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Mr. Buck built the hotel, the rear of the present one, and kept it sixteen years, holding the office of Postmaster and Justice of the Peace each, for several years. Io 1851, he had become thoroughly satisfied that he would never amount to anything if he remained in the hotel. A new son had come into his house and a desire seemed to take possession of his mind to “ do something for that boy.” He got hold of a piece of land in Section 6, south part of town, and has since spread over 1,100 acres of as good land as there is in McLean County. He was elected a County Commissioner in that year, and was twice re-elected. During the last term, the County Court, of which he was a member, voted to give $70,000 from the first proceeds of the Swamp-Land Fund to secure the location at Normal of the State Normal School. This action was so unpopular in the country towns as to cause a general demand for township organization. Mr. Buck admits the unpopularity of the act, but justifies his course. This retired him to private life for a few years—a penalty he did not much regret. Since then, he has been repeatedly elected Supervisor. He was appointed by the Governor a Trustee of the Industrial University at Champaign, and held the position until the law was changed reducing the number of Trustees. He was elected several years ago a Trustee of Lombard University, a college under the auspices of Universalists and liberal believers, at Galesburg, where his youngest son was educated. That a man at the age fifty, when in most men the habits of life have become fixed, and, by common acceptation, man has arrived at the time when he begins to grow old, should have left a country tavern and begun an active, successful farmer's life is remarkable, and shows the strong characteristics of Esquire Buck's nature. Careless in his personal and even in his business habits, with a strong taste for political discussion and partisan display and action, a free reader, a generous liver, fond of investigation, and deeply interested in public affairs, the strong contrast of his later successes was hardly to be expected, and, indeed, is almost anomalous ; for a lively interest in politics and attendance on caucuses and conventions is enough to financially injure most any man. Five of his six children are liv. ing near him, all married and comfortably fixed in life, and were able to be with him at the fiftieth anniversary of that Ohio wedding when he gave his bond to the county of Hamilton that his wife should not come on the county as a pauper.
Mr. Buck ought to get that bond from the authorities and present it to the Le Roy Library Association.
Though closely approaching his eightieth birthday, he shows, except in his wrinkled face, no appearance of his advanced age ; his mind is as clear and his step as firm as a man of fifty.
The hunting was so excellent at an early day, and was really so much a part of the regular business of every family, that the raising and care of dogs became so common that no family was without its complement of the different popular canine families; every dog-family down to rat-terrier and Spitz was represented in Buckles' Grove; and when all other sport slackened they “ let slip the dogs” and cried havoc !
About the year 1830, the hydrophobia made its appearance among them, and the dogs lost their popularity at once. Two persons were known to have been bitten, and a canine slaughter right and left and a general clearing-out of all in the neighborhood was threatened. No injury came to those who were bitten except a very serious scare, which was almost as bad as death itself.
A year or two before Le Roy was laid out, J. W. Baddeley spread out a town which be named Munroe, and put up a building for a store and stocked it for trade, about one
mile south of where Le Roy is. When/Gridley and Covel laid out their town, they bought out the interest of Baddeley in Munroe and squelched it.
The citizens have not, as a general thing, fed cattle as largely as in some of the surrounding towns, and before the new railroads were built, the grain had to be hauled a long distance. The earliest trips to Chicago were shortened to Pekin when the Illinois Canal was completed, and to Bloomington and Heyworth after the completion of the Illinois Central Railroad.
The building of the present Indianapolis, Bloomington & Western Railroad was deemed by the people of Empire as a matter of vital importance to them. The history of the road, as far as its connection with Empire is concerned, is about that of every similar road.
