1876 History - Newman Township

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Newman Township has an area of about 48 square miles and is nearly all prairie, though there is considerable timber in the south part along Brushy Fork. It has 30,756 acres. The north part of this township rises into a considerable elevation known as the Ridge, a view from which is more extensive than can be obtained from any other part of the county.
In June, 1871, about three years after Township organization, an effort was made to create a new township off the north end to be called "Ridge Township," and at the same time a remonstrance was filed, which prevailed.
Amongst the first inhabitants of this part of Douglas county may be mentioned Enoch Howell, who was one of the Associate Justices of Coles county before the partition of Douglas. He died in February, 1854, leaving a large estate. The Winkler's preceded and sold their lands to the Hopkins'. James, Cornelius, William and Robert Hopkins being amongst the best known of the earlier settlers. James Hopkins settled on his present farm, section 5, 15, 14, in October, 1841. Robert Hopkins was one of the Judges of Coles county at the time of the separation of Douglas in 1859 and was elected to fill the same office in the new county. He died in 1863 leaving a large unincumbered estate, and his brother William is also lately deceased at an advanced age and was also a large land owner.
Jas. M. Cooley and Wm. W. Young arrived in 1853. Young died in 1869. The father of Isaac Skinner came from Vermillion county, Ind., in 1839, and Isaac is, with one exception, the oldest living inhabitant of the township. Wm. Shute came in 1854.
The largest contiguous body of land in the township is owned by C. M. Culbertson, of Chicago. It contains 2,340 acres, upon which a large amount of money has been expended in the way of improvement: twenty-two miles of hedges, fifteen wells, forty-nine gates. This farm contains a natural grove of about forty acres which, being very conspicuous from its elevation on the Ridge and its isolation, had been for many years, before the days of regular roads, a valuable landmark for travelers. It is well and widely known as "Culbertson's Grove." The ancient name was "Dill's Grove." This farm has been under the charge of J. L. Connolly, of Camargo, since 1864.
About 1840 there came from Kentucky to this neighborhood one Robert Matteson, who entered the northeast quarter of the northwest quarter of section 13, 15, 9, in 1835, accompanied by his slaves, some twelve or fifteen in number. His neighbors being for the most part from the free States, entertained the idea that the slaves would be free after remaining in a free State one year. For various reasons Matteson was not pleased with the country and proposed to return to Kentucky accompanied by his hands, and to that end made preparations for departure in their company. Major Samuel Ashmore, who had settled near the mouth of Brushy Fork as early as 1830, and others of the same mind had agreed that they would endeavor to prevent the return of the slaves to Kentucky. A few, however, went with their owner. Others, by one means and another, were left behind, and some finally went to Liberia, but one of them, at least, Simeon Wilmot, declined to return to Kentucky or to go to Liberia, but remains a citizen of Douglas county to this day. A suit at law grew out of the matter, in which Abraham Lincoln and O. B. Ficklin were opposing counsel. Mr. Ficklin was a large land owner and former resident of this county. He now lives in Charleston, Coles county, and has a large quantity of land in this county at present. He represented Coles county in the Legislature in 1838, 1842 and was elected to Congress in 1842, 1844 and 1850.
There is a post office on the Ridge on Jas. Cooley's land near the Presbyterian Church, called Phoenix.
The city of Newman is situated on section 31, 16, 14, on the line of the I., D. & S. Railway, and the original town was laid off by the same company which instituted Tuscola and at about the same time. It was named for B. Newman, one of the proprietors, who was a son-in-law of Peter Cartright, the celebrated itinerant preacher. The town was laid out in December, 1857, in Coles county, and in the advertisements of the place the proprietors predicted that a new county would be formed, and that the railroad would be built. The new county was formed in 1859 and the railroad came along in 1872.
