Columbia (Lacon) was laid out in 1831 in a dense hazelbrush thicket on the east shore of the Illinois River. On the first day of land sales in Springfield, July 18, 1831, 67.15 acres of the town site were bought by General Jonathan Babb and Major Henry Filler, both of Somerset, Ohio. Other sales were made to Robert Bird, who became one of the early settlers of Belle Plain Township and Jesse and John Morgan, who sold out a year later to Ira Fenn. A public sale of lots was held September 28, 1831. Fifteen persons attended the sale and 25 lots were sold at from five to ten dollars east. Purchasers were, Jesse Sawyer, Samuel Russell, Henry K. Cassel, Thaddeus Barney, William Haws, A.N. Denning, Elisha Swan, Jesse C. Smith and Joseph Johnson. No immediate improvements were made. Cassell built a cabin the following spring but did not occupy it until 1834.
Elisha Swan, who had bought a lot in Columbia at the 1831 land sale, brought a stock of merchandise and opened a store at the foot of the hill 1 1/2 miles east of Columbia. In 1833, he moved his stock to the site of what now is Henry where he intended to open a store and found a town. However, the land was part of a school section and he was unable to secure a title. Swan then returned to Columbia in the fall of 1833, and became the first resident of Columbia.
In 1832, Elisha Swan had gotten a license for $5 from Putnam County for a ferry across the river at Columbia. In the fall of 1834, there were four cabins in Columbia. Dr. Condee came in 1834 and taught school one term. He then entered into partnership with Dr. Robert Boal.
In 1836 flouring mill was completed by Jesse C. Smith across from his store on the river shore. Later grain elevators were built on that spot. Columbia’s name was changed to Lacon. It was named for a book called “Lacon”, a philosophical writing by Rec. C.C. Colton. The Marshall House open and was the first hotel in Lacon. The cemetery was laid out at the southwest edge of town and the first burial was the daughter of Virgil Lancaster. The first steam saw mill was built by Barrows and Case in the south end of town. The Methodist congregation was established with the church being built the next year.
In 1839, Lacon had a population of 200 people. The first school was established in 1837 and Jane Kilgore taught the first classes in the spring of 1837. The first high school in Lacon was built in 1857. A post office was establish din Lacon in 1835 and Doctor Effner, the community’s second physician was named postmaster. Lacon was incorporated in 1837 and a board of trustees was elected with William Fenn, president and Ira I. Fenn, clerk. The trustees formed the local government until 1854 the government was changed to a mayor and council type.
William Fisher was elected the first mayor on April 3, 1854. In 1883, the first Hook and Ladder fire company was organized with S.N. Chapman, chief engineer. A fire bell was installed on the city hall roof. The bell served until 1916, when a fire whistle was installed on the roof of the telephone office.