In July, 1866, a vote was taken, which resulted affirmatively, for granting $50,000, in twenty-year 10-per-cent bonds, for the Danville, Urbana, Bloomington & Pekin Railroad. Soon after this vote was taken, the officers of the road discovered that the company had not been organized in conformity to law, and the matter rested until the Legislature should meet and give the embryo road legal life. Such an act was passed February, 1867; for, under the old constitution, any person could get any charter he asked for, but the State authorities were so jealous of their prerogatives that, while it was admitted that the Legislature would give any railroad company all the authority or power it wanted, no such corporation could act until it had first got legal authority. This charter of 1867 gave to the township of Empire authority to subscribe not more than $250,000, in aid of the building of such road. In June, 1867, the vote was again taken, resulting a second time affirmatively, by a vote of 202 to 6. Things went op swimmingly and the road was commenced, the bonds issued and went, with the thousands of others, into the great maw of the construction companies, who hypothecated them for half their face, and then let them slide. In 1869, October 12, the road having been consolidated, had become the Indianapolis, Bloomington & Western, and work had come to a standstill. More bonds must be forthcoming. The township authorities submitted to the legal voters the question of issuing $25,000 additional. This resulted in the affirmative by a vote of 228 to 100, and three blanks. Within the past year, the legality of this last issue has been questioned, and the matter has been tried in the United States Court, resulting in sustaining the legality of the issue. The ground upon which the township sought to question their validity was that, in taking the former vote, the power to subscribe in aid of that particular corporation had been exhausted, and thus there was no authority for the second vote. The Court did not take that view of it, however.
The road proved a great convenience to the people, and everything seemed to work nicely. Pretty soon, however, they found that they were paying higher freights than they ought, and they set about finding a remedy.
After a good deal of canvassing, it was decided to ask the people along the line of the proposed route to subscribe enough to grade, bridge and tie a narrow-gauge road from Rantoul to Le Roy, and to bond it for $4,000 per mile for the iron. This was done, and the men of Empire did the heavy end of the work by subscribing liberally to this undertaking. It is now built and in running order, and fulfilling the most sanguine expectations of its projectors.
The first school in the township was held in the house erected for it in 1832, near the residence of James Kimler.
For several years, the affairs of the school treasury have been in the hands of S. A. Moore, Esq., and his successor in office, Mr. E. E. Greenman.
From the last annual report, the following figures are taken: Number of districts, 11; whole number of children under twenty-one years, 1,132; number of children between six and twenty-one years, 748; whole number attending school, 544; average number of months' school, 7} ; teachers employed, 20; number graded school, 1; num. ber brick schoolhouses, 2; value school property, $11,700; township fund, $7,612; paid teachers, $4,858; total amount paid for schools, $7,165.
Next to Bloomington and Normal, Empire has the largest attendance in the county, and draws the largest from the State appropriation.
Eropire has a large number of men who are recognized as good farmers. Hiram Buck, J. H. L. Crumbaugh, A. Murray, Malon Bishop, J. A. Bishop, F. M. Crumbaugh, T. Ross, Jackson Oliver, and many others, have made the raising and feeding of cattle a specialty.
John Kline, James Barnett, John E. Crumbaugh, have each very fine farms and excellent buildings.
The following table gives a list of the township officers elected from township organization down:
1858 296 James Wiley.. J. M. Shakleford... James P. Craiger..... N. H. Roach. 1859 James Wiley. R. S. Willhoite.... Robert Barr... R. F. Dickerson. 1860 228 James Wiley R. S. Willhoite.... Robert Barr.. R. F. Dickerson. 1861 M. Crumbaugh R. S. Willhoite...... Robert Barr.. R. F. Dickerson. 1862 R. F. Dickerson. J. W. Brown..........
Robert Barr... J. F. Bishop. 1863 Malon Bishop.... George W. Pence... Robert Barr......... F. M. Crumbaugh. 1864 286 Malon Bishop....
