HISTORY OF ROSS
Contributed by Mary Paulius & Sharon
History of Vermilion County, Illinois
by B. H. Beckwith
Chicago: H. H. Hill & Company, Publishers
Ross Township was one of the largest
and wealthiest in the county, embraced, in the original division of
the county into political towns, nearly all of the northeastern
quarter of the county, and contained all of congressional townships
23 N. 11 W., 23 N. 12 W., 22 N. 11 W., 22 N. 12 W., half of 21 N. 11
W., half of 21 N. 12 W., and the fractions of 21, 22, and 23 N. 10
W., which lie between these former and the Indiana line - more than
five congressional towns in all. In 1862 it was divided by a
line through the center of it, and now embraces the north have of
townships 21 - 11 and 21 - 12, and all of 22 - 11 and 22 - 12,
except the northern tier of sections and north half of the second
tier. The north fork of the Vermilion river runs nearly
through its center, from north to south, cutting the northern line a
little west of its center, running in a southeasterly direction, and
leaving it a little east of the middle of its southern border, with
an eastern branch, which is joined by another branch called the
Jordan (from some supposed relation, by the eye of faith, to the
good old river of "stormy banks"), running from its eastern borders.
Bean creek, a tributary to the middle fork, runs through the
northwestern portion of the town in the westerly direction.
Numerous small streams and revulets, fed by the living springs, feed
these streams, making Ross one of the best watered regions in the
county. Along all these streams a splendid growth of native
forests grew, a portion of which has, of course, been cut off, the
land being made into farms; while the many places where there was
only a scant growth, kept down by frequent fires, now a strong,
heavy growth shows the rapid increase of western forests.
“Hubbard’s Trace,” the original highway of travel between this
southern country and Chicago, ran through the town and in time gave
place to the old “Chicago Road”, which was known farther north as
“State Road and in Chicago itself became known as State Street, a
name it still bears. Along this timber and near this road the
first settlements were made, very soon after the county was
organized; and its prairies early became the homes, first of the
great herds which pioneered these natural fields, and later of the
thrifty men and women who brought its broad acres into use.
is preeminently a farming township, with the exception of a little
village of Rossville, on its northern border, where a few families
collected along the timber long known as Liggett's grove,
where the Attica road crosses the Chicago road, and which in time
grew into one of the prettiest little western villages in all this
country, and one or two mills, her entire enterprise was
agricultural. The sickness which is consequent upon every
early settlement, made havoc with the early calculations of many a
family; but the great natural resources of the rich country they had
come into, needing only the rasping of the plow and the raking in of
the golden grain to put its energetic laborers into the possession
of competence and wealth, those who first learned that the prairies
would support human life reaped the richest rewards of their
superior judgment or experiments. The Gundy's Gilberts,
Greens, Davisons, Chenoweths, Manns and others found in Ross the
full fuition of youthful hope in the landed prosperity of maturer
years. For a long time, and up to within the last decade the
people were not vexed with railroads or "those bonds" which even in
apostolic times were a chief source of regret. In 1872 the
Chicago, Danville & Vincennes, now known as the Chicago & Eastern
Illinois railroad, was built through the center of the town, giving
rail connection with the county seat on the south and Chicago, and
in 1877 the Havana, Rantoul & Eastern road was built through nearly
the center of the township east and west, so that they are supplied
with all the railroads they will ever need, to the remotest point of
time. The latter is a narrow-gauge road, and as far as this
portion of the state is concerned, is a pioneer effort. While
it is claimed to be a financial success, it is still, probably to be
solved by time, whether it will follow the wake of all the more
recently built roads into the wreckers' hands.
As early as 1836 Elihu, Isaac and Nathaniel
Chauncey entered a large part of the land in township 21 north,
range 11 east, this and the adjoining town. The same parties
entered a large amount of land in other townships. They were
Philadelphians, and never came west to live. Their affairs in
this county were managed by Henry L. Ellsworth, who also
entered considerable land about the same time. These parties
are all dead, and the lands have been divided among their
descendants. This land has mostly been sold, but some still
remains unsold and uncultivated.
The town took its name from Jacob T. Ross, who
owned a tract of land in section 9 (21-11), from which the timbers
for the old mill which was built by Clausson on section 5,
about 1835, were cut and hewn. He seems to have had an
interest in the mill, for he furnished the timbers, and afterward
became the owner. For a long time it was known as Ross'
Mill, and there the early elections and town meetings were
held, and very naturally gave name to the town, although there was
an attempt to call it North Fork.
The Davison family and their relatives, the
Gundys, were probably the first white people to find a permanent
home in Ross. If any were living here before them there is no
means of now verifying it, although Mr. Horr and Mr.
Liggett may have been here a few months earlier. The
writer has been placed under many obligations to Mr. Thomas Gundy
for many of the facts in regard to early settlements, which he
believes will be found substantially correct. With a mind
clear and accurate, Mr. Gundy seems not to be distracted by
cares of family, merchandise or politics, so that he has been a very
Andrew Davison and wife came here from Franklin
county, Ohio, after they had brought up a considerable family, in
1828, and took up land in section 13 (21-12), near Myersville.
He had a little means, and his children a good deal of pioneer
strength and energy. He had long hoped to find a new home,
where land was cheaper, so that his children could secure farms for
themselves. They had seven children: James, Robert, Sally,
Jane Susana, Betty and Polly. Tow of these James
and Mrs. Joseph Gundy, were married when they came, and soon
after, young Joseph Kerr too the trail which the retreating
Davisons had followed, and came through the timber of Indiana
amd married the Davison of his choice. Andrew
Davison saw his children all nicely fixed, having taken up land
all around him, before death called him away in 1841. The land
office at this time was in Palestine, and Crawford county, a new
almost forgotten country village, but there the pioneers of
Vermilion had to go to enter their land, until the land department
was convinced that it ought to be removed to Danville. The
seven children of Mr. Davison grew up and became one of the
most important families in settling this wild country.
James lived on the farm which he had entered until 1873, when he
moved to Danville where he died. He left two children: a son
at Myersville, and a daughter, Mrs. Tuttle, at Danville.
