The county of Williamson and the town of Marion were both born February 28, 1839 when the Illinois Legislature approved the formation of Williamson County out of Franklin County to the north. In October of that year William Benson deeded, as a gift, 20 acres for the site of a new county seat to be known as Marion probably named for Gen. Francis Marion of Revolutionary War fame. Gen. Marion led a band of men who worked mostly out of the swampy area and became known as the "Swamp Fox," a term that gets a lot of use here.
These 20 acres were platted into lots and sold at auction to raise funds for the establishment of the town. This area included the now Tower Square and the surrounding lots less than a block in either direction.
Geographically, Marion is located almost in the absolute center of Williamson County. Marion became the recipient of two major highways, Rt. 37 north and south and Rt. 13 east and west. Two railroad companies built lines into the city which served the needs of commerce and also the shipment of "black diamonds," coal, out of the area to distant markets. In later years the new interstate highway system saw fit to route Interstate 57 through Williamson County and Marion which became a magnet for commercial development.
Marion being the seat of the country
government, has prospered because of this and now a new Williamson County Detention Center is being constructed north and west of the town square, in addition to a recently opened administrative building. Marion has also prospered in many other ways. The development of coal mining was very instrumental in the city's early growth, along with other projects such as being a transportation center. The location of the Veteran's Hospital on the west side opened in 1942 and the Federal Prison south of the city opened in 1963. Some major developments would include, Interstate 57, the Illinois Centre Mall and now the announcement of construction of a destination commercial and entertainment complex on the north side alongside the interstate. The construction of a Frontier League baseball park was instrumental in developing that area before the talk of the destination complex.
Marion certainly has had a colorful past and has had many colorful characters which have been recorded in many books. We should now look to the future and the many fine things that lie in store for the people of this community; known locally as "The Hub of the Universe!"