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Champaign County, Illinois

History of Homer Township

This township lies in the south-eastern part of Champaign county, and is fourteen miles from north to south, and four miles from east to west. The southern half forms a part of the celebrated estate known as "Broadlands," sold by M. L. Sullivant to the late John T. Alexander, of Morgan county, Ill., "the cattle king of the world." These lands are very fertile and finely located, a portion being high, rolling prairie, with undulations sufficient for drainage, when properly brought into cultivation. Much of the population on these lands have recently purchased small tracts, and are now becoming identified with the interests of the township. Vast amounts of grain are annually produced, and will soon enable the owners to improve their lands and beautify their homes. The major part of these lands are now owned by Ayers & Co., of Jacksonville, Ill.

Homer is bounded on the north by Ogden, on the east by Vermillion, south by Douglass, and west by Raymond counties, Sidney and St. Joseph townships. The Salt Fork runs through the township from west to east, along which there is a splendid growth of valuable timber. The other principal streams are the Little Vermillion creek and Yeazel branch.


Lothrop, in his History, says: "The first settler in this township was a man named Gentry, who settled north of the Salt Fork timber in 1827, and his was undoubtedly the first white man's cabin in the town." In 1828, Mr. Harris, Thomas Butler and a Mr. Osborn settled in the township, and soon after came Moses Thomas, Samuel Williams, and Richard Wilson. The second house built in the limits of this township was by Hiram Jackson, on lands now owned by M. D. Coffeen, one mile northwest of Homer. Jackson, with other associates, were suspected of being counterfeiters, and were driven out by the citizens. Moses Thomas erected the first water-mill, one and one-fourth miles north of where the village of Homer now is, in 1835 or 1836. It was a grist and saw-mill. A more complete list of the early settlers comprise the names of Isaac Burriss, John Umpenhower, Adam Yeazel, Abraham Yeazel, and Dr. Harmon Stephens. Dr. Stephens was the pioneer physician, and located in Old Homer. James Orr settled one mile west of Homer. Mr. Elkins, Humphries, and Moses Hays lived three-fourths of a mile north-east of Homer. Mr. Hays was killed while digging a well in the town of Homer, in 1856. M. D. Coffeen came to the township in April, 1836, and built the first storehouse in Old Homer, and sold the first goods. Mr. Coffeen is still living, and graphically relates many incidents of the early settlers. William Elliott came here in 1838, and is now a resident of Homer. He built the first hotel in Old Homer in 1843, a part of which was used in the erection of the present hotel in Homer, kept by A. Henderson.


Was erected on the farm of Moses Thomas, and the first teacher was Elias Thomas. The next school building was built in Old Homer in 1838, and the first school in it was taught by R. C. Wright. Mr. Wright and John B. Thomas were the first lawyers admitted to the Bar.


Was erected over Salt Fork, at Old Homer, in 1845, by subscription, and cost about $450.


Was on the land of Moses and Elias Thomas, near Old Homer. "Lost Grove," five miles south-east of Homer, was so called from the fact that a man was lost and perished in this grove in 1826, and was found by a party of hunters a few weeks afterwards, with his eyes eaten out by birds.


Established was at the residence of Moses Thomas, and was called "Union Post Office." It was removed to Old Homer in 1837, and its name changed to "Homer."

M. D. Coffeen, Dr. Wm. Fithian and Samuel Grovendyke were the original proprietors of the present town of Homer. It was laid out in the winter of 1856, and has since grown to a population of about 1500.

Dr. Harmon Stephens, R. C. Wright, James Wright, and M. D. Coffeen & Co. removed stocks of general merchandise from Old Homer to the new town of Homer, bringing both stock and buildings. John B. Thomas moved at the same time a stock of drugs and building. The above comprises the first merchants of the town.


Established through this township was the old State road, from Danville to Springfield, passing through the northern part of the township, and was laid out in 1847. The State contributed a fund arising from the sale of saline lands in the counties of Champaign and Vermillion, to assist in building bridges. The Wabash Railway was completed through the township in 1856. This road affords excellent facilities for the shipment of stock and produce, and has aided materially in developing the latent wealth of the township.


There are three churches---Methodist, Christian and Presbyterian. The M. E. C'hurch was organized in the old town of Homer, and subsequently removed to the new town. The Rev. G. S. Alexander is the minister in charge of the church at present. He has been in the ministry for twenty-four years, nine of which were spent in Nebraska. The church membership is ninety; average attendance about 300. The Sunday-school numbers 140. The present structure is a commodious brick building, completed in 1866, at a cost of about $8000. Mr. Alexander is the only minister in Homer who devotes his time exclusively to preaching.

