Putnam County

1907 Past and Present



ALL THE ROADS IN THE COUNTY LEAD TO HENNEPIN. Speaking of roads, there were no highways at that time, hedged in with fences, cutting right angles and taking one through swamps and around Robin Hood's barn to get any place, the traveler simply fixed his eye on the star of destiny and moved in that direction until he reached the desired point.

Hennepin is no longer a market place as in bygone days. Railroads have brought shipping points all about her and she now has the reputation of being the most exclusive county seat in the state. She also has other unique features that give her special distinction; her streets are all graveled, she has elegant concrete walks, she has an artesian water system, and the river skirts her limits, upon which plies the Hennepin ferry boat, which is as interesting to modern travelers as it is ancient in method of transportation.

Some very good stores supply the mercantile interests and she now has one of the very best hotels in her history, "The Cecil." Being the county seat brings people to the monthly sessions of the County Court, and the semi-annual sessions of the Circuit Court, and to the political conventions and such other gatherings of interest to the whole county.

Much of the general history of this narrative clusters about Hennepin and much is said elsewhere that properly belongs here, but the task of classification in a brief sketch is not an easy one. Hennepin is still an important factor in county matters, but is no longer the whole thing as in former days.


Glancing at the map of the Putnam county we discover that a number of little villages in the good old days sprang up as community centers. Perhaps a brief sketch of each of them may be of interest. Hennepin we have already noted was the important town of the county. Perhaps in the beginning, Magnolia was the next important, situated as it is at the extreme southeast corner -of the county near the Marshall County line, it is the oldest-settled town in the county. In the fall of 1826 claims were made within a mile, north of the site of the village by Captain Win. Haws, James W. Willis and Stephen D. Willis, who are believed to have been the first to penetrate that part of the wilderness with the intention of settling. The next year John Knox arrived and located at the city of Magnolia. The first public house was a log structure and the first teacher was Andrew Burns. Thomas Patterson was the founder of the town and it was here he builded and dedicated to science this first school building. The development of the school work is noted under the heading of Schools. Knox's Tavern was the first public house erected in Magnolia, A double cabin which became a depot on Finch and Walker's stage line and like the Ramage House of today became famous along the line for its comforts, its conveniences and sumptuous fare. Among the first merchants to locate there were John McKisson, Thomas Patterson and Elijah Swan. Magnolia did not have a post office for some time after its settlement. The people had to go to Roberts' point for their mail as late as 1836. The first preacher who visited the village was Jesse Walker in 1828. He had a trading post at Ottawa and obtained his goods at St. Louis and brought them here by boat. He preached occasionally and was a curious, bluff gentleman rather shrewd in business. Magnolia has been the center of much commercial activity in its day. It is here the first county election was held. In 1841 and 1842 James Ramage constructed the first plow that would scour in Illinois soil. It was he who produced the Diamond Plow, the forerunner of all self-scouring implements of the plow kind and it was in Magnolia that Mr. Ramage carried on the mercantile business until others with greater facilities took away his trade. It was also in Magnolia that one of the first reap-, ing machines was constructed. In 1849 Mr. William E. Parrott put up the first reaper ever constructed in the state of Illinois. They were not the self-binders of the present day but the man who first invented the sickle-bar and the place where first made, deserve recognition. All glory to Magnolia's inventive genius.

In the state atlas of 1876 Magnolia furnishes a larger quota of men who were willing to pay for personal recognition in that work than any other township in the state. Not only the village itself but the surrounding country has produced an energetic class of citizenship and to the advanced spirituality of this community is due much of the credit of Putnam county's rank among the other counties of the state. The village has not grown much in the last quarter of a century. It has now some very nice stores, many splendid dwellings; has been fortunate enough to have the Toluca, Marquette & Northern Railroad pass through its limits, thus giving it good shipping facilities; has a new school building, and while not increasing in size, is altogether a unique and interesting community.


Perhaps next to Magnolia in importance was the village of Granville. It was surveyed and laid out in 1836. The first settler was a man named Creswell, who built a cabin in 1832. In 1834 Thomas Ware erected the first frame structure. "Loveliest village of the plain" that's Granville; nestling near the primeval forest, occupying a commanding site affording a fine view of the surrounding country, stretching away to Magnolia to the south and the sunrise to the east No better natural location for a city can be found. There was nothing at Granville in the beginning to develop a city. Simply a splendid location with a magnificent agricultural environment. The fathers of the settlement laid its foundation broad and deep on the eternal principles of truth and rectitude. Spirituality and intellectuality were the warp and woof of the community fabric. The church and school were the two factors in social development that received the attention of great and small. Under the headings, Schools and Churches, we shall treat the subject more extensively.

