As to extent, Elwood Township is only a shadow of what
it was once, but without its history, the history of the county or
state would not be complete, for it still contains some very noted
places, noted men and some of the best and most productive farms in
the county. Before the division, Elwood comprised all of town
17, range 11, west of the second P.M., a fraction of range 10 and
two tiers of sections off the east side of range 12, making almost 1½
congressional townships. The voters of the north end of the
township made complaint because of having so far to go to vote so
that a strip 1 mile wide was set off of the north side and given to
Later, by petition of the residents, the eastern half
of the township (except sections 26 and 34) was set off as a
separate township and named Love township in honor of Judge I. A.
Love of Danville, who was the legal adviser in making the
change. That portion of the Harrison purchase which before had
been a part of Elwood was retained, although from the way it lays it
should more properly come in Love township.
Three-fourths of the land now comprising Elwood
township is deep rich black loam soil and sufficiently rolling to
make the best farms. The Little Vermilion river runs across
the northwest corner cutting off about 1½ sections and it is along
this stream that the only waste land in the township is found.
About the only timber in the township is found in this region.
It was in this region that the first settlers made their homes, it
being thought foolish at that time to get away form the streams and
timber to make settlements, as the streams furnished water and the
timber furnished fuel.
The mineral value of the township so far as developed
is very limited. It is known that most of the township is
underlaid with a good quality of bituminous coal but as yet there
are no workings within its limits. Several attempts have been
made to locate oil, but as far as can be learned no oil or gas in
paying quantities have been found. Some claim there is a ledge
of limestone in the northwest corner, but nothing has developed
along that line. It is safe to say that the soil is the chief
asset of the township to date.
The history of the settlement of Elwood township is
closely connected with the history of this entire section of the
country. A great number of places in the south part of the
county were settled about the same time. The first settlements
within the township were Vermilion Grove, Pilot Grove and Ridgefarm.
The names given these places were given them on account of some
natural characteristic of the country. The name Vermilion came
from the Vermilion river which runs nearby and on account of a post
office farther south, being named Vermilion. When the post
office here was established, it was called Vermilion Grove, being
located in a natural grove.
Pilot Grove was so named on account of a grove located
on higher ground than the surrounding country and served as a pilot
for travelers through that section in early days.
Ridge farm was the name given by Abram Smith
to his farm located where the town now stands and was so named
because of the rise in the ground that forms a ridge extending
across the township from east to west.
Vermilion Grove is the oldest settlement in the
township and its history dates back to 1820 when John Malsby
came from Indiana and built a cabin just northeast of where the
public school building now stands, but finding the country so new
and wild went back to Indiana..
George Bock came about the same time and took a
claim but on account of the ponds and swamps and malaria which were
abundant, he with his family moved on to Brooks Point, after having
sold his claim to John Haworth who became the first permanent
settler in the locality. Mr. Haworth was a Quaker or
Friend, as they are now called, and thus was begun, amongst the
hardships and privations of pioneer life, the foundation for the
broad and substantial influence of the Friends of Illinois.
Mr. Haworth left Tennessee in 1818, to get away
from the institution of slavery and out from under its effects.
He went to Union County, Indiana, and came here in 1821 and wintered
in the house built by Mr. Malsby. He was a cousin of
James Haworth who settled soon after near Georgetown. He
did not undertake farming his land by raising grain, but raising
stock seemed more profitable. Mr. Haworth entered any
hundred acres of land but did not hold it to speculate on, but sold
it to his friends as they came into the new country.
George Haworth, an uncle of John, came
soon after and was instrumental in establishing the first meeting in
the township. Thus the Friends church which has had so much
influence on the history of the township and surrounding country,
had its small beginning. A log church was soon built near
where the present brick structure stands.
Evin Haworth, a son of John Haworth,
lived all his life on the well known Haworth farm and during
his life contributed much to the church and school, leaving the bulk
of his land to Vermilion academy by will at his death.
Henry Canaday came from Tennessee in 1821 and
built a cabin one-half mile west of the station, but his boys could
not stand the wildness and all moved back to Tennessee. They
soon regretted the move and tried it again in the fall, determined
to settle down and make the new country their home. During the
first trip, so the account goes, they brought some hogs, which, when
they went back, were turned loose in the woods and became wild.
These, together with other wild game, furnished good sport for any
inclined to be a Nimrod for years afterward. John Mills
was another early settler here, but went farther west entering the
land where the Mills descendants now occupy.
