West Frankfort, Illinois

West Frankfort
Frank's Fort
Motto: A Rich Past, A Bright Future
Country United States
State Illinois
County Franklin
Township Denning, Frankfort
Elevation 400 ft (122 m)
Coordinates 37°53′55″N 88°55′24″W / 37.89861°N 88.92333°W / 37.89861; -88.92333Coordinates: 37°53′55″N 88°55′24″W / 37.89861°N 88.92333°W / 37.89861; -88.92333
Area 5.02 sq mi (13 km2)
 - land 4.97 sq mi (13 km2)
 - water 0.04 sq mi (0 km2)
Population 8,182 (2010)
Density 1,726.8/sq mi (667/km2)
Founded 1810
 - City Charter 1906
Mayor Tom Jordan
Timezone CST (UTC-6)
 - summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
Postal code 62896
Area code 618
Location of West Frankfort within Illinois
Wikimedia Commons: West Frankfort, Illinois
Website: http://www.westfrankfort-il.com/

West Frankfort is a city in Franklin County, Illinois, United States. The population was 8,182 at the 2010 census. The city is part of the Metro Lakeland area.


Although one might associate the name "West Frankfort" with the cities named "Frankfurt" in Germany or Frankfort in Kentucky, the truth is far more local. Around 1810, Francis Jordan, an early settler from Tennessee, with the help of his seven brothers, began construction of a fort atop a hill in present-day Franklin County. Completed in 1811, the fort was named "Frank's Fort", in Jordan's honor.[1]

The name Frankfort is from a French trapper's hutte built on the hill long before the arrival of the Jordan brothers. Frank's Fort (Frank Jordan's fort was built in today's Williamson County, IL near Corinth. Thomas Jordan's fort, "Jordan's Fort", was in Cave Township, Franklin County, IL, near the town of Thompsonville. The forts were built by the Jordan family with the help of the Illinois Militia for safety of the civilians.

Jordan also built a fort a few miles to the east, at Jordan's Settlement, near modern Thompsonville, Illinois. This fort was called "Jordan's Fort". The construction of these forts was in response to the danger of attack during Tecumseh's War, which culminated in the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. Then-governor of the Illinois Territory, Ninian Edwards, actively encouraged the construction of these forts and offered the services of the Saline Militia in their erection.[1]

Since the Shawnee Trail, an important trading route linking Kaskaskia, Illinois and Old Shawneetown, Illinois ran along the high ground in the vicinity of the fort, this area became an attractive destination for settlers in search of cheap land made available by the recently passed Bit Act of 1805. The resulting settlement took the name of the nearby fort, which was subsequently shortened to "Frankfort". Frankfort grew quickly during this period, its population rivaling that of Chicago at that time.[1]

Frankfort was Franklin County's first county seat until 1839, when the lower half of the county was set off as Williamson County.

After railroad tracks linking Chicago, Paducah, and Memphis were laid 4 miles (6 km) west of Frankfort, many businesses and residents migrated to the new commercial center which formed near the tracks. This new community came to be known as West Frankfort for its location west of Frankfort. The two cities eventually merged and retained the name of West Frankfort.[1]

The area of West Frankfort formerly known as Frankfort is still sometimes referred to locally as Frankfort Heights or, more commonly, simply as "the Heights", due to its higher elevation relative to the rest of the city. A post office was maintained in Frankfort Heights until its destruction by fire in 2004, making West Frankfort one of the smallest cities in the United States to have two ZIP codes (the other zip code is designated as "Frankfort Heights, Illinois").[1]

West Frankfort's population dwindled but was never without its few diehard citizens. Little did the residents know that around the turn of the century they would multiply their population many times. Beginning in 1904 the Deering Coal Mine Company took Franklin County and West Frankfort from no coal production in 1900 to the number one coal producer in the state by 1917. Once the mines opened, the population increased 3,500 in seven years. By 1927 West Frankfort's population reached 19,896. In the late 1940s, four theatres and a minor league baseball team marked the downtown area.

Tri-State Tornado of 1925

See Tri-State Tornado.

1951 Coal Mine Explosion

The Orient No. 2 coal mine exploded on December 21, 1951, killing 119 men. The mine, located outside of West Frankfort, was one of the major employers of the area. Everyone in West Frankfort was affected by this tragedy according to life-long residents including grade schoolers of the time who remember their own losses or the suffering of classmates - many saying they could never celebrate Christmas again. The West Frankfort Junior High School became a temporary morgue for identification of the bodies . A call went out for funeral directors. The explosion received national attention from the wire services, newspapers and Life Magazine. Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson visited the site. The United States Bureau of Mines called the explosion avoidable. The disaster resulted in Congress passing the Federal Coal Mine Safety Act of 1952.


West Frankfort is located at 37°53′55″N 88°55′24″W / 37.89861°N 88.92333°W / 37.89861; -88.92333 (37.898545, -88.923315).[2]

According to the 2010 census, West Frankfort has a total area of 5.011 square miles (12.98 km2), of which 4.97 square miles (12.87 km2) (or 99.18%) is land and 0.041 square miles (0.11 km2) (or 0.82%) is water.[3]


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 20158,067[4]−1.4%
U.S. Decennial Census[5]

As of the census[6] of 2000, there were 8,196 people, 3,596 households, and 2,207 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,726.8 people per square mile (666.2/km²). There were 3,973 housing units at an average density of 837.0 per square mile (322.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 98.55% White, 0.13% African American, 0.23% Native American, 0.31% Asian, 0.09% Pacific Islander, 0.12% from other races, and 0.66% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.77% of the population.

There were 3,596 households out of which 26.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.1% were married couples living together, 12.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.6% were non-families. 34.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.24 and the average family size was 2.86.

In the city the population was spread out with 22.3% under the age of 18, 8.8% from 18 to 24, 26.0% from 25 to 44, 22.1% from 45 to 64, and 20.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 86.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $25,358, and the median income for a family was $34,432. Males had a median income of $32,621 versus $18,765 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,671. About 13.9% of families and 18.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 27.0% of those under age 18 and 10.7% of those age 65 or over.

Notable people


Each year West Frankfort hosts the Old King Coal Festival. This four-day event is held every May. Now coinciding with Rend Lake Festival, held in nearby Benton. Formerly the Old King Coal Festival was held in the third week of September; to pay tribute to coal miners with a parade, concerts, pageants, carnival rides and a wide variety of food.


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