*Originally posted on October 7, 2017*
This week we’re travelling to Bement, Illinois (population 1,696) in Piatt County for #SmallTownSaturday!
Founded in 1854 and incorporated as a town in 1860, Bement is currently the only town in the United States with this name! The town was named after a secretary of the Great Western Railroad who promised to donate a bell to the first church in the town.
In the winter of 1853, businessman Joseph Bodman traveled from Massachusetts with L. B. Wing and Henry P. Little to the prairies of Illinois, where they had heard the Great Western Railroad was to be constructed. In 1854, the men secured titles to the land at $1.25 per acre. Joseph Bodman knew when he first surveyed the land of what would become Bement that he wanted the town to be part of the railroad system. Originally, there was to be no railroad passing directly through the town, but Joseph Bodman was able to convince the Great Western Railroad company to build a station in Bement. In 1856, the railroad was finally constructed.
The Bodman family was an integral part of developing the Bement community. In 1855, the first house was built for Joseph Bodman. He erected the first business building in 1855, which served various purposes such as a post office and train depot. Joseph Bodman took on several roles within the town, including first postmaster, director of the first school, and member of the Board of Trustees for the town.
The town of Bement is also known for the role it played in the Lincoln-Douglas debates. The Bryant Cottage, pictured below, became the setting of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas’s two-hour conference. It was here in the parlor, on July 29th, 1858, that the two men discussed and made arrangements to begin their famous debates.
If you are interested in learning more about Bement or any other town in our #SmallTownSaturday series, stop by the IHLC!