The most important city of Moultrie County is Sullivan. It is situated a little southeast of the center of the county, at the junction of the Wabash, the Illinois Central, and the Chicago and Eastern Illinois. It was laid out and made the seat of justice of the county in 1845, was incorporated as a village in 1850, and as a city in 1872, having a mayor and council. The first business of any kind in the city was a tavern or saloon owned by Joel Earp. The next business to follow was a small store, housed in a frame building that was moved from Glasgow by W. W. Ogleaby. The earliest hotel was erected by Beverly Taylor late in 1847. On the same site an "opera house," imposing for its time, was built in 1871, at a cost of more than $30,000. Here stock companies played current successes of the stage; concerts and lectures were held, and home talent performances given for many years. In the spring of 1846 a schoolhouse was built, costing $85, which was made up by private subscriptions ; the following year the first church building in the town was erected by the Methodists. It was in this city that the Honorable Richard J. Oglesby, later to become Governor of Illinois, first hung out his shingle as an attorney at law.
When the wave of industrial development swept the state and individual business men, forming small independent companies, set up modest industrial establishments in many moderate-sized cities, Sullivan became a thriving center for the district surrounding. Two steam flour mills flourished, where the farmers of the county found a market for their wheat. There were also a woolen mill and a plow factory, which did a prospering if not extensive business. With the gradual trend toward concentration of industry in fewer and larger companies, and toward centralization in cities with the best transportation facilities, the small establishments declined, and with them, often, the towns in which they were located. By 1929 Sullivan's two remaining manufacturing concerns were a concrete works and an ice cream factory, each employing five persons. (206) But the fact that it is the county seat and the trading center for a large and rich hinterland, has enabled the city to maintain itself without serious loss of population, (207) even in a period when the general movement of population is toward the larger cities. Although the flour mills were gone, the grain companies continued to handle the shipment of large quantities of the products of the farms, and the several poultry dealers to receive and export great numbers of the fowl and eggs which the county produces in abundance.
In 1930 the Brown Shoe Company of St. Louis established a branch factory in Sullivan, employing about 650 people. Somewhat later, the Armour Company of Chicago set up a branch establishment for the making of butter and cheese, and the Walker Company, a local enterprise, began the manufacture of machinery for the grading and oiling of roads, which is used throughout central Illinois. The opening of new industries stimulated the growth of population; the exact figure is not available, but it is well over the 1930 mark. The old schoolhouse of 1846 has been superseded by three well equipped public schools, the Lowe and Powers elementary schools and the Sullivan Township High School. A free public library has served the city for a number of years. The Masonic Order chose Sullivan as the site for the Illinois Masonic Home for members of the order and their dependents. Wyman Park, named for its donor, a pioneer shoe merchant, provides a pleasure and beauty spot for the town. Through all the years of its civic development, Sullivan has been primarily a city of homes and small businesses.
The next city of importance in the county is Lovington, named for its pioneer settler, Andrew Love. He was the first postmaster of the settlement, served as county collector, and was active in county affairs in the early years. It was here that the old Black Horse Tavern was built in 1838 to provide rest and refreshment for travelers on the Springfield road. The village grew up around the tavern; homes were built, churches and a schoolhouse, and other places of business. But it was not until 1872 that the village of Lovington was incorporated. It has never had industries of importance, with the exception of a coal mine which operated for a time, but has flourished as a local business center. The Pennsylvania and the Wabash cross here. The census of 1930 showed 1,121 inhabitants. (208)
Arthur, in Lowe Township, lies partly in Moultrie and partly in Douglas County. Laid out along the line of the Illinois Midland (Pennsylvania) in 1872, it was incorporated as a village four years later, and became a junction point of the Pennsylvania and the Chicago and Eastern Illinois. It is the only incorporated town in the county whose population has increased since 1910. At that time 1,080 persona lived in the village; the 1930 census shows l,361. 9209)
Next In size is Bethany in Marrowbone Township, numbering 802 persons. (210) it is an old town, the first dwelling dating back to 1834, although for the next twenty years it made slow growth. Articles of incorporation were taken out in 1877, after the old Peoria, Decatur and Evansville (Illinois Central) came through.
Dalton City, on the Macon County line in Dora Township, is another town born of the railroad boom. It was laid out in 1871, the year that the Decatur, Peoria and Evansville was built from Decatur to Mattoon, and incorporated in 1877. Its population is 403. (211)
Gays, in former years called Summit, on the Big Four in southeastern Whitley Township, with a population of 306, and Allenville on the Illinois Central in East Nelson Township, with 248 inhabitants, are the only remaining incorporated villages.
There are, however, a number of unincorporated places, stations along one of the railroads: Williamsburg in Lowe Township, Lanton
206. Directory of Illinois Manufactures, 3rd ed. (Chicago: Illinois Manufacturers' Association, 1929), p. 648.
207. The population was 2,621 In 1910; 2,532 in 1920; and 2,339 in 1930 Population Bulletin, p. 29.
208. Population Bulletin, p. 29.
Inventory Of The County Archives of Illinois
Prepared by The Illinois Historical Records Survey Project No 70 Moultrie County 1941