When Europeans arrived, three villages of Pottawatomie and Delaware Indians were in the Berlin/New Berlin area. “During the first few years after the first settlers came, the Indians were as numerous as the whites,” reports a New Berlin history in Lincoln Library’s Sangamon Valley Collection.
Berlin was laid out in 1833, but when the Northern Cross Railroad line was located two miles south of the community, many residents and businesses moved to be nearer the railroad. New Berlin, platted in 1838 and incorporated in 1865, remains the larger of the twin villages.
Partly because of inadequate water service, fires devastated New Berlin businesses every few years during the 19th and early 20th centuries, according to the area history. What apparently was the worst, in 1894, destroyed the entire business district. As recently as Nov. 17, 1956, four more New Berlin businesses were lost to a fire.
The New Berlin Area Historical Society has several dozen historic photos here.
The Sangamon County Fair is held each June at the fairgrounds in New Berlin.
Pronunciation note: Local custom is to accent the two names differently: BerLIN, but New BERlin.
Today: New Berlin, population 1,346 in 2010, is approximately 15 miles west of Springfield and south of I-72.
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