WARSAW, IL

Warsaw was an important fur trading town in early 1800s, located at the westernmost point of Illinois along the Mississippi River.

Warsaw had a booming economy belying it size for several decades (ca. 1837- ca. 1870) until it underwent a severe change of fortunes.

Historically, Warsaw is significant because in the 1840s it became a center of virulent opposition to the Mormons who had settled in Nauvoo, 17 miles to the north (they had originally tried to settle just south of Warsaw but there was so much opposition from Warsaw that they gave up on that plan). The Warsaw Signal newspaper, published in Warsaw, led a media campaign against the Mormon settlement in Nauvoo. Indeed, a local newspaper at the time decried the new religion and its adherents. This was a proximal cause of the murders of the Mormon leader, Joseph Smith, and his brother Hyrum, in 1844, while they were being held in the nearby Carthage jail. Five of nine men who murdered the Smiths in Carthage were from Warsaw.

An interesting historical interpretation of Warsaw at that time has been advanced by Brian J. Stutzman in his book The History of Warsaw Illinois. Including the Mormon Period, 2nd edition (2018). A summary of the book with an embedded video is available here:
https://wheatandtares.org/2019/08/12/anti-mormon-triangle-carthage-nauvoo-warsaw/
and: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xznbuBCfGaA

Interestingly, today, Warsaw’s official municipal website advertises Warsaw this way: “Warsaw-Nauvoo tourism is bustling and we welcome our out-of-town guests” (read: Mormon visitors). This is a fascinating situation of a dark heritage being claimed for redemption and deployed for economic gain.

Warsaw is famous for the brewery that began in 1861 and operated as such for more than one hundred years. Although the brewery no longer functions, it has been reconverted to a popular restaurant along the river.

The downtown of this little town is significantly intact with many historic buildings. This is likely due to its lack of development in the bust years.  Indeed, “both the age and quality of [Warsaw’s] buildings far surpass that of the average Illinois town” and the historic district is relatively unchanged since the late 19th century. This inner core was inscribed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.

n addition, in 2019 the Hunziker Winery Site was added to the National Register of Historic Places. As explained in the Hancock County Journal-Pilot newspaper online (February 10, 2020) when functioning, the winery site “aided in the establishment of … commercial wine production in the vicinity of Warsaw and Nauvoo in the 1870s. The site contains remnants of above-ground structural features and well-preserved remains of a large subterranean cellar … [the site] may provide an understanding of the modernization of [wine] production from a predominately hand-powered to a steam- and/or electric powered facility.”

The Warsaw Illinois Historical Society and Museum (401 Main Street) “was organized in 1980 with 144 charter members who sought to collect and preserve materials relating to the history of Warsaw and the surrounding area. … The Society has a resource center, providing family histories and an extensive collection of photographs.”