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Champaign County, Illinois
History of Penfield
The history of Penfield can be traced to early 1830's. In an attempt to find a better life and escape "civilization" thousands of persons packed their possessions in wagons and moved westward. Those who arrived in the northern section of Champaign County found vast lands covered with dense grass and containing only one body of timber. This timber area was subsequently called "Buck Grove," so named for the abundance of deer in the area. The creek which ran through the grove and emptied into what is now known as the Middlefork of the Vermillion River was named Buck Creek.
The first known settler to Buck Grove was Isaac Moore who came to the area in 1830. Five years later Isaac Moore sold his property to a man named Buffert who moved from the state of Ohio with the intention of settling in Illinois. The story is told that Mr. Buffert, after having bought his land, killed a hog on which his family feasted. After the celebration he took a survey of his possessions for the purpose of finding a suitable location for unloading his wagon. No spot suited his taste. The longer he looked the less he was pleased and, at last, he came to the conclusion that he like the old place in Ohio better after all. Without unloading his wagon he turned his horses to the East and returned to Ohio.
On November 10, 1834, Robert Wyatt, an Englishman, entered the land containing Buck Grove. He settled there for a short time and later sold to Calob Evertson, a native of Ohio. Calob made extensive improvements on the land. He died in 1865 at the age of 65. His son, Calob Jr., was sixteen when he came with his father to Buck Grove. For several years after his father's death he was the oldest settler in the township. His approximate age at the time was 36.
The Havana, Rantoul and Eastern Railroad went through the area now known as Penfield in 1875. The arrival of the Railroad was an outlet for grain grown in the area and access to the stone quarries and oak forests of the Wabash Valley.
The village was named for Guy Penfield who, with his brother, John, came from Vermont to Rantoul in 1856. Guy and John Penfield plotted the town of Rantoul in 1856. Guy Penfield was a vice-president of the Havana, Rantoul, and Eastern Railroad. In 1872 John Penfield was elected from the 30th Senatorial district to the lower house of the general assembly.
On March 8, 1876, a tract of land (two blocks containing 18 lots each) beginning at a stake in the center of the Havana, Rantoul, and Eastern Railroad area was surveyed by Thomas B. Kyle. From then on the area was to be known as the Village of Penfield. The lots were sold for $1.00 each. The first building to be built after the laying out of the town was a grain office by Sheldon Tomlinson and Lewis Hichs. The business was conducted by C. W. Ellis who was compelled to go to Rantoul for board, the nearest house being three-quarters of a mile away, and the mud so deep that it made daily travel through it impossible.
On May 2, 1876, the Penfield Post Office was established. Up to this time those living in the area of Penfield had R.R.# Rantoul addresses. The first postmaster was Ozias Riley. Four horses were required to haul the grain to the elevator. Following the completion of the elevator the first load of ear corn was delivered by D. P. Cox who farmed the land now owned by Stoffer Frerichs.
W. P. Marvel built and operated the first store and harness shop in Penfield. The shop was opened for business April 22, 1876. The next store was erected by S. H. Busey and operated by Busey and Riley.
A blacksmith shop was built by R. W. Chambers in 1876. Mr. Chambers had previously had his blacksmith shop on the farm of G. W. Taylor. The farm is now owned by Richard Babb and it is believed that part of the original blacksmith shop is still standing.
On Main Street the hotel was owned and operated by the Chambers family. A windmill, one of the landmarks, stood near the hotel.
In 1877 a lumber yard and agricultural store was built by the Hamilton Brother who lived in the residence now owned by Herman Fogel.
Other stores and industries located in Penfield by 1878 were Straw and Carleton General Store; J. B. Condit and Son Shoe Shop; P. Peterson Wagon Shop; F. Saint Livery Stable and Station Agent. A tile factory was built in 1880 by Ben Gifford.
The first physician to locate in Penfield was Dr. M. Hazel.
Early teachers were Miss Marie Welles and G. W. Hadden, the latter having as high as 75 pupils during the winter months when the large boys had 'slack' time on their hands. In the new building, Mr. Hadden taught for a shot time and then entered the grain business with his father-in-law H. C. Bear.
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