The progress of the place was slow from its beginning, in awaiting the advent of the road, since which time the advance has been rapid. During the long weary waiting of fifteen years for a railroad, much of the lands adjacent to the town plat had been gradually sold off into small tracts and subsequently converted into town lots, so that the present plat of the town, covering the greater part of the section, is made up of some sixteen different additions, and in some cases parties have made the third addition under the same name.
In the original plat a park 260 feet square is dedicated to the city provided a seminary of learning was erected on it within four years from December, 1857, and eight feet upon the borders of all streets is dedicated for sidewalks and shade trees.
The school facilities of the city consist in the main of an excellent two-story brick building with accommodations for about 300 pupils, and finished this year at a cost of about $10,000.
Two large two-story brick blocks have recently been erected, containing several commodious business rooms below, having upon the second floor good halls, one of which is owned by the Masonic Society. Cash's brick store of two stories, his brick dwelling and the brick residence of Hancock, indicate the progress of the place in the way of permanent buildings.
The Banking House of Murphy, Hancock & Co. gives facilities to business men. It was established January, 1873. A Methodist and a Christian Church have been erected.
The "Independent," a weekly newspaper — C. Walls, editor and proprietor — now in its second volume, keeps up the record of the local news and looks after the interests of the Republican party.
Of Benevolent Societies the Masonic Lodge, Newman, No. 369, was instituted June 27, 1861. The first W. M. was Dr. W. A. Smith. I. W. Burget was Secretaiy and Isaac Howard, Treasurer. The present membership is 89.
Lodge No. 469, Independent Order of Odd Fellow, was begun January 10, 1871, with S. G. Rose, N. G.; A. J. Homer, V.G.; Jas. Farley, Secretary; I. T. Davis, Treasurer; S. G. Rose, D. G. M.; as the first officers. The total present membership is 25.
The Indianapolis, Decatur & Springfield Railway traverses the township from east to west, passing through Newman, having been built in 1872. The charter of the Decatur & Indianapolis Railroad Company was dated March 21, 1853; that of the Illinois & Indiana Central bears date of December 30, 1852. It had been a proposed road for twenty years and partly graded for a long time. This township took stock in the road, by a vote of the people, to the amount of $12,000, payable in fourteen years with ten per cent interest. The taxes paid by the road in 1875 balanced the interest.
A proposed railroad, the line of which has been surveyed and approximately located, is a nearly straight line from Homer, in Champaign county, to Newman, with prospective extensions both ways, and a preliminary survey was made on the line of the Mattoon & Danville road which also crosses the township.
Of the various offices in the public service of Douglas county, Mr. Robert Hopkins was one of the first County Board, having been elected in 1859. He died in the spring of 1863. Daniel O. Root was elected County Clerk in November, 1873, and is the present officer. Mr. Root came from Athens county, Ohio, in October, 1854. He was assistant Marshal in the Ninth Census, 1870. J. W. King, the present Superintendent of Schools, was placed in that office at the November election, 1875, to fill an unexpired term which closes in the fall of 1877, the term being four years.
The Supervisors who have been chosen to represent the interests of the township were: B. W. Hooe, elected in 186S, as the first Supervisor, re-elected in 1869, and returned in 1871-72-73. Mr. Hooe was one of the older residents and died in January, 1875. D. Todd was elected in 1870. F. F. Barber in 1874 and again in 1875, and having resigned to remove from the county, W. R. Brown was elected to fill out the unexpired term, and was re-elected in 1876, being the present representative. Mr. Brown has the distinction of being the only county officer born within the bounds of Douglas county, (1845.) He served three years in the 79th Infantry in the war of 1861.
The population of this township, by the 9th Census, 1870, was 1,077, being at that time next to the smallest, but as the city of Newman has rapidly increased since that time the township now ranks third or fourth in the county in the number of inhabitants. The population in the city of Newman was over 1,000 in 1876.
Acres in the township cultivated - 29,560
Acres in the township not cultivated - 796
Town lots, Newman - 240
Total acres - 30,596

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 71-74.

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