Saline County is a county located in the U.S. state of Illinois, in the southern portion known locally as "Little Egypt". According to the 2010 census, it has a population of 24,913, which is a decrease of 6.8% from 26,733 in 2000. Its county seat is Harrisburg. Saline County is home to the smallest post office and the largest KFC in the United States. There are three major towns in Saline County connected by U.S. Route 45, and the now abandoned Cairo and Vincennes/Big Four/New York Central Line, from north to south, Eldorado, Harrisburg, and Carrier Mills.
The Harrisburg Micropolitan Statistical Area includes all of Saline County.
Saline county is currently the 97th poorest county in the state, out of 102.
Saline County was formed from Gallatin County in 1847. It is named for the Saline River and the springs from which salt was produced in the early history of Gallatin County.
Saline County was nearly named "Moredock County", in honor of John Moredock, "Indian slayer". Moredock was an early settler of Illinois who, as a young boy, witnessed the massacre of his family, and spent much of the rest of his life ambushing and murdering Native Americans. Although many early settlers regarded this as wrongful, Moredock was never charged with any crimes.
The creation of Saline County was extremely controversial. Illinois originally had a small number of very large counties. As settlement proceeded, new counties were formed out of the original counties as a routine matter. Gallatin County was an early county that was formed in 1812, and quickly split into around fifteen counties, with Gallatin County remaining with what is now Saline County. This persisted for several decades after the era of rapid formation of counties.
Old Shawneetown was the original county seat of Gallatin County. At that time Old Shawneetown was the largest city and commercial center of Illinois. It was, however, located on the eastern edge of the County. In 1826, the county seat was moved to the new village of Equality, near the center of what was then Gallatin County. Old Shawneetown opposed this move, and sought redress by splitting off Saline County, with the aim of moving the County seat of what remained back to Old Shawneetown. Thus the impetus for the formation of Saline County came not from settlers at the fringe of the county, but from the core of the original county.
Saline County was created by a voice vote in the General Assembly in 1847. Completion of the formation of the county, however, involved three acts of the General Assembly, four decisions of the Illinois Supreme Court and two referendums. The controversy came to involve the leading attorneys of Illinois, including Abraham Lincoln.