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Livingston County, Illinois
Genealogy and History

Chatsworth Community History
Livingston County, Illinois


(Transcribed by: Teri Moncelle Colglazier)

Chatsworth is situated on the Toledo, Peoria & Warsaw Railway, about forty miles from State line, and seventy miles from the city of Peoria. It was surveyed and laid out by Nelson Buck, County Surveyor, June 8, 1859, for Zeno Secor and Cornelia Gilman of New York, who owned the land on which it is located. In 1853, the land was entered by Solomon Sturges, who, in 1857, conveyed it to Wm. H. Osborn, and Osborn and wife in turn conveyed it to Secor and Gilman.

The original town occupied 160 acres of land, embracing the south half of the northwest quarter, and north half of the southwest quarter of Section 3. Since then several additions have been made to the original plat at different times. It has been organized as a village under the Incorporation act, and the first board of officers were Jacob Titus, E. A. Bangs, John S. McElhiny, W. W. Sears and Albert Tuttle. Jacob Titus was elected President of the Board, and George E. Esty. Village Clerk.

At present its official board is as follows : John Young, President ; W. F. Dennis, A. M. Roberts, C. Spiecher, Samuel Crumpton and C Guenther; R. M. Spurgin, Clerk; W. H. Wakelin, Treasurer; J. M. Myers, Superintendent of Police, and T. S. Curran, Police Magistrate.

The first building was put up in the village in 1859, by Chas. D. Brooks and Trueman Brockway, both of whom were from New York. It was a store and residence combined, a frame building one and a half stories high, with rooms over the store. They afterward went into partnership, and after Brockway got married, he lived over the store.

A post office was established in 1860, the first, not only in the village, but in the township. Chas. D. Brooks was the first Postmaster, an office he held several years, when Matthew H. Hall received it. He was succeeded by Col. N. C. Kenyon, who is at present Postmaster.

The first hotel was built by C. W. Drake, in 1859. It has been converted into a dwelling house, and is now used as such. The only hotel in the village is the Cottage House, kept by Wm. Cowling.

The first blacksmith, as mentioned in the history of the township, was Samuel Patton, who is still in the business, on the same old stand. He came from Ohio in the Fall of 1859, and there was at that time but one house in the village (Brooks & Brockway 's store), a little grain house and an old carpenter shop. There were two others in sight—the section house, and one two miles out on the prairie, owned by Franklin Foot.

Mr. Patton is the inventor of a corn husker, which seems to be a good thing. It husks corn as fast as horses will walk, and can be sold at about $225. He has not commenced the manufacture of them, but designs doing so.

The first school house was built in 1858, on two lots donated by Osborn for school purposes. This was the first school house in both Chatsworth Township and the village. The present elegant school edifice was built in 1870. Two years ago additions were built to it, at a total cost of buildings and additions of $11,000. It is a two-story frame building, with stone basement, and is finished off in fine style.

The teachers and Principal of the school for the year just closed (their principal and teachers for the coming year are not yet chosen) were as follows : Prof J. T. Dickinson, Principal ; Miss M. J. Speer. Grammar Department : Miss Brown. Miss Aiken and Mrs. Tuckerman : Mrs. Palmer, Primary Department.

The Germania Sugar Company built their large factory here in 1865, for the purpose of manufacturing sugar from the beet. The capital stock of the company was $50,000, which was all owned in Springfield, except $1,000 held in Peoria. The enterprise was projected by a man named Jennet, a German, and after the company was organized, he had the management. It proved unsuccessful from the lack of water. One well bored on the premises, 1,200 feet deep, cost $6,000, and afforded an insufficiency of water to meet the requirements of the business. It is believed that, with plenty of water, it would have proved a valuable business. The beets yielded about eight per cent, of their weight in sugar. The factory was in operation here for about five years, when the machinery was taken out and removed to Freeport, where it is devoted to the same purpose as here.

The property fell into the hands of Jacob Bunn, of Springfield, who furnished the funds for its operation and removal to Freeport. Though the capital stock was originally $50,000, it cost while here, we are told, about $175,000. The "vacuum pan," as it was called, alone cost $6,000 in Germany, and was an extraordinarily fine piece of machinery. But it was a losing speculation as long as it remained in this village.