Robert carried on a farm in section 8 (21-11), one mile south
of the present village of Alvin, till 1843, when he died, leaving a
family of five children. His son, John, continued to work the
farm until the first call for troops rung along the banks of North
Fork, when he enlisted in the 4th Cavalry, and did a raliant
service, stamping out rebellion as he had done in killing out the
rattlesnakes on his ancestral acres. Since his return he has
been engaged in mercantile pursuits at Rossville. James,
another son, lives on the old homestead. He also served in the
army. Robert, the third son, a young man of much
promise, went with his brothers, but did not return with them.
He gave his young life to his country, - a sacrifice to national
unity. He died at Salem, Arkansas, a member of the 25th Ill.
Mrs. Ingruham lives near the old homestead, and Mrs. Magee
in Indiana. Of the daughters of Mr. Andrew Davison, Mrs.
Joseph Gundy died before her husband; Mrs. Joseph Kerr
died some years since, leaving five children, who live in the
vicinity of Myersville; Mrs. Josiah Henkle died
early, leaving three daughters; Mrs. Mathers lived
with her parents, and at her death left one daughter.
Jacob Gundy, the father of the family of that name, who
have been prominent for half a century in the history of Ross and of
Vermilion county, had been a soldier in the revolutionary war, and
had moved early from Pennsylvania to Chillicothe, Ohio, where he
lived on a farm until he followed his son Joseph here in
1830. Joseph had immigrated here with the Davisons.
William and Thomas, and Mrs. Abram Woods
came with their father. Jacob, Jr., came here a few
years afterward, and soon after went to Missouri. Mr.
Gundy, Sen., was a widower, and made his home around with
his children; he died at a good old age, in 1842, and was buried at
the Gundy burial ground near Myersville. They made their
first settlement near the south line of Ross township, near where
Joseph lived. Joseph came here to find a new country,
where land would be cheap, and as soon as he got across the state
line he expected to find things as he wanted. He took up the first
land he could find, subject to " squatter sovereignty," or entry. He
carried on farming very successfully, and acquired nine hundred
acres of land; raised stock largely, bought and fed, but did not
adopt the more hazardous and speculative undertakings; he sold his
stock to drovers. He often sold to the Funks, to
Williamson on Sugar Creek, to Ohio men, and to others from
Pennsylvania. He had two children when he came here, and ten were
born to them here, four of whom are now dead. Of the eight living
children all but one live in the county: Mrs. Isaac Chrisman,
in Ross; Mrs. Dr. Henton, in Danville; Mrs. John Davison
and Mrs. Milton Lee, at Rossville; Andrew was a large
and successful farmer and engaged in mercantile pursuits, was
largely interested in public affairs, was a member of the
legislature in 1875. and proved by his long acquaintance with the
wants of the people and the breadth of his general intelligence a
useful and safe legislator. After the failure of Hon. John C.
Short, Mr. Gundy and some others undertook to
stand in the breach and save the important coal interest which Mr.
Short held, but the continued depression of trade and the
large shrinkage of values was more than they could stand, and
financial failure followed. There was little reason to doubt that
the immense coal fields controlled and owned by the Exchange bank,
would eventually pay all the debts of that concern, but the
depression of the coal trade so reduced the profit that they ceased
to be a source of revenue. Mr. Gundy is now engaged in farming near
Bismark. Francis and Joseph have been engaged in
farming and in trade. Thomas Gundy was killed by
lightning in 1855 ; he was fixing a fence when the storm approached,
and started to go across the field to the house when the sad
accident occurred. Joseph Gundy, Sen., died at
Myersville in 1865 closing a useful and successful life. William
Gundy, the other brother who came with his father in 1830,
married and raised a family of seven children, who are now
scattered, the sons living in Missouri. m and his wife died in 1851.
Mrs. Abram Woods, after her husband's death, went with
her five children to Missouri. Thomas Gundy who now
lives at Rossville, has been a prosperous farmer, and now has
practically retired from hard work. He owns the Abram
Woods farm a farm near Alvin, one at Gilbert Station, and
three small farms east of Bismark. He has been remarkably prosperous
in all respects. He has, however, never aspired to official
position, though he has been occasionally pressed into township
office. He has seen this county grow from a wilderness to a fruitful
John Demorest came here from Shawnee
Prairie, Indiana, where he had buried his wife with his three
daughters, about 1828, and entered land in section 6 (21-11), and in
section 1 (21-12). He owned about four hundred acres of land. He was
a local preacher, and for years gave his time very largely to the
work of building up Christianity in this county. He was a strict man
in all that pertained to religion, morality and family government,
and as strict and honest in his dealing with his fellow-men. He and
Daniel Fairchild were much together in the ministry,
and went here and there holding meetings. No one can over-estimate
the results for good of these earnest, plain men, who preached as
they went, and worked for the kingdom continually. Father
Demorest sold his farm to Reuben Ray in 1866, and
soon after went to Ohio, returned here, and removed to Kansas in
1870, where he died. His daughter, Mrs. Eli Fairchild,
resides in Blount township.
Probably no person has ever been identified more largely in
everything which pertains to the welfare of Ross than Alvan
Gilbert. His father, Samuel Gilbert, with two
brothers, came from Ontario county, New York, to Danville, in 1826.
They had but little idea where they were going when they made their
way down the Alleghany River, and were probably attracted here more
by the fact that the salt works were here in the county than any
other one thing. The Gilberts established a ferry at
Danville, and built a mill. It was rather a cheap affair, but was
not cheaper than the custom of the country. With corn only six cents
to ten cents per bushel, and wheat about fifty cents per bushel, it
could hardly be expected that grinding for the tenth bushel would
pay a return on a very large investment. Alvan worked around
Dandle about six years, tending mill and such other work as he could
find to do, until 1832, when he married a daughter of Robert
Horr and bought his interest in the land he (Horr) had
lived on, in section 25, where the Chicago road crosses the north
fork. His house was a little log cabin directly in the road leading
to the old bridge before the road was changed to the new bridge. He
afterward, in 1839 sold this place to his father, Samuel
Gilbert, and bought the Liggett farm at what is now
Rossville. Mr. Samuel Gilbert was soon after
appointed postmaster of the new post-office, North Fork. Dr.