In early times Granville was a hustling business place with a promising future. Its merchants were enterprising and carried large stocks of goods ; t its artisans were competent and industrious ; its ministers were eloquent ; society refined ; newspapers and books circulated freely and on all questions of public interest people were well informed and voted intelligently. Farmers for twenty miles came to Granville to trade. The construction of the Illinois Central Railroad on the east and the Rock Island on the north cut off her source of patronage and the once promising, thrifty village ceased her expansion and for years remained but an inland hamlet, though through it all she retained her spiritual and intellectual status. In 1900 the construction of the Indiana, Illinois and Iowa Railroad extension from Streator west across Putnam county passed through the village limits and brought her a new lease of life. To the shame of the railroad company be it said that $1,500 were extorted from the citizens for the location of a depot building within the village, which was made up by subscription by those who preferred giving, to seeing a new town established within a mile of old Granville. With the coming of the railroad came new enterprise and new industries. Hon. A. W. Hopkins, who had been a member of the legislature from this district for several terms and whose home had always been within a mile and a half of the village, believed that the opportune time had arrived for booming his native community. Inspiring in others the same belief, he with James Albertus Harper began a vigorous campaign to boom the community. A joint arrangement was made by which all the merchants then in town and a number desirous of coming in, united in the construction of a magnificent-brick block which was to become the centralized Emporium of the commercial interests of the town. An architect was employed, plans and specifications drafted and this project crystallized into tangibility which resulted in the constructed in 1900 of the "Lincoln Block." New additions were platted; lots were put on the market, and a regular western boom was on. Since that time there has been no cessation. The St. Paul Coal Company bought up most of the coal lands in the township and sunk a magnificent shaft at the western limits of the village and are now employing hundreds of men and are paying through the Granville Bank, at this early stage of development, fifty thousand dollars a month in wages. The Granville Bank, established by Joel W. Hopkins and son, has been a strong feature in the commercial development. Two splendid grain elevators furnish a market for cereal products. The Toluca, Marquette & Northern Railroad was built through the village in 1905, the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad in 1904, and in 1905 and 1906 the Oglesby & Granville, a short line connecting Granville with the Illinois Central at Oglesby, was constructed. Hundreds of houses have been built. The little village of two or three hundred people has approximated that many thousand. Two miles east of the village the B. F. Berry Coal Co. have sunk the largest shaft in the state of Illinois and at the close of 1906 are just beginning the opening up of the underground work. Taking all in all, the pay-roll from the St. Paul shaft and from the Berry shaft, the Oglesby & Granville Railroad, and the commercial interests of the town and the elevators, we are safe in saying that no other town of. its size in Illinois today, presents a better outlook for future business than Granville.


In 1836 Thomas W. Stewart and Aaron Thompson laid out a village three and a half miles southeast of Hennepin which they named Florid It attained its greatest growth soon after. The extent of its development has been a little hamlet nestling in the woods, built upon the road that leads from Hennepin to the settlements in Ox Bow, Strawn's, and Magnolia, with no cross streets. For about sixty rods the villagers built their houses on either side of the road. At one time it had two churches, both of which are closed now, which with a Woodman Hall and the school house, constitute the public buildings. This community was made up of some of the best and strongest characters of pioneer days. A few rods east of the village is the site of the famous Fort Cribs which was erected in 1832 as a block house for defense against the Indians. It takes its name from the fact that a number of corn cribs were within the enclosure. It was resorted to by all the settlers in the vicinity for safety, as many as a hundred being there at one time. A memorable event was the birth, while in this fort, of Milton Shepard son of Mr. and Mrs. Nelson Shepherd. We personally remember while teaching at Florid in 1881 and 1882 that a part of this fort still stood but has been torn away. Florid contains one good general store at present and a number of good, substantial dwelling houses, with it- honorable citizens, mostly retired from the active duties of life.


On the county line between Putnam and La Salle, on the highest point, in the loveliest part of the state, overlooking as it does the beautiful waving fields of grain stretching away to the sylvan borders of the Vermillion on the east and the Illinois on the west, beautiful for situation stands what is left of what once promised to be the center of education Mt. Palatine. It was laid out in 1849 by Christopher Winters. Mr. Winters had bought a large body of land in this territory and resold it mostly to eastern settlers designing to start a live Yankee town, lie also purposed to establish an educational institution which when first built was called a seminary but afterward it rose to the dignity of Judson College In 1842 the first house was built in the town by Deacon Woodbury. Otis Fisher, of Granville, became the first teacher in the settlement in 1841. He had a small frame dwelling erected just outside the limits of the village where he lived for a year. Dr. Lamed Davis first visited Mt. Palatine in July, 1841, but did not take up his permanent abode there until 1843. There were a few other houses built near and around the town in 1842. It is strange that at the time of the founding of Mt. Palatine there was not a house within twenty-five miles southeasterly except that of William Johnston, which was a mile away. The village promised well until the establishment of Tonica, which, on the construction of the Illinois Central, began to grow, taking away the trade and furnishing a railroad market but seven miles away. The first store opened in Mt. Palatine was that of Boardman Fulson, where were sold drugs, groceries and dry goods. He began business there soon after the town was laid out and retired from business in 1879. The village contained three churches, a good district school, two general stores, two blacksmith shops, one wagon shop, one physician and a post office, about twenty-five dwelling houses with a population of about one hundred people. The first hotel built was owned by Samuel Puffer. It was a big brick house which still stands. Thus like many little villages its history was greater in the beginning than in the end. Bv the establishment of McNabb two and a half miles to the southwest the last flickering hope for Mt. Palatine ever becoming a town of any importance died out.


