1876 History - Touscola Township

"Hodie Mihi Cras Tibi"
Tuscola, the county seat, is situated in section 34, township 16, north, of range 8 east, of the third Principal Meridian. The original town was laid out by a company, who also instituted the city of Newman at the same time, in 1857, and the projectors of the enterprise predicted that a new county would be soon formed, that the east and west railroad would be built, and that Tuscola would be the county seat of the new county. The new county was made in two years, Tuscola became the county seat about the same time, and the railroad was built through the county fifteen years after.
October 11, 1859, an election was held for and against incorporation. The names of all the voters were: Wm. Chandler, I. J. Halstead, Michael Noel, A. L. Otis, F. F. Nesbit, P. Noel, A. J. Gorman, J. H. Harrison, Jas. Davis, A. G. Wallace, John Chandler, A. VanDeren, Thos. Woody and J. G. Cannon. For incorporation, 12; against incorporation, 2 — 14. The last six named are still living in the city. Town organized November, 28, 1859. First Council was: F. F. Nesbit, L. J. Wyeth, Jas. Davis, W. T. French, with M. Vaul, Clerk.
The Charter is dated March 11, 1869. The first Mayor was James H. Martin, with a Council consisting of I. L. Jordan, E. Price, M. Pugh, W. Taggart. Mayor Martin resigned in June, 1870, and dying November 15, 1871, was buried at Camargo with Masonic honors. He was from Indiana and had resided in Tuscola about six years in the practice of the law. Tuscola is, doubtless, the first city in the State that was organized under the general incorporation act, which took effect July, 1, 1872. Various additions have been made to the area of the original town plat, which now covers an area of one square mile.
The prosperity and progress of the city has been retarded by many and some extensive fires, the largest and most notable of which, known as the fire, occurred on the night of March 11, 1873, at about 9 o'clock p. m. It originated in Block "A," between the present location of Hudson's lumber yard and Griswold's store. Block "A," 110 feet front, was built up of wooden structures, and the first intimation of the fire was the loud explosion of a quantity of gunpowder in a grocery store where the fire began. The explosion spread the flames in every direction in the block, and the intense heat soon ignited the buildings on the east side of Parke street, and the fire rapidly made its way along the south side of Sale street, and the north side of the Avenue, including Commercial Block, the best building in the city, a large three-story brick which contained, besides several handsome stores, a large City Hall, and in the third story the splendid Hall of the Masonic Society, also the First National Bank. These rooms had been finished in fresco in the best style of the art and the Lodge room was not surpassed by many of the finest halls in the large cities. When it was found that the Block would be burnt, the bank men piled every possible moveable into the vaults, including the valuable law library of Mr. Cannon, and upon opening the vaults the third day after the fire, the contents were found to be absolutely uninjured. This Commercial Block occupied the site of the present Opera Block. The other burnt buildings were of wood but contained in the aggregate a large quantity of merchandise. Some fifty buildings were destroyed, and the loss was not much short of $150,000.
Tuscola was, and is, destitute of a fire company or fireman's organization of any kind whatsoever, and the great fire was only checked by tearing out buildings in its course, which energetic action probably saved Union Block on Sale street, a building of considerable value. Other fires have occurred from time to time, resulting mostly in loss, but in many instances valuable buildings have been saved by the well directed efforts of volunteer firemen, with no other apparatus than a dull axe or two and a few ropes. A fire limit has been fixed within the bounds of which it is unlawful to erect a wooden building.
Tuscola contains the Court House, which is more particularly described in the notes on the county at large, and the fine building of Tuscola Union School District, the cornerstone of which was laid on the 20th day of June, 1870, by the Masons and Odd Fellows, with appropriate ceremonies. It contained a history of the city and county, with exact situation of both; the variations of the compass and the atitude and longitude, by Henry C. Niles; the history of Freemasonry and Odd Fellowship, in the county, by R. B. Macpherson, and that of the School District, by Dr. J. L. Reat and W. B. Dryer.
This building is of three stories with basement, a large bell and excellent town clock, and has ample accommodations for over 500 pupils, which is about the number of present attendance. The contract price was originally $32,000, but the amount was subsequently increased so that the entire cost is about $40,000. The contractor and builder was L. Johnston.
The District issued bonds in aid of the cost of construction to the amount of $20,000, which were payable in three, five and seven years and were sold for ninety-two and one half cents.
A substantial two-story brick school house was demolished in 1871 to make room for the present building. It had cost $6,000. The first School House was a one-story frame, which cost $500, built in 1858. It stands in its original location, next east of the Baptist Church, now refitted for a dwelling.
