Forgottonia (also spelled Forgotonia) is the name given to a 14 county region in Western Illinois in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This geographic region forms the distinctive western bulge of Illinois that is roughly equivalent to "The Tract," the Illinois portion of the Military Tract of 1812, along and west of the Fourth Principal Meridian. See Principal meridian. Since this region lies between the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, it is somewhat isolated (river bridge access) from the eastern portion of Central Illinois. See Illinois River bridges.
In the 1970s, there were only five Illinois highway river bridge crossings south of Peoria (Havana, Beardstown, Meredosia, Florence, and Hardin), plus two free Illinois River ferries at Kampsville, and Brussels. The Valley City Eagle bridge for Interstate 72 was not completed until the late 1980s. The term was used by US Congressman Dick Durbin, who represented the southern portion of this region, in stump speeches in the early eighties, but is less popular today since more highways have been completed.
Origin, Coining of the Name
Forgottonia represented a protest against inequalities in state and Federal funding of infrastructure (e.g. transportation) and economic development in the region. Carthage College, in Hancock County, relocated its educational campus to Kenosha, Wisconsin in 1964. Federal highway bills that included funding for a Chicago-to-Kansas City expressway that would have passed through the heart of this region were defeated in the US Congress in 1968 and again in 1972. These congressional actions as well as an exodus of the region's industries and population, after 1970, were significant catalysts for protests by residents.
Variously described as a new U.S. state or an independent republic, Forgottonia eventually became a fictional political secession movement in the early 1970s conceived by residents of McDonough County, in the heart of this region. Western Illinois University student Neil Gamm was named governor, and the hamlet of Fandon near Colchester was to be Forgottonia's capital. The name would catch on because the region appeared to be "forgotten" by developers.
Due to the loss of train service in 1971, with the creation of Amtrak, the State of Illinois intervened at the request of the region's residents, Quincy University, and Western Illinois University. This became part of the 1971 "Illinois Service" initiative and is partially funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Forty years later, some improvements have been introduced to address these earlier inequalities, but the US Census data (1960-2010) show a significant population exodus and growing poverty in the region. On 30 October 2006, Illinois's partnership with Amtrak included an additional daily train service on the Chicago-Quincy line. This service expansion is part of the state sponsorship for increasing round-trip train service between Chicago and downstate cities from three daily to seven daily schedules. The new Carl Sandburg train joined the existing Illinois Zephyr train serving the western region of Illinois with train stops at Kewanee, Galesburg, Macomb, and Quincy.
In 2008 and 2009, Illinois Route 336 was further extended from Carthage to Macomb built partially along former U. S. Route 136 alignment, on which it runs concurrently, and a new alignment bypassing Tennessee and Colchester to end temporarily west of Macomb.
Earlier, U. S. Route 67 was upgraded to a four lane expressway which bypasses around Monmouth and Roseville. It is four-lane but with some at-grade intersections and signals.
Neal Gamm's list of Forgottonia counties
The unincorporated village of Bernadotte, in Fulton County, which is four miles north of Ipava on the Spoon River, has the distinction of having once been considered as the site for the capital of Illinois, prior to the capital being located at Vandalia in 1820. Vandalia was selected over Bernadotte by the difference of one vote. The approximate population of Forgottonia is 384,630.
- Nowlan, J.D. 1998. From Lincoln to Forgottonia. Illinois Issues 24(9):27-30.
- Outfitters.com. McDonough County, Illinois, USA.
- Category:Secession in the United States
- Conch Republic, similar movement covering the Florida Keys.
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