Thus many settlers came and began the foundation for a
strong church, a splendid school and a prosperous and substantial
farming community. The hardships and privations were great,
but out from this toil and suffering, spring the institutions which
the people of this community now enjoy, and many do not fail to
ascribe the honor and tribute to those who wrought and fought for
the splendid heritage.
The first school in Vermilion County was taught by
Reuben Black who came from Ohio, in the winter of 1824-5.
It was in a log house one mile west of Vermilion Grove.
John Mills sent three sons and one daughter, Joseph
Jackson sent two children, Ezekiel Hollingsworth sent
four children, Henry Canaday sent his son William, John
Haworth sent his sons Thomas, David and Elvin
This made 14 scholars in all. The branches taught were
spelling, reading, writing and arithmetic. The second school
was taught by Elijah "Yeager, a Methodist minister from east
Tennessee, two years later, in a cabin one mile northeast of
Vermilion station. The house was built of logs, 16 feet
square. It was certainly one of the old timers of which some
of us have heard our fathers tell. But the old house soon
became inadequate and the needs of the fast growing community
demanded a better building. In 1850 a frame structure was
built, 30x52, with two recitation rooms properly furnished.
This was called Vermilion Seminary. Jonah M. Davis was
employed as principal and school opened with 110 students. The
following branches were taught: Geography, algebra, chemistry,
geometry, surveying, history, mineralogy, philosophy, reading,
writing, spelling, elocution and Latin. Mr. Davis
continued here for five years, and was certainly one of the best
educators of his day. Many of the (now) old men who reside in
this and surrounding communities date their education back to this
Vermilion academy of today is really
the continuation of the old seminary. It was established in
1874, by the Society of Friends and has continued under their
management to the present time. The first board of trustees
chosen consisted of William Rees, John Henderson, Richard
Mendenhall, John Elliott, Jonah M. Davis and Elvin Haworth.
A two story brick building, 46x60, was erected at a cost of $8,000.
The brick for the building were burned on the ground, thus reducing
the cost to the minimum. For the maintenance of the school
$10,000, consisting of 50 scholarships of $200 each were subscribed.
The owner could pay the interest at 7% on this scholarship each eyar
which would constitute the tuition for one scholar for one year.
If he had no children of school age, he could sell the scholarship
to some one who wished to attend school.
It was the aim then, and still is, to offer a better
opportunity for a liberal academic education, under purer and more
christian influences than is commonly afforded by the public high
schools. While it is under the supervision of Friends church,
yet is is not sectarian. The fact that Vermilion academy has
stood and still stands for noble manhood and womanhood, is strongly
attested by the large number of men and women scattered far and
wide, who have graduated and gone from its influence.
Out of 166 graduates who have gone out from the
institution, 96 have at sometime since graduation taught in the
public schools, 33 of them have graduated at higher institutions,
eight have gone to their long home and all the others have and are
meeting the problems of life in a way that reflects credit on their
teachers and alma mater.
The original town of Ridgefarm was platted
for record Nov. 10, 1853, by Abraham Smith, and consisted of
thirteen lots beginning ten feet west of the west side of the state
road and eight feet south of the county road. The same year
Thomas Haworth laid out and recorded an addition west of the
state road and north of the county road. On the 27th of
February, 1856, Thomas Haworth laid out his second addition
of seventeen lots. On the 1st of December, 1854, J. W.
Thompson laid out his first addition, east of the state road and
south of the county road, eight lots; and in August, 1856, his
second addition of thirty-two lots. On April 11, 1856,
Abraham Smith made his third addition of six lots. On the
25th of March, 1857, Thomas Haworth laid out his third and
fourth addition. In November, 1872, A. B. Whinnery laid
out an addition of two blocks near the Big Four Railroad, and soon
afterwards established a flourishing business and for a number of
years, that part of town was the main business center. On the
5th of April, 1873, R. H. Davis platted his sub-division of
section 30. In April, 1872, J. H. Banta platted his
addition of four blocks east of the Big Four Railroad and April 15,
H. C. Smith platted an addition east of the state road.
Soon after the town was laid out by Abraham Smith, he built a
frame store room near where the armory now stands and conducted a
general store room near where the post office now is, and rented it
to another man who put in a stock of hardware. John Dickens
built a tavern on the southwest corner of the square. About
1857, Weeks and Price put up a building on the
northwest corner of the square and used it for a drug store.
It is hardly worth while to say that these old buildings have long
since been removed and imposing brick structures occupy the most
prominent places, while the last resting places of the men who built
the old buildings are marked by simple stone slabs in Pilot Grove,
Vermilion Grove and Ridgefarm cemeteries.