George W. Pence... Robert Barr.. F. M. Crumbaugh. 1865
R. F. Dickerson.. George W. Pence. Robert Barr. 1866
R. F. Dickerson.. M. M. Dickerson... Robert Barr. 1867 277 James Bishop. M. M. Dickerson.. Robert Barr. M. E. Ferguson.
368 263 James Bishop. G. W. Pence...... Robert Barr.. M. E. Ferguson. 1869 James Bishop M. M. Dickerson........ Robert Barr...... A. J. Thomas. 1870 J. V. Smith........ M. Burns......
0. Smiley.... J. Crumbaugh. 1871 J. H. L. Crumbaugh: M. H. Stone
S. L. Bishop... C. Howard 1872 John Kline........ C. G. Lanzen...
G. W. Pence... R. C. Hallowell. 1873 275 D. 0. Howard.. M. Burns......
G. W. Pence.... R. C. Hallowell. 1874 D. 0. Howard.... C. A. Barley
J. P. Melcbi L. Heffling. 1875 Hiram Buck.. C. A. Barley.
J. P. Melchi L. Heftiing. 1876
Hiram Buck.. C. A. Barley... .J. P. Melchi Samuel Sterling. 1877 Hiram Buck. C. A. Barley.
John Funk... J. C. Baddeley. 1878 Hiram Buck.. C. A. Barley... . John Funk
J. C. Baddeley. 1879..... ..John Kline...... S. Vandeventer.......... John Funk
Justices of the Peace: S. A. Moore, H. Gilbert, L. M. Bishop, Robert Silvey and H. M. Phillips.
Commissioners of Highways: T. D. Gilman, Robert Barr, H. Chapen, M. Crumbaugh, D. Cheney, J. W. Williams, A. Buckles, J. Kline, H. Crumbaugh, L. A. Crumbaugh, H. C. Dickerson, G. W. Buckles, James Bishop, D. H. Schoch, J. Crumbaugh, S. R. Mitchell, C. P. Dickerson, J. W. Murfield, R. Rutledge, M. Wyckoff, John Dunlap, J. H. L. Crumbaugh, A. J. Crumbaugh, James York, P. C. Eskew.
The location of Le Roy was one of the most beautiful in the county, and its selection anomalous. Near the line between Sections 21 and 22, almost in the exact center of the township, was a round elevation of land, hardly amounting to a hill, still so descending in all directions as to make drainage easy. About one mile to the grove on three sides, and on the north about three miles from Old Town Timber, its peculiar fitness as a convenient point for the settlers who inhabited the grove, to the number of some twenty-five families, was apparent. Gen. A. Gridley and Gen. Merritt Covel, of Bloomington, readily saw the peculiar position of this little mound, and in 1835, purchased the eighty acres of land and laid out the town, making the mound the center of it. At the sale of lots in December, the bidding was spirited, and some of them sold at very good prices. Building was, however, very slow. Two years later, Gridley induced Hiram Buck to go there and build a hotel. In the fall of 1836, there were a few log houses there, and Edgar Conkling put up a frame store. The same fall, Buck surveyed and platted Conkling & Woods' addition, embracing about one hundred and twenty acres, lying on three sides of the original town, east, north and west. Mr. Conkling was the first to do any business here. A post-route was established in 1838, and a post office was opened, with Hiram Buck first Postmaster.
The route was from Danville through Bloomington to Peoria. At first, the service was by post-rider, and then by Fink & Walker's mud-wagons, which, by courtesy, were called stages. This firm, for a long time, ran nearly all the stage lines in the northern half of this and the adjoining State. Mr. T. J. Barnett, who came to this township in 1832, and commenced trade in Le Roy in 1852, says that Amos Neal and J. W. Baddeley were the first to sell goods here, and the Conklings and Proctor were among the first. Neal & Withers put up a log cabin in 1836, east of the public square, and, about the same time, Baddeley put up one on the south side of Center street, between the hotel and the public square. He had laid out the town of “ Munroe,” and commenced selling goods one mile south of here, and had been offered very liberal inducements to abandon that and make Le Roy the place of business. He conducted trade here for several
James Wiley, an Irishman by birth, came here from the West Indies, and engaged in trade on the north side of Center street, on Block 15, where the meat market now is. successful and bought a fine farm from Conaway, and others east of town, and died there.
