The junction of the Illinois Central Railroad and Terre Haute and Alton Railroad at Mattoon assured its viability as a community from the start and the presence of very fertile prairie soil enhanced this early success. The town was named after William B. Mattoon in 1861 for reasons that are not clear. As the chief construction engineer for the Terre Haute and Alton Railroad, the honor may have fallen to him because his company was the first to arrive at the site. Or it may have been the result of a card game win. Another theory is that the residents hoped for his investment if the center was named after him.
Actress Hope Summers, was born in Mattoon and is best-known for her role as Clara Edwards on the Andy Griffith Show. Before the Lincoln-Douglas debate which took place at the Coles County Fairgrounds, both gentlemen slept in Mattoon. And Arland D. Williams, Jr. was a hero of Air Florida Flight 90 which crashed into a bridge in Virginia. Mr. Williams repeatedly gave up his place on the rescue lines to other survivors before his drowning death. The bridge was renamed after him and an elementary school in Mattoon also bears his name.
- Douglas-Hart Nature Center
- Meadowview Golf Course
- Lincoln Log Cabin