A coal shaft was sunk near the village of Chatsworth, in 1867, by Capt. Beard, who had some connection at one time with the east shaft at Fairbury. A stock company was formed among the citizens of Chatsworth, of $10,000, but the stock was never all paid up. Enough, however, was collected to pay Beard for sinking the shaft, which was about 218 feet deep. The works were finally abandoned, upon the report of Beard that there was no prospect of coal. It is thought by some that a good vein of coal was found, but for some reason the fact was concealed, or at least never officially reported. One of the men employed in the work said to some friends one day, that they passed through a vein of coal about five feet thick in sinking the Chatsworth shaft. Whether this is true or false, we are unable to say.

The first grain elevator was built by Charles D. Brooks, in 1861, and was burned in 1866. He then built another, which he afterward moved to Piper City. Samuel Crumpton built one next, and then Havercorn & Mette built the one now occupied by A. B. Searing. Joseph Rumbold built one, which is now owned by Searing & Crumpton. The next was an old mill, moved up by the railroad, and changed into an elevator by Chas. Weinland, and is now owned by H. L. Turner.

The mill above referred to was originally built by Wright, Williams & Cripliver, and, after several changes, it was disposed of as already noted. Williams then erected his present steam mill, and commenced operating it in December, 1877. It is a frame building, with two runs of buhrs, and is used mostly for grinding corn meal and stock feed.

Another of Chatsworth's manufactures is the Star Wind Mill, which is put up by David E. Shaw, who is also the patentee of the Marvel Feed Mill, which is adapted to wind mills. Also, the wagon factory of L. C. Spiecher is quite an institution. He works seven hands, and make wagons and carriages principally.

Chatsworth has two banks—C. A. Wilson & Co., successors to the Chatsworth Bank, and E. A. Bangs & Co. Both houses do a general banking and exchange business.

The Chatsworth “Plaindealer” is a five-column quarto newspaper, published by R. M. Spurgin, and is one of the flourishing papers of the county. It was established in November, 1873, by C. B. Holmes, and in August, 1876, passed into the hands of its present owner. It is an independent paper, and takes no particular side in politics.

The first religious society organized in the village of Chatsworth was the Methodist Church, in 1859, by Rev. M. Dewey, with about forty members. The charge, at that time, included Forrest, Five Mile Grove, Pleasant Ridge, Oliver's Grove and Bethel, with Rev. J. W. Flowers as Presiding Elder of the District. The society held their meetings in the school house, two blocks north of the railroad depot, until the year 1874, when they erected a good church building at a cost of about $2,500, in which they have worshiped ever since, having now upon the church rolls about 100 members. Adjacent, is a comfortable parsonage, worth about $500, and both it and the church are free of encumbrance.

Rev. Samuel Wood is the present Pastor, and Rev. R. G. Pierce. Presiding Elder of the District. The church was dedicated by Rev. T. M. Eddy, D. D., of Chicago, on the 30th day of November, 1864. The Sunday school of this society was organized in March, 1862. W. H. Wakelin is the present Superintendent, and the average attendance is about 100 children.

The Presbyterian Church was built soon after the village was laid out, and the society first organized in the school house, under the pastoral care of Rev. Mr. Thomas, who preached here and at a school house in Ford County on alternate Sundays. He then lived at Champaign. The first regular minister in charge of the society was Rev. Oscar Park. The present Pastor is Rev. Geo. F. McAfee, formerly of Missouri, but a graduate of the Northwestern Theological Seminary, and has in his charge about eighty members. A very flourishing Sunday school belongs to this church. The Rev. Mr. McAfee is Superintendent, and about one hundred and thirty-five children attend.

The Baptist Church was built in 1871, is a substantial frame building, 32x54 feet, and cost about three thousand six hundred dollars. Rev. A. Kenyon is Pastor, with a membership of over one hundred, and an interesting Sunday school, of which A. H. Hall is Superintendent.

There are two German societies, the Evangelical Association and the Lutherans : but they have no church buildings, and we were unable to learn anything definite of their organizations.

The Roman Catholic Church was built in 1864, and dedicated, on the 17th of March, to St. Patrick, by Rev. Thomas Roy, President of St. Victor's College. The building cost about four thousand dollars, is a handsome frame, and was built under the pastorate of Rev. John A. Fanning, of Fairbury. Owen Murtagh, Patrick Monahan and William Joyce were the Building Committee. It was made an independent mission on the 22d of July, 1867, when the Very Rev. Learner Moynihan, formerly of New Orleans, and late of Jersey City, N. J., succeeded the Rev. Father Fanning. A flourishing Sunday school is attached, and the attendance, both at it and the church, are good.

Chatsworth Lodge, No. 539, A. F. & A. M., