1876 History - Arcola Township

"Labor Omnia Vincit."
The original city of Arcola was laid off by the Illinois Central Railroad on its own lands, about the centre of section 4, 14, 8, in November, 1855, in which year the road had been completed through the county. Large tracts were soon after added by Dr. F. B. Henry, John McCann and others, and later the area of the place was farther enlarged by the additions of Chandler & Bales on the south, Sheldon & Jaques on the east and other smaller tracts, some sixteen in all, until the city now covers the area of an entire section, viz., one square mile. The railroad company chose to lay off the streets of the original town plat square with the track, which runs considerably to the east, thus throwing the streets off the cardinal points in the heart of the city. In the additions on the south and east the proprietors of the additions have preferred keeping to the north, south, east and west lines, thereby conforming to the original survey of the land, hence the notable deflections in the built up streets of the city toward the south and east.
The original station was called "Okaw" by the railroad company and went by that name for a number of years until a change was made under the following circumstances: Col. John Cofer was post master at Rural Retreat from 1854 to 1858 and being the nearest post master, as such, the duty devolved upon him to show the necessity of a post office at "Okaw,” which had been petitioned for by Doctor and Judge Henry, John Blackwell and others. The Colonel sent the papers to Washington in due course, and they were returned with the information that there was already in the State a post office called Okaw, whereupon he and Hewitt, the station agent, substituted the present beautiful name, the origin of which, however, has not been given.
Col. Cofer represented the county in the State Legislature and is still, though advanced in years, an active business resident of the township. John Blackwell, Esq., who came to the place in 1857, was the first magistrate in the town. He was, in his day, a leading, man in all that pertained to good citizenship, and died, January 16, 1869, much lamented. Dr. F. B. and Judge John J. Henry are yet active business citizens of the town, the latter having been elected Associate Justice of the county prior to Township organization in 1865.
The first City Council, or Board of Trustees of the city, was convened in 1858. Mahlon Barnhart was the first President and I. S. Taylor, Clerk. W. T. Sylvester and Judge Henry were of the Board. Mr. Barnhart was from Indiana in 1857, and was elected Supervisor of the township in 1873-4-5 and again in 1876, being the present Supervisor.
August 6, 1873, the city was organized under the general law for incorporating cities and towns, in force July 1, 1872, with Geo. Klink, Mayor. Aldermen — H. M. McCrory, J. E. Morris, J. H. Wagner, Jas. Jones. It is now divided into wards and Geo. Klink is the present Mayor. He had the rank of Sergeant Major in the 25th Illinois in war of 1861.
The city has lost much by many destructive fires, amongst the more notable of which was the loss of a fine brick block on First South street, west of the railroad. This was a substantial two-story building of 110 feet front, and had been erected by Samuel Blackwell at a cost of $20,000. The fire occurred in January, 1874, and was supposed to have been incendiary, but the building had been on fire previously in a drug store which occupied part of it, so the fire may have been spontaneous in its origin. Mr. Blackwell arrived in the place in 1858, before the institution of the county of Douglas. There was also lost by fire in October, 1875, a two-story frame school house belonging to the district which had cost between $5,000 and $6,000. This was supposed to have been purposely fired. Parties were tried for the crime but acquitted. Some years previously another school house had been designedly burnt by a disreputable painter, who kept a tavern in the city. He was tried and cleared. In the summer of 1861 a large elevator was burnt on Second South street, and at another time Bradbury's mill in the south part of town. Rust's frame dwelling was burnt in 1872, and three hotels have also been lost by fire. A fire limit has been established, within the bounds of which it is unlawful to erect wooden buildings, but no other precaution has been taken to prevent the spread of dangerous fires. In addition to the calamities of fire, the city was visited, on May 14 1858, by a tornado, which also took the village of Bourbon in its course. This storm threw down sixteen buildings in Arcola, beside doing other serious damage. It is the most serious storm remembered in this region.
The first Banking House in the city was instituted by Beggs & Clark in March, 1868, which, on December 19, 1875, became the present First National Bank of Arcola. Capital, $50,000. James Beggs, President; A. L. Clark, Cashier. Mr. Beggs arrived in the city in 1851. The present Banking House of J. C. Justice was instituted July 23, 1873. Cannon, Wyeth & Co., had a Bank here for a short time.
Amongst the most prominent of the permanent buildings in the city, at present and erected to date, Union Block, 60 x 40, built by Douglas, Louthan & Grant, Duncan's Block, the Bank Block, Lloyd's Block and Willis' Block, west of the railroad, are all substantial bricks. The finest building in the city is Metropolitan Block, on the north side of First South street. If is an imposing large two-story brick edifice, covering seven large stores of great depth, and having an aggregate frontage of 160 feet. The upper floors are principally occupied by the handsome lodge rooms of the benevolent societies of the place, the chief feature, however, being a fine auditorium or City Hall, with a seating capacity of about 800, with comfortable arm chairs, a spacious and roomy stage, drop and other curtains and scenery, and most of the best appliances of the day for the convenience and comfort of exhibitors and audiences. It was built in 1872 by various owners at a cost of $30,000. A new School House is about being erected of brick. It will be of tasteful design, 35 feet in height and 64 x 74 feet, to cost about $10,000.
In Churches, in the county, Arcola takes the lead in numbers, having seven, of which the Methodist, Baptist, Episcopalian, Christian, Presbyterian, Catholic and Lutheran denominations have one each.
The Masonic Society instituted Arcola Lodge No. 366, in October, 1861; the first officers of which were, W. T. Sylvester, W. M.; H. C. McAllister, S. W.; Wm. Jones, J. W. The present membership is 65.