E. E. Greenman, one of the old guard, who has lived here and been engaged in active business during nearly all the life of Le Roy, came here in 1843.
He is now one of the oldest residents of the county now living in it. He helped to build the house of James Allin, in Bloomington, and lived a neighbor to him.
In 1843, he was engaged in peddling through this part and some of the citizens, who thought he would be a valuable addition to the town, bantered him to hire a hall and locate here. He made a contract for board at $1 per week as long as he wished to stay, and rented the store near by for $1 per month as long as he wanted to keep it. He stocked up and sold goods there one year, when it was rented to some one else for $2 per month, and he had to get out. He bought the corner lot across the street where Fisk's drug store now is, for $10, and sent a man into the woods to hew the timber and in twenty-one days moved into his new store. S. D. Baker, now of
Bloomington, entered into partnership with him, and the firm remained in business on that corner fourteen years and was quite successful. Since retiring from business, Mr. Greenman has had a good deal to do with the schools, and his prompt, correct business habits have been of great service to the community in many ways.
His health is not very good now; has headache a good deal when folks bother him, but he looks as though he would hold out several years yet.
Richard Edwards took the store which Greenman left in 1844, and continued in business several years. B. E. Dodson rented in the hotel at first, and after that he occupied the building on the corner of Center street and the public square.
Kimler & Bishop opened business about 1847, where the meat market now is. They continued a few years and then bought the old harness-shop, and moved it east to its present position, and built the corner store, and Minor Bishop continued to trade there. L. H. & B. F. Park occupied the old meat market building which K. & B. had got out of, a few years, and then bought on the other side of the street east, where Stearns' boot and shoe store now is. This firm continued until the rebellion, when it was dissolved by the military service of L. H. Park, and Mr. B. F. Park continued in trade until he died. L. H. returned and commenced business again and still remains in business, the oldest in mercantile life in town.
Baker & Greenman, after a few years' trade in the frame building on the corner of Center street and the public square, moved it off and built the present fine brick building in 1857, at a cost of $3,000. It was a fine building for its day and was a credit to builders, for it was, like them, substantial and business-like.
E. L. Morehouse & Son drove quite a brisk trade for a time, and Mr. McLean, from Farmer City, was here awhile.
T. J. Barnett commenced trade about 1852, like his predecessors, in the "old meat market.” The next year, he built the post office building, which was the first brick building in Le Roy and was way out of the “business center," for up to that time all the trade was on Center street within one block of the public square. Barnett continued in the post office building ten years and then bought the Greenman brick building and still owns it. For a time he was in partnership with J. Keenan. This made a strong firm, and sold in flush times $55,000 worth per year. Crumbaugh & Reed did a large trade in 1854 and 1855. David Cheney carried on a considerable trade here for some years. Amos Neal put up the first log house in Le Roy in 1835, and the next year T. J. Barnett built the next one near by it, on Block 15, where Wright's blacksmith-shop now stands. It was a good-sized building for the times, 14x16. It was built for his mother who continued to occupy it until he was able to do something better for her.
Mr. Conkling put up a number of small frame buildings on his lots, intending them to help sell his lots. Mr. Neal took the contract for putting up a lot of them. The lumber to cover and finish them was split out, and dressed down with a drawing-knife. They were small and decidedly primitive. Some are now standing. The speculation proved abortive, and the panic of 1837 carried him with it.
Dr. Moran, a well-educated physician, came to Buckles' Grove in 1834, and continued to practice his profession here until he moved to Springfield, in 1857. Dr. Welden bought him out and remained three or four years, and went to Covington, Ind. Dr. Stephen Noble, a nephew of Dr. Noble of Randolph, came here in 1850 and