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Champaign County, Illinois

History of Tolono Township

Is bounded on the north by Champaign, on the east by Philo, west by Colfax, and south by Pesotum, and geographically known as town 18, range 8. Its area is fine prairie land and is very level, and while it is almost exclusively an agricultural district, it produces fine fruit. Three small streams traverse a portion of the territory; its soil is everywhere excellent, and with few exceptions there is no waste land. The timber consists of artificial groves. The first entries of land were made by Philo Hall in April, 1836, being the south half of section 27.


The first settlement was made in 1848, by Isaac J. and Samuel Miller. They located at the head of Sadorus Grove; soon after came Mr. McElvey, Mark Carley, John Mathews, Alfred Bocock, Dr. H. Chaffee, Wm. Redhed, Alonzo Lyons and Mat. Dorsey. Wm. Dorsey assisted during the construction of the Ill. C. R. R. The first birth in the township was a son of Mat. Dorsey, born in 1857. This new acquisition to the population of the township was named Mat. Tolono Dorsey. In honor of the event the town gave young Dorsey a village lot.

During the construction of the Illinois Central R. R., quite a number of families lived here temporarily. The first death was Mr. Peck, a young man living here, who was found dead in the road, or rather on the prairie, (for there were no roads) near the crossing of the I. C. and T. W. and W. R. R. The first sermon preached in the town was by Father Ryan, a Catholic, in the section house near where the depot now is. Protestant preaching and religious services generally were held in the bar room of the old Marion House, now burned down.

A young man named Christian taught the first school, in a little frame house, now standing in the southern part of the village. In 1863 the first school-house was built. The town now has a fine high school building, and the school is in a flourishing condition, as are all the schools in the township.

Of churches there are four in the town, viz. Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist and Catholic, also a Temperance Tabernacle, and all well attended, which speaks highly for the morality and intelligence of the community.

In 1863 the first grist-mill was erected by Messrs. A. F. Moore and Green. They also built at that time the first warehouse.

In 1858 the first post-office was established, and Dr. H. Chaffen was appointed the first P. M., which office he filled twelve consecutive years. The present postmaster is E. V. Winget. The first burial ground laid out was three-fourths of a mile west of the corporation.

In May of 1857 Mr. William Redhed commenced business by opening a lumber yard, and in 1858, and about the same time, Mr. Redhed and Mr. Alonzo Lyons opened dry-goods stores, and still continue in that business.

Mr. James Pierce commenced blacksmithing in the winter of 1857.

Tolono has one bank, R. A. Bower & Co., Mr. Bower being the senior partner, and was established in 1869.

There are several good mercantile establishments in the town, a mill and two grain elevators, all of which do a large amount of business. The town is also well supplied with hotels.

The railroad facilities of this town are excellent. The Ill. Central R. R. crosses it from north to south, and is supplied with commodious stock yards, which furnish fine advantages for shippers. The Wabash R. R. runs through the township from east to west, and forms a junction with the Central at the town of Tolono. It too is also supplied with stock yards. There are good passenger and freight depots used by both railroad companies. This town is the centre of considerable traffic.

The lands of this county are well adapted to stock raising. Large quantities of hay, corn, oats, and other cereals are grown. There are several fine farms in the township, among which may be mentioned those of George Karchner, Dr. Lyman Hall, Phoenix Baker, and Joseph Nelson, and many others, but space will not admit of further notice.


An examination of the columns of the Weekly Herald shows that the people of Tolono have reason to be proud of their newsy and sparkling paper. Mr. E. B. Chapin is the editor, and his efforts are evidently appreciated and his paper well supported by the citizens.


Tolono Lodge was organized on October 1st, 1863.

The first officers were: F. Cooper, W. M.; J. P. Tenbrook, S. W.; T. B. Blackshaw, J. W.; G. D. Tewksburg, treas.; D. S. Hildreth, sec'y.; M. H. Bennett, S. D.; James Miller, J. D.; James Morrow, tyler.

The above constituted the charter members. The present membership of this flourishing lodge is 45, and the lodge is now officered as follows:

Ira H. Manley, W. M.; P. Richards, S. W.; L. C. Bun, J. W.; G. D. Tewksburg, treas.; Charles H. Bell, sec'y.; James W. Darrah, S. D.; Charles Cronniger, J. D.; W. H. Balch, tyler.

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