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The second settler, on the prairie, was William D. Moore, who came into this from Money Creek Township. He settled on the farm which he now occupies in the spring of 1853. After the building of the Chicago, Alton & St. Louis Railroad, the settlement was rapid, and the township has since steadily increased in wealth and population.
The first blacksmith-shop was an item of considerable importance to the early settlers. This will become evident when it is remembered that those who first settled on Money Creek had to go, it is said, all the way to Springfield to get their plows sharpened. Those were the days when wooden moldboards were in use. The plowman depended altogether upon his oxen for a plow-team; but we fancy that a good horse must have been in demand when a share was dull. David Trimmer ran a blacksmith-shop at the head of Money Creek Timber as early as 1828. He is said to have picked up" the trade, in the first place, but was afterward recognized as an excellent workman, especially upon edged tools.
“ Uncle” Henry Moats says that Trimmer made an adz for him which he kept more than forty years, and that it would cut a nail without making any impression upon the adz. His customers came from far and near, and he was, no doubt, a relief to the community.
Another early enterprise was a saw-mill, which was built on Money Creek, as early, perhaps, as 1837. It was erected by Elbert Dickason and John Pennell. The former was a resident of this township, but the latter lived just across the line north. This mill, like nearly all others in this country at that time, was run by water-power. It had an upright saw and did a vast amount of sawing. Smith's Grove and Money Creek could furnish as fine a lot of timber as was to be found anywhere. It was never fitted up for grinding, and as the woods began to be cleared away, it fell into disuse and was finally abandoned altogether. The flouring-mills built in the village of Towanda were the first in this part of the country, and they were very short-lived. The people got their breadstuffs at Bowling Green, in Woodford County, also at mills down on the Kickapoo, until after the erection of steam-mills in Bloomington. Sometimes, in dry weather, when the water-mills in all this section of country were unable to run for want of water, they were compelled to go as far as Ottawa, on the Illinois River.
THE FIRST MARRIAGE
solemnized was that of Jacob Spawr and Eliza Ann Trimmer. This took place December 3, 1826. Mr. Spawr had no license, and a trip to Vandalia to get one seemed a greater task than was necessary, so he posted notices beforehand, in its stead. William Orendorff officiated, and made the necessary returns to Vandalia. This first marriage took place in the same family in which occurred THE FIRST DEATH,
1 and in the same year.
As related in these pages before, John Trimmer died a short time after the family reached Smith's Grove. He was buried in a walnut coffin made by hewing out slabs from a log with an ax, and finishing with a jack-plane. The funeral was attended by their neighbors at Blooming Grove and adjoining settlements.
It is not now remembered who was the first person born in the township. Benja. min Stretch, who now resides in Towanda, is the oldest man now living in this part of the country, who was born here. He was born on Money Creek in the fall of 1830.
The family came here the same summer, from Ohio, and Benjamin Ogden and family. Benjamin Stretch's father, Mr. Jesse Stretch, was a carpenter. He built the first house on the spot where the McLean County bank now stands, in Bloomington. This was one of the first business houses in Bloomington.
THE FIRST POST OFFICE
was kept at the residence of William D. Moore. As has been related in the pages before, Mr. Moore was the first to settle on the prairie, where the village of Towanda now stands.
William G. Bishop had held that honorable position for a number of years, just over across the creek. This old man seems to have tired of his trust. He took a day to visit his friend on the prairie. As the chat became free and the folks were having a pleasant visit, Mr. Bishop informed Mr. Moore that he should like to be rid of the post office, and that he should be much pleased to have Mr. Moore take it off his hands. Mr. Moore remonstrated, saying that he was unacquainted with the routine of post office work, and further suggesting that he had not the political influence at Washington, necessary to secure the appointment. Mr. Bishop replied that those obstacles might easily be overcome, and that he only wished to find a man that would accept the office. The result was, that, in a few weeks, an appointment came, and Mr. Moore was duly installed Postmaster. Those were the "good old times," when the office sought the man, and not the man the office. For why should it be otherwise? Mr. Moore informs us that all the office paid was $3 or $4 per quarter. We suspect that should office-holding be again made as meagerly remunerative as then, we might have a return to "the good old times.” When the village of Towanda was laid out and the mail began to be carried on the cars, the office was brought down to the station and David S. Kinnan was made Postmaster. Towanda post office is the only one now in the township.
