This information is part of the Champaign County ILGenWeb Project. If you have reached this site by means other than The USGenWeb Project, The ILGenWeb Project, or directly, please visit the main Champaign Co, ILGenWeb site for more information regarding Champaign County, IL ancestors. Information contained here was submitted by Judy Simpson. Please do not repost this information without the express written permission of Celia Snyder.

Champaign County, Illinois

History of Champaign Township

Champaign Township is bounded on the north by Hensley, on the east by Urbana, on the south by Tolono and on the west by Scott. It coincides with the congressional town 19, range 8 east, and contains an area of 36 square miles.

The Kaskaskia river rises just north of the township and flows through its centre, giving with its tributaries excellent natural drainage to the western portion. The Embarras drains the southeast part, affording drainage and an abundance of water. The soil is black, deep, and fertile. In the eastern and northern portions the land is the most elevated, and is moderately undulating. In the southeastern portion, with the exception of a few knolls, the surface is nearly level, but is well drained, and plenty of water for stock is found. There is scarcely a foot of land in the whole township that is not tillable. The township is dotted here and there with groves of forest trees, and almost every farm has a large and thrifty prairie fruit orchard, with an abundance of small fruits. The entire surface originally was prairie, and these groves were planted by the hands of men.

The first settlement was made in 1841 by an Ohioan, John Phillips, a migratory Methodist preacher. Mr. Phillips had been a resident of the county since 1836 or 1837. He had built a house in the Big Grove northeast of Urbana, where he fondly expected a city would arise, called Byron. In 1841 he moved his house to the place known the older settlers as the "James Myers' farm" on the north side of the Bloomington road, a short distance west of the northern terminus of Randolph street. In 1845-46 Phillips sold out to James Myers.

Vinton or Vinston Williams was the next settler, and came in 1842. He settled upon the spot upon which now stands the residence of C. F. Columbia. Mr. Williams was also a native of Ohio. He sold his farm in 1852, to Mr. Columbia, and, wandering westward, soon after died.

The third settler was a Mr. Babbitt who came in 1843 and settled north of the Bloomington road a short distance east of Williams. Next came Mr. Logan, in 1844 or 1845, who entered 120 acres of Government land and built a small frame dwelling. He sold out in 1853 to W. H. Romine.

The ground upon which A. E. Harmon's residence now stands is a part of the Logan farm. It was not until after 1852 that the township began to fill up to any appreciable degree. The slow growth previous to that period was not doubt owing to the opinion generally prevailing that the prairie was not a fit habitation for man. The immigrants were from timbered regions, which accounts for this opinion.

"The first entry of land was by N. W. Busey, in 1837, being the southwest quarter of the southeast quarter of section 1, Town 19, range 8 east."

After 1852 immigrants came in rapidly, and improvements went on apace.

The first school in the township was taught in the winter of 1854 by Dr. Shumacher in a small one story frame building. It was a private or subscription school, and numbered about a dozen pupils. Dr. Shumacher went south and during the ware held a commission in the Confederate army, and died during the war.

In the summer of 1855, a young man named Howard Pixley taught a private school west of the Rail Road, in a small one story frame between Hickory and Tremont streets.

The first public or free school in the township, was taught by Mrs. M. A. Fletcher, assisted by her son, in the winter of 1855-6. It was held in the old "Goose Pond" Church.


To the Congregationalists belong the honor of erecting the first church building. This was during the summer of 1855, and its erection was due mainly to the efforts and liberality of two members of the society, Messrs. A. O. Howell and M. A. Barnes.

Dr. H. H. Howard built the first steam mill, in June 1855. In March 1856 he sold the property to Mr. John Kuney.

Mark Carley built the first steam grain elevator and warehouse also in 1855. The first tailor shop in the township stood on the west side of Market street in Champaign-then West Urbana-the tailor came from Philadelphia and was consumptive, and soon died.

The first blacksmith shop in the town was opened by a man named Knight. His shop stood on the west side of Market street. The second was Mr. S. G. Peabody, who came only a few months after Knight had rected a shop.

The first piano in the county was brought to Urbana in July, 1853, and in May of the next year it was taken in to Champaign township. After many years' pommeling this ancient instrument makes, it is said, as good music as many more pretentious ones of modern make. It deserves to be treated tenderly, and when its "soul of music" is finally fled it should be placed in the museum of the Industrial University.

The township was organized in the winter of 1854, and its name at organization was "West Urbana." In 1867 the town of Hensley on the north was organized from territory of West Urbana. In 1870 the name was changed to Champaign.

