#SmallTownSaturday – Centralia, IL

A share certificate for the Illinois Central Railroad, dated 1899

*Originally posted on November 4, 2017*

This week for #SmallTownSaturday, we’re visiting Centralia, IL (pop. 13,000)!

With an abundance of deer, bears, and elk, the region is thought to have been the hunting territory of the indigenous Tamaroa people prior to white settlement. It wasn’t until 1816 that settlers began to make their homes in the area.

Centralians were focused on agriculture in the early 19th century. Farmers suffered from a persistent problem: a lack of transportation of goods to market that petrified the Central Illinois economy. Advocating the construction of a new railway, Stephen Douglas secured a grant of 2.5 million acres of Federal land from Congress and Pres.Read More

#SmallTownSaturday – Riverside, IL

Avery Coonley House in Riverside, Illinois

*Originally posted on October 21, 2017*

Today we’ll visit Riverside, IL (pop. 8,875) for #SmallTownSaturday!

Portages, streams, free-flowing springs, wooded river banks, and vast prairie provided a few types of game to several Native American tribes in Riverside until their forced removal. The Potawatomi were the principal residents, but the Ottawa and Chippewas also lived in the region. Located just west of Chicago’s Ft. Dearborn though, white settlers began to lay their claim to the land as early as 1836.

Riverside was largely undeveloped in the early to mid-19th century. Farms belonging to the Forbes, Egan, and Gage families existed, but little else.

Read More

#SmallTownSaturday – Bement, IL

Bement Cottage, where Lincoln and Douglas met

*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.
Read More

#SmallTownSaturday – Chatsworth, IL

Sketch of "The Great Chatsworth Wreck"
*Originally posted on September 23, 2017*

This week we’re visiting Chatsworth, Illinois (population 1,140) for #SmallTownSaturday!

Originally an indigenous settlement dating to at least 1774 known as Kickapoo Grove, the site of present-day Chatsworth was uninhabited by white settlers until 1832, when a small number began moving into the area in the midst of the Black Hawk War. Aggression against Native Americans soon drove the Kickapoo across the Mississippi.

By the time the Kickapoo people had been removed from the village, all of the white families save one – the Olivers – had relocated to Indiana. Renaming his slice of the county Oliver Grove, Franklin Oliver and his family lived alone in the area until the mid-1850s, when new residents began building their homes nearby.

Read More