Brickwell who was a neighbor of Gilbert's at this
time, says that at one time the mail was delayed six weeks by high
water, and when it did finally arrive and the great rush of mail
matter, dammed up for six long weeks fell into the goodly people
around where Mann's chapel now stands and postmaster
Gilbert had called in a bee of the citizens to help him open,
sort, distribute, arrange, count, and deliver — for there were no
railroad pos>offices in those times — it was found that there was
just one letter in the mail, all told; and the Doctor thinks that
had the flood lasted another six weeks it would have "dried up" the
post-office itself, so that no further mail matter would ever have
come there. Samuel Gilbert's house was one of the
early preaching-places of the Methodists, and was the real
forerunner of Mann's chapel, which stands very near the spot
where his house was. It was customary for the worshipers to take
their rifles along with them when they went to church, and, when
returning, should a stray deer come waltzing around in an ungodly
crusade against the quiet of the Sabbath, he was very apt to get
shot for his temerity. Few such Sabbath-breaking deer were ever
actually known to return to the cool" retreats. Samuel
Gilbert died in 1855, leaving four children. His two daughters
had married, and gone west, his two sons living here. Both are now
Mr. Alvan Gilbert, mentioned at length in a subsequent part
of this township, almost immediately, on his settlement in Ross,
became recognized as one of 'the most useful, well informed and
public spirited men of the county.
John Liggett, who lived at, and gave the
name to Liggett's Grove, came to the place where the
late Hon. Alvan Gilbert long lived, about 1829,
and took up land in section 11 (22-12). This place was on the
Chicago road, and was a place for travelers to stop; although he did
not claim to keep hotel. He died in 1838, and was buried near the
present residence of Dr. Brickwell. His widow and
children remained here some years and then went to Oregon.
Thomas McKibben first settled with his
father in section 32 (22-11). in 1830; he afterward lived in
different parts of the county, but this was his first place of
residence. He was in the Blackhawk war, was the first deputy
sheriff, and served two terms as sheriff. He took neater delight in
hunting a horse-thief than in eating a meal of victuals. He was a
very popular man in the early days, and a very competent officer.
People always slept soundly when they knew he was sheriff. He at one
time owned a farm a little south of where Hoopeston now is.
Oliver Prickett came from Brown county,
Ohio, with his father, in 1832. They farmed a while on the
Spencer farm and on the Crockett farm south of Danville,
and then came to where Rossville now stands. Asel Gilbert
had entered a quarter-section joining Liggett's north. There
were no families in that part but Liggett's, Gilbert's
and Bicknell's, the latter two in what is now Grant township.
At this time, in fact immediately after the close of the Blackhawk
war, Chicago became a place of trade for all this country. Instead
of sending their produce down the river on flatboats, they began to
team, or " haul," everything to Chicago, and look to Chicago for
.everything they had to buy. Very soon people began to bring salt
from there that was boiled in Syracuse, Kew York, in place of that
made at Danville. The "Board of Trade" is not more disastrous in its
fluctuations and prices, no more uncertain in Chicago today, than
they were in those old times. Farmers took oats to Chicago and sold
for $1.50 per bushel; at another time they would hardly bring " a
bit a bushel." Corn had no market price, but hides and pelts
were always cash. "Pork was very regular in price, and usually
brought enough to pay the farmer ten cents for his corn, that is,
after about 1838. Before that, for a few years, the high-pressure
speculative times of 1835-6, and the consequent crash of 1837,
changed the prices of every commodity from a normal to an abnormal
Albert Comstock, now of Rossville,
entered land in 25 (22-12), in 1837; a few years later he sold to
his brother-in-law, Clark Green, and established
himself at " Bicknell's Point," which was the point of timber
north of Rossville, and the most northern of any timber on the
Chicago road until you reached the waters of the Iroquois. The
beautiful farms which spread over this delightful "divide" hardly
suggest the scenes, the trials, the suffering consequent upon the
droughts of summer and the severe cold of winter, crossing this wide
stretch between the Vermilion and the Iroquois. " Extremes meet,"
the philosophers tell us. Those who have crossed this arm of the
"Grand Prairie" can testify to the rugged truth of this in their
experience. No roads were ever nicer than these prairie roads
when the weather was favorable. The smooth even surfaces where the
wheels run, divided evenly by the strip of turf a few inches wide in
the middle, were perfection itself. Not a jolt or jar marred
the even tenor of the teamster's wagon; no load was too heavy for
the ordinary team; and when chirm the long pleasant falls which were
common in this state, the fresh prairie breezes fanned the fatigue
from faint teams and drivers, no labor was pleasanter than this.
When long-continued rains had swelled the sloughs to swimming
rivers, and ruts had been worked into the "black stick" of the
prairies deep enough to sink a horse, and black night had overtaken
worn out nature, and the terrible storms which swept these great
prairies held sway where so recently all was lovely, the change may
be partially imagined by the reader of to-day, but never realized.
The extremes of pleasurable travel and disastrous suffering met
where now the finest farms, the most pleasant villages, and
comfortable railroads rule.
The old mill, still in good running order, standing a
little northwest of Alvin, is historic. Mr. Clawson
put up a saw-mill in 1838, and a year or two later added a
grist-mill. Soon after this, the two Chrismans and
Sommerville were at work building a mill at Myersville. One of
the Chrismans was killed by the falling of earth from a
raceway which they were attempting to tunnel. This circumstance
induced them to abandon the work at Myersville, which they sold to
Myers, and bought the Clawson mill. They run it with very
good success until 1848, when they sold to John Hoobler,
from Perrysville, Indiana, a preacher of the United Brethren
denomination, and the pioneer of that church. In 1851 he sold to
Jacob T. Ross, who had taken an interest in its building as
before noticed, and it came to be called from that time Ross'
Mill. Ross put in a small stock of goods for the
accommodation of the neighbors, which was the first store in the
township. Here the first town meetings and elections were held.