The population exceeds greatly that of any other township, and in 1870 was 5364. Since then it has steadly increased.

The number of acres in the township is 23,040, of which 21,631 acres are improved. The total assessed valuation of personal property is $349,027, and of real estate, $1,528,390.


Crops are valueless without a market, and industry languishes. Hence the value of railroads to the farmer. The Illinois Central was built through the eastern portion in 1854. It brought on immigration like a flood, and the arrival of the first passenger train on July 22d was hailed with unbounded enthusiasm by all. This road opens up a northern and southern market for products.

The I. B. and W., main line traverses the northeastern portion, while the I. B. and W. extension passes through from east to west, thus giving an eastern market.


This is the metropolis of the county, and boasts of a popularion of 5,400 souls. The location of Champaign, only one and a half miles west of Urbana, grew out of a disagreement between Col. M. W. Busey, owner of a large body of land near Urbana, and the Illinois Central Railroad Company. Shortly after the company received its charter, and while R. B. Mason, the chief engineer, was examining the different routes, Col. Busey spent some time in proving to him that the Urbana line was a better one than the proposed Danville route. His arguments prevailed, the Urbana line was decided upon, and surveyed accordingly. The company asked the Colonel to donate to them eighty acres near the present residence of Senator Sheldon. He declined to do this, but offered to give them twenty acres for depot and round-house, and sell forty acres more at a reasonable price. The officials would not accept his proposition, but threatened to run their line further west, and establish their depot at a considerable distance from their county-seat, which was done. Having located their line, the company selected eighty acres as the site for the new town-which land belonged to Col. Busey-and caused it to be condemned. The plat of the new town destined to grow to such greatness, was drawn in Chicago, and the survey of the site was made in accordance therewith, by T. H. Perry, surveyor, assisted by L. W. Walker. This was in the summer of 1853, but the recorded plat bears date of June 5, 1855.

After the location of the depot came the selection of a name, and this proved to be a matter of some difficulty.

Two gentlemen, N. M. Clark and J. A. Farnham, who had bought an interest in the farm of John P. White, had platted a town embracing what is bounded on the north by a line running four rods south of Washington street, on the east by Neil street, south by White, and on the west by Prairie avenue. "Clarksfield" was proposed in honor of one of the proprietors; "Urbana City" was likewise suggested. The proprietors agreed finally upon "Rantoul," and a sale of lots in "Rantoul" was advertised in the Urbana Union. The railroad authorities were strenuously opposed to any name but Urbana, so "Rantoul" was moved up to Mink Grove, while the plats, were recorded as additions to Urbana, and the station continued to be called by the railroad authorities, Urbana, even after the town of West Urbana was incorporated. The people of Urbana for many years spoke of it as "The Depot."

In 1860, by act of legislature, the name of West Urbana was changed to Champaign.

That portion of Champaign now occupied by business blocks, was a slough, and the mud was of great depth along what is now Main street.

The first house within the limits of Champaign was built by L. W. Walker of the firm of Walker and Stayman. This building, two stories in height, 24 by 36 feet, was frame, and stood where McFadden's block now stands, fronting the avenue. It was begun late in 1853, and was completed in the early spring of the next year. It was a boarding-house for the accommodation of railroad employees and travelers, and was known as the "Central House."

In 1854 a number of private dwellings were erected, and it now seems difficult to decide, owing to conflicting testimony, as to which was first built. The first residence, according to some, was built by Mr. Murphy, father of Larry Murphy, east of the railroad track, in 1853. Others would have it that Mark Carley erected the first dwelling, and moved his family into it in May, 1854. It stood near the site of the Presbyterian church.

In 1854, also, J. B. White erected a residence upon the corner of Neil street and Springfield avenue. Moses Snelling, a carpenter, built a residence on the east side in 1854.

The second hotel was begun in the fall of 1853, and finished in 1854. It was built by J. Campbell, upon the east side of the track, on the corner of Fourth street and University avenue, and was called the "National House."

The first store-house was put up by Gardner and Morris, in 1855, on University avenue, and A. O. Woodworth erectred one a short time subsequently in the same neighborhood.

John W. Bradley, the first postmaster, built another store on Neil street. The lower story was occupied by the post-office, and the upper by his family.

In 1855, also, T. A. McLaurie and J. Leal opened a stove and tin store, which was the first of its class.

L. Lancaster opened a hardware and grocery store in 1856. G. and W. Shipley kept the first grocery store; House & Edwards kept the first boot and shoe establishment.

