Early Indian Population-Explorations by the Whites- La Salle Floats Down the Illinois-Territories Organized-Division of Illinois into Counties-Woodford County Created-The First Settlement-Spring Bay, Metamora, Walnut Grove, Panther and White Oak Groves Settled-The First Store Opened ...Pages 9-16
Relics of Indian Life-Spring Bay Indian Graveyard-Settlement of Spring Bay Township-Hills Erected-Town Founded-Township Organized-Partridge Town ship Settled-Religious Services Held-Partridge Drainage District-Worth Settled-The First Church Erected at boards Pages 17-24
Settlement of Metamora-Hanover Established-Underground Railway-J. A. Ranney Once Conductor--Joseph Morse Once Arrested for Aiding Fugitive Slave -Schools of the Township Pages 25-33
Walnut. Grove Settled-Versailles Established-First Rail road Thru Township-Eureka and Cruger Founded-Cruger Township Organized-Schools Pounded-Cazenovia Settlers-Township Organized and Named-First Postoffice Established-Settlement of ElPaso Township -ElPaso and Kappa Founded-Township Organized Pages 34-45
History of City and Township of Minonk Coincident- Panola and Minonk Formed one Precinct-Township Divided-Settlement of Roanoke-First Schools of Township-Township Organized and Named-Linn Township Settled-Churches Organized-Panola Settled -Kansas and Montgomery Established-Religious and Educational Pages 46-61
Palestine Settled-Religious History-Township Organized -Clayton Settlements-Linn and Clayton Connected -First Schools of the Township-Greene Township Pioneers-Early Hardships-Township Organized-Noted Men from Greene Pages 62-75
The Settler's Cabin-Hardships Without-Swamps and Sloughs-Prairie Fire-Farm Implements-Home-Made Clothing-Pioneer Gatherings .... Pages 76-84
The Early Schools-The First School-Walnut Grove Academy Founded-Eureka College Charter-Public Schools of Today-Pioneer Preacher-Church Organizations-The Oldest Pastor in Point of Service- Sunday Schools-Woodford County Y. W. C. A. Pages 85-95
The County Organizes-First Commissioners-First Session of Court-Division into Townships-Supervisors and County Officers Pages 96-102
County Seat Located at Versailles-Hanover Secures the Prize-New Court House Erected-ElPaso Contests for County Seat-Eureka and Roanoke Seek to Secure the Prize-Elections of 1873-1883-1894-Seat of Justice Re moved to Eureka-New Court House and Jail Erected -County Poor Farm Pages 103-114
Roads Laid in the County-State Road-First Supervisors of Roads-Stage Coach-Illinois Central Built-Toledo, Peoria and Western Laid Out-Railroads Multiply- Telegraph and Telephone-Automobiles Pages 115-121
Enlistment in Civil War-History of Woodford County Companies-Black Hawk War-Mexican War-Spanish-American War Pages 122-133
Cholera Epidemics-Winter of 1830-'31-Winter of 1836-'37-Storms of 1858-Storms of 1875-Other Storms Pages 134-138
Early Political Views-Lincoln and Douglas Debate-Logan Rally-Campaign of 1888-Other Elections-List of Officers-County Vote for Presidential Candidates Pages 139-148
Milling Interests-Explosion at the Secor Mill-Explosion at Panola-Benson Mill-Grain Interests-Banking -The Press-Mining-Eureka Canning Factory- Minonk Produce Company Pages 149-172
The Early Towns of the County-Bowling Green-Spring Bay-Versailles-Metamora-The Old Metamora House -St. Mary's Orphanage-Religious Interests of the Town Pages 173-184
Settlers of Slabtown-Farniville-Washburn Settled-Religious Interests-ElPaso Founded-Carnegie Library -Educational and Religious Interests- Fires-ElPaso Fair Pages 185-198
Minonk Established -Village Surveyed-Minonk School and Churches-Railroads- Incorporated as a City-Benson Surveyed-The Growth of the Town-Churches -Roanoke Settled-The First. Postmaster-Village Incorporated-Roanoke Fires Pages 109-212
Eureka Pounded-Origin of Name-The Industries of the Early Period-The Town Incorporated-Churches-Town of Cruger Platted-Its Business History-Secor Platted in 1857-Early Comers-Its Business History-Churches and Schools-Panola and Its Early Promise -Fail to Get a Railroad Crossing-Kappa an Early Mail Center-Barly Business Prosperity -Ira C. Stone, the Oldest Man in the County-Early Settlers- Low Point-Its First Location-Saw Mill-Railroad-Tile Factory-Cascenovia-Business-School and Churches-Woodford a Grain Station in Minonk Township-Goodfield and Congerville Grain and Business Points in Montgomery Township Pages 213-231
