Livingston County, Illinois
Chatsworth is in the eastern tier of townships, and is known as Town 26 north, Range 8 east of the Third Principal Meridian. It is fine rolling prairie, with the exception of Oliver's Grove in the southern part, a grove of, perhaps, as fine natural timber as Livingston County can furnish. Like all the prairie country, the people have devoted a great deal of attention to the planting and cultivation of trees, until beautiful groves of timber are to be found on every section of land in the township.
Originally, Chatsworth embraced Forrest and Germantown, and was known as Oliver's Grove Township. But many of the citizens disliking a compound name, petitioned the Board of Supervisors for a change, at their annual meeting, the second year of township organization. William H. Jones, who was the Supervisor at the time, gave it the name of Chatsworth, which it has ever since borne. The name is said to have been taken from an English story he had read, in which "Lord Chatsworth" figures as a principal character.
The first settlement made in what is now Chatsworth Township was by Franklin C Oliver, who, at the age of 92 years, still occupies his original claim.
" The ghostly shade of a man he seemed ;
His teeth were white as milk ;
And the long, white hair on his forehead gleamed
Like skeins of tangled silk."
He came from the State of New Jersey in 1832, and settled here among the Indians, with whom he ever remained on the most friendly terms. When other white people in the surrounding settlements, becoming frightened at the warlike reports of the Black Hawk campaign, retreated toward the Wabash settlements, Oliver remained upon his claim, and "went in and out" among the red men without molestation. His father, he informed us, was a Quartermaster in the Revolutionary war, and many of the old soldier's official papers were in his possession until some years ago, when his house was burned and they met the fate of much of his household property. Many of these papers, he said, were rather quaint, and would present a marked contrast, doubtless, to the ponderous accounts and vouchers of a Quartermaster in our late war. Mr. Oliver and his family were the only white people in the township for many years. A number of settlements were made in Indian Grove and other timbered localities, but not till away up in the "fifties" were other settlements made in Chatsworth. In 1855, Job H. and George S. Megquier settled in this township. They were from Maine, and the former now lives in the village of Chatsworth ; the latter died in 1871.
David Stewart came here from the State of New York in 1856. He bought land and settled in the town, where he remained for a number of years, when his wife died and he became dissatisfied, sold out and moved away.
Romanzo Miller was a Vermonter, and settled here in 1855. He finally sold his land and removed to Iowa, where he still remained, at last accounts of him.
John Snyder and Trueman Brockway were from New York, the Empire State of the Union. Snyder came in 1856 and made a settlement, upon which he died about 1868. Brockway had settled in El Paso in 1855, but came here in 1857. He was a single man when he came to Chatsworth, but after permanently locating, went back to New York, married and brought his wife here to share his Western home.
Addison Holmes came from Indiana in 1855. After remaining for several years, he sold out and removed to Champaign County, in this State, where he still resides.
John P. Hart was from the blue-grass of Kentucky, and came in 1856. A young man named James Greenwood came with him, and worked on his farm as long as he remained here. Hart owned a large tract of land, but finally sold it and removed to Arkansas.
Peter Van Weir came from the "Faderland"' on the banks of the Rhine. He settled here in 1858, but had lived for a while in Panola, Woodford County, before coming to this settlement. He finally removed into Charlotte Township.
Wm. H. Jones came here from La Salle County in the Fall of 1857. His family still reside here, but he, at present, is doing business at Burr Oak Station, in Ford County.
The first birth and death are supposed to have occurred in Mr. Oliver's family, as he was here so long before any other white people settled in the town.
The first marriage particularly remembered was Samuel Patton and Miss Nellie Desmond in 1861, and they were married by the Baptist minister, stationed, at that time, in Fairbury.
The first birth among the more modern settlers, was a child born to Trueman Brockway. The first death also occurred in his family in 1861.
A man—a stranger that no one knew—was struck by lightning soon after the death of Brockway's child. He came to the village of Chatsworth, looking for work, and had been down on the prairie, where his . efforts had failed, had come back, and while walking near the railroad track, was killed by lightning, not far from where Felker's store now stands.
The first blacksmith shop in the town was opened by Samuel Patton in 1859. It was then the only shop between Fairbury and Gilman. William H. Jones was the first Justice of the Peace in the town, and held the office when Forrest and Germantown were included in Chatsworth. Dr. D. W. Hunt was the first resident physician. He came here, and still resides in the village of Chatsworth, and practices his profession in the township.
From the school records, we find the first meeting was held at the house of John R. Snyder, the 12th of April, 1858, when the town was still called Oliver's Grove. The following Board of Trustees were elected: Franklin Oliver. J. H. Megquier and Franklin Foot. On the 20th of the same month, the Trustees held a meeting and elected Wm. H. Jones, School Treasurer.
In the Summer of this year, the first school was taught in the township, by Miss Jennie Adams. At present, there are seven school districts, with good, substantial frame houses in each district. The office of Treasurer was held by Jones until 1872, when J. T. Bullard was elected and still has the office.