The first preaching was probably done by John Dunham, a United Brethren preacher, who held meetings at Smith's Grove. John Dunham was a missionary sent out by the general brotherhood to preach the Gospel wherever an opportunity might present itself. He preached in various parts of the settlement on Money Creek, as well as in adjoining settlements. The exact date is not known, but it was early as 1832. In later years, the Rev. Mr. Dodd preached at Smith's Grove. He was a Presbyterian, and held services, sometimes in his own house and sometimes in those of the members. He organized the first society within the present limits of the township. After the schoolhouse was built in District No. 1, they held meetings in it until the building of their church in the village of Towanda. The Rev. Ebenezer Rhodes, known then as a New Light preacher, held meetings at a very early day, at the house of Elbert Dick
Mr. Rhodes was afterward - identified with the Christian Church. A large and flourishing society of the last
mentioned was formed farther north, on Money Creek. It is possible that the Methodists, also, held occasional meetings. There was a class formed very soon, the regular place of meeting being at the residence of Jacob Spawr, across in Money Creek Township. Mrs. Trimmer and her son David were prominent members. The Baptists, also, began their meetings at Smith’s Grove. This seems to have been the starting point for nearly all the enterprises in the township. They commenced there about the same time that the Presbyterians did. These societies began to
take definite shape first about the year 1852. The first Baptist minister was James Cairns. This denomination built the first church in the township, in the village of Towanda, in the year 1858. The Roman Catholic Church has quite a society in the southeastern part of the township. They have a neat country edifice, which has been built recently. The settlement in that neighborhood is made up chiefly of persons of Irish descent.
At different times there have been other denominations here, but they have never succeeded in establishing societies which remain at the present time. Among those who had something of a beginning, may be mentioned the Protestant Methodists and the Christians.
EDUCATION. If there were any very early schools, all traces of them are now extinct. The artificial division into townships did not take place until a comparatively recent date, and when it did occur, it cut the early settlements on Money Creek near the middle. The early schools, across in the other township, probably answered for all on the creek who desired a knowledge of the three R's. The first schoolhouse was built of logs, at Smith's Grove. In it was taught the first school, but who was the first teacher is not now remembered. When the township was organized and districts began to be laid off, Smith's Grove District was No. 1. Its school had been running for some time, and it continued to be the only school for quite awhile afterward. School lands were sold at a low figure.
Isaac P. Kinnan and William D. Moore were Trustees for about sixteen years. They divided the townships into school districts as fast as it became necessary. Throughout there are good schoolhouses, and a general tendency to keep up with the times, is manifest. An idea of the condition of school work throughout the township, may be formed from the following: Number of school districts, 7; number of children under twenty-one years, 619; number between six and twenty-one, 544; number scholars enrolled, 361; schoolhouses, 7; amount paid teachers, $2,974.92; total expenditures, $3,772.06; estimated value of school property, $9,300; highest wages paid per month, $60.
RAILROADS AND HIGHWAYS.
The advent of the Chicago, Alton & St. Louis Railroad, was a great thing for this country. This road crosses the northwest corner of the township. As soon as the farmers had an outlet for their corn, cattle and hogs, they could raise crops with a better prospect of selling, and thus the community was stimulated and made to develop its
Public highways are abundant and kept in good repair. Nearly all section lines are authorized public roads. In the southern part of the township, there are some exceptions to this rule. Besides the section lines recognized as public thoroughfares, a few others are found that do not follow those lines so closely. The most important of these is, first, a road which lies along the line of the railroad, from the southwest to near the center of the village of Towanda. Thence it extends east for a short distance and afterward northeast, crossing Money Creek near the section line between Sections 4 and 5, close by the site of the old saw-mill. Another important highway is a road connecting the village of Towanda with southeastern points. It enters the township from the east and passes through the middle of Sections 13, 14 and 15. It passes to
the center of Section 16, and thence in a zigzag course alternately north and west, to the village. There are three roads which cross Money Creek. At two of the crossings, the stream is spanned by iron bridges. One of these is on the Lexington & Bloomington road, just northeast of the village. The other is on the road leading from Towanda southeasterly.
ORGANIZATION OF TOWANDA TOWNSHIP. Although the Illinois Legislature made provision by which the several counties might adopt the township organization several years earlier, McLean County did not adopt it until 1857. Previously, this township was included in Money Creek Precinct. When the station was made here, many of the people from the surrounding country moved in, so that the old place of voting on Money Creek was on one side and an outof-the-way place. By order of the County Board, the place of voting was changed to the village of Towanda, September 6, 1856. It was still Money Creek Precinct. James Gilmore, Sr., Hadley J. Short and Silas Waters were appointed Commissioners to divide McLean County and to establish township organization. They reported February 26, 1858, Town 24 north, Range 3 east, of the Third Principal Meridian, was called Towanda, and constituted a voting precinct. Since that report, many of the townships have been changed, but this one remains as first organized.
