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Livingston County, Illinois
Genealogy and History

Odell History
Livingston County, Illinois


(Transcribed by: Teri Moncelle Colglazier)

Situated on that leading Illinois highway, US 66, the incorporated village of Odell, just northeast of Pontiac, today has a population of 908.

In addition to numerous retail stores and service establishments, the village has banking facilities and a postoffice. Through it runs the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroad.

Odell was laid out on the Chicago & Mississippi Railroad in 1855 by William E. Odell, Henry A. Gardner and S. S. Morgan. The first hotel in Odell was built by A. A. Streator.

Today, Odell is the principal communityof Odell Township, which has a total population of 1,375.

First settlers of the township were a handful of employees of the Chicago & Mississippi Railroad who built shacks at the new Odell station and who attended not only to the station but to a water tank and to road maintenance. One of these, Daniel Smith, became first station agent as well as first postmaster of Odell village.

[This is Livingston County, Illinois by: John Drury, The Loree Co., Chicago, Illinois (1955)]

Odell Sesquicentennial 1854-2004
Livingston County, Illinois
Thursday September 9, 2004

Transcribed by Faye Clark for Illinois Genealogy Trails, ©2006

In 1847, the Illinois legislature made a move that would dramatically transform Central Illinois. The legislature passed an act authorizing the building of a railroad from Alton to Springfield, to be called the Alton & Sangamon Railroad. The charter was amended in 1851 to include a line to Bloomington, for what was known as the Chicago & Mississippi Railroad, extending from Chicago, by way of Joliet, to Bloomington, thus completing a line from Chicago to St. Louis.

The railroad was finished through this county in 1854, and the first train passed through what was to become Odell on the 4th day of July. The road, in its early years, suffered many reverses and drawbacks; but, under its later management, by steady and enduring perseverance and a liberal course toward its patrons, thus gaining their hearty cooperation, the line had become the most important and wealthy in the state.

As the immediate point of attraction for this vicinity was the station, so the first settlements were made, quite naturally, as close to it as circumstance would allow. The land on which the town of Odell has subsequently been built was owned, primarily, by James C. Spencer and Henry A. Gardner. They purchased the land of the Government May 4, 1853.

Spencer owned the north half of the quarter section, and Gardner the south half. Of this, Spencer sold, September 3, 1853, his land to William H. Odell, after whom the town of Odell was named, and who subsequently became one of the joint proprietors of the town. On the 7th of June, 1855, Gardner and Odell exchanged deeds of their undivided half interests in their respective pieces of land, and thus became equal partners in the north west quarter of Section 10, which embraced all of the original town of Odell. A short time after this, June 26, 1855, S. S. Morgan, who has, perhaps, had more to do with the early growth and development of the town and township than any other man, purchased the interest of Odell; and by Morgan, and for him and Henry A Gardner, the plat of the town was made.

The town was surveyed and platted by Thomas F. Norton, Deputy County Surveyor, August 10, 1856, the proprietors having previously conveyed to the Chicago & Mississippi Railroad Company fifty feet on each side of the railroad track, extending through the whole quarter section. Thus was the town firmly fixed, and the attention of emigrants consequently turned to this vicinity.

After the surveying and platting of the village, the lots were offered for sale, and many of the best were purchased for $20 to $30 each. The business lots, first sold, almost all went at the former price.

By the Spring of 1858, the town had increased to nearly one hundred inhabitants, numbering eighteen or twenty families, among whom, were W. M. Brown, Joseph L. Walton, Eli Pearson, Levi Dell, Samuel and Charles Packwood, J. E. Williams, Augustus H. Coleman, Thomas Hamlin, George Skinner, W. D. T. Hedenberg, Elisha Williams, C. N. Coe, Edwin Chapman, John Evans, Hanford Kerr.

In 1858, the first election under what is known as the "Township Organization Act" was held in the county. The election for township officers, for Odell Township, took place at the store of Curtiss & Dewy. William M. Brown was elected Moderator, and S. S. Morgan chosen Clerk pro tem. There were twenty-three votes cast, and the following persons were elected to the respective offices: S. S. Morgan, Supervisor; A. A. Streator, Clerk; Joseph L. Walton, Assessor; Joseph French, Collector; Joseph French and E. W. Pearson, Constables; John Harbison, Augustus H. Coleman and William M. Brown, Road Commissioners; Oscar Dewy and Samuel Packwood, Justices of the Peace; W. D. F. Hedenber, Overseer of the Poor.

The first grain was shipped from the station in 1855, by James Henry. This grain was not handled by any dealer, by was loaded from the wagons directly into the cars, and this continued to be the principal method of disposing of the products of the farm until 1861 , when E. L. Kent, of Pontiac, built the elevator.

In 1866, J. & W. Hossack erected their fine elevator, which, for capacity and convenience for handling grain, had few superiors in the State. The cost of the building was $23,000; it was sixty feet in width and ninety in length, and had a capacity of 60,000 bushels.

The Village of Odell was organized February 8, 1867. The Board of Trustees was organized with John McWilliams, President; B. F. Washburn, Clerk; and trustees John Hossack, S. S. Morgan, T. O. Bannister and Jason Curtiss. A. S. Putnam was appointed Constable. In 1869, the village came under the Princeton Charter, which prohibited the town board from granting licenses to sell intoxicants, and which continued in force until 1872, when it was reorganized under general law.

In 1869, one of the worst rains and floods visited this section of the county. Here in Odell it was accompanied by hail which resulted in great damage to growing crops. It lasted the last three days of June and the first four days of July.

Another great disaster struck Odell on Wednesday May 12, 1886 at 3:45 p.m. A terrific tornado demolished business houses, dwellings, unroofed half of the principal business block, laid waste fences, trees, sidewalks. The loss to buildings and damage to sticks of good was estimated at fifty thousand dollars.


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