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Champaign County, Illinois

History of Pesotum Township


This township is bounded on the north by Tolono, on the east by Crittenden, on the south by Douglas county, on the west by Sadorus township, and is represented by town 17, range 8. Unlike most of the other townships, Pesotum comprises but 35 sections; section 6 having been given to Sadorus township.

The surface consists of a deep, black, prairie soil, and with the exception of a narrow strip along the western boundary, is entirely destitute of timber. No streams of any importance traverse its level surface; the surface is gently undulating, just sufficient to make it an excellent agricultural town.

within the present limits of Pesotum township was Squire Lee, who moved upon the prairie about twenty-five years ago. He erected a small hut near where he still resides, and began making a farm. Prior to this time, no one would venture out from the timber, but after Lee had been there a few years, others began to see the superior advantages of the prairie over the timber, and soon followed him. In this way, the township was soon settled by a class of men well suited to the business of making homes of the wild prairie. Prominent among the pioneers of this township, stands the names of D. E. Lord, Henry and Wm. Nelson, Paul Holliday, S. S. Baldwin, Josiah Merritt, Chas. Johnson, M,Millan, Kelly, Butterman, Ennis, old Mr. Johnson and many others, who might be mentioned.

The first birth in the township, was that of Sarah E. daughter of Squire Lee, who was born in 1857.

A man by the name of Bean, died in 1856, and one by the name of Ralph, died the following year. The former of these, is supposed to have been the first death within the present limits of the township.

A public meeting was held in the old freight house at Pesotum, about 1864, for the purpose of electing officers, and Henry Stevenson was elected Supervisor; but the people had been in the habit of assembling in the Nelson school-house, as early as 1858, for religious services.

Public improvements always begin with the making of roads in a new county, and the first road was the one extending from the timber eastward to Pesotum.

The Illinois Central railroad extends entirely through this township, from north to south, and was built in 1856.

The first physician to come to the township, was one Dr. E. I. Birdsell.

The first school-house erected in the township, was what is known as the "Nelson school; built in 1857, and a Mr. Brown, was the first teacher. About this time, a school was held in the freight house at Pesotum, by Sarah Pennington. Miss Carrie Kelly and Mary Walling, were among the first teachers. The schools in the township are in good condition, with the exception of the two or three, which are still unsupplied with suitable desks. The citizens are taking great interest in the matter, and the time is not far distant when all will be well seated.

Religious services were held at first in the Nelson school-house and other parts of the county, either in dwellings or other school-houses. It was not until 1866, that a class was organized in the Cooper neighborhood, with about twenty members. Rev. Mr. Miller was the minister who did most to effect an organization, but Rev. Levi Gossett, had preached the first sermon in that vicinity. A very nice building was erected in 1873, in the eastern part of the township, and is known by the name of "Pleasant View. There is a church just across the line in Douglas county, that was built principally by citizens of this township.

The village of Pesotum, is situated on the Illinois Central railroad, and is near the center of the township. The first buildings erected therein, were the freight house and a few small shanties occupied by the workmen.

A store was opened by Nelson and Clark about the time the road was built, and a post-office was established, with a man by the name of Tomkins as postmaster. Arnold, a blacksmith, erected his forge a short time afterward.

The village at present, has a population of about one hundred, and contains two stores, a blacksmith shop and very excellent school building. The station is quite an advantage to the farmers of that vicinity, as a shipping point for their grain.

Pesotum possesses advantages that but few other towns in the county are favored with. Besides the village of Pesotum near the center of the township; Sadorus, near the north-west corner, on the Wabash railroad, furnishes an excellent outlet for the grain and stock in that part, and Tolono near the north-east corner, at the crossing of the Wabash and Central roads, affords a large portion of the township with a choice between the Chicago and eastern markets.

We are indebted for the information necessary to write the above, to Squire Lee, John Meikle, Wm. Rock, Mrs. Merry, Mr. Cooper, Henry Nelson and others.

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