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows began business here October 11, 1860, and is therefore the oldest Odd Fellow lodge in the county by about four years. The charter members were, Jas. Ewing, W. T. Sylvester, C. Cooper, L. D. Price and A. G. Wallace, of Tuscola. Jas. Ewing was the first County Judge of Douglas, 1859. This Lodge, No. 289, has a present membership of 65.
Of newspapers there are two. The Arcola Record was started in 1865 under John M. Gruelle, the present proprietor. It is independent in politics. The Douglas County Democrat, formerly owned by H. H. Moore, was established in 1870, is Democratic in political creed, and the present editor and proprietor is C. M. Leek. Both are known in newspaper parlance as "co-operative."
In July, 1862, fourteen years ago, a gloom was cast over the community by the accidental death, by drowning, of John Blackwell, a lad of 12, and a son of John Blackwell, sr. In company with Wm. R. Rust, then also a lad, and a German, Peter Henson, they attempted the old "Stoval Ford" on the Okaw, in Bourbon Township, being in a buggy drawn by a fine mare belonging to L. C. Rust. The waters were up and the ford being deeper than they supposed, John Blackwell and Henson were drowned, Rust escaping by a miracle, how, he never knew. The mare having become entangled in the harness, was lost.
L. C. Rust, father of W. R. Rust, was a leading merchant and business man of Arcola, having been one of those who removed from Bourbon when the business of that place was transferred to Arcola and Tuscola. He died February, 1873. Dr. I. N. Rynerson died in April, 1873. He was a farmer and former practicing physician, of fine education and great talent as a public speaker.
Arcola is unfortunately the scene of two of the few murders committed in the county. One of these was the deliberate murder of Joe. Eves, a carpenter, by one Bullock, an agent for Culbertson. Bullock, who was a large heavy young man, had repeatedly joked Eves about his supposed intimacy with women, and after repeated rencontres Eves appears to have been able, on the last occasion, to retaliate in kind and with liberal interest, which so enraged Bullock that, producing a pistol, he shot Eves on the instant. This occurred near the present Harvey Restaurant. Bullock fled and concealed himself but the people promptly turned out and captured him. He was committed for murder in the first degree, and as there was no jail in the county at the time, August, 1861, he was imprisoned at Champaign, where by a daring effort, he broke jail and made good his escape. Eves was a quiet inoffensive man, and it does not appear that he even expected to provoke Bullock to anger.
The other murder was that of Mr. Abram Houghtelling, a lumber merchant, by his nephew, Desang, which occurred January 21, 1872. Mr. H. was sitting in his office writing when Desang entered, and within ten or twelve feet, discharged the contents of a double-barrelled shot gun, which, having been loaded with large buckshot, killed him instantly. The murderer was tried and the defence having sufficiently established insanity, he was committed to the Asylum at Elgin, whence he at one time made his escape and returning to Arcola made many threats of violence. He was re-arrested and returned to the Asylum by Sheriff Cunningham. Douglas county has had six insane persons committed to the various Asylums of the State.
South line of county 303.0 Arcola station 303.7 Bourbon Switch 279.3 Tuscola station 285.3 North line of county 332.7
Which shows Arcola station to be 18.4 feet higher than Tuscola on the line of the railroad.
Bourbon Switch is a point on the I. C. R. R., in the north part of this township, between sections 15 and 22, township 15, range 8. It had been made a point for the reception of cross-ties, during the construction of the road, and locally known as the "Tie Switch." It has a side track for the accommodation of the neighborhood, called the Ohio Settlement, which is comparatively thickly settled, for prairie, and rapidly becoming the best improved section of the country.
The township of Arcola contains 56 sections of land, equal to 54 square miles, containing 34,604 acres. Previous to township organization this division, then called "precinct, extended one mile farther east and also contained all of range 14, 7, which now belongs to Bourbon. It then had seventy-seven sections of land. The population, per the 9th Census, 1870, was set down at 2,332, being the second in point of population, or about 41 persons to the square mile; 1,900 of them, however, live in the city.
Being about all prairie, the township was settled up later than those containing timber. It is traversed by the Illinois Central and Illinois Midland Railways, which cross at Arcola. The Toledo and St. Louis Railroad, which runs in a southwesterly direction from Arcola, is graded for several miles, and the prospect for its completion this season is said to be good. This township, by a vote of the people, issued bonds in aid of the T. M. Railway to the amount of $100,000. The legality of the procedure having been called in question, both as to calling the election and voting the bonds, whether the bonds will eventually have to be paid or not is doubtful, the matter being now in litigation.
Citizens of this township have figured largely in the public business of the county. Col. John Cofer, W. T. Sylvester and Joseph H. Ewing have represented the people in the State Legislature. Jas. Ewing was the first County Judge, being elected in 1859, and after township organization Asa T. Whitney was the first Supervisor, 1868; D. Hitchcock served in the same capacity, 1869-70; Wm. Luce, 1871-72; succeeded by Mahlon Barnhart, who was elected in 1873-74-75, and again in 1876, being the present Supervisor. W. W. Monroe was made Superintendent of Schools in 1865, Jas. M. Cox, County Treasurer in 1873, serving until the fall of 1875. Edmund Fish was elected County Surveyor in 1869, and served two years. He is now County Surveyor of Montgomery county. F. G. Cunningham was elected Sheriff in 1872 and, removing to Tuscola, was re-elected in 1874. N. Rice Gruelle was elected to the same office in 1868. John J. Henry was Associate Justice of the county in 1865 and resigned. He was succeeded by Calvin Jones in 1867.
Acres in the township cultivated - 33,296
Acres in the township not cultivated - 668
Town lots - 640
Total acres - 34,604

Extracted 11 Dec 2016 by Norma Hass from History of Douglas County, Illinois, Compiled by Order of the Board of Supervisors for the Centennial Anniversary of American Independence, July 4, 1876, pages 48-53.

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