Illinois State University Research Collection

Illinois State University, Springfield’s first school of higher learning, was inappropriately named because it was actually a private school supported by the Lutheran Church and had no connection with the state of Illinois. 

The school was originally formed in Hillsboro, Illinois in 1847 and moved to Springfield in 1852, when its president, Reverend Francis Springer, saw more opportunities in the capital city. The university was modestly successful but fell on hard times in the early 1860s, and ceased operations in 1867.

Author Robert Allan Stevens donated five binders of research materials that he used in writing his book about the Illinois State University that was once in Springfield, Illinois. The title of the book is Anticipation Exceeded Realization: Saga of an Antebellum College, the Story of the Original Illinois State University. The material contained within the five binders includes registers of students, board of trustees minutes, faculty minutes, building committee minutes, and copies of the Olive Branch religious newspaper from January 1856 to January 1858, correspondence among some students, catalogs, and announcements.