Lacon Illinois in 1855

Taken From the Alton Weekly Courier, Alton Illinois
November 29, 1855
Transcribed by Nancy Piper


Lacon, Ill., Nov. 25, 1855

Lacon, the county seat of Marshall county, is situated on the east bank of the Illinois river, thirty-five miles above Peoria.  Marshall was cut off of Putnam, and erected  into a county by act of the Legislature at the session of  1838-9.  At the first election held after the organization of the county, there were but 300 votes polled.

The town of Lacon was laid out in the year 1831, by Babb & Feller, of Somerset, Ohio, and was then called Columbia.  Very few lots were sold, and scarcely any improvement was made until 1836, when extensive additions  were made to the town limits by Ferm, How and others, and in 1837 the name was changed to Lacon.  There were scarce 200 inhabitants in the town in 1840; in 1850 its population had reached 600, and it now numbers about 1600.  By far the larger portion of the inhabitants are Americans - New Englanders and their descendants.   There are some foreigners  in the place - mostly  Irish, with a few Germans.

The packing  of pork and beef is the heaviest business carried on here, it amounts to about  one hundred thousand dollars a year. The grain business is very large, 300,000 bushels  were shipped from here last year, which is probably below average, the crop having been very light.  The heaviest shipments are made to Chicago and the East, through the lakes, but a large amount goes south by the way of St. Louis.  I observe a large number of canal boats now lying at the warf receiving freight for Chicago.

There are two new steam flouring mills in the place, one of which is running, and the other  will be in about ten days.  They have cost about $25,000 a piece and are each calculated to manufacture from 150 to 200 lb's of flour twenty-four hours.  A steam saw-mill, also, is in successful operation. Lacon supports five very large dry goods and variety stores, two clothing stores, four family groceries, two drug stores, and two furniture stores.  A part of the furniture is manufactured here, but the most of it is imported from Cincinnati.  Mr. Ullman, the proprietor of one of the clothing stores, and a gentleman of superior business capacity, told me that all the above houses  were doing  a healthy paying business, which is constantly and steadily on the increase.

Of manufactories I have to enumerate a large establishment for the construction of plows and other agricultural implements, four carriage and wagon shops, six blacksmith shops, four shoemaker's shops, three saddlers, and two tin and iron sheet manufactories, each of which has a stove warehouse in connection.  Coopering is also extensively carried on, and a number of carpenters, brick layers, stone masons, &c., are constantly employed.  There are two watchmakers and jewelers, who make, repair, and keep for sale a small assortment of wares.  There are seven physicians, of the various schools of practice - regular, irregular and mixed - located here, and the place is also infested with seven lawyers. Both these professions are full, the citizens say they do not desire any recruits to either corps.

The New School Presbyterians, Episcopal Methodists and Catholics have each a church edifice erected.  The first named body, being the wealthiest, have much the largest and handsomest church , but the Catholics have the largest congregation. The Baptist and Campbelite denominations have each an organized congregation here, but no church building.

There are no institutions of learning, and the schools of Lacon are only common English.  A brick school house, which is to cost $6,000, is now in process of erection, where a Free District School, of high order, will be kept.

Of secret societies they have here a Lodge of Odd Fellows, and one of Masons, both, I believe, in a prosperous  condition.

-- To be continued.

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