The first hotel was built by the Town Company, and there seems to be authority for the statement that the I. C. R. R. Co. had agreed to put the depot opposite the present site of the Court House, say at Houghton street, but under a mistake of the person in charge it got its present location. This change in the proposed location of the first depot accounts measurably, if not altogether, for the absence of business houses about the Court House. The first store in town was built on the square and removed up town. A drug store, the first in town, was kept for years by Dr. Wright in the dwelling now occupied by H. B. Evans, on the Court House square.
The first child born in Tuscola was Miss May, daughter of A. G. Wallace. Miss May Chandler moved to town at the age of six weeks, and was, therefore, the "first baby.” She is the daughter of Wm. Chandler, who built the second dwelling in the place, northwest corner of Daggy and Main streets, still standing, remodeled.
Opera Block, on the north side of the Avenue, was built by stock subscription in 1874, and replaces Commercial Block, which was burnt in 1873. Besides several large stores it contains a large audience room furnished with comfortable arm chairs, and a graceful gallery, proscenium boxes, large and roomy stage, drop and other curtains and scenerv, private entrances and exits, and almost every convenience for a fairly appointed theater. It has a seating capacity of about 1,000 and the building cost quite $30,000. As this Hall was added to the improvement in the face of the fact that the former Hall did not pay, it must be conceded that it was erected by public spirited men in recognition of the great need of such a convenience, and in a spirit of pure love for the good and beautiful the intelligent portion of the community can appreciate.
The brick block of Bright & Jones, on the south side of the Avenue, contains, on the second floor, the Lodge Rooms of the Masonic Society. That of the Odd Fellows being on the second floor of J. M. Smith's building, on the same street.
Union Block, on Sale street, corner of Main, was erected in 1871 by a combination of capital, and narrowly escaped the fate of Commercial Block in the great fire. It is also of brick, of two stories, and about 100 feet front. There are several other small brick buildings.
The first newspaper in Tuscola, and in the county, was the "Tuscola Press," followed by the "Douglas County Shield," the "True Republican" and the "Tuscola Gazette." The papers published at present are: The "Saturday Journal," which was once the "Union" — it is published by Lindsay & Chapman, and is Republican in politics — and the "Douglas County Review," instituted in July, 1875, devoted to Democratic principles, and published by Converse & Parks. These papers are known in newspaper parlance as "co-operative."
The first Banking House in the county was that of Wyeth, Cannon & Co., having been instituted in 1865, afterwards converted into the "First National Bank of Tuscola;" capital, $113,000; surplus, $25,000; H. T. Carraway, President; W. H. Lamb, Cashier. There is no other bank at present, two or three more having had a short existence. The Douglas County Bank was instituted September, 1870, on Sale street.
There are five Churches, of which the Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Christian and Colored Methodist have one each. The Methodist and Presbyterian Churches were finished about the same time, 1865, the former being of brick. The large brick tower of the Baptist Church is a conspicuous object from the surrounding country.
The first Masonic Lodge in the county was instituted in Tuscola in 1860: Jas. Davis, W. M.; W. B. Dryer, Secretary, and W. H. Russell, Treasurer; Tuscola, No. 332; a Council in 1863, a Chapter in 1867, and a Commandery of Knights Templar in 1870. Messrs. Davis and Dryer are yet business men of the place. Russell, who came in 1859, became a prominent and wealthy merchant in the firm of Woody & Russell, and died in June, 1876. This organization had a lodge room in Commercial Block, which was burnt in 1873. The present membership is 140.
Of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Lodge No. 316, in Tuscola, was put in working order June 6, 1865. The charter members were: C. M. Richards, A. B. Gibbs, I. L. Williams, R. Barden, P. F. Kinder, H. Gregory; Secretary, John G. Uhler. The Encampment was instituted October 8, 1868. The present membership is about 65.
Tuscola is divided into three Wards which are represented in the City Council by two Aldermen from each, the Mayor being John J. Jones, of the firm of Bright & Jones. The population of the city is 2,000.
In December, 1867, Jas. B. Hart, a resident of Tuscola, who had for several years kept a plow store on the corner of Central Avenue and Parke street, and was an active member of the Christian Church, was arrested for complicity in a case of forgery committed upon the First National Bank of Madison, Wisconsin, the principal being one Barton, who had passed as a Christian minister of the Gospel. Hart was taken upon a requisition from the Governor of Wisconsin, though an attempt had been made to carry him off without it, which had been successfully resisted by Jos. G. Cannon and others. Hart was accompanied to the depot on the night of Wednesday, December 18, 1867, by a large crowd of friends and sympathizers, such a demonstration in fact that the officer in charge feared a rescue. He was conveyed to Madison, attended by T. H. Macoughtry, as counsel. He returned the following Saturday, having been able to give as security a $5,000 check of Wyeth, Cannon & Co., which had been voluntarily tendered by Wm. P. Cannon, Esq., upon which the money was at once paid in Madison, and that deposited as security. The trial, set for January 7, 1868, resulted in his acquittal and he returned cleared, being obliged, however to meet an expense of $1,200.