The first election under the new order of things was held April 6, 1858. It resulted as follows: Supervisor, Nathaniel S. Sunderland ; Town Clerk, Edwin R. Reeves; Collector, William Halterman; Assessor, Joel N. White;. Overseer of the Poor, Lemuel Kiblinger; Commissioners of Highways, John Mack, Joseph K. Dodson and David H. Cowan ; Overseers of Highways, William D. Kinnan, Elijah Ellis, Jeremiah Shade, Calvin Barnes and Dennis Whiterago ; Poundmaster, Norman Finite; Constables, John L. Baylor and Edwin R. Reeves; Justices of the Peace, Willis P. Pepenoe and John N. King.
At present, Frank Henderson is Supervisor and also Township Treasurer; George Hilts is Town Clerk; Cornelius Gatliff and D. F. Biddle are Justices of the Peace i Benjamin Stretch, Patrick Merna and A. A. Riddle are Commissioners of Highways. The Trustees are W. H. Macy, Monroe Barnes and Nelson Jones.
WAR RECORD AND POLITICS. The early settlers, though often frightened by rumors of Indian wars, and though thoroughly scared during the Black Hawk war, never suffered anything from the Indians farther than a few annoyances in the way of theft. None of the few who dwelt here at that time, except Frederick Rook and, perhaps, another man whose name we did not learn, were in the above-mentioned war, nor do we find traces of any in the Mexican war. But when the dark clouds of conflict obscured our national horizon in 1861, Towanda turned out her proportion of men immediately. No draft was ever necessary. When the last call came for twenty-six men, they met it, though the number was disproportionately large. The township offered, at one time, $300 bounty. This, with $300 paid by the county, made the total bounty for entering $600. It was only for the last call that the $300 was paid by the township. Most of those who volunteered earlier got only $150 from the township. Several brave “boys” offered their lives on their country's altar. William Sears was shot at Ramsey's Lane. He was First Lieutenant, and was in command of his company when they made the charge in which he was killed. Nathan Sears, William's brother, died from disease. Richard Russell also sickened and died. John H. Dodd was shot accidentally and killed. Philip Miller died of disease, and F. E. Wise was killed in the fight at Natchez. Whether there were others who died from the effects of disease contracted in the army, or that were killed on the battle-field, we have not been able to learn. But enough is known to make it evident that the patriotism of this township stands unchallenged.
In political matters the township has been pretty evenly balanced, but generally, of late years, there has been a small majority in favor of the Republican ticket.
THE VILLAGE OF TOWANDA, This village is located in the northwestern part of the township of the same name. It includes the southwest quarter of Section 5. This land was entered by Peter A. Bedeau. The certificate of entry is dated February 18, 1853. The original plat of the village included only forty acres from the center of this quarter-section. It was then owned by Jesse W. Fell and Charles W. Holder, who filed a plat of the town with the County Board, to be recorded December 7, 1854. The original forty acres was donated by Peter A. Bedeau for town purposes. The remaining part of the quarter-section was sold by Mr. Bedeau to Jesse W. Fell and Charles W. Holder on May 1, 1855. The proprietors imraediately surveyed it and laid it off into town lots. These were afterward sold to such as wished to embark in business and become residents of the new town on the prairie. Mr. Charles Roadnight, an Englishman, became the heaviest property-owner in the village. In fact, at one time, he owned the greater part of it.
Towanda is pleasantly located on the prairie, less than a mile southwest of Money Creek. The village is on high land, and, judging from its location and the number of its physicians, is a very healthy place in which to live. It is situated on the Chicago, Alton & St. Louis Railroad, about half way between Bloomington and Lexington. The railroad enters the village at the southwest corner, and passes in a northeasterly direction through it. It is surrounded by a good farming and grazing country, and has all the natural facilities for a flourishing inland town. It would have grown much more rapidly, no doubt, had it not been so near to our ambitious county seat, whose shadow reaches far out into the surrounding country, chilling the young life-blood in many smaller towns. The population of Towanda, at present, is about 500.
As noted in the history of the township, William D. Moore was the first to settle near the present site of Towanda. He is now within the town limits, although he resides on the northwest quarter of Section 5. Mr. Moore came from Ohio. He reached Money Creek October 21, 1851. In the fall of 1853 he moved to his present residence. This was the first residence within what are now the limits of Towanda; although, at that time, no one had ever thought of a village there. The only house between his and Bloomington was the residence of Mr. Halterman, near the sulphur spring. Mr. Moore kept the post office, and the mail was still carried on horse-back. But there was destined to be a great change in a few years. When the village was laid out, and the cars began to stop at the switch, people came to the railroad to enter into business. David S. Kinnan built the first residence in what was then the village. He