Illinois Power Roots in Hillsboro

Updated: Oct 10, 2021


Illinois Power & Light Service decorated for Old Settlers Parade. Driver: James "Jim" E. Billingsley "Jimmy the Iceman" Photo provided by Lisa Billingsley
Illinois Power & Light Service decorated for Old Settlers Parade. Driver: James "Jim" E. Billingsley "Jimmy the Iceman" Photo provided by Lisa Billingsley

By: Tom Bliss

From the Montgomery County News Monday September 17,1979


Illinois Power Company traces its ancestry back to Dec. 14, 1892 when Mayor Charles Ramsey and members of the Hillsboro city council granted a franchise to Jacob J. Frey, insurance agent and real estate developer, and Attorney William A. Howett to generate and provide electric service to the residents of the county seat.


These two men, along with A. M. Howell, William Murdoch, H. H. Humphrey and Charles Lampel, formed the utility which became officially known as Hillsboro Electric Light and Power Company on March 28, 1893.


A generating plant was constructed on the corner of Church and Broad streets, on the site of the present fire station and police department building, at a cost of $17,700. Equipment was installed to provide electricity to operate street arc lights and residential incandescent light service.

1906 Map - Hillsboro Electric Light & Power Co.
1906 Map - Hillsboro Electric Light & Power Co.

The first 18 street lights were turned on during a special ceremony at which the band played, on October 30, 1893. These lights were to be turned on at sunset and burn all night except during periods of bright moonlight. Residential electric service became available early in 1894, but only between dusk and midnight. Not until electric meters were put in service in 1901 was electric service available 24 hours a day.

Hillsboro Electric Light & Power Co. - Old Settlers 1911
Hillsboro Electric Light & Power Co. - Old Settlers 1911

In 1905 an electrical transmission line was built from Hillsboro to Raymond and the first electric lights were turned on there on Dec. 9, 1905. That same year F. H. Herguth had an automatic electric refrigeration unit installed in his Hillsboro butcher shop.


From then on the growth of the Hillsboro-based utility was rapid. Transmission lines were extended to other towns, other utility properties were purchased, and power was provided for the interurban cars that first reached Hillsboro in 1906 and for the city street cars, which went into operation between the courthouse and the new railroad depot in 1907 and later ran between the courthouse and Taylor Springs.

Hillsboro Electric Light and Power Company - Central Park
Hillsboro Electric Light and Power Company - Central Park

In April 1913 all of the various properties owned and serviced by the Hillsboro utility were merged under the name of Southern Illinois Light and Power Company.


That same year a plant to manufacture artificial gas was built and gas distribution mains were installed at Hillsboro. Then on March 10, 1923, Southern Illinois Light and Power Company and the W. B. McKinley utilities in Illinois were merged to form the Illinois Power and Light Corporation. Twelve years later, in 1935, utilities in Iowa were acquired and the name changed to Illinois Iowa Power Company.

Southern Illinois Light & Power Company @ Hillsboro Central Park
Southern Illinois Light & Power Company @ Hillsboro Central Park

The utility was later ordered to dispose of its Iowa holdings. Since then it has operated under the name of Illinois Power Company.


126 views0 comments

Related Posts

See All
jeffd.jpg

Jeff Dunn

Vice President

Historical Society of

Montgomery County

Advisory Board

Illinois State

Historical Society