Miscellaneous-Old Settlers' Picnic-Old Settlers' Association Organized 1874-Re-organization 1891 - Deer Hunting-Andrew Tomb-Jehu Hinshaw-Peter Kennell-James Finley-Shelby M. Cullom-The Brubakers -Christopher Roth-F. J. Briggs-Thomas Whorrall-The Hammers Family-Woodford County Agricultural Association-John Leys-James Shields. Sr-Allen Hart-First Jury in Woodford County-Abraham Lincoln-Mrs. Nancy Kirk, the Oldest Woman-The Law-Early Attorneys-Medicine-The First Physician -Woodford County Medical Association-Historical Society Organized 1903-A Sad Accident-W. E. Wyriek Pages 232-248
The brief span of a century serves to embrace the history of the growth and development of Woodford county, yet within that comparatively short period the vast unbroken wilderness has become one of the garden spots of Illinois. Prairies over which deer and wolves roamed un-molested have become the home of a prosperous, energetic farming people. Vast regions, but a few years ago uncrossed save by an Indian trail, are now crossed and repressed by roads of steel that carry, with constantly increasing efficiency, the growing traffic of an energetic population. Wide sections that, were once unbroken by a tree are dulled with groves planted by the hand of man, which add their beauty to the grandeur of the scene. Here and there thriving towns have risen to contribute their share to the wealth and prosperity of a growing country.
The territory now embraced within the borders of Woodford county was once the camping ground of roving Indian tribes. The early settlers found here scattered representatives of the Pottawotamies. These were as a role friendly to the whites, altho occasionally some slight disturbance caused a rupture between them for the time being. During the winter of 1830-'31, which was noted for the great snow, they proved of great assistance to the settlers. Other tribes roamed over this region at an earlier date, among which were Foxes and Sacs. North of Woodford county, near La Salle, lies Starved Rock where the now famous lllini made their final stand against their enemies and were destroyed. These tribes hunted freely over that part of Illinois of which Woodford is a part. The western portion of the county is particularly rich in relics of an early Indian occupation. Along the banks of the Illinois are numerous mounds that are the relies of a departed people. A number of these have been opened and found to contain various weapons and other tokins of the manner of living of our predecessors. Near Metamora there are evidences of that region having been the scene of that fierce battle between Indian tribes. North of there was the lodge of the chief Black Partridge, whose name is handed down to us in the township of that name.
This portion of the county has the honor of being first chosen by the pioneer as a place of settlement. The traveler thru that region feels taht he is on historic grounds. In 1680 La Salle, the great French explorer, floated down the Illinois and built on the bank of the river the Fort Creve Couer, now famous in the history of the state. The exact location of the fort is in dispute, but the latest claim is that made by Dan R. Sheen, the well-known attorney of Peoria, who believes it was located on this side of the river on the farm he now owns in Tazewell county. Be that as it may, there is little doubt that the western part of our county was visited by the great explorer and his followers. The region now embraced in the boundaries of the county has belonged at various times to different territories, and, since the division of Illinois into counties began, it has been a part of a number of different counties. At the time of the Revolutionary war, three colonies, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Connecticut, claimed possessions in the territory now included in Illinois. In 1778 Virginia, which claimed the central and southern parts of the state, formed its possessions, Woodford together with the rest, into a county called Illinois, named in honor of the tribe of Indians. When the territory was organized at a later date this name was retained. At that time this portion of the state was an unbroken wilderness. The most visionary would have found little prospect of future greatness.
