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Champaign County, Illinois

History of East Bend Township

This township received its name from the bend which the Sangamon river makes in flowing through its territory. This stream enters the township from the west, running toward the centre of the township, and then bends away to the southwest, forming an extensive bend which caused the name of East Bend to be fixed upon on the organization of the township. The soil is fertile, and much of it admirably suited to farming purposes. The Sangamon river, with the heavy growth of timber lining its banks, gives excellent advantages to the farms adjacent to it in the way of stock raising. As first organized it included what is now Brown township, which was taken off from it in 1869.

It is claimed that the first settler in this township was one Joseph Newcomb, who settled on section 32 on the banks of the Sangamon river, at the place afterward known as Newcomb's Ford. Land was entered here, in September, 1835, the west half of the south-west quarter of section 32, township 22, range 8, by Ethan Newcomb. Newcomb was from Kentucky. Where William Heyer now lives in section 29, on the west bank of the Sangamon, Franklin Dobson settled about 1837. In 1841 he removed to another locality, but five or six years afterward came back again, and from that time resided on the place until he sold it to Heyer. Dobson was from Kentucky.

In the year 1841 Nicholas Devore, who was a native of Kentucky, but previous to coming to Illinois had lived in Indiana, made a settlement on section 20, where the widow of William Johnson now lives. He had three sons, Isaac, John and Andrew Jackson. Isaac is dead, but John and Andrew Jackson have been residents of the township for many years, and are now the oldest settlers in it, living on land adjoining that on which their father first settled. For several years the Devores were the only settlers in the township. Either in 1848 or 1849 Gardner Sweet came from Indiana, and settled where Jacob L. Cosner now lives, to whom he sold his improvement. Cosner was from Indiana. He came to the township in 1852. Sweet, from neighborly inclinations, chose his location close to the Devores. On the farm now owned by John McJilton, in section 7, Thompson Dickson settled about the year 1852. He was from Ohio, and died about 1858, on the same section. Harvey Taylor was still an earlier settler, coming there about 1849 and moving away about 1855. The farm which Lewis Warner now owns was originally settled by Harmon Hillsbury about the year 1852. Hillsbury lived there until he died. Martin Stephenson settled on section 19 about 1852. In the year 1854 Richard Chism settled on section 20, where his son, Thomas J. Chism, now resides. He was born in Kentucky, but came to this county from Logan county, Ohio. Joseph Wren came the same fall (1864) and settled in section 31; he moved to Kansas.

Among other old residents still living in the township is Julius Cranston. Mr. Cranston was from Champaign county, Ohio. He bought land in section 6, in the year 1856, and began to improve the land the following year. John W. Gideon built the house where Mr. Cranston now lives, previous to the date of the latter's settlement. Noble Byers was an early settler in section 5; John F. Stansbury in the same section; and Isaiah Farris in section 2. These settlements were made after 1854. Previous settlers had all located near the Sangamon, along the timber, and Farris was the first man to settle out on the prairie at any considerable distance from the timber, and until 1858 or 1859 his house and that of a man named Sniters were the only improvements on the northern line of the township between the Sangamon and the town of Ludlow. On section 11 an old farm, known as the Johnson farm, was begun to be improved at an early day.

In the year 1858 John Harnit became a resident of the township, and took a conspicuous part in its affairs until the time of his death in 1869. He purchased three hundred acres of prairie in section 2, and improved the farm on which his family still reside. He represented the township for a number of terms on the Board of Supervisors. Alfred Houston moved to the farm he now owns on section 5 in the year 1860. He was born in Harrison county, Kentucky; came to the county in 1854, and settled in the timber in Brown township where he lived until his removal to East Bend. He has been supervisor of the township, and a leading citizen. There were few settlers in the township until after 1860, when the population began to steadily increase and improvements to be made quite rapidly. Joshua Peckham began to improve the farm which George W. Wagner now occupies in section 6, in 1863. Where John Swayze now lives a man named Coon settled about 1860. In the same part of the township Israel Maginnis made a settlement about the same time. Besherer Swayze, the father of John Swayze and William H. Swayze, came to the township in 1863. He was born near Trenton, New Jersey, and died in 1867. Among the old residents of the township is Philip Humel, on section 28, and James Jeffries, who came to the county in 1860. Thomas Hewerdine has been a leading citizen in the southern part of the township; he came to the county in 1853. Ernst Lorenz, who has been an active man about Dewey, first became a resident of the township in 1865. William Heyer, now living in this township, came to the county in 1865; A. J. Ham in 1864; John N. Heinemann in 1863; August and Frederick Spurling in 1865; August C. MilIer in 1868; R. Dolph in 1852; and Henry Hummel in 1861.

The first store ever established in this township was on land of Jacob L. Cosner, on the west side of the Sangamon river about a quarter of a mile above where it now crossed by the bridge. The first proprietor of the store was Charles Knapp. The store was afterward removed to Houstonville, on section 19, where Joshua Peckham had charge of it. A blacksmith shop was also built at this point. Thomas Knight succeeded Peckham as proprietor of the store, and during his occupancy a post-office was established at Houstonville and he was first postmaster. This post-office was established about the year 1871. Ernst Lorenz next took charge of the store in 1872, and in 1876 was succeeded by William Houston, and since then store has been in the hands of various parties. The post-office at Houstonville was discontinued 1878.

The first post-office in the township was established about 1853 at Thomson Dickson's house in section 7. Dickson was postmaster. It was called East Bend. This office was subsequently removed to Ford county, and there was no post-office in the township until the establishment of the office at Houstonville.

The only church in the township is a Methodist church on section 2, built in the fall of 1875.


The only town and post office in the township, is situated on section 34, on the line of the Havana, Rantoul & Eastern railroad. It was first given the name of Behrens in honor of Henry Behrens on whose land the town was laid out. The first house was built in July, 1876, by Ernst Lorenz, who the same month opened a store. The second store was started in January, 1877, by John N. Heinemann, who is still proprietor. Ernst Lorenz continued with his store until the spring of 1878, and then rented it to S. P. Coon, of Rantoul, who is conducting it at present. A post office was established in July, 1876, and called Behrens. Ernst Lorenz was first postmaster, and still holds the office. The railroad authorities had named their station Dewey, and the name of the post office was changed also to Dewey in July, 1878. The town has a considerable amount of trade, and will doubtless continue to thrive and prosper. The two stores are conducted by John N. Heinemann and S. P. Coon, and the Sale Bros. And John N. Heinemann are dealers in grain.

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