Knox County was named in honor of Henry Knox, the first US Secretary of War.
The first "Knox County" in Illinois is unrelated to the modern incarnation. In 1790, the land that was to become Illinois was divided into two counties: St. Clair and Knox. The latter included land in what was to become Indiana. When Knox County, Indiana was formed from this portion of the county in 1809, the Illinois portions were subdivided into counties that were given other names.
The modern Knox County, Illinois, was organized in 1825, from Fulton County, itself a portion of the original St. Clair County. The original Knox County seat was located in Knoxville. In 1869, after years of political maneuverings between Knoxville and Galesburg, residents of the county voted by a narrow margin to move the seat to Galesburg. The move was delayed while the vote was contested by Knoxville in the Courts. Finally, in early 1873, nearly four years after the vote, the Courts issued their decision and the county seat was moved to its current location.