At the close of the Revolutionary war, these states ceded their possessions to the National government, and in 1787 the region northwest of the Ohio and east of the Mississippi, was organized as the Northwest Territory under the famous ordinances of 1787. General Arthur St. Clair was appointed first territorial governor. In 1790 he organized a county in the southwest, embracing the historic region of Kasbaskia, and named it St. Clair in honor of himself. In June of that same year Knox county was organized, and included the central and northeastern parts of this state, and all of Indiana. Woodford was a part of this vast county. In 1800 Indiana territory was formed, with Illinois as a part of it. William Henry Harrison was its first governor. It was not until 1809 that Illinois was organized as a territory with Ninian Edwards as its first governor.
The division of the state into counties was a process that covered many years. The creating of new counties and the adjustment of boundary lines was in the hands of the members of the legislature, so that political influence went far toward bringing into existence numerous counties in the state. The desire for the location of the county seat frequently led citizens, who were ambitions for the advancement of their town, to petition for the creation of a new county, or a readjustment of boundary lines, that would be more favorable to carrying out their plans. The settlement of the Southern part of the territory occurred at a much earlier date than that of the Central and Northern portions. As a natural result the southern counties were of much earlier origin than those of this region. In 1801 an adjustment of boundaries was made and all that portion of Illinois north of the mouth of the Embarrass river, including at least three-fourths of the area of the state was included in Madison county. In 1814 a dividing line was formed passing north and south thru Madison county along the Third Principal Meridian, dividing the territory now embraced in the county of Woodford along the line, now separating Greene township from Roanoke and Clayton township from Linn. The appended list shows the dates at which changes.
Occurred and the names of counties to which territory now in Woodford belonged. During this time the eastern part was in one county and the western portion in another.
In the early 20's the first settlements occurred within the present Limits of the county. The western portion was settled first and any county business to be transacted had to be done with the officials at the county seat in Springfield. In 1825 the western part was permitted to transact business in Peoria, altho it was not an actual part of that county. In 1827 Tazewell county was created and originally embraced all of what is now Woodford. Tazewell was named in honor of Governor Lyttleton W. Tazewell, a prominent lawyer, representative in congress and member of the United States senate from Virginia. During this period settlers began to come in more rapidly, and in 1830, still another change was made, McLean county was erected and the eastern portion of Woodford was given to McLean. The dividing line between Tazewell and the newly created county was six miles west of the Third Principal Meridian, running along College street Eureka. The new county was named in honor of John McLean, a stalwart pioneer lawyer and territorial judge. He was the first representative in Congress from Illinois, and later United States senator from this state. This was the last change that took place before the passage and approval of the law creating Woodford county in February, 1841. While these events were in progress the county was gradually becoming more thickly settled and at the time of the organization of the county several towns had been started.
Strange as it may seem to us at the present day the timber lands were the first, choice of the pioneer, who was free to choose the best of the land. The prairies were shunned as giving little hope of productive returns. Most of the settlers came from wooded regions and had learned to love the timber. Years after the first settlement was made the pioneer still made his home in the wooded Lands. He was not without reason for clinging to the timber, for the woods furnished logs for his cabin, fuel for his fire, and material for his fences; while the prairies with their rank grasses, great sloughs and ponds did not tarnish an inviting prospect. Only by the success of the more daring were the people induced to take government lands on the prairie. The first actual settlement that was of a permanent nature was made in the early 20's, altho a man named Bleylock was in the county as early as 1810. The first settlers found him living Indian Fashion, spending his time hunting and fishing. He had a family and lived in the region of Partridge and Spring Bay townships.
