Petersburg History


Petersburg is a town rich with history. Our history dates back to 1833 when George Warburton and Peter Lukins, friends of Abraham Lincoln, founded Petersburg. Abraham Lincoln actually surveyed the town in 1835-1836. In 1840, many of the New Salem residents moved into Petersburg and New Salem ceased to exist. The New Salem residents were responsible for the birth and growth of Petersburg. They planned the town, and nurtured it through the years of growth.

In 1839 Menard County was formed from the North part of Sangamon County. Petersburg was selected as the county seat and continues to be the location of the county courthouse and county offices.

Two miles south of Petersburg is New Salem Village, the restored replica of the original town. Now a State Historic Site, the village is staffed with numerous volunteers interpreting the 1830's way of life in this area.

Many of the lush Victorian-era homes built by early wealthy inhabitants still stand on the bluffs of Petersburg. The town itself takes great pride in these structures, which has even preserved some of the original cobblestone streets to compliment the classical architecture.

Many of the people who made up this history are buried in Menard County cemeteries.

The grave of Ann Rutledge, Abraham Lincoln’s sweetheart during his New Salem days, is located at Oakland Cemetery just south of Petersburg.

New Salem friends of Lincoln, storekeeper, Samuel Hill, Dr. John Allen and Dr. Francis Regnier are all buried in Rose Hill Cemetery just east of Petersburg on Route 123.

Mentor Graham, who was Lincoln’s teacher and long-time friend, is buried in the Farmers Point cemetery. This cemetery is located about one mile south of New Salem at the junction of State Routes 97 and 123.

Major B. F. Stephenson, who founded the Grand Army of the Republic, is also buried at Rose Hill Cemetery. The G. A.R. was the official organization of Civil War veterans. In addition, Major Stephenson founded Memorial Day.


For 11 years Edgar Lee Masters, one of America’s greatest modern poets and author, lived with his family in Petersburg in the house that is now the Masters Memorial Museum. Masters is buried in Oakland Cemetery a short distance from the Rutledge burial site. Masters is best known as the author of Spoon River Anthology.



Famous Smithsonian Artist Edward Laning was born in Petersburg in 1906. He is best known as a painter and muralist. He painted the mural in the National Bank of Petersburg, now the Alliance Community Bank, in the 1970's. He had a longtime friendship with Edgar Lee Masters.



West of the City of Petersburg is the birthplace of Peter McCue, one of the most famous American Quarter Horses. His lineage stretches all across the United States.

Petersburg also has the honor of being a Winter Circus town with many of today’s residents being descendants of the early circus people.

As you can see, Petersburg is a town with a history!

We also can offer you many restaurants, antiques and craft/gift shops, lodging for numerous out-of-town visitors and sites for most everyone.

Please join us for a day exploring first at New Salem and then completing the journey into Petersburg for more history and fun!

Petersburg may be a consideration for your future home. Petersburg is a warm and caring community and offers great value on citywide real-estate.

For Geneology cemetery research of Menard County click here:
Cemetery Files

Member of: Petersburg Chamber of Commerce

For Area Information
Visit the Petersburg Chamber of Commerce Website
Petersburg Information


Petersburg Square