History of Woodford County, Illinois

In the following pages an effort has been made to give in a clear, concise manner the history of the settlement and growth of Woodford county. The aim has been to give a condensed, yet complete statement of facts in a clear, unprejudiced way. No attempt has been made to eulogize the men who have made the county what it has become, altho there are many who merit the highest encomiums.

In the preparation of this volume aid has been received from a great number of sources and to all who have so willingly aided in this work, I extend my heartfelt thanks. The little volume is presented to the public with the sincere wish that it may add to the knowledge of local history among our people. Every effort has been made to insure its authenticity, but in a work of this character it is impossible to prevent the creeping in of some mistake. I trust that whatever errors may have occurred in this effort to serve the public may be regarded with the same leniency and kindness as my previous efforts.


Table of Contents

Early Indian Population — Explorations by the Whites — La Salle Floats Down the Illinois — Territories Organized — Division of Illinois into Counties — Woodford County Created — The First Settlement — Spring Bay, Metamora, Walnut Grove, Panther and White Oak Groves Settled — The First Store Opened... Pages 9-16

Relics of Indian Life — Spring Bay Indian Graveyard — Settlement of Spring Bay Township — Mills Erected — Town Founded — Township Organized — Partridge Township Settled — Religious Services Held — Partridge Drainage District — Worth Settled — The First Church Erected at Lourds... Pages 17-24

Settlement of Metamora — Hanover Established — Under- ground Railway — J. A. Ranney Once Conductor — Joseph Morse Once Arrested for Aiding Fugitive Slave — Schools of the Township... Pages 25-33

Walnut Grove Settled — Varsailles Established — First Railroad Thru Township — Eureka and Cruger Founded — Cruger Township Organized — Schools Founded — Cazenovia Settlers — Township Organized and Named — First Postoffice Established — Settlement of ElPaso Township — ElPaso and Kappa Founded — Township Organized... Pages 34-45

History of City and Township of Minonk Coincident — Panola and Minonk Form one Precinct — Township Divided — Settlement of Roanoke — First Schools of Township — Township Organized and Named — Linn Township Settled — Churches Organized — Panola Settled — Kansas and Montgomery Established — Religious and Educational... Pages 46-61

Palestine Settled — Religious History — Township Organized — Clayton Settlements — Linn and Clayton Connected — First Schools of the Township — Greene Township Pioneers — Early Hardships — Township Organized — Noted Men from Greene... Pages 62-75

The Settler's Cabin — Hardships Without — Swamps and Sloughs — Prairie Fire — Farm Implements — Home-Made Clothing — Pioneer Gatherings... Pages 76-84

The Early Schools — The First School— Walnut Grove Academy Founded — Eureka College Charter — Public Schools of To-day — Pioneer Preacher — Church Organizations — The Oldest Pastor in Point of Service — Sunday Schools — Woodford County Y.W.C.A... Pages 85-95

The County Organizes — First Commissioners — First Session of Court — Division into Townships — Supervisors and County Officers... Pages 96-102

County Seat Located at Versailles — Hanover Secures the Prize — New Court House Erected — ElPaso Contests for County Seat — Eureka and Roanoke Seek to Secure the Prize — Elections of 1873-1888-1894 — Seat of Justice Removed to Eureka — New Court House and Jail Erected — County Poor Farm... Pages 103-114

Roads Laid in the County — State Road — First Supervisors of Roads — Stage Coach — Illinois Central Built — Toledo, Peoria and Western Laid Out — Railroads Multiply — Telegraph and Telephone — Automobiles... Pages 115-121

Enlistment in Civil War — History of Woodford County Companies — Black Hawk War-Mexican War — Spanish - American War... Pages 122-133

Cholera Epidemics — Winter of 1830-'31 — Winter of 1836-'37 — Storms of 1858— Storms of 1875 — Other Storms... Pages 134-138

Early Political Views — Lincoln and Douglas Debate — Logan Rally — Campaign of 1888 — Other Elections — List of Officers — County Vote for Presidential Candidates... Pages 139-148

Milling Interests — Explosion at the Secor Mill — Explosion at Panola — Benson Mill — Grain Interests — Banking — The Press — Mining — Eureka Canning Factory — Minonk Produce Company... Pages 149-172

The Early Towns of the County — Bowling Green — Spring Bay — Versailles — Metamora — The Old Metamora House — St. Mary's Orphanage — Religious Interests of the Town... Pages 173-184 CHAPTER XVII.
Settlers of Slabtown — Farniville — Washburn Settled — Religious Interests — ElPaso Founded — Carnegie Library — Educational and Religious Interests — Fires — ElPas'o Fair... Pages 185-198

Minonk Established — Village Surveyed — Minonk School and Churches — Railroads — Incorporated as a City — Benson Surveyed — The Growth of the Town — Churches — Roanoke Settled — The First Postmaster — Village Incorporated — Roanoke Fires... Pages 199-212

Eureka Pounded — Origin of Name— The Industries of the Early Period— The Town Incorporated — Churches — Town of Cruger Platted — Its Business History- Secor Platted in 1857 — Early Comers — Its Business History - Churches and Schools — Panola and Its Early Promise — Pail to Get a Railroad Crossing — Kappa an Early Mail Center — Early Business Prosperity — Ira C. Stone, the Oldest Man in the County — Early Settlers — Low Point — Its First Location — Saw Mill — Railroad — Tile Factory — Cazenovia — Business — School and Churches — Woodford a Grain Station in Minonk Township — Goodfield and Congerville Grain and Business Points in Montgomery Township... Pages 213-231

Miscellaneous — Old Settlers' Picnic — Old Settlers' Association Organized 1874 — Re-organization 1891 — Deer Hunting — Andrew Tomb — Jehu Hinshaw — Peter Kennell — James Finley — Shelby M. Cullom— The Brubakers — Christopher Roth — P.J. Briggs — Thomas Whorrall— The Hammers Family — Woodford County Agricultural Association — John Leys — James Shields, Sr. — Allen Hart — First Jury in Woodford County — Abraham Lincoln — Mrs. Nancy Kirk, the Oldest Woman — The Law — Early Attorneys — Medicine — The First Physician — Woodford County Medical Association — Historical Society Organized 1903 — A Sad Accident — W.E. Wyrick... Pages 232-248


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The brief span of a century serves to embrace the history of the growth and development of Woodford county, yet within that comparatively short period the vast unbroken wilderness has become one of the garden spots of Illinois. Prairies over which deer and wolves roamed unmolested have become the home of a prosperous, energetic farming people. Vast regions, but a few years ago uncrossed save by an Indian trail, are now crossed and recrossed by roads of steel that carry, with constantly increasing efficiency, the growing traffic of an energetic population. Wide sections that were once unbroken by a tree are dotted with groves planted by the hand of man, which add their beauty to the grandeur of the scene. Here and there thriving towns have risen to contribute their share to the wealth and prosperity of a growing country.