Mr. S. G. Peabody was the first blacksmith. He came in 1856. John Bragg was the first wagon-maker.

Mr. Kennester was the first harness-maker. He soon left, and was succeeded by E. G. Hessle.

Mr. Tobie opened the first tailoring establishmentr, and George H. Case the second.

Mr. Yearly was the first furniture dealer.

The first lumber yard was established by J. B. Gouch and C. F. Columbia in 1855, and it was also the first in the county. Mr. Gouch was the first justice of the peace; A. M. Whitney, father of Henry C. Shitney, Esq., was the second.

Dr. Shoemaker was probably the first physician, but about the time of his arrival, Dr. Mills moved his residence from Urebana, and has the honor of being the first permanent physician.

The first brick school-house was begun in 1855, and was completed in 1856. It stands on the corner of Randolph and Hill Streets.

The first church was built by the Congregationalists in 1854, the second by the Presbyterians in 1856.

Hency C. Whitney was the first lawyer.

William Blanchard, a Congregational minister, who organized the society that erected the first church, preached the first sermon.

Some of the historic buildings are the Calaboose, the Garst Block, the Cattle Bank Building, the Kennard Mill, the National House, and the Woodworth Block.


Walker & Stayman's furniture manufactory on Walnut and First streets, south, was established in 1863. Amount of money invested, $26,000.

George Ely, carriage shop and general rapair shop, is just south of the former.

Peabody & Ayres' wagon and plow manufactory was established in 1855.

Robinson & Burr, mechanical engineers and machinists, have their works on corner of Hickory and North streets, and are skillful workment.

J. N. Crannell has a carriage and wagon factory on Neil street. Established in 1863.

C. C. Harris, Blacksmithing and machine repairing shops; maker of Lashers & Beardsley's grader and ditcher. Established in 1872.

D. L. Root's sash and blind factory on Market and South.

John Bragg, wagon-making and general repair shops on Neil street.

Adam Kruger, wagon and carriage manufactory and blacksmigh shop. Neil street.

Cigars-Samuel Eppstein. Factory No. 29. Established 1867. Two traveling agents. Main street, Frank Hegenbart, No. 85.

Marble Works-Falls & Bagley. Established in 1855. J. W. Booker. Established in 1870.

Blank Book Manufactory-George Scroggs, proprietor. Established in 1874. All kinds of book-binding and county and bank work.


First National Bank-B. T. Harris, president; H. H. Harris, cashier. Capital, $65,000; surplus, $69,500. Established in 1865.

A. R. Scott & Co., bankers, successors to Burnham, Scott & Co., Main street.

D. Garner & Co. Established in 1861. main street.


The Doane House, Lindsey and Locke propietors, is supplied with all modern improvements, reading-room, elegant parlors, etc. etc., and is the best hotel in this section of the state. There are several other good hotels, and travellers who stop in Champaign may be sure of being well lodged and fed.

Champaign City is justly considered one of the most beautiful in the state, and it contains very many elegant residences, to enumerate all of which is not possible. The grounds surrounding them are usually ample and adorned with a shrubbery that would delight the eye of a Shenstone. The avenues and streets are wide, and fringed with rows of trees that greatly enhance their beauty.

Champaign is lighted with gas, and is connected with Urbana by a street railway. It is progressive and enterprising, and situated, as it is, in the midst of a fertile land and populated by men of energy and ability, it will one day rank as one of the great cities of the central part of the State.

All of the elements of prosperity and greatness are at hand. Her schools are justly celebrated for their efficiency and the culture of the rising generation is well provided for.


Among the churches of Champaign, the Presbyterian edifice, situated on State and Hill streets, is one of the oldest and largest. It is a massive brick structure, 53x101, with a large auditorium, capable of seating 700 people, with a basement suitable for chapel purposes. It was erected in 1867-8, at a cost of about $35,000.

The next church structure in importance is that built in 1875 by the Congregational Society, at the junction of State and Church streets, at a cost of $20,000. It is irregular in shape, having an auditorium of 48x58, with a vestibule in front of 16x36, and an offset in the rear, of 16x40, for choir and other purposes. It is built of brick, properly trimmed with cut stone, frescoed in the interior, and has large stained glass windows that let in a flood of softened light into the auditorium.

The Baptist Church, situated on University Avenue, is a neat and substantial building, 40x70, and capable of seating 500 npersons. It was built in 1869 at an expense of about $10,000.

