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Thomson, Illinois

Coordinates: 41°57′31″N 90°05′56″W / 41.95861°N 90.09889°W / 41.95861; -90.09889
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The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad depot in Thomson in November 2016, serving as a museum.
The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad depot in Thomson in November 2016, serving as a museum.
The Melon Capital of the World
Location of Thomson in Carroll County, Illinois.
Location of Thomson in Carroll County, Illinois.
Location of Illinois in the United States
Location of Illinois in the United States
Coordinates: 41°57′31″N 90°05′56″W / 41.95861°N 90.09889°W / 41.95861; -90.09889
CountryUnited States
 • Village PresidentVicky Trager[1]
 • Total2.22 sq mi (5.75 km2)
 • Land2.22 sq mi (5.75 km2)
 • Water0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
Elevation597 ft (182 m)
 • Total1,610
 • Density725.55/sq mi (280.19/km2)
Time zoneUTC-6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP Code(s)
Area code815
FIPS code17-75172
Wikimedia CommonsThomson, Illinois

Thomson is a village along Illinois Route 84 near the Mississippi River in Carroll County, Illinois, United States. The population was 590 at the 2010 census, up from 559 at the 2000 census. Just north of the village is the United States Penitentiary, Thomson, a mostly-unused former state prison, purchased by the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 2012. Currently USP Thomson houses over 100 low-security inmates as it remodels to federal maximum-security standards.

Thomson is known for wonderful watermelons, and it has the nickname "Melon Capital of the World."[4]



Thomson is located at 41°57′37″N 90°6′11″W / 41.96028°N 90.10306°W / 41.96028; -90.10306 (41.960168, -90.103152),[5] about a mile (kilometer and a half) east of the Mississippi River in northwestern Illinois, 9 miles (14 km) northeast of Clinton, Iowa, 38 miles (61 km) northeast of Moline, Illinois in the Quad Cities, and 120 miles (190 km) west of Chicago.

According to the 2021 census gazetteer files, Thomson has a total area of 2.22 square miles (5.75 km2), all land.[6]


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[7]

As of the 2020 census[8] there were 1,610 people, 190 households, and 127 families residing in the village. The population density was 725.55 inhabitants per square mile (280.14/km2). There were 263 housing units at an average density of 118.52 per square mile (45.76/km2). The racial makeup of the village was 58.45% White, 36.65% African American, 2.11% Native American, 0.43% Asian, 0.12% from other races, and 2.24% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 12.55% of the population.

There were 190 households, out of which 13.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.63% were married couples living together, 14.21% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.16% were non-families. 30.00% of all households were made up of individuals, and 14.74% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.35 and the average family size was 1.94.

The village's age distribution consisted of 12.2% under the age of 18, 11.9% from 18 to 24, 20.3% from 25 to 44, 27.2% from 45 to 64, and 28.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 52.9 years. For every 100 females, there were 88.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.1 males.

The median income for a household in the village was $51,071, and the median income for a family was $62,031. Males had a median income of $27,330 versus $25,250 for females. The per capita income for the village was $30,156. About 4.7% of families and 11.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 31.1% of those under age 18 and 3.8% of those age 65 or over.





The United States Penitentiary, Thomson (formerly Thomson Correctional Center) was opened in 2001, but as of 2009 has never had a prisoner in its main, 1600-bed maximum-security unit; the only prison population has been in the 200-bed minimum-security unit, which was populated in 2006 and averages about 150 prisoners. The minimum security unit has an annual budget of $7 million.[9] State budget constraints, as well as labor union opposition to closing other state prisons, prevented the maximum-security prison from opening.[9]

In 2008, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich proposed closing the state prison in Pontiac, Illinois and opening the Thomson maximum-security unit instead. However, Blagojevich was subsequently arrested on December 9, 2008, and removed from office. His replacement, Governor Pat Quinn cancelled plans to close the Pontiac prison in March 2009, leaving Thomson unused.[9]

In 2009 the United States government announced that prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp would be moved to the prison in Thomson.[10] CNN stated that before the decision was announced, many people in the town wanted the Guantanamo prisoners to be housed there so the town could get economic benefits.[9][11]

On December 15, 2009, President Barack Obama ordered the federal government to proceed with acquisition of the underutilized state prison in Thomson to be the new home for a limited number of terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.[12] The facility was also used as a Bureau of Prisons facility to house other federal inmates. In response to the 2009 presidential order, the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which represents 13,000 Illinois prison staff, argued that rather than turn the maximum-security unit over to the Federal government, it should be used to relieve overcrowding in other Illinois prisons. AFSCME claims that the other facilities were designed for 32,000 prisoners, but currently house 45,000.[9] Subsequent Congressional banning of federal expenditures for imprisoning in the United States of terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, stopped the Obama plans regarding those terror suspects, even though the federal government announced on October 2, 2012, that the acquisition of Thomson is going forward.


  1. ^ "Incorporated Cities, Towns & Villages of Illinois" (PDF). Illinois Blue Book (2021-2022 ed.). Springfield. ISSN 0191-104X. OCLC 1645571.
  2. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved March 15, 2022.
  3. ^ "USGS detail on Newtown". Retrieved October 21, 2007.
  4. ^ Moreno, Richard (2011). Illinois curiosities : quirky characters, roadside oddities, and other offbeat stuff. Guilford, Conn.: Globe Pequot Press. ISBN 978-0-7627-5861-6. OCLC 666237206.
  5. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  6. ^ Bureau, US Census. "Gazetteer Files". Census.gov. Retrieved June 29, 2022.
  7. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  8. ^ "Explore Census Data". data.census.gov. Retrieved June 28, 2022.
  9. ^ a b c d e Barrett, Joe (December 19, 2009). "Guantanamo Detainees Welcome Here". Wall Street Journal. p. A6.
  10. ^ "Some Guantanamo detainees to be moved to Illinois." CNN.com. December 15, 2009. Retrieved on December 15, 2009.
  11. ^ Fantz, Ashley (December 15, 2009). "Many in Illinois town hope locating Gitmo detainees there helps business". CNN.com. Retrieved December 15, 2009.
  12. ^ Jackson, Henry C. (December 15, 2009). "Rural Illinois prison to get some Gitmo detainees". Yahoo!. Associated Press. Archived from the original on December 16, 2009. Retrieved December 16, 2009.