In Senachwine township about ten miles to the southwest Of Hennepin, situated upon the western bank of the Illinois river is a little hamlet now called Putnam, but formerly known by the name of the Indian chieftain, Senachwine. Some heartless wretch with no appreciation of the beautiful persuaded the government to change the post-office from Senachwine to Putnam, and Putnam it remains. In 1835 a town was laid out by B. M. Hayes, but nothing came of it and the present town was established by Peter Barnhart and Cortland Condit, who owned the land upon which it stands. In 1855 the Bureau Valley Railroad now a part of the Rock Island system was built through to Peoria. Then soon after James McCurdey opened the first store. He was also post-master. Soon after George Ward engaged in the grocery business and Aaron Hines built a hotel. The town has good gravel streets, an artesian well, and several fairly good business houses, a large elevator, two schools and two churches and is the social, religious and political life of the township.

Just below Putnam, about 1836 or 1837 upon a beautiful plateau with a convenient steamboat landing, a town of considerable pretensions was projected and boomed by energetic business men. Lots sold readily; a sawmill and gristmill to be propelled by steam were contracted for and the machinery brought upon the ground, a blacksmith shop was set up, and a dozen cabins erected and sold, a store was opened by Josiah Hayes, better known from his diminutive stature and certain characteristics as "Little Hayes." He afterward moved to Kansas and achieved greatness by becoming a colonel in the Union Army and afterward secretary of state. The many sloughs and low places covered with decaying matter and the impure water developed chills and fever and malaria, and followed by the death of the principal promoter of the town, caused it to be abandoned, but not, however, until it had been named in honor of the great Daniel Webster. All that remains now to mark the place are a few depressions in the soil that show just where the cabins had been.


At one time there was a little settlement called Caledonia, where there were a number of buildings, including a church, a school house, a blacksmith shop and a store, in Magnolia township on Ox Box prairie. Nothing now stands there except the church and the old school house.


After the establishing of Spring Valley about a quarter of a century ago Mr. Mower planned on the south bank of the Illinois river, near the site of the present Spring Valley bridge, a village he called Yosemite, upon which he paid taxes for a number of years. Perhaps half a dozen buildings were erected on that site, but nothing came of it and Yosemite you cannot see.


The coming of the I., I. & I. Railroad in 1900 brought to the county an additional village. In Magnolia township one of the principal local promoters of this road was Hon. J. M. McNabb, at that time county judge. The railroad company felt that it was to its interest to establish a station somewhere in Magnolia township, so they bought Judge McNabb's farm a the highest price that was ever paid for land in the county, and laid out a little town which they rightly named McNabb. Its development has not been up to expectations, but what the future holds far it we may not yet discover. It is already a social and business center for the community. It has two or three good stores, two elevators, a lumber yard and a hotel. It also has two rural mail routes emanating from its office. A banking house under the name of the "Farmers' Bank of McNabb" is managed by Judge McNabb, cashier and one of the proprietors. There is a thriving Danish church in the village, and a new school building of two stories and two teachers. The Toluca, Marquette & Northern Railroad also runs through the town McNabb can boast of one feature that no other town in the county possesses. They have a regular sale stable where public sales of fancy and blooded stuck bike place. They have a commodious hall in which social and literary entertainments are held. Taking all in all, the village has made an interesting social center.


There remains but one other place on the map and that is the station of Moronts in Hennepin township, on Hennepin prairie, and four miles northwest of Granville and the same distance northeast of Hennepin. There is no town here There is not a house there. Only the station and a grain elevator, but it has become a good shipping point for the farmers in the community and for Hennepin.


The advent of the coal industry has brought its accompanying influx of population. North and west of the St. Paul shaft a village was laid out and named Mark. Many of the foreign-born mining population secured lots and built homes for themselves in this new town site. To the southeast of the shaft the coal company itself has built its houses, which differ from the stereotyped houses inasmuch as there is a variety of architecture relieving the distressing sameness usually seen in corporation cottages. Being just over the Granville village corporation line this addition seems rather to be a part of Granville, although in reality it is "Mark." An effort was made to prevent its incorporation and to annex it to Granville proper, but the coal company did not move in time and the promoters of the new village succeeded m incorporating it. In all probability in the near future the two towns will become one.


Joining the Berry plant, F. W. Sucher platted a town and named it Standard and at the close of the year 1906 most of the lots in the new town had been sold and many buildings erected. The Oglesby and Granville road connecting this hamlet with Granville makes it practically a suburb of the old town.


Just over in La Salle county at the settlement called Cedar Point, another shaft is in process of development, and like Standard, located on the O. & G. railroad, giving it interurban connection with Granville makes it tributary to Putnam county's great metropolis. What change this development will produce upon the social and financial interests of Granville remains to be seen. Our prerogative is that of a chronicler, not a prophet.

Extracted from Past and Present of Marshall and Putnam Counties Illinois, authored by John Spencer Burt and W. E. Hawthorne, published in 1907, pages 77-81

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