Mr. Ross sold the mill in 1858 to John L. Persons,
who after running it a few years was murdered, about 1862, by four
men who, the evidence showed, had formed a conspiracy to kill him on
account of a dispute about a pocket book. Miller and
Persons had disputed about the settlement of an account of less
than five dollars, at the store. Getting angry while he had his
pocket-book in his hand, he laid it down, and forgetting it he went
home. He afterward hired the three men — Sanders, Smith
and Moore—to get his pocket-book, or in case they did not
succeed, to kill Persons, giving them a gallon of whisky, and
agreeing to give half the money that was in the pocket-book (about
ten dollars). The men agreed to go together at a given hour and make
a demand on him, expecting, of course, to get the pocket-book
without further trouble; but Moore, who it seems had the
custody of the whisky, took down more of it than just enough to keep
his pluck up to killing point, and sallied out and killed Persons
on sight, without even demanding satisfaction.
He then hunted up his confederates and told them their
help was not needed. Smith was arrested and turned state's
evidence. Sanders got a short term in the penitentiary, and
Moore went into the army. On Persons' death the
property came into the hands of Sangster & Swazey, of
Cincinnati, Ohio, and about 1867 John Mains, the
present proprietor bought it. It stands practically as it did forty
A. J. Miller took up land three miles east of
Rossville in 1834. He increased his farm to about six hundred acres,
and remained on it till he died, in 1871, and his family reside
there yet. Willard Brown came from New York and took
up a farm a little southeast of where Alvin now is in 1835,
and remained there until he died, in 1878. He was a good specimen of
the hardy pioneer; a hardy, honest, upright, true man; a good
citizen and faithful father. Several of his children still live here
to honor and revere the memory of his upright life. L. M.
Thompson entered land southeast of Rossville. He now lives in
the village. He has long been interested in everything pertaining to
the public affairs of his town, and is a public-spirited and useful
citizen. Abram Mann, who, on account of his
intelligence, education, great worth and wealth, held a commanding
position in-the new settlement, came here first in 1836. He was an
Englishman, and had been only a short time in this country, living
for a year in Herkimer county, New York, where Abijah and
Charles A. Mann,— prominent then and since in the politics and
business relations of central New York,— lived. "When he came to
this county he lived in Danville a year, and entered several
sections of land around where he afterward made his home, and the
next year commenced his large farming operations here. His wife
dying, he took his four children back to England in 1839, for a few
years, and engaged Dr. Brickwell, then an energetic
and progressive young man,— now an honored and esteemed physician of
Rossville,—to superintend his affairs. After his return from England
he put his large estate into productive cultivation. He went largely
into cattle-feeding, aiming to feed up all that was raised on his
large farm. He was a strong friend of education and religion, and
exerted a good influence by his example and the liberal use of his
means,— never ostentatious, but always giving a generous support to
all that was good. He lived here until 1865, bringing up his four
children to honest and frugal industry, inculcating the spirit of
strong religious faith which possessed him, and the liberal
sentiments which were a marked trait in his character. One act which
marks the character of the man may be Mentioned. In 1856, believing
that the society then worshiping in the school-house needed a
church, he offered to make and furnish all the brick necessary to
put up such a church as the society should choose to build — the
larger they should decide to build the better. Messrs.
James Gilbert, Messic, Demorest, B. C.
Green and E. R. Ray were selected by the church to
see that a good house of worship was put tm The building is 30 x 45,
and cost, including the donations made $3,300. Of Mr.
Mann's children, two were married and have died. The other
two remain on the farm. In 1875 they built probably the finest
residence in Vermilion county, at a cost of $25,000, brick.
John Ray, about 1835, came to live where
his three sons. George T., Wm. G. and John, now live,
near the junction of the East and North Forks. The "Ray
boys," as they are still called, are good citizens, and have the
reputation of excellent men among their neighbors. B. G. Green
came here from Ontario county, New York, about 1840. He was a
young man without means, with fair common-school education, and had
heard of the Gilberts who had preceded him some years. He
first bought a piece of land west of Rossville, where Thomas
Armstrong now lives. He afterward sold this, and bought forty
acres and entered forty acres east of Rossville, but sold again and
bought where he now resides, of Mr. Comstock. For
several years he worked around as he could find work to do,
splitting rails, working out by the, day, or at the stone mason
trade. He worked in Danville, taking down the old buildings there
and making them into barns, sheds and shops, for by this time
Danville began to put on airs, and must get rid of the old buildings
which did not comport with increased prosperity. He tells with a
commendable pride about walking from Danville, losing two days work
there, to vote for building the first frame school-house, "when as
yet he had no child." School-houses were not so popular then, and
the plan of having the best school-house in the county was likely to
fail. Green's children have since enjoyed the blessings of
free schooling in that little frame house, which has been used from
that time to this, but has recently been supplanted by a finer new
one. In 1845 he had got a few dollars ahead, and commenced making
what is now one of the best farms in Ross township, consisting of
one thousand acres in ranges 11 and 12, just north of the timber.
All settlers hugged the timber line, for the protection
which that natural barrier presented. "Wild game was plenty. You
could shoot prairie chickens from the roofs of the houses. Wild
geese were plenty on the prairies, staying here awhile spring and
fall. Deer were so plenty as hardly to attract much comment, and
wolves would hardly keep away from the dooryard. Sheep could hardly
be protected from them day or night. The farmers used to make the
trip to Chicago with a drove of hogs, and return in about ten days.
Hogs could travel in those days. They used to run in the timber till
corn harvest, and then they were collected and fed until they were
in "light marching order "light enough that they would not actually
run away from the herd,—and then start Chicagoward. Of course the
large hogs we have BOW, well fatted, could never make the trip as
they did then. Sometimes when they "got their hogs up" to commence
feeding, they were so wild, having run in the timber all the year,
that they were afraid to eat, and as a precautionary measure, the
corn was put into the pen on the sly, so that the stubborn fellows
would not get the hint that they were expected to eat it; and again,
it sometimes became necessary to hunt them down with dogs and bring
them in one at a time,—a custom which gave rise to the story which
has been so often told about the first sheriff of Vermilion county
(which the writer is happy to say lacks confirmation), that when he
was sent out to bring in the first grand jury to serve at Butler's,
he found them so wild and afraid of the officer that he had to " let
slip the dogs " and hunt them as the farmers hunted their hogs.