The two public school-houses of Champaign are justly the subjects of pride on the part of its citizens.

The west side edifice is 55x102, four stories in height, and has its principal front on University Avenue. It is a fine-looking brick structure, built in 1869, at an expense of about $60,000, and has room for about 800 pupils.

The east side building was erected in 1872, at a cost of about $8,000. It is of wood, 60x70, two stories high, and has accommodation for 450 pupils.


The first business buildings erected in Champaign were frame, but as these were destroyed by the fires, elegant brick structures rose in their stead. The most noted fires occurred in 1866, '67, '68, '70.

We mention a few of the more prominent Main Street Business Houses.

Commencing at the west end of Main street, on the North side, we find Barrett-Hall block, corner of Main and Neil. This building is three stories high, 49x90 on the ground, and was erected by W. C. Barrett in 1865 at a cost of $15,000.

Other notable buildings are: D. Gardner and C. M. Sherfy's bank, three stories 23x70, erected in 1865, at a cost of $9,000.

J. B. McKinley and L. C. Garwood's elegant three-story-and-basement block. It was erected in 1873 at a cost of about $40,000.

Mrs. Varney's bulding, two stores, 24x80, was built in 1870, at a cost of about $6,000.

Burnham, Condit & Co's Bank, two store and basement, 22x60, was built in 1870, at a cost of $10,000, with an expensive buff-colored cut-stone front, after the fashion of banking houses.

A. E. Harmon's three story and basement block, 63x90, cost $23,000, and was built in 1871. Situated on the corner of Main and Walnut, its location is very central, and the structure cuts a very prominent figure.

G. W. Johnson's Times building is 24x90, three stories, and was erected by J. M. Davies, in 1872, at a cost of about $12,000.

Next in order is Commercial Block, two stories high, with basement, and 90 feet in depth, erected in 1870, with a total frontage of 120 feet.

Joseph Kuhn's Star Clothing House was erected in 1873. It is 25x103, two stories high, and cost $10,000.

W. H. Hoxie and Adolph Meeker's block is 48x90, two stories and basement, and was built in 1873 at a cost of $14,000.

Mark Carley's agricultural warehouse, 40x100, two stories, and occupied by Sobin Bros. since its construction, was erected in 1873, at a cost of about $5,000.

R. M. Eppstein's Arcade building, 20x80, two stories, was built in 1872, at a cost of about $7,500.

The First National Bank, corner of Main and Walnut streets, is one of the most substantial and elegant business structures of the city.

McCorkle's block, 48x90, two stories, was built in 1870, at a cost of $14,000.

G. W. Johnson's block, (adjoining McCorkle's on the west) of the same size and height, was erected the same season at about the same figures.

Eichberg's Opera House, is another of the notable buildings of Champaign, on account of its beauty and cost. It is 40x90, three stories high, and has a fine front ornamented with a heavy cornice, elaborate cut stone window caps and quoins. Total cost about $30,000.

The new Gazette building, erected in 1875, by George Scroggs, editor and proprietor of the Gazette, is one of the finest in the city, and ranks with the Garwood-McKinley block and the First National Bank. Its cost will not fall much short of $18,000.


One of the most imposing and extended fronts in Champaign is the block built and owned by Messrs. Walker Bros. and Bailey and Rugg, standing at the head of Main, on Neil. The building was erected in 1871, has a total frontage on Neil of 110 feet, is three stories high, and cost $4,500.

The Larned-Gregory block, (owned by G. C. Larned and Dr. Gregory,) is 40x100, three stories, and was built in 1870, for about $16,000.

The long two story block, next north of Larned's Hall, has a frontage of 88 feet, the north 44 feet being owned by C. F. Columbia, another 22 feet by A. C. Burnham, and the residue by the Misses Cloyd. It was built in 1870 at a total cost of about $24,000.


The nucleus of this originally belonged to an association known as the Champaign Library Association. In November, 1866, it came into the possession of the city.

It is governed by a board of nine directors, who are appointed by the city council.

The officers of the board of directors are Geo. W. Gere, President; E. A. Kratz, Secretary. The other directors are F. Dollinger, H. Swannell, W. L. Maxwell, J. B. Russell, B. C. Beach, C. F. Columbia and Wiolliam Bowen.

The library contains over two thousand volumes, and its influence for good is incalculable. Connected with the library proper is a reading-room, and the privileges to both are open to all persons over ten years of age if there is compliance on their part with certain rules.

Go to page 2.

Back to the Township Index *** Champaign Township History, pg. 2

Back to Main Page