There is so much uncertainty about this man as to create a doubt as to whether his name was William or George Bleylock. He was soon followed by settlers of a more permanent character. During the next few years numerous emigrants came who were the foundation of a prosperous settlement. Situated near the river, which furnished the easiest and quickest means of travel, it was natural that the settlements in the vicinity of Spring Bay should grow. In 1822 William Blanchard, who came from Vermont, crossed the Illinois and began to farm on this side of the stream, he built his cabin just across the line in Tazewell county. This is said to have been the first house between Fort Clark, afterward called Peoria, and Chicago. At a Later date Mr. Blanchard became a resident of Spring Bay township. The next year a cabin was erected within the boundary of Woodford by a Mr. Darby. This cabin was probably the first erected in the actual limits of the county, and was built, in 1828. The next decade witnessed a slow but no less certain growth. Horace, Austin, and Joseph Crocker came from Columbia county, New Fork, and at once identified themselves with movements for the growth of the settlement. Horace and Austin Crocker were interested in the erection of the first mill operated by water power in the west end, altho not the first in the county. A mill was very essential part of the early settlement. Means of communication with the outside world were so meager as to cause the settler to depend entirely on the local mill for the grinding of his wheat and corn. The news of the movement for a new mill was hailed with great satisfaction, altho there had been a small mill operated by horse power there before. Allen and Thomas Donohue were at one time interested in this mill, but it finally passed into the bands of Rowland Crocker, and for more than half a century it was an important factor in the business life of Spring Bay. The building was finished in 1834. Later William Hoshor erected what was known far and wide as Hoshor's mill. The owner came to Woodford county with his brother Jefferson in 1830 from Fairfield, Ohio. This mill enjoyed an extensive business for many years.
Four other points in the county were of almost as early settlement as was the west side, Metamora, Panther, Walnut and White Oak Groves. Clustering around the region of Metamora, or Hanover, as it was first called, are a great number of historical events that make that vicinity the delight of the historian. About 1823 Daniel, William and Solomon Sowards came to that region from New England and were soon followed by others.
In 1836 the first postoffice in the county was established at Black Partridge, a point three miles north of the present site of the village. The office was named in honor of Black Partridge, an Indian chief whose lodge was at an early date in that neighborhood. It was located in the house of James Boys, who was the first postmaster. The duties of the post-master of that day were not arduous. Very few papers were taken and letters were few and far between. Postage stamps had not come into use, and the postage was usually paid by the recipient of a letter. Rates were high, and it was sometimes a serious matter to get a letter from the office. A little later an office was opened at Park's mill about a mile from Metamora, with William Davenport as post-master. This was finally called Partridge Pint, altho Hanover seems to have been the name first selected. The name of the Indian chief was again honored. At a later date this office was removed to the village by R. T. Cassell.
While these events were in progress in the west end, similar events were taking place in Walnut Grove, which embraced the territory around Eureka. These were timbered lands along Walnut creek, its wooded hills proved an inviting prospect for the pioneer, and about 1824 Joseph Dillon found his way to that region and began farming. That was the beginning of a migratory movement that had Walnut Grove as its destination. Many of these settlers were from Kentucky. Some came because of their dislike of slavery, others came in the hope of bettering their condition. By 1832 there were a sufficient number there to organize a church, and the Christian church was formed, with 13 members. Southeast of Walnut Grove, along Panther creek was another point of settlement. In 1830 William and Campbell Moore came to the region afterward known as Bowling Green. They at once prepared for the erection of a mill on the bank of Panther creek. This was a short distance from where the town was afterward laid out, and was the first water mill built in the county.
White Oak Grove was settled in 1828. Located near what became the boundary line between Woodford and McLean counties, its history is closely connected with that of the latter. Robert and Samuel Phillips were the first comers to that region, but they were soon followed by others who established themselves and began farming.
The next decade witnessed the arrival of numerous settlers from the older states or from older portions of Illinois. This paved the way for the opening of stores. Towns were at that time widely scattered. Grain was frequently taken to Peoria, Pekin, and even to Chicago. It was some time after the first settlement was made before a store was opened. In 1836 Solomon Tucker opened one at Hanover. His example was shortly afterward followed by Israel and Weeks. The year following James and Aaron Richardson opened a store in Bowling Green. Shortly afterward Durritt and Calloway began business in Versailles.
In 1840 Scott and Munn opened a grain office at Spring Bay. This gave the county for the first time a direct means of transportation for their grain on the river boats. It made Spring Bay a point of importance among the early settlers and it held a prominent place for many years.