Visitors Guide to
Randolph County, Illinois
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One of two Sparta's in Illinois, the Sparta in Randolph County was originally called Shannon's Store. In 1826 John Armour from Pennsylvania bought the land that is now Sparta and opened a mill and sold the first town lot for $4 in 1829. In 1837 the area was incorporated as the town of Columbus and local businesses included a brickyard, carpenter, blacksmith, steam gristmill, sawmill, and hotel. The Columbus Herald was established by James Morrow in 1839 who promptly sold the paper to John E Detrich. Dietrich was responsible for changing the name of the community to Sparta after ancient Greek city state that was the capital of Laconia, and the rival of Athens.

In 1966 Sparta, Illinois became Sparta, Mississippi for a few months as the movie "In the Heat of the Night" was filmed here. After Sparta was selected as the location the town's name in the story was changed to Sparta so that existing local signs could be used. The movie won five Oscars, including best picture, and involved a lot of locals as extras as well as featuring many shots in and around Sparta. You can still see many of the film's landmarks such as the GM&O railroad depot that now houses the Misselhorn Art Gallery that features an exhibit on the making of the movie.
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