There were times of prevailing sickness among the
settlers, and certain diseases which were more or less prevalent at
all times. Especially was this so of those who settled along the
streams. Many injured their constitutions by overwork, or, rather,
by careless work.
The early religious life of the people
in a new country, and the faithful labors of the early preachers,
are always subjects of deep interest, but seldom of record here.
There seems to have been a prevailing opinion that the record of
their labors would be kept in a higher book than those we inspect
here; so that very much of it has to be collected from those whose
memories are not now the best. There seems to be no doubt that
Rev. Enoch Kingsbury was the pioneer Presbyterian minister in
Ross. He was engaged in preaching in the county almost from its
first settlement. His general labors through the county are
frequently spoken of. His particular labors at Rossville in
organizing and ministering to the church there are a matter of
record. This church was organized at Mr. Gilbert's
house in 1850, by Mr. Kingsbury, six members uniting
to form the church: Joseph Hains, Millie
Bicknell, Eliza Kingsbury, David and
Elizabeth Strain, and Mrs. Nancy Gilbert.
Mrs. Gilbert is only left of those who there pledged
their lives to the cause. Mr. Gilbert did not himself
join the church till some months after. Services were held in Mr.
Gilbert's house until the Odd-fellows built their hall, when,
in common with all other denominations, services were held there.
Mr. Kingsbury's long service terminated in 1868, when
Rev. W. K Steele was employed, and continued to minister to the
church until 1874. At that date Rev. John H.
Dillingham, the present pastor, who had been for several years
city missionary at St. Louis, was employed, and has continued to
serve the church till now. They have a pleasant house of worship,
and the membership now numbers eighty-seven. The first
Sabbath-school at Rossville was the Union school, held in the hall
until the churches were built, and Mr. E. Townsend acted as
superintendent. After this each denomination held its own school.
Like most other localities, the Methodists were largely
in the majority among the early preachers of the gospel here. The
absence of all formalities, the plain, unvarnished presentation of
the truth, the acceptance of all who had gifts to preach, faith to
pray, and willingness to work, and, more than all, the tree
salvation they preached, made that denomination the great civilizer
and christianizer of scattered communities, and the barrier against
utter want of religious teaching The preaching of the early fathers
was maintained with much regularity in their times, but at irregular
places: at first in the cabins of the people, and afterward in the
school-houses as they were erected. John Demorest was one of the
first local preachers, and, with Daniel Fairchild,
went over this country holding their two-days meetings, and helping
the traveling preachers continually. Samuel Gilbert's
house, near where Mann's chapel was afterward built, was one of the
earliest points; after this at Ray's school-house, at
Goudy's school-house, at Myersville, and the Asbury chapel, near
the state line. At first it belonged to the Danville circuit, but
about 1855 it was cut off and made the Myersville circuit. During
the former period the Munsells, W. T. Moore, Elliott,
Crane and Bradshaw were the preachers. During the
latter, Messrs. Muirhead, Horr, Huckstip, Lyon and Edward
Rutledge preached. During this period the appointments were:
North Fork, Asbury, East Fork, Myersville, State Line and Fairchilds.
The books placed at the disposal of the writer do not show any
written record farther back than 1864. At this time Rev. W. H. H.
Moore was presiding elder; J. Muirhead, preacher, and the
appointments were: Ross, East Fork, Mann's, Rossville and
Myersville. In 1860 A. Shinn was presiding elder; Mr.
Muirhead, preacher. In 1866 and 1867 D. P. Lyon was
preacher. In 1868 it became Rossville circuit, . with appointments
at Rossville, Eight Mile, Mann's and at a school-house; J. A.
Kumler, preacher. In 1870, Preston Wood was
presiding elder, and Kumler, preacher; in 1871, B. F.
Hyde, preacher; in 18473 T. W. Phillips, presiding
elder; J. Miller, preacher; in 1874, I H. Noble,
presiding elder. In 1876, J. Shaw was preacher, whose
pastorate still continues; in 1878, J. McElfresh, presiding
elder. Houses of worship are now occupied at Rossville, Mann's and
at East Fork, one mile east of Alvin. The Sabbath-school at
Rossville numbers eighty-five, and is under the superintendency of
Mr. D. C. Deamude. Mr. John Johns
of Danville, pretty good authority, says he believes Rev.
James McKain was the first Methodist preacher who labored
in the northern half of the county. He preached here when it
belonged to the Eugene circuit as early as 1829, though he does not
know that he preached in what is now Ross.
About 1848 several families belonging to the United
Brethren denomination settled in the western part of Ross and along
Bean creek. William Cork, the Albrights,
Caleb Bennett, Mr. Putnam, and others of
that faith, were anxious for preaching there. Rev. Joel
Cougill, a member of the upper Wabash conference, was
appointed there in 1851, and organized a class, with Samuel
Albright as class-leader. He was followed in succession by
Messrs. Pencer, Edmonson and Coffman. In
1873 a church was built there, on section 30, 36x50, with belfry. A
little later a church was formed at Rossville, and these, with
Hoopeston, became the Rossville circuit. Messrs. Anderson,
Jones and Cork have preached here. There are now
twenty-four members. They have purchased the Christian church, and
have maintained a Sabbath-school. Mr. A. Boardman is
class-leader and superintendent of Sabbath-school.
Below is a list of those who have been elected to
township office since the organization of the township:
||L. M. Thompson
||L. M. Thompson
||L. M. Thompson
||L. M. Thompson
||J. R. Stewart
||L. M. Thompson
||J. H. Gilbert
||J. R. Stewart
||L. M. Thompson
||A. M. Davis
||L. M. Thompson
||J. R. Stewart
||A. M. Davis
||A. M. Davis
||A. T. Search
||S. W. Harris
||L. M. Thompson
||G. A. Collings
||J. J. Dale
||Geo. W. Smith
||G. A. Collings
||G. W. Smith
||J. W. Dale
||J. W. Dale
||Wm. I. Allen
||J. W. Dale
||J. W. Dale
||Wm. I. Allen
||J. W. Dale
||J. W. Dale
||Wm. I. Allen
||J. W. Dale
||J. W. Dale
||J. D. Bingham
||J. J. Davison
||J. D. Bingham
||A. T. Search
||G. W. Smith
||J. T. Search
||G. W. Smith
||J. T. Search.
||G. W. Smith
||W. H. Collings
||G. W. Smith
||A. T. Search
||J. H. Braden
||G. W. Smith
||A. T. Search
||W. D. Foulke
||J. H. Williams
||A. T. Search
||J. C. GUndy
||D. C. Deamude
||T. S. Tursher
||J. C. Gundy
the peace: James Holmes, J. M. Demorest, L. A. Burd, Samuel
Albright, J. J. Dale, A. Gilbert, W. I. Allen, W. Salmons, W. D.
