Share |


Located in western Illinois, just a few miles east of the Mississippi, Carthage is the county seat of Hancock County.  This charming community has a rich historical story that interweaves with the Mormon Church.  Other historical sites associated with Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Joseph Smith and local Indian tribes make the area a great place to visit.  Carthage has a bright future that includes a safe and quiet place to live and work with a growing economy that revolves around agriculture and manufacturing. The area is rich in the recreational activities as well.

Carthage is the home of The Old Carthage Jail and Visitor's Center, the historic Hancock County Courthouse, Kibbe Museum, Carthage Lake, WOW Park, an old fashioned downtown Square with a variety of shops, many recreational activities, and several special events year 'round.   If you are interested in self-guided tours, take a look at some of Hancock County's old barns, or take a walking tour in the heart of Carthage (tour brochure, tour audio mp3 file).  Just come and have fun!

The Legacy Theater

 The Legacy Theater
 Legacy Theater

The Legacy Theater in Carthage has become a welcoming venue for arts, learning and entertainment.

Dating back to Carthage’s rich history as the former home of Carthage College, the theater has been renovated into a setting perfect for professional performers, for local recitals, for family movie nights, and for meetings of all kinds.

It is operated almost exclusively by volunteers who make up the Legacy Theater Foundation Board and its subcommittees. The Legacy Theater is becoming known regionally as a place for a great night of family entertainment.

The Legacy Theater Foundation sponsors a variety of performances, movies and educational opportunities throughout the year. The venue is also available to rent.

Box office hours are Monday-Friday 10:00 AM-2:00PM.



The "Old Jail" and Visitor's Center

Old  Jail
 Front of Old Jail

Perhaps Carthage's most famous attraction is the Carthage Jail, which was the site where the Mormon leader, Joseph Smith, and his brother, Hyrum, were killed by an angry mob on June 27, 1844. Their action resulted in the Mormons abandoning nearby Nauvoo on their famous trek west that led to the founding of Salt Lake City, Utah. More details of the mob action can be found here, courtesy of the LDS Church.  


Smith Brothers
 Smith Brothers
at Old Jail

Today, the "old jail" is one of the most well preserved historic buildings in Carthage. It was constructed of native yellow limestone in 1839 - 1841. It was used as the county jail until 1886 when a new jail was built on the town square. In 1938 the building was restored to its present condition by Joseph McRae.

In 1963 an additional building of the same type of stone was constructed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Here, visitors are received in air-conditioned comfort, and the story of the Mormon Church is related. Tours are free of charge and available year round. Information (217/577-2603) Additional info about this site and others in nearby Nauvoo at


Summer: Mon-Sat, 9am-7pm. Sun, 12:30pm-5pm
Winter: Mon-Sat, 10am-4pm. Sun, 12:30pm-4pm
Fall/Spring: Mon-Sat, 10am-5pm.  Sun, 12:30pm-5pm 

Hancock County Courthouse

 Hancock County Courthouse Dome
  Courthouse Dome

The Hancock County Courthouse, located in the center of the Carthage Square, is a beautiful and historic structure worth visiting. It is the third courthouse to serve Hancock County, with the cornerstone being laid on July 30, 1907. With twelve offices, two courtrooms, jury rooms, and a large rotunda, the courthouse is functional as well as striking. Large stained glass windows, mosaic tile, and painted murals highlight the inside of the building. Still an active seat for lawyers, judges, county offices and board meetings, the Courthouse is an integral part of the city and considered one of the most beautiful in the state of Illinois.



Kibbe Hancock Heritage Museum

Kibbe Museum Display
 Museum Display

Dr. Alice L. Kibbe (pronounced Kib' bee) donated her home, personal collections and a Wild Life Preserve to the City of Carthage for use as a museum and park. A fascinating display of historic artifacts and clothing, as well as several Lincoln pieces, are presented in the museum throughout the year. The Kibbe Hancock Heritage Museum is located at 306 Walnut Street. Check their website at for current hours, example pictures, collections, etc. 


 Carthage Lake

This picture shows the large Carthage Lake from near the spillway. For more on recreation in Carthage, click here.

The Carthage Park District offers a complete array of sports and recreation facilities, including a municipal swimming pool, lighted tennis courts, one of the area's sportiest nine-hole golf courses, lighted baseball fields, fishing as well as hiking, and jogging. The Park District also provides campsites with electrical hookups, shelter houses, fireplaces, and playground equipment. In the summer, call (217) 357-3625 for information.


WOW Park

World of Wonders Park
 WOW Park

World of Wonders Playground is an interactive 10,000 square foot playground with slides, mazes, bridges, climbing wall, swings, and interactive games to entice your children's imagination. A covered shelter is available for picnics. This park was the result of a large public effort, requiring thousands of hours of manpower and many, many dedicated volunteers. You can find the park south of the Courthouse Square at the corner of Adams Street and Locust Street. 











Lake Hill Winery & Banquet Hall

See the source imageLake Hill Winery & Banquet Hall sets beautifully atop a hill overlooking Carthage Lake. Popular for weddings, reunions, and other social events, Lake Hill Winery provides an unforgettable experience. Popular regional wine is produced and sold. Wine tasting room, large banquet hall, and smaller gathering spaces afford many options for your special occasion!

Major Events

Carthage residents enjoy socializing. Here is a small sample of annual events that are sponsored by local groups and/or individuals. Take a look at the calendar of events for dates to mark on your calendar. 


July 4

 July 4th Parade

Hancock County Independence Day Celebration is centered on the historic Courthouse Square. A morning breakfast kicks off the

festivities, followed by parade, kids' games, farmer's market / flea market, entertainment, dancing, many food vendors, and other activities. Most years the Carthage Clipper Volunteer Fire Department will entertain young and old with a water fight.  The kids in July just seem to enjoy getting wet!  A spectacular fireworks display tops off the celebration near Illini West High School.



Christmas Open House

Bell   Choir
Bell Choir in the Courthouse

Every year, Carthage merchants open their doors for the Carthage Open House on the Thursday evening following Thanksgiving. From 4:00 pm till 9:00 pm, the square looks like a throw-back to Saturday nights of the past: Families by the hundreds stroll around, carolers roam, merchants have special foods prepared for free tasting, and community groups perform. The Christmas decorations, carriage rides, bears, reindeer, Santa, and elves make the evening a very enjoyable one for all. The picture to the left is one sample of the evening's entertainment: The local Bell Choir, for example, has performed on the first floor of the Courthouse, as seen here from the third floor in the rotunda.



For other ideas on things to do in the area, check out the Barns of Hancock County, a driving tour of historic barns, or consider a visit to nearby historic Nauvoo, IL. Visit the website of the Quincy Area Visitors Bureau for a listing of other nearby attractions.

Other popular tourist attractions in this part of the country include Branson, MO, Hannibal, MO, and many others.