The Christian Church at Homer was organized the first Lord's day in June, A. D. 1856, with eleven members. Eli T. M. Hess was and is yet the minister in charge. The names of the original members are as follows: Samuel, Mary Ann, Margaret J., and John W. Beach, Diadema Gaston, John and Sarah Buchler, James E. and Elizabeth Gillespie, T. M. and Nancy Hess. T. M. Hess was appointed elder, Samuel Beach deacon. The first meetings were held by Elder Hess in the M. E. Church in Homer; service twice each month. After the organization of the Church, they were refused the use of the M. E. Church for one year. They afterwards fitted up a dwelling as a place for worship. In 1859 they erected a church. The membership is now 109. Their Sunday-school numbers about 150. Elder T. M. Hess is still faithfully ministering to the Church.

The Presbyterian Church was organized May 9, 1869. J. L. McNair was the first pastor, and officiated from 1869 to 1872. A. L. Knox was the second pastor, from 1872 to 1876. Rev. J. D. Jenkins from 1876 to 1877. The Church is now without a regular pastor. They erected a church in 1873, at a cost of $4,500. Sabbath-school numbers eighty; J. H. Rayhill superintendent. Elders, Samuel Robinson, H. Smith, S. W. Thompson, and J. H. Rayhill, clerk. Trustees from 1873 to '78, T. D. McKee, S. Robinson, and J. M. Cusick. Elected 1878, 0. W. Upp, H. Ervin, and Austin Henderson.


Of Homer are in a flourishing condition. The west half of Block 37 was donated to Homer for school purposes by M. D. Coffeen and Samuel Grovendyke, on which was erected a building costing about $10,000. The total number of pupils of this school is 300. Average daily attendance is 225.


The following are the principal business houses in Homer: General merchandise, R. S. Hopkins, J. M. Causter, M. C. Thompson, and Custer & Moody. Groceries---F. H. Gray, E. Stokes, U. V. Zorns and A. Henderson. Groceries and Bakery---John Musgrove. Confectionery---E. T. Mudge and F. M. Smith. Drugs---C. J. Tinkham and A. L. Thompson. Hardware and Agricultural Implements---J. Thomas, & Bro, and J. A. Galusha. Dealers in Lumber---Wm. Mudge, Homer, Patrous & Co., and Lawson Stearns. Dealers in Grain---George Evens, George Meyers, J. W. Umpenhower. J. M. and H. Cusick, blacksmiths; E. S. Cusick, carriage and blacksmith shop; C. C. Stearns and George Evans, wagon makers; J. R. Ocheltree, James Spraker, and L. McWhorter, dealers in furniture and undertakers; Mrs. Hunnill and H. D. Gilman & Co, millinery; John C. Haymiller; A. Henderson, proprietor "Homer House;" Solomon Plant, banker; James Core, T. M. Hess, J. B. McCance, and H. C. Shaw, physicians; R. C. Wright, J. O. Bryant, C. M. C. Elder, and George W. Carns, attorneys; Wm. R. Rawlinson, dentist; Mortimer Smith, tile manufacturer; Abram Hay and E. W Burdick, brick manufacturers; Peter Byers, boot and shoe dealer; 0. Lewis, Jacob Subold, boot and shoe makers; George Hawkins, Charles McClure, saddle and harness manufacturers; James Upp, photographer; J. C. Cromer, editor and proprietor "Homer Enterprise."

The following are the officers of the town of Horner: T. M. Hess, President; A. A. Haskett, Clerk; J. M. Custer, George Evans, Samuel Walters, A. C, Moody, and Thomas Whitlock, Board of Trustees; B. H. Towner, Police Magistrate; J. O. Bryant and Wm. Elliott, Justices of the Peace; Wm. Dougherty and Milburn Palmer, Constables.

HOMER LODGE, NO. 199, A. F. AND A. MASONS Homer Lodge was organized on the 18th of April, 1856. The officers were John B. Thomas, W. M.; Michael D. Coffeen, S. W.; Louis H. Burroughs, J. W. The charter members were: John B. Thomas, D. M. Coffeen, L. H. Burroughs, Thomas M. Hastings, W. A. Conkey, Cyrus Hays, and Alonzo Upp. The present officers are: G. W. Yates, W. M.; W. W. Mudge, S. W.; M. J. Spencer, J. W. The lodge is in good working order, and the number of members is fifty.


This was organized March 12, A. D. 1866; A I. 2396. The first officers of the Chapter were as follows: G.W. Hartman, M. E. H. P.; Charles J. Tinkham, E. K.; M. D. Coffeen, E. S. The charter members comprised the three persons above mentioned, and the following persons in addition: J. S. Black, Wm. Freeman, Marquis Buel, Wm. Black, H. S. Brown, and Adam Sager. The present officers of this flourishing Chapter are: G. W. Hartman, M. E. H. P.; C. J. Tinkham, E. K.; J. M. Custer, E. S. The membership is now thirty-seven, and the Chapter is reported in excellent condition.

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