Foulke, John Davison.
situated on the dividing line between Ross and Grant townships, at
the point where the state road from Danville to Chicago crosses the
old state road running from Attica, Indiana, to Bloomington. Its
corporate limits now include what used to be known as Liggett's
Grove on the south and Bicknell's Point on the north. The
Chicago & Eastern Illinois railroad runs along its eastern boundary.
It is eighteen miles from Danville, and about six from Hoopeston.
The north fork runs about one mile west of it. The land upon which
it is built is beautifully rolling, giving natural advantages of
landscape which have been well used in beautifying the homes of its
The first settlement within its limits, as has been before stated,
was by John Liggett, who gave his name to the
locality. His early death, however, gave the place to Alvan
Gilbert, whose quick eye and accurate judgment readily saw
that in course of time there would be a trading point there, and
perhaps a place of considerable local importance. The building of
the La Fayette, Bloomington & Muncie through the next northern tier
of townships, instead of following, as seemed likely, the old
traveled road, somewhat changed the anticipations. For a while it
was called Bicknell's Point, and again it was known far and
near as "Henpeck," though who gave it this name, and why, is not now
After the tide of immigration which was consequent upon
the railroad building of 1851 to 1855 had filled these prairies
around the groves with hardy settlers, it became evident that some
one must " keep store at Henpeck," and Samuel Frazier,
of Danville, put in a stock of goods there in 1856, and continued to
sell for four years. The depression consequent upon the financial
storm of 1857 put back the enterprise of the little village some
years, and it was not until after the close of the rebellion that it
may really have been said to grow much. Several business ventures
were tried, few of which proved successful. In 1857 Thomas
Armstrong and the North Fork Odd-Fellows Lodge built the
two-story frame store now standing on the southwest corner of the
principal cross-roads. It was built as a joint enterprise, the I. O.
O. F. owning the upper story. This room, although belonging to
secret and rather exclusive society, has been for many years the
only "public hall"—an apparent contradiction of terms in Rossville.
Here all the societies and lodges ever organized at Rossville have
found their homes, and for years the gospel was preached by those
advanced guards of religions instruction and higher civilization,
the traveling and local humble Methodist preachers, and by old
Father Kingsbury, the pioneer Presbyterian preacher of
this county. Some worthy poet ought to tell, in measures which the
historian cannot hope to reach, how here the glad tidings of free
salvation reverberated through the room, while righteousness was
dressed to "square and compass" by Masonic goat-riders. Here the
stern decrees, popularized in more austere communities by
calvinistic doctrinaires, and election, preordination and
predestination, were made household words, while rabid grangers held
the mythical middleman by the nape of the neck over a boiling,
seathing, sulphurous perdition, ready to let him fall at the drop of
the hat. Here for years the long-to-be-remembered union
Sabbath-school was held, which crowded the hall to its fullest
capacity, where many a dear little one now singing the glad song of
the redeemed in heaven learned to lisp the simple truths of
religion. It does take off the rough edges of those who are opposed
to secret societies to recall the good which has been done in that
plain old hall. The store-room in the first story was occupied as
soon as built by Whitcomb & Upp, with a general stock
of goods, with George S. Cole as clerk. In the spring of 1859
W. R. Gessie opened a stock of goods here, with Wm.
Mann as manager. It was in operation for some time, and the
goods were then shipped back to Ohio.
The spring of 1862 brought to Rossville a man who, from
that time to the present, has been one of the most important factors
in its business prosperity. Perhaps no man in the community has been
more thoroughly energetic (with the possible exception of Mr.
Alvan Gilbert, who was to all intents the father of Rossville,)
in building up the young town than W. J. Henderson. He opened
up a general stock of goods in 1862, and the people soon learned
that he had come to stay. In 1864 he built the frame store which so
long stood on the ground upon which now stands his magnificent brick
block, since which time be has been engaged in trade, in farming,
keeping hotel and looking after all the interests of Rossville. In
1859 Gideon Davis built the south part of the large hotel and
occupied it until he sold it to John with, who in turn traded
it to Dr. M. T. Livingood, who purchased it with a
view to enlarge and improve it for the better accommodation of the
traveling public. In 1873 he built the north part, 24x44 two stories
high, at an expense of nearly $4,000. It could hardly be called a
financial success, but the Doctor accomplished his purpose of giving
to Rossville the best hotel in the county north of Danville. About
1862 Alvan Gilbert built the store now occupied by
J. E. Smith on the corner north of the Odd-Fellows' building,
which was occupied by Short Brothers, of Danville,
with a general stock of goods for two years.
Jonas Sloat opened a blacksmith shop in 1857.
The post-office known as North Fork was established in 1839 at
Gilbert's, near Mann's Chapel, and in 1853 it was removed here
and Alvan Gilbert appointed postmaster. It continued
to bear that name until Rossville was laid out, when the name was
changed. Alvan Gilbert and Joseph Satterthwait
laid out and recorded the original town of Rossville about 1857. It
contained only four blocks at the crossing of the Chicago and Attica
roads, and the two principal streets were named so from that fact.
Gilbert and Satterthwait's first addition was laid out
and recorded in April, 1862, lying all around the original town.
