Vermilion County, Illinois


Contributed by Mary Paulius & Sharon Wick

Source:  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.
     Ross 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 valuable assistant.
     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 field.
     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 dead.
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 condition.
     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 years ago.
     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:

Date Vote Supervisor Clerk. Assessor. Collector
1851 49 John Hoobler R. Brickwell A. Gilbert James Gilbert
1852 47 T. McKibben R. Brickwell A. Gilbert James Gilbert
1853 60 T. McKibben R. Brickwell James Holmes T. Armstrong
1854 96 T. McKibben L. M. Thompson James Holmes J. Holmes
1856 82 A. Gilbert L. M. Thompson James Holmes J. Holmes
1857 72 A. Gilbert L. M. Thompson James Holmes J. Holmes
1858 107 A. Gilbert L. M. Thompson James Holmes J. Holmes
1859 191 J. R. Stewart L. M. Thompson J. H. Gilbert J. Holmes
1860 170 J. R. Stewart L. M. Thompson A. M. Davis L. M. Thompson
1861 207 J. R. Stewart A. M. Davis A. M. Davis A. T. Search
1862 110 A. Gilbert S. W. Harris Jacob Helmick Thomas Gundy
1863 170 A. Gilbert L. M. Thompson G. A. Collings Thomas Gundy
1864 127 J. J. Dale Geo. W. Smith G. A. Collings Geo. A. Collings
1865 97 A. Gilbert G. W. Smith A. Davison T. McKibben
1866 80 A. Gilbert Henry Boyd J. W. Dale J. W. Dale
1867 132 A. Gilbert Wm. I. Allen J. W. Dale J. W. Dale
1868 139 A. Gilbert Wm. I. Allen J. W. Dale J. W. Dale
1869 87 A. Gilbert Wm. I. Allen J. W. Dale J. W. Dale
1870 138 A. Gilbert J. D. Bingham J. J. Davison J. W. McTaggart
1871 193 A. Gilbert J. D. Bingham A. T. Search J. Fisher
1872 217 A. Gilbert G. W. Smith J. W. McTaggart J. T. Search
1873 199 A. Gilbert G. W. Smith J. W. McTaggart J. T. Search.
1874 261 A. Gilbert G. W. Smith J. Fisher W. H. Collings
1875 168 A. Gilbert G. W. Smith A. T. Search J. H. Braden
1876 204 A. Gilbert G. W. Smith A. T. Search W. D. Foulke
1877 210 A. Gilbert J. H. Williams John Cook A. T. Search
1878 360 W. Chambers H. Shannon J. Fisher J. C. GUndy
1879 340 W. Chambers D. C. Deamude T. S. Tursher J. C. Gundy

     Justices of 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.

(see pictures)

     Rossville is 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 citizens.
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 very apparent.
     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 shops.
     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 faith.
     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, treasurer.
     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, tyler.
     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.


     When the 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 article.
     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 Gilbert.
     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 postmaster.
     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 ~ Sharon W.)

AKERS, George W.
ALLEN, Charles A.
ALLISON, Thomas J.
BARTGES, Solomon I.
BIRCH, Emory F.
BITELER, William
BIVANS, Josiah
CADLE, Philip
COMPTON, William H.
COOK, Samuel
COON, Lewis
DALE, Jacob
DALE, Jacob J.
DAVIS, Amaziah
DEAMUDE, Daniel C.
FOULKE, William D.
GILBERT, Elias Morse
GUNDY, Joseph C.
HANNAH, William P.
HARKER, William R.
HARRIS, Henry W.
LEE, Milton
MANN, Abraham
MILLER, Andrew
MILLER, Cornelius W.
MILLER, George W.
PHILLIPS, William W.
ROSS, John
ROSS, John M.
SALMANS, George W.
SALMANS, William
SEARCH, Anthony T.
SONGER, William
VINING, William
WILLIAMS, Ritchie A. S.

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