svg Illinois Route 145

Public transportation

Public transportation is provided by the Rides Mass Transit District and Harrisburg Taxi.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 5,588
1860 9,331 67.0%
1870 12,714 36.3%
1880 15,940 25.4%
1890 19,342 21.3%
1900 21,685 12.1%
1910 30,204 39.3%
1920 38,353 27.0%
1930 37,100 −3.3%
1940 38,066 2.6%
1950 33,420 −12.2%
1960 26,227 −21.5%
1970 25,721 −1.9%
1980 28,448 10.6%
1990 26,551 −6.7%
2000 26,733 0.7%
2010 24,913 −6.8%
2020 23,768 −4.6%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2013

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 24,913 people, 10,379 households, and 6,631 families residing in the county. The population density was 65.6 inhabitants per square mile (25.3/km2). There were 11,697 housing units at an average density of 30.8 per square mile (11.9/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 93.0% white, 4.0% black or African American, 0.4% Asian, 0.4% American Indian, 0.1% Pacific islander, 0.4% from other races, and 1.8% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 1.4% of the population. In terms of ancestry, 17.8% were Irish, 16.6% were German, 12.9% were American, and 11.1% were English.

Of the 10,379 households, 29.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.4% were married couples living together, 11.7% had a female householder with no husband present, 36.1% were non-families, and 31.9% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.32 and the average family size was 2.89. The median age was 41.7 years.

The median income for a household in the county was $35,644 and the median income for a family was $46,314. Males had a median income of $41,108 versus $28,464 for females. The per capita income for the county was $20,903. About 13.4% of families and 18.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 26.5% of those under age 18 and 10.4% of those age 65 or over.




Unincorporated communities


Saline County is divided into thirteen townships:

  • Brushy
  • Carrier Mills
  • Cottage
  • East Eldorado
  • Galatia
  • Harrisburg
  • Independence
  • Long Branch
  • Mountain
  • Raleigh
  • Rector
  • Stone Fort
  • Tate


Coal mining makes up the largest percentage of industrial employment in Saline County. The county was home to the now closed Galatia Mine, which by industry standards is the largest underground coal mine in Illinois and currently employs close to 500 workers. The mining and exploration industry feeds other sources of employment such as coal and materials hauling and excavation. Construction fields and services also benefit from Saline County's mining industry.

Other employment in the county is generally made up by the medical, social and state services. Harrisburg is home to the Harrisburg Illinois Youth Center which is operated by Illinois Department of Corrections and holds male juvenile offenders.

The county is served by Southeastern Illinois College, a two-year community college located on state highway 13 about 6 miles east of Harrisburg.

Hospitals serving the county are Harrisburg Medical Center and Ferrell Hospital in Eldorado. Public health services are administered by Egyptian Health Department.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Condado de Saline (Illinois) para niños

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