Gilbert's second addition lay south and east of this,, seventeen
blocks. W. T. and W. H. Livingood's, of eighteen
blocks, is east of the original town. W. I Henderson laid out an
addition of nine blocks north of this, arid Gilbert a third
addition south of the former. It was incorporated under the general
incorporation act in force July, 1872. As soon as the act was in
force a petition was signed and the county court ordered an election
under the act to be held on the 27th of July, to vote for or against
incorporating, which election resulted in favor of incorporation by
a vote of 53 to 15. Under this petition the bounds were fixed as all
of the east half of section 11 and west half of section 12, town 22,
range 12, embracing one mile square, the north half of which is m
Grant and the south half in Ross. On the 24th of August an election
was held for six trustees, clerk and police magistrate, resulting in
the election of E. E. Purviance, Isaac B. Warner,
W. C. Tuttle, William Laidlow, W. F.
Lefevre, Ira Green, trustees; B. Z. Duly,
clerk; J. W. McTaggart, police magistrate. These officers put
the new village into successful operation and provided a code of
ordinances under which it has prospered without licensing dram
The present officers are: J. C. Gundy,
president; William Thomas, E. M. Gilbert,
James Stafford, J. Warner, trustees; K. S.
Williams, clerk; Mr. Deamude, treasurer; W. S. Demoree,
police magistrate; D. C. Lee, constable. The clerk receives
one dollar per meeting; trustees, fifty cents when present;
treasurer, one per centum.
The progressive growth of the village has been
uninterrupted since that time, several good buildings have been
erected, and many pleasant residences. Putnam & Albright
built the nice brick block on the northeast corner of Attica and
Chicago streets in 1873. It is two stories hj<rh sixty-five feet
deep, and twenty feet wide in front by thirty-three in the rear. It
is occupied below by a store and bank, and by offices above. It is
neatly and substantially built. W. J. Henderson built the
fine brick block which he occupies, in 1875. It is 35 x 90, two
stories having a good public hall above. The store-room is one of
the finest in the county, thirty-three feet wide in the clear, with
counting-room and safety-deposit vault, neatly finished off in oiled
hard-wood, and presents anything but a rural appearance. It cost
$7,500. Mr. Deamude built the fine brick block which stands
next to Henderson's, in 1876. It is 24x80, two stories,
having office and tin shop above. It was built for the hardware
trade, which Mr. Deamude has so long earned on here,
and occupied by him until his retirement from trade last year, and
is now used by his successor.
The original brick two-story school-house was built in 1868, 36 x
65, and was occupied the next year. In 1874 it was found too small,
and a two-story addition, 30x40, was built. The grounds are ample
and neat. The entire cost, furnished, was about $10,000. The school
is graded, and employs six teachers, and is run eight months. It is
justly the pride of the district.
The Methodist church was built in 1869. It is brick,
34x56, and cost $5,500. It was dedicated in July, 1870, by Elder
Moody, "the lighting parson," who acquired his title
while serving as chaplain in the army, by the business-like way with
which he upheld the "sword of the Lord and of Gideon," by
praying all night and fighting all day with just the same spirit and
The Presbyterian church was built about the same time,
and is a neat frame building 32 x 54, with vestibule at the corner
surmounted by a belfry. It cost about $3,000, and was dedicated in
October, 1870. The Christians built a church which is 30 x 46, which
they afterward sold to the United Brethren.
The Rossville Mill, a large and in every respect a
first-class mill, was built by Tuttle & Ross in 1875, and the
large elevator of Cornstock & Co., 40 x 60, in 1873.
North Fork Lodge, I. O. O. F., No. 245, was chartered
in 1857. James Holmes, Lewis A. Burd, J. H.
Gilbert, Fulton Armstrong, A. Gilbert, J. R. Stewart, J. Dixon, John
Rudy, J. Helmick, J. P. Jones and L. M. Thompson
were charter members, of whom the last is the only one left in the
lodge. The first officers were: Fulton Armstrong, N.
G.; Alvan Gilbert, V.G.; L. M. Thompson,
secretary; J. R. Stewart, treasurer; L. A. Burd,
chaplain ; J. Uler, lodge deputy. The lodge owns its hall,
and has been fairly prosperous, especially since the war; during
that, the number did not often exceed six or eight. The present
officers are: W. W. Phillips, N.G.; W. W. Lettrill
V.G.; D. W. Foulke, secretary; L. M. Thompson,
The first meeting of Rossville Lodge, A. F. & A. M.,
working under dispensation, was held November 23, 1866. Henry C.
Ellis W.M; John Ridgway, S.W.; N. Griffing,
J.W. pro tern. R. Potter S.D. pro tem.; J. V.
Blackburn, J.D. pro tem.; E. S. Pope, secretary pro
tem,; Jacob Haas, tyler pro tem.
Rossville Lodge, No. 527 was chartered October 1,1867. The charter
members were John Ridgeway. S. D. Lewis, H. C.
Ellis, E. S. Townsend, D. P. Haas, Jehu R. Jerauld, H.
D. Campbell, A. M. Davis, William York, J. D. Bingham and
Jacob Haas. The first officers were: John Ridgway,
W.M.; H. C. Ellis, S.W.; James D. Bingham, J.W. The
charter was signed by Jerome R. Gorin, grand master,
and H. G. Reynolds, grand secretary. The lodge has at present
some forty or forty-five members. The present officers are: W. W.
Phillips, W.M.; Harry Shannon, S.W.; J. C.
Gundy, J.W.; J. R. Livingood, secretary; D. C.
Deamude, treasurer; E. F. Birch, S.D.;
Patrick Pendergrast, J.D.; Thomas Dengler,
The Rossville Lodge, No. 650, Knights of Honor, was
chartered by the Supreme Lodge of the World, May, 1877. The charter
members were J. J. McElroy, W. D. Foulke, William Vining,
G. G. Ruth, J.C. Gundy, John Milligan, J. Warner, A.
Grant, J. R. Livingood, S. A. Watson, W. H. Oakwood. J. C. Gundy
was past dictator; W. D. Foulke, dictator; J. R. Livingood,
vice dictator; J. B. Warner, assistant dictator; J.
Milligan, chaplain; S. A. Watson, guide; G. G. Ruth,
reporter; A. Grant, treasurer; Messrs. Gundy,
Milligan and Vining, trustees. The lodge meets in the
Odd-Fellows' hall. Their objects are not unlike those of the
Odd-Fellows order, having an established widows' fund, in addition
to other regular beneficiaries. The supreme lodge makes regular
assessments on subordinate lodges to meet the necessities of
obligations to the representatives of deceased members. During the
devastations of the yellow fever last year the lodge was taxed
heavily, assessments following each other in quick succession, all
of which were promptly met in the spirit which actuates the order.
