Livingston County, Illinois
The four railroads which pass through the county make no small item in the importance and wealth of the county. From their building dates the filling up of our county and the bringing its lands into market. Without them we were, and, in all human probability, would have, remained a waving prairie.
The first road in date of construction, the Chicago & Mississippi, running from Joliet to Alton, was built in 1853 and '54. A few years later, it was sold out on the second mortgage, and bid off by Joel A. Matteson, for $6,500. He run it for a time, and then permitted it to be sold, and it was purchased by T. B. Blackstone and others, who formed the Chicago & Alton Company, and have made it a successful road. The company purchased a controlling interest in the stock of the Chicago & Joliet road, and now, practically, it is a continuous line.
The stations on their main line are Dwight, Odell, Cayuga, Pontiac and Ocoya. In 1869, this road built the Western Division, running from Dwight through the northern part of the county to Streator, thence southwest to Washington, in Tazewell County, with Nevada, Blackstone and Smithdale on it, and about the same time put down a second track from Odell north as far as Gardner.
This road now has sixty miles of track in the county.
In the years 1858 and '59, the Toledo, Peoria & Warsaw road was built through the county. It was then known as the Eastern Extension of the Peoria & Oquawka R. R.
The road becoming embarrassed, the Peoria & Oquawka part of it passed into the possession of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy R. R., and all the company had was an extension to a road they did not own. The company was re-organized as at present known, and pushed their road on, reaching the Mississippi at Burlington, Keokuk and Warsaw. They own eighteen miles of track in this county. Its stations are Fairbury, Forrest and Chatsworth.
The road now known as the Chicago & Paducah has a local history, it being a Livingston County corporation. In 1865, Mr. Samuel L. Fleming, of Pontiac, a man who had spent a small fortune in railroading, drew, and got passed by the Legislature, a charter for a railroad from Ottawa to Fairbury. The corporators named in the charter were S. C. Ladd, B. P. Babcock, Samuel L. Fleming, Nelson Buck, Jonathan Duff, Wm. Strawn, R. B. Harrington, S. C. Crane, John Dehiier, Walter Cornell, M. E. Collins, Ralph Plumb, Enoch Lundy, David Mcintosh, H. L. Marsh, W. G. McDowell, J. W. Strevell, I. B. Tyler and Wrn, B. Lyon.
In 1867, the charter was amended so that the road might run anywhere northerly and southerly of Pontiac—that point being retained. The name, however, in the charter was retained. Under the impetus given to railroad building by the "grab law" of 1869, the company was formed, M. E. Collins being elected President and S. S. Lawrence, Secretary.
The townships of Indian Grove, Avoca, Eppard's Point, Owego, Pontiac, Amity and Newtown issued bonds, and with these in hand the Fairbury, Pontiac & Northwestern Company made a contract with Col. Ralph Plumb, of Streator, Col. W. H. W. Cushman, of Ottawa, and David Strawn, to build and equip the road, transferring to them all the bonds and issuing the stock to them, so that when built it became theirs. In this contract was a stipulation that the parties of the second part would never transfer the road to the Chicago & Alton R. R. Co.; the intent being, of course, to keep this a competing road.
They built the road from Streator through this county, pushing it south through Ford, Champaign, Piatt, Moultrie, Shelby and Effingham Counties to Altamont. Its stations in this county are Newtown, Cornell, Rowe. Pontiac, McDowell, Lodemia, Fairbury, Murphy's and Strawn. It connects at Streator with the Ottawa branch of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy. It has forty-one miles of track in the county.
The Chicago, Pekin & Southwestern has about twelve miles of track through the county, having stations at Reading and Long Point.
Several other railroad projects are in contemplation or progress, principal among which, that are likely to be built at no distant day, are the road from Dwight to Kankakee, and the Decatur & State Line road, to pass through the eastern tier of townships.
[The History of Livingston County, Illinois - Wm. LeBaron, Jr. & Co. - 186 Dearborn Street, Chicago (1878)]
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