The following facts are taken from his last report to the Superintendent of Schools : Number of males in township under 21 years of ago, 491 ; females, 444 ; total, 935 ; number of males attending school, 198 ; females, 208 ; total, 406 ; number of male teachers employed, 5 ; female teachers, 11, total teachers employed, 16 ; estimated value of school property, f15,600 ; estimated value of school apparatus, $225 ; principal of township fund, $8,133.01 ; tax levy for the support of schools, $3,365 ; highest monthly wages paid teacher, $110 ; lowest monthly wages paid teachei', $25; average monthly wages paid male teachers, $66.88 ; average monthly wages paid female teachers, $37.50 ; whole amount paid teachers, $4,751.25. The present Board of Trustees are J. M. Roberts, President: L. T. Stoutraeyer and S. T. Compton. The schools of Chatsworth Township are in a flourishing condition, and compare favorably with those of any other section of the county.
The first township meeting was held at the house of Franklin Oliver on the 6th of April, 1858, and officers elected for the year for the " Town of Oliver's Grove." The first election resulted as follows: James G. Meredith, Supervisor; W. H. Jones and J. G. Harper, Justices of the Peace ; C. Hart and B. Harbert, Constables ; John Towner, Assessor ; J. B. Snyder, Collector, and Charles Cranford, Town Clerk.
At the next election. April 1, 1859, William H. Jones was elected Supervisor : Charles Cranford, Town Clerk and Assessor also, and R. R. Miller, Collector.
At the meeting of April 3, 1860. Jones and Cranford were re-elected Supervisor and Town Clerk ; I. J. Krack Assessor, and J. G. Meredith, Collector.
The officers of the Township at present are as follows : G. W. Cline, Supervisor ; J. H. Megquier and Peter Shroyer, Justices of the Peace ; Charles Weinland, Assessor ; Charles Reiss, Collector, and Thomas Nash, Town Clerk.
As already stated, Chatsworth, at the time of township organization, embraced the town of Forrest and the fractional town of Germantown.
At the meeting of the Board of Supervisors in 1861, Forrest, on petition, was set off, and became a separate and distinct township, and at the September meeting of Supervisors for 1867, Germantown petitioned for separation, and was set off at this meeting, since which time it has been a separate town.
Since these divisions and separations, Chatsworth remains still a complete Congressional township of thirty-six sections.
When the settling up of the town began, about 1855, deer and prairie wolves were the almost undisputed possessors of the soil. In portions of Oliver's Grove, there are still deer to be occasionally seen, but they are becoming very scarce, and will soon all be gone, while the wolf, the natural foe of the settler, is almost if not wholly exterminated.
The first preacher to proclaim the Word of God in this section was Old Father Walker, as he was called, of Ottawa, who in 1832 established a mission among the Indians, whose lodges were then spread in Oliver's Grove. The following extract is from an address delivered before the Old Settlers' Society by Judge McDowell, of Fairbury, at the annual meeting in 1877 :
“The early footprints of Methodism began in this part of the country in 1832, Old Father Walker, who established a mission at the Kickapoo town (now Oliver's Grove), where there was, at that time, a village of ninety-seven wigwams, one large council house, several small encampments, and 630 Indians in all, men, women and children. Father Walker came out occasionally and held meetings with them, appointed and ordained a missionary minister of their own tribe, who always held services on the Sabbath, when Father Walker was not there. Their prayer book was a walnut board, on which were characters carved with a knife, and at the top an engraving. They had a great respect for the Sabbath, and no Indian thought of retiring at night without consulting his board."
These ministrations of Father Walker were the first we have any account of in this section, and were probably the first in Livingston County. As there are no church buildings in the township, outside of the village of Chatsworth, this part of our history will be again alluded to in connection with the village. The old Indian trail that marked the dividing line between the Kickapoo and Pottawatomie tribes was plainly visible through this town, long after settlements were made and the pale-faces had become numerous. And there are still settlers living here who can point out the line along which the trail led.
The Toledo, Peoria & Warsaw Railway was completed through the township, and trains commenced running regularly in 1857. This brought immigrants to the neighborhood, and was the means of the rapid settling up of this town and the surrounding country. The amount of grain and stock shipped from Chatsworth Township over this road is truly wonderful. The Kankakee & South Western Railroad, projected to run from Kankakee City, through Chatsworth Township, tapping the Gilman, Clinton & Springfield, at Gibson City, will probably be in process of construction in a short time, it is supposed that the Illinois Central is the ''power behind the throne" in this new road, and will push it forward to completion, in order to open to them (the Illinois Central) a more direct route between Chicago and St. Louis. The new Company only ask the right of way through Second street, in the village of Chatsworth, which has been unanimously given.
Politically, Chatsworth is pretty evenly divided on national questions probably Republican by a few votes. Its record during the late war was good for so thinly a populated section as this was at that time. N. C. Kenyon, the present Postmaster of Chatsworth village, was Colonel of the Eleventh Regiment of Illinois Volunteer Infantry, one of the brave regiments of Illinois, that it is said, did as much hard fighting during the war as any regiment from the State. Conrad Heppe, a resident at present of the village, has served nine years in the United States army, mostly in New Mexico. Many other brave fellows shouldered their muskets and went forth from this and from Charlotte Township (which at the commencement of the war was a part of Chatsworth), to the front, where "war's red blast raged the fiercest."
[The History of Livingston County, Illinois - Wm. LeBaron, Jr. & Co. - 186 Dearborn Street, Chicago (1878)]