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Champaign County, Illinois

History of Philo Township

This township was formerly part of Crittenden township. On its first organization it was called Hale township, in honor of Philo Hale, who entered the first land in the township, in April, 1837, being the northeast quarter of Sec. 15, Town. 18, Range 9, east. In 1861 the name was changed to Philo; it is bounded on the north by Urbana, on the west by Tolono, on the south by Crittenden, and on the east by Sidney, being Town. 18, Range 9, east. In 1856 the Toledo, Wabash and Western Railroad was built through the township, near the centre, running in an east and west direction. The first settler in the township was G. F. McGee; he settled on Sec. 1, where he now resides, in the spring of 1853; one Hooper came later the same year, but did not remain long. When Mr. McGee settled in this township there were no settlements between Sidney and Sadorus grove. The summers following, 1854 and 55, Lucius Eaton, Thomas Ennis and Collor came in. Mr. Eaton improved a farm on Sec. 9, where he still lives; he was also a blacksmith by trade, and raised the first hamer in the township. He did the repairing for his neighbors many miles round. The early settlers that followed were E. W. Parker, George parker, Asa Goveling, Dennis Chapin, William Buxton, A. T. Moore, and John T. Schwartz. These constituted most of the early settlers of Philo township. From that time the prairies began to fill up more rapidly, and though it would be our pleasure, it is impossible to name the many settlers following. In 1856 population flowed in quite rapidly. The township is wholly prairie and as fine a township of land as there is in the state. Yankee Ridge, as it is called, divides the township. The highway from Urbana to the village of Philo, is along this ridge which passes through the whole county, from southeast to northwest, but is more prominent here than in any other part.

The early settlers in this township had their milling done at Homer, until the mill was started at Urbana, by William Park, in the year 1850. Deer and wolves were plenty in this township until 1860.

The first school-house was built on Sec. 9, in 1857, near the residence of L. Eaton, and was called Yankee Ridge school-house; the first school taught commenced in Feb. 1857, and Miss Emeline Keeble was the teacher, afterwards Mrs. Collor. In the town of Philo there is a two-story graded school-house and ten good school-houses in the township.

There are three churches in the township, two in Philo, Methodist and Presbyterian, and one in the country, on Sec. 12, Christian, near the residence of Giles McGee.

This township stands second to none in the county for finely improved farms. Space forbids mention of all that are really worlthy of mention, and will permit notice only of a few. And first, the farms of the Meharry brothers. There are, throughout the vast, rich west, no more fertile lands than those which are drained by the waters of the Embarras and the Wabash. Nowhere does nature reward the labor of her children more richly. The farms of the Meharry brothers are traversed by the Embarras from north to south, and embrace the rich prairies of either bank. Most of the farms of this township consist of from 80 to 320 acres; those of the brothers mentioned, taken together, constitute one of the largest farms of the country. These farms, by the energy and thrift of their owners, have been brought under a high state of cultivation. The fence consists mainly of hedge, which is the most beautiful of all fences. The farms are provided with comfortable residences, and furnished with good barns.

There, too, is the well cultivated and beautiful farm of Mr. Nash, which is provided with as good buildings as any in the township. The condition of buildings which are beautifully situated on elevations, the state of the fences, the appearance of the stock and the fields, all speak well for the industry and taste of the owner.

There also may be seen the excellent farm of William Patterson, and the residence, out-buildings and fences of this excellent farmer, furnish evidence that a love for the beautiful may exist in the mind of the most practical and thorough farmer.

Other farms worthy of especial mention for the high state of their cultivation and improvements, are those of J. T. Moore, John W. James, P. P. Cliff, and E. H. Dick.

The first murder that was perpetrated within the boundaries of Champaign county, was committed near the present site of Philo. The circumstance was as follows: before the settlement of this county an unknown man stole a horse somewhere in Indiana, and fled with his booty westward. He was followed by a band of regulars, as tradition informs us, who overtook him at a point known as the "Tow Head," an isolated clump of trees on the ridge, a mile north of the village of Philo. When discovered by his pursuers, the fugitive from justice, overcome by his long travel, was found asleep under one of the trees with the stolen horse tethered near by and eating the prairie grass. No notice of his discovery was given beyond the sending of a rifle ball crashing through the brain of the thief, who expired where he lay. The avengers of the violated law reclaimed their animal and returned whence they came, leaving their victim's body to rot on the spot where he breathed his last. The bleaching evidences of this crime were still to be seen by the early settlers of this county as they passed and repassed that lonely grove.

The village of Philo, of considerable importance, stands on a beautiful location, situated on the Toledo, Wabash and Western railroad. It was laid out in 1864 by E. B. Hale, the son of Philo Hale, and includes 80 acres of land. Elam Ellithrop built the first house in the village, and Wright built the second, and he was also the first station agent for the Toledo, Wabash and Western railroad. B. C. Morris, M. D., was the first physician; he was the first to sell goods also; he built the first hotel. The town contains one school-house, two churches, two elevators, one mill, one dry goods store, three grocery stores, two drug stores, two hardware stores, two hotels, three blacksmith shops, one tin shop, two harness makers, lumber yard and livery stable.

Centennial Lodge No. 747. A. F. and A. Masons. As the name of this lodge implies, it was organized in the year 1876, on the 7th of June.

The first officers were, B. L. Tabler, W. M., F. W. Bassett, S. W., T. W. Compton, J. W., H. E. Francisco, Treas., W. W. Higginbottam, Sec'y., Thomas Ennis, S. D., S. B. Wright, J. D., J. M. Helm, Tyler. The charter members in addition to those composing the first corps of officers were, John Love, James S. Bocock, David Brewer, Milton Moore, E. H. White, and E. W. Davidson.


B. L. Tabler, W.M., Thomas Ennis, S.W., C. E. Parker, J.W., H. E. Francisco, Treas., W. J. Watson, Sec'y., T. D. Weams, Chaplain, James Burns, S. D., L. B. Wright, J. D., George Collins, Tyler, David Brewer, and H. E. Wilson, Stewards. The number of members is 25.

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