Carthage is a city in Hancock County, Illinois, United States. The population was 2,725 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Hancock County. Carthage is most famous for being the site of the murder of Joseph Smith in 1844.
Hancock County, and Carthage, saw its first settlers arrive sometime in the first few decades of the 19th century. By 1833, simple buildings had been erected in Carthage, and the town was platted in 1838. By this time Carthage had become the county seat of Hancock county.
The only person legally hanged in Hancock County, Efram Fraim, was defended in his trial by roaming country attorney Abraham Lincoln. Fraim was found guilty of murder. Lincoln filed an appeal with the judge in the trial, which was as far as appeals in those days mostly went. Because at the time Carthage had no jail, Fraim was kept at the Courthouse, which was next to the school. Fraim would converse with the children from his second floor window. As a result of these conversations, most of the school children were present when their new friend, Efraim, was hung. The hanging is believed to have taken place in the vicinity of the current city sewer plant east of town, where a natural amphitheater allowed for a crowd to view the spectacle.