Hart eventually sued the bank for the reward offered for Barton and for false imprisonment, and finally settled for $4,200, his expenses, however, were heavy. The Sheriff of the county was Henry C. Carico, who had been elected in 1866. He served in the war of 1861, with a Captain's commission, in company "D'" 14th Ill. Cavalry. Though young he had been unusually successful in business and had accumulated a large amount of property. He died suddenly in Chicago, on a health tour, and was buried Masonically at Tuscola, in October, 1871.
Tuscola Township contains 58 sections of land, making an area of 60-2/3 square miles and 38,823 acres, some of the sections being more than a mile square, and is the largest Township in the county in area as well as in population and wealth. This Township being nearly all prairie was of the latest settled, its development being almost entirely due to its railroads, the I., D, & S. and the I. C. Railroads crossing at Tuscola.
Amongst the most active of the earlier settlers were Oliver C. and M. F. Hackett, Owen J. Jones and Joseph W. Smith, and in the north part, B. F. Boggs, B. F. Nelson and G. P. Phinney. O. C. Hackett was the first Supervisor of the Township. Mr. Phinney, who arrived in Tuscola in 1859, on the day of the election for county seat, was subsequently chosen three different times to represent the Township as Supervisor, in 1873-4-5. Wm. Brian settled in the west part of the Township in 1834, and was for many years the only inhabitant. Jos. G. Cannon and Wm. Wamsley, of Tuscola, both old settlers of the town, added the Wamsley & Cannon addition to Tuscola in 1860. Mr. Wamsley died October, 1874, and was buried by the Masons at Tuscola, on his 70th birth day. Theodore F. Daggy died in August, 1874. He was a young lawyer of great promise. Enoch, father of Kimball Glasco, of this township, settled one mile north of Charleston, in Coles county, in 1826. The first settler in Coles county seems to have been John Parker, in 1824, who located at the Blakeman mill on the Embarras.
In the distribution of county offices the share of Tuscola Township, by the vote of the people, has been liberal. Thomas S. Sluss was elected County Judge in November, 1865, and to the same title, but a different position, after township organization in the fall of 1869. Andrew G. Wallace was the first Circuit Clerk of the new county in 1859, and continued to serve, by continuous re-election, until November, 1872, when he was succeeded by Patrick C. Sloan, the present incumbent. G W. Flynn, as Assessor and Treasurer, served from November, 1861, to November, 1863, succeeded by V. C. McNeer, sr., who was followed by Henry B. Evans, in November, 1865, who was re-elected in 1867. Jas. T. Walker was made Collector and Treasurer in 1869 and again in 1871. Henry R. Ingraham was elected to the same office in 1875, and is the present officer. Wm. T. French, in November, 1862, and Henry C. Carico, in 1866, were elected to the office of Sheriff. Wm. H. Sipple was installed as Superintendent of Schools in 1859, being the first in that office. C. Frank Lamb was elected to the same position in November, 1863, to fill a fractional term, and succeeded by Rev. S. T. Callaway, in 1869, who was re-elected in 1873. He died in 1875 and the interim between that time and the November election was filled by C. W. Woolverton, by appointment. Henry C. Niles was elected County Surveyor in 1871, the first one to serve four years under the new Constitution of 1870. He had been the first Surveyor of the county, in 1859, and was re-elected in 1861. E. C. Siler had been put into the same office in the fall of 1865. O. B. Lester was appointed State's Attorney in July, 1872, and was the first person born in the county who held a State office in the county. The Supervisors of the Township have been: 1868, O. C. Hacket; 1869, K. Glassco; 1870, Rice Ervin; 1871, A. M. Woody; 1872, P. C. Sloan; 1873-4-5, G. P. Phinney. The present Supervisor is Rice Ervin, who arrived in the county in April, 1865.
The population of the township in 1870, per Ninth Census, was 2,863. The township took stock in the I., D. & S. Railway to the amount of $20,000, at ten per cent, interest, payable in 14 years.
Acres in the township cultivated - 38,143
Acres in the township not cultivated - 40
Town lots, Tuscola - 640
Total acres - 38,823

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, page 41-47.

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