There are now eighteen members. The present officers are: J.
C. Gundy, dictator; J. R. Livingood, vice dictator;
J. J. McElroy, assistant dictator; William Vining,
chaplain; A. Grant, guide; W. D. Foulke, reporter.
In 1873 the Rossville " Observer," a six-column folio,
was started by Mr. Moore. It was republican first, but
in 1876 went with the "greenback" or national cause. Mr.
Moore discontinued its publication after three years, and
removed to Champaign, where he became connected with the " Union."
In 1876 Mr. J. Cromer commenced the publication of the "
Enterprise," a republican paper, and continued it for nearly two
years. He then went to Homer, where he is still engaged in
publishing. Rossville now has no paper.
Havana, Rantoul & Eastern railroad was built it was apparent that at
its crossing with the Chicago & Danville road there would a station
of some importance grow up. As early as 1872 a station had been
established on the Chicago & Danville road a mile south of where
Alvin now is, called Gilbert, from Hon. Alvan
Gilbert, who had been so long identified with all the
material interests of Ross, and who had been, more than any other
man, instrumental in saving the township aid which had been voted by
Ross to this railroad. A post-office was established, which, for
some reason, did not bear the name of the station — probably because
of the similarity between its name and that of some other
post-office in the state. To compromise matters, they attempted to
name the post-office for Mr. Gilbert's given name,
which was Alvan; he always persisting in that spelling, which
violated the theories and practices of the post-office department,
and by the officials it was spelled as indicated at the head of this
L. T. Dixson laid out the town of GILBERT on
section 8 (21-11), and Brace Peters and D. McKibben
started a store. Peters was postmaster. Soon after this the
store was sold to J. D. Williams, and he was appointed
postmaster. John Davison afterward bought it, and put
in a stock of dry-goods. Dr. G. W. Akers started in the drug
business in August, 1875, and continued there for one year, at which
time the narrow-gauge road was a fixed fact, and drugs, store,
post-office, station and all moved a mile farther north, and
Gilbert went where Jim Fisk's profits in the great
"crop-moving" Wall street speculation went.
In laying out and giving name to the new town the
officials showed toe good judgment of following, not only the name
but the spelling of the post-office which was moved there from
The building of this road only called for private
subscriptions, as toe law and the constitution under which the
people, the townships, cities and counties had run headlong into
debt in aid of useless railroads had been repealed, and the voting
"local aid " is among the things of toe past. The company bought
twelve acres of land of Samuel Kuns, on section 5,
eight of which they laid out in town lots and recorded as the town
of Alvin. John Davison and W. D. Foulke laid
out additions west of this, and Samuel Kuns north of
it. J. W. Stansbury laid out an addition west of these,
making in all about seventy acres now within the unincorporated
village of Alvin.
Riley Yatman, a carpenter, built the
first house in Alvin, which he sold to James Caldwell
and went to Monticello. Abram L. Buckles built, in December,
1875, the hotel building at the railroad crossing which he now
occupies. Dr. G. W. Akers built the drug store he now
occupies in 18T6. George Ford, an old resident of Knox
county, came here from Rantoul in 1876 and put up the fine, large
boarding-house the "Alvan House," which he now occupies. This was
built on the original town.
Rev. J. D. Jenkins (Presbyterian) commenced
preaching here occasionally in 1877, and in the spring of 1878 a
petition was presented to the Bloomington Presbytery to send a
commission to organize a church here, according to the rules of that
church. The prayer was granted, and Rev. Mr. Brooks, of
Danville, Rev. John H. Dillingbarn and Elder Grant,
of Rossville, were appointed to visit Alvin and organize a church.
April 30 Messrs. Dillingham and Grant organized
a church of nineteen members, ten of whom came by letter and nine on
profession of their faith. It was decided by the church to adopt the
rotary system of eldership, and George L. Caldwell, Charles
Peterson and Dr. Akers were elected elders; J. O.
Andrews, Dr. G. W. Howard and J. Q. Tyler were elected
deacons. A Sabbath school was established, of which Mr.
Tyler was elected superintendent. Jas. McDonald,
S. Kuns and Dr. Akers were elected
trustees, and the church engaged Mr. Jenkins to preach
each alternate Sabbath. The trustees at once set about building a
church edifice, 28x40, and have it so far completed that they have
been occupying it during the winter. It has been used by the
district school for the winter, as the district has no school-house.
It is proposed to complete the church as fast as means are collected
for that purpose. It will cost, completed, $1,000. There are
now twenty-five residences in Alvin, and the grain trade amounts to
about forty-five thousand bushels annually. J. H. Braden is
Rayville is a station on the Havana, Rantoul & Eastern
railroad, with a post-office and one store, established on the land
of R. R. Ray, of Rossville.
(NOTE: BIOGRAPHIES will be transcribed upon request ~
|AKERS, George W.
ALLEN, Charles A.
ALLISON, Thomas J.
BARTGES, Solomon I.
BIRCH, Emory F.
CHRISTMAN, Joseph S.
COMPTON, William H.
CUNNINGHAM, William T.
DALE, Jacob J.
DEAMUDE, Daniel C.
DEMAREE, Wm. S.
FAIRCHILD, William T.
FOULKE, William D.
GILBERT, Alvan W.
GILBERT, Elias Morse
GILBERT, James H.
GUNDY, Joseph C.
HANNAH, William P.
HARKER, William R.
HARRIS, Henry W.
JOHNSON, John H.
LANGHANS, Emil H.
|MILLER, Cornelius W.
MILLER, George W.
PHILLIPS, William W.
ROSS, John M.
SALMANS, George W.
SEARCH, Anthony T.
THOMPSON, Louis M.
TOMLINSON, Francis D.
WHITE, Asa W.
WILLIAMS, James A.
WILLIAMS, Ritchie A. S.
Biographies will be detailed with the
other biographies in this
website for Vermilion County, Illinois.