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Champaign County, Illinois

History of Kerr Township

This township occupies the extreme north-eastern part of Champaign county, and embraces township 22, Range 14 west of the second principal meridian, and township 22, Range 11 east of the third principal meridian. Ford county bounds it on the north, Vermillion county on the East, Compromise township on the south, and Harwood on the west. It contains twenty-four square miles or 15,360 acres of land.

The first lands entered in this township were entered by Andrew Sprouls and William Brian in the latter part of the year 1833. Sprouls entered the north-east quarter of section 1, township 22, range 11, east, and Brian the north-east quarter of section 6, township 22, range 14 west. The exact date of Sproul's entry was the 31st of December, 1833, and of Brian's, October of the same year. Brian never made a settlement on his land, nor at any time was a resident of the county. Sprouls lived for some time on his entry and then moved out of the state.

The first settler in the township was William McMellen, who settled at Sugar Grove in the fall of 1831, purchasing his land at the government land sales. He was from Columbus, Ohio. He was unfortunate in losing some of his stock, but improved considerable land. He lived there till the year 1835, when he sold out to Caleb Davis, and removed to the neighborhood of Danville in Vermillion county. At about the same time with McMellen one John Manning settled at Sugar Grove, but died a short time afterward. In the year 1834, Samuel Kerr entered land at Sugar Grove. He was from Ohio. He improved a farm and was quite extensively engaged in stock raising. His death occurred in 1854.

Among the other early settlers of the township were Davis S. Holbert. He located in the timber on part of section 21, the farm now owned by John A. Wright. In the fall of 1838, John Walker made a settlement in the edge of the prairie on section 21, on the place now occupied by William Tomlinson, who to this day lives in the same log house which Walker built. Solomon Wilson was another early settler in Sugar Grove. He lived on land formerly owned by Caleb Davis. In the spring of 1838, Samuel Swinford, a Kentuckian, moved from Danville to Sugar Grove, and settled on what is now known as the Lamb farm, occupied at the present time by Stephen Lamb. Swinford afterward moved to a settlement on the creek below Paxton. Another pioneer in the township, was Robert Brian, who lived on the place now owned by Isaac Mantle. The old house is still in existence which Brian built. Allen Skinner entered land in section 28, now owned by Lewis Kuder, and built a house about the year 1835. Thomas Short settled the Benjamin place at an early day, and was a prominent man in his time. William Carter was an early resident, and lived on land now belonging to Perry Martin. Daniel Allhands came to the township about 1848, and was a good citizen and a leading man.

The oldest settler now in this township is Lewis Kuder. In the fall of 1838, John Kuder, his father, settled on section 28 where Lewis Kuder now lives, having purchased the previous spring the improvement which Allen Skinner had made. The Kuders were from Hocking county, Ohio. Five sons of John Kuder, Solomon, Christopher, John, Lewis and Elias, came to this part of Illinois, and have lived in Champaign and Vermillion counties. John Kuder died in 1842, and his wife shortly after. Lewis then bought out the heirs, and in 1846 moved on the farm which he has occupied ever since. He has been largely engaged in farming and stock-raising; his farm now consists of eight hundred acres of land, provided with four artesian wells and in excellent condition. His barn, which he erected in the fall of 1870 at a cost of four thousand dollars, is one of the finest buildings of the kind in the county.

Josephus Martin was an early resident of the township, and was followed here by his brothers James, and William P. Martin, all of whom are now good farmers, are abundantly blessed with this world's goods, and are among the best citizens of the county. Levi Wood is an old resident and a large farmer. His house, built of brick, is one of the finest farm residences in the county. His father, Henry Wood, came to Illinois from Ohio, and settled on the North Fork, eight miles north of Danville, in Vermillion county, in the year 1829, and was one of the earliest settlers of that region. William Chenoweth, who now lives in section 33, (township 22, range 41,) is an old resident of this part of the county, having been raised here. Lindsey Corbley has resided in the township since 1853, with the exception of about eight years, when he lived in Ford county. Mr. Corbley has been a large farmer and stock raiser, and eight different times has been elected a member of the Board of Supervisors from Kerr township. Among others who have lived in the township a long number of years are Solomon Mercer, who was born in Ohio, and came to the township in 1857; Lafayette Patton, a native of Indiana, and who came to the county in 1853; William Snider, born in Ohio, came to Champaign county in the year 1856; and A. C. Halvie, 1859.

Kerr township, when first organized, was named Middle Fork, from the Middle Fork of the Vermillion river which flows through the township. It was formerly twice as large as at present, including that part of township 21 now embraced in Compromise township. In the year 1861 the name was changed from Middle Fork to Kerr, and in 1869 the southern half was included in Compromise township, and Kerr reduced to its present dimensions.

Kerr township is the smallest in size in the county, but offers advantages not excelled elsewhere in the way of farming and stock raising. The character of the soil and the abundance of water, particularly fits it for stock raising. The Middle Fork is a never failing stream, and the finest stock farms in this part of the state will ultimately be situated on its banks. The township now in proportion to its population contains a large number of extensive farmers, wealthy citizens, and fine and substantial farm buildings and improvements.

According to Lewis Kuder the first school-house built in Kerr township was on section 21, on land then owned by James Skinner. The first teacher was Levi Asher who had charge of a school in the year 1838. Other teachers who taught in that school-house, were William Y. Courtney, Samuel Tarves, and Richard Bryan. The school-house at Sugar Grove was built about 1845 or 1846, or rather an old barn formerly used for the purpose of threshing wheat was transformed into a school- house at about that date. Among the first teachers who presided over this school was one Stephen Ireland. The sash used in the building were made by Lewis Kuder.

Among the early preachers who held meetings in Kerr township was William Moore, a Methodist. The United Brethren and Baptists also held meetings at early dates. There was no church building in existence, and their meetings were held at private houses, but were quite numerously attended, and, we presume, were as beneficial and as productive of good as the meetings now held in the modern houses of worship. There is no church building in this township though there are several just over its borders in easy reach of its inhabitants.

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