Marissa HGS


Welcome to the Web Site of the Marissa Historical & Genealogical Society


We are committed to help make research easy for everyone.

The Marissa Historical and Genealogical Society was founded in 1969 and was incorporated shortly thereafter. The basic principles of the society are to foster the research of family roots and to preserve and maintain historical records and cultural values for educational purposes.

Historical Facts – August 2018


John Hamilton was an early settler of Marissa.  A story of historical interest concerning the pre-Civil War period was the story of his involvement in strained family relations.  His brother in South Carolina had two sons who were officers in the Confederate Army.  One of the sons, James, commanded a shore battery on Charleston harbor overlooking Fort Sumter.  This fort was getting short of supplies so President Buchanan sent an unarmed supply ship called “The Star of the West” with a suitable cargo to Colonel Robert Anderson and his garrison at the fort.  The supplies never  reached Fort Sumter, for James Hamilton sent a well-directed shot across the vessel’s bow, whereupon she turned back.  The incident occurred on Jan. 9, 1861 before war was declared.  Relations between the north and the south were strained and the situation was getting worse.  This shot was the first one fired denoting the hostile intent of the south.  A short time after that incident, John Hamilton in Marissa received a letter from his brother telling him that his son fired the first shot.  John Hamilton, a great abolitionist, had been writing to his brother, but when his brother wrote that his son fired that first shot, it made John so angry that he sat down and wrote a scalding letter to his brother and they never again corresponded after that.  This is what split up the Hamilton family.

About the Name “Marissa”


About Marissa, Illinois
and Its Name

The Village of Marissa, Illinois is located in the southeastern part of St. Clair County about 40 miles from St. Louis, Missouri in what used to be called Athens precinct. The history of this area goes back to the early 1800’s when farmers settled in this region.

James Wilson, Sr., moved from Chester District, South Carolina with his family and in 1832 settled in Ohio. Five years later, In 1837, they then moved to Illinois and resettled on a farm a few miles southwest of the present Village of Marissa. His son, James, Jr., built his home across the road from his father.

The road that passed their homes was on an early stage coach route and James Wilson, Jr., soon started collecting the mail for the neighbors and established a post office in his home. It took James, Jr., a number of years to get his post office officially recognized by the U.S. Government. On March 31, 1846, President James K. Polk signed the official document appointing James Wilson, Jr., as the first postmaster of the area.

James Wilson, Jr., was a very intelligent man and he enjoyed reading classical literature. He was a student of Latin, Greek and Hebrew historians. It was while he was reading the “Antiquities of the Jews” (sometimes called the “History of the Jewish Wars”) by Flavius Josephus that James came upon a reference to the old extinct Hebrew town of Mareshah. The city of Mareshah is mentioned in the Bible (Joshua 15:44 and II Chronicles 14:9-10). Mareshah was located in Judea about 25 miles SW of Jerusalem and 14 miles NW of Hebron in the valley of Zephathah. The translation of Mareshah is “Marissa.”

James like the name Marissa and as postmaster he needed to name his post office. He therefore chose the name “Marissa” for his post office.

In 1854 James left his farm and post office and William White became the second postmaster of Marissa on December 26, 1854. A few years later the post office moved a third time into a group of homes just northeast into the Hamilton and Baumann store. It is in this area that the Village of Marissa was laid out in 1867.

This small community is a beautiful place that has many well kept old style homes. The Village of Marissa, Illinois, has the distinction of being the only place (town or village or city) in the world named “Marissa.”

Who’s This and What’s That – March 2018



Can you identify the People in this picture??

Please return to this page often as we hope our viewers can quickly give us the answer. We will post new pictures regularly. Hopefully we will not need to re-post any pictures in the future.

As a reminder: Help the future generations by going through your old pictures and identify the people. Do not write their names on top of the picture. Turn the picture over, place it on a hard surface and lightly print the names on the back of the picture. Names should be written in pencil, never in ink.

Caution: Some types of ink will penetrate the photo paper and ruin the picture over time.
NEVER WRITE WITH A BALL-POINT PEN. They can leave an impression on the face of the picture.

Historical Facts – January 2018


January 2018

Robert Higgins moved from the vicinity of Kaskaskia, to a site about 2 miles south of Sparta in 1812.  He is believed to be one of the first settlers in the precinct.  Other families came later and in 1820 you will find the following persons in the same vicinity:  Samuel Nesbit, James Patterson, Major AndrewBorders, Arthur Parks, William and Samuel Gordon, John and James Baird, James McClurken, and possibly others.  A man named Shannon established a store about a mile south in 1828.  This store served these early settlers.  However, a year or two later the store was moved to a building beside what was Armour’s Mill in the present site of Sparta.  The new village then formed and was called Columbus, however the store and post office remained Shannon’s Store until 1839.  At that time the name “Sparta” was given to both the post office and the town.

Historical Facts – December 2017


December 2017

John W. Hesker bought land with James W. Stewart who helped to plat the village of Old Marisasa.  In 1869 Mr. Hesker laid out an addition of his own in the northeast part of Old Marissa, northeast of where the School District 40 offices are now located.  It has been reported that the Hesker home stood on the crest of the hill just east of Coulter’s mill and that house was later occupied by the George Nevin family.    It is also believed that Mr. Hesker was one of the charter members of the Baptist Church. Mr. Hesker had married  Ida Dial and when he died she moved the family to DuQuoin.   There is a tombstone for John Hesker in the Marissa Cemetery  and it indicates that he was born  6 Feb 1840 and died 23 Apr 1878.   After the death of John W., his wife moved the family to DuQuoin, Perry County, Illinois.

Ida (Dial) Hesker (also found as Louisa)  was born 13 Nov 1844 and died  5 Feb 1933 at DuQuoin, Perry County, IL.  On tombstone of husband John W. Hesker, there are no dates for her, only the word “Mother”.


Historical Facts November 2017


November 2017

Did you Know?  that in January 1903 the  Baldwin Bank opened and was ready for business?  The officers of the new concern were E. B. McGuire, Spar, president; S. H. Johnson, vice-president, and W. R. Preston, caxshier.   The board of directors was composed of the abvoe names and N. R. Lessley and F. W. Rabe. (Sparta News-Plaindealer January 2, 1903)

Here’s another Did You Know.  There was an Ancient Order of Nimble Nibblers.  The October 23, 1903 issue of the Sparta-News Plaindealer informed the public that  they were pleasantly entertained on Monday evening by Mrs. W. J. Hood and Mrs. T. A. Brown at the Hood Home.  Mrs. Walter L. Wylie and Mrs. Fred Grenslet were admitted into the membership of the club.