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Valley City Is The Smallest Town In The State
By Beth Zumwalt - "Recopied from the 3.23.2011 Pike Press with permission"
The recent release of U.S. Census numbers only confirmed what most residents strongly suspected - the area was losing population.
And with the latest numbers Valley City, in eastern Pike County, on the banks of the Illinois River, is the smallest town in Illinois. Population - 13.
"That's what they say," Larry Westfall, lifelong resident of Valley City said. "I'd have to go door to door to see if anybody died last night to be sure."
Westfall said he grew up in Valley City in the late 1930s and early 1940s when the town was booming.
"We had a cold storage place, a cider mill, a vinegar mill and an apple peeling plant. My mom worked at the apple peeling plant," he said. "They would peel apples, put them in three pound cans and ship them to Chicago to the Harris Pie Company."
Westfall said a passenger train made regular stops in Valley City back in the day, enough to support three taverns, three grocery stores, a hotel and a drug store.
"And then R.A. Watson, the man who ran the cold storage, owned about six and one half acres on the hill," Westfall said. "He would put tents up there and the people would move in here to work in the orchards. My grandpa had pictures and it looked like the whole hillside was just a big piece of white canvas."
Westfall said the area between Valley City and Griggsville, Blue Creek to Chambersburg was all apple orchards back in the day and in the days before modern technology, all work needed to be done by hand, creating lots of jobs.
"Technology and a lot of the orchard land was sold for farming," he said. "Once there was no apples, there was no use for Valley City."
Westfall said his grandfather used to tell the story of Jesse James and his friends coming to Valley City and riding around shooting the bark off of trees.
"I guess it was true," he said. "I wasn't big enough to call him a liar. He told it like it was the truth."
Westfall said Valley City attracted many interesting visitors in its hay day. "We were part of the Ocean to Ocean road," he said.
Now the Village has 13 residents, many of them Westfall's relatives. The town board consists of Westfall filling the position of clerk and treasurer, Linda Kells as board president, and Mary Westfall, Tim Westfall, Joshua Westfall and Ada Tooley round out the board, which is one short of having a full board.
"Velma Phillips is going to run in April," Westfall said "We'll be back to where we're supposed to be then. We have 13 in the town and eight of them are on the board."
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