With the building of the railroad in 1873-74 business
increased and several business ventures found location near the
railroad. A large flouring mill was built there at that time
by Davis Brothers, which was considered one of the best mills
in the country and did the mill work for a large scope of country.
The mill was purchased by Banta & Coppock and afterward
Mr. Coppock sold to A. J. Darnell and he to A. B.
Whinnery. An extensive grain busines was built up and when
it fell to younger men, W. F. Banta became the proprietor,
and he, being very successful, retired from business in 1907, the
National Elevator Co., of Indianapolis, having purchased the entire
business of Mr. Banta. This included a large number of
elevators at other places. There were a great number of other
business ventures which were successful and which have been
transferred to younger men who now conduct them in a profitable and
courteous manner. We might mention the lumber yard which for
many years was conducted by Adam Mills, who afterward became
president of the First National Bank and served in that capacity
until his death. The mercantile business conducted by A. B.
Whinnery was for many years the leading business of the kind in
south Vermilion County, but as trade is transient and buyers are
always seeking new things to satisfy their fancy, and as Mr.
Whinnery grew older, his trade was largely changed to his
competitors who employed new and up-to-date business methods.
A. J. Darnell became the leading merchant but at this time no
one could long hold a monopoly of the trade. MR. Darnell
did well however, and left a large estate.
The hardware business was chiefly left to J. P.
Tuttle who with his son still conducts a very extensive trade in
that line. Others have come and gone but Tuttle stays.
Many others might be mentioned but space and time forbids.
A petition for the incorporation of the village of
Ridgefarm under the general incorporation act, signed by Uriah
Hadley and others, was filed in the county court on the 3d of
March, 1874. The petition proposed the following limits to the
village: The S. W. 1/4 of 25 and the N. E. 1/4 of sec.
31, town 17, range 11, and the S. E. 1/4 of 25 and the N. E. 1/4 of
sec. 36, town 17, range 12, embracing 1 mile square of territory;
and it set forth that there were within said limits 350 inhabitants.
The court ordered an election to be held at the store of J. C.
Pierce on the 21st of March, 1874, to vote on the question of
incorporation. George H. Dice, R. H. Davis and J. H.
Banta were appointed judges of the election. At that
election fifty-one votes were cast, forty-nine for incorporation and
two against. The proposition to incorporate having thus
carried, the court ordered another election to be held on the 22d of
April, to vote for six trustees to serve until the regular election
in course of the law. At this election J. H. Banta, M. A.
Harrold, T. C. Rees, A. J. Darnell, A. B. Whinnery and
Moses Lewis were duly chosen trustees. The trustees on May
1, organized by electing A. J. Darnell president, and T.
C. Rees, clerk. They adopted a set of ordinances and fixed
the compensation of officers; trustees to have $1.00 per meeting;
treasurer, one per centum; collector, two per centum, and assessor
$1.50 per day. The offices of collector and assessor were
afterwards dispensed with. At the regular election in 1875 the
following were elected: President, M. A. Harrold; A. B.
Whinnery, A. M. Mills, C. Lewis, S. Haworth and H. R.
Craven, trustees; T. C. Rees, police magistrate; James
Quinn, clerk; E. Goodwin, constable. The village
has enjoyed a constant, steady growth since its incorporation.
It has never had what is generally known as a "boom" but has quietly
plodded along until now, residents claim a population of about 1,400
people. Among the many large and commodious residences of the
village at the present might be mentioned those of William F.
Banta, S. H. Brown, John Brown, Isaac Woodyard, Mrs. Addie Guffin
and many more almost imposing and beautiful Ridgefarm is noted for
its fine homes.
In church, professional and business lines, Ridgefarm
ahs the following list: 1 elevator, 1 lumber yard, 1 implement firm,
1 light and ice plant, 1 creamery, 1 furniture store, 4 grocery
stores, 2 general stores, 1 dry goods and clothing store, 2 hardware
stores, 2 restaurants, 1 drug store, 1 millinery store, 1 jewelry
store, 1 printing office, 1 paper, 1 garage, 2 banks, 2 blacksmith
shops, 2 butcher shops, 1 candy kitchen, 1 harness shop, 1 livery
barn, 2 railroads, 1 interurban, 1 grist ill, 1 building and loan
association, 3 barber shops, 1 tile mill, 1 high school, 4 churches,
5 doctors, 1 dentist, 2 veterinary doctors, 1 lawyer and 2 telephone
exchanges and no saloons. A fine Carnegie library has just
been completed and is ready for occupancy. This building
stands where the old Methodist church stood years ago. A new
school building is under course of construction. This when
completed will be the largest and best high school building in
eastern Illinois outside the large cities. It will cost over
$30,000. Mr. Frank Pribble the contractor is a
Ridgefarm boy and has been very successful in contract work.
Pilot is only a settlement, but is the most
historical place in Elwood township because it is in this
neighborhood that the famous Harrison purchase begins. The
northern point of this triangular piece of land lies just north of
what is known as Locust corner school house. Harrison
negotiated with the Indians for a large tract, beginning at this
point, the east side of which is a line running from this rock, on a
certain day of the year, toward the 10 o'clock sun, the western line
running toward the 1 o'clock sun and terminating in the northern
part of Crawford County, thence east to the Wabash. The east
line terminates at the Wabash river a few miles north of where it
becomes the boundary of the state. The part that belongs to
Elwood township extends one-half mile below the southern boundary of
the township, running parallel with the southern boundary.
Just why this extension into Edgar County, has not been explained.
And at one time there was a small grove near the center
of the township known as Pilot Grove which in later years has been
cleared and the ground is now farmed, there being only a few acres
remaining. It is now known as the Fowler farm.
there is only one village within the borders of Pilot.
It has a two-room school building, a church, a bank, a grain
elevator, two or three stores and a dozen dwelling houses.
There have been several postoffices in the township on
what was known as "Star" routes. These were known as Oak,
Charity and Bixby. Since the advent of the free rural
deliveries these postoffices have been abandoned and the east end of
the township is served by a rural carrier out of Collison, the north
side from carriers out of Potomac and Armstrong, the south from
carriers out of Ogden, Fithian, Muncie and Oakwood, thus the
township, practically being inland, has a good rural route system.
The Sidell branch of the C. & E. I., cuts across the
eastern part of the township and near the place known as Collison
point. A village is located on the Thos. A. Collison
place and is known as Collison. The Village Grove branch of
the same system touches the northwest corner of the township where
is located a small store, a school house and an elevator which is
known as Gerald. It has no postoffice and is practically only
a cross-roads place.
The whole township is practically inlaid with drainage
tile. The principal crops now are corn, oats, clover and
grass. Grass is not as profitable as it was several years ago
when large herds of cattle were seen grazing on the pastures.
The land is now given up to agricultural purposes and is not used
for grazing. Cattle grazing has become obsolete. The
cattle that are now fed are purchased at the Chicago or other
markets, shipped in, fattened and re-shipped to Chicago to the
Pilot township is known as the largest feeders of sheep
in the county. Frequently there are 25,000 head of sheep in
this township. These are fed and reshipped to Chicago markets.
Most of the corn and oats of the township are shipped
to other markets. At one time this was all fed to cattle as
Pilot township used to be one of the best feeding places in the
Pilot has only one village, Collison, located on the C.
& E. I. railroad in the eastern part of the township near what was
known in early day as Collison point.
The father of John Fletcher moved into this
locality in 1828 and the Folgers soon followed, and much of
the land in the locality still belongs to the direct descendants of
those early settlers. A friends church was early established
in this locality and is still kept up. Although the membership
is small, yet the earnestness and zeal with which the members carry
on the work, is a subject for comment by outside people.
Olivet is the name of a new religious and educational
community in the northern part of the township. This is in the
vicinity of the Old Sharon neighborhood, on the farm at one time
owned by that pioneer Henry Canaday. Here within the
past three years has sprung into existence a new school which
promises to be of immense proportions. As stated in the
catalogue: "Out of the conviction of a common need came the
desire and prayer of a few of God's people in this state for a
school which would stand definitely and always for holiness of heart
and life. The answer of that prayer and effort is Illinois
The conviction was that the religious element is
necessary to education; that religious experience and ethical
culture must come in the formative stages of one's life; that God
can have His way with His creature man only when his spiritual is in
advance of his intellectual; and that the beginning and developing
of the spiritual part must be undertaken in early life and conducted
from the first in a sane and safe manner, with the Bible as a text
book. To this end a small school was started in 1907.
Later, the present site of the university grounds was secured and a
grammar school and academic departments were added in 1908. A
college department was added in 1909 and a large dormitory for girls
was erected at a cost of $30,000. Another large administration
building is now being erected at a total cost of $50,000.
Other buildings are contemplated. A corps of 12 teachers are
in charge of the school. Ezra T. Franklin is president.
Growing up around the university is the town of Olivet. About
16 houses with modern equipment are completed. Many others are
soon to be finished for people coming here for school purposes.
Over 400 lots are platted, and 50 have been sold within the past 12
months. The location is ideal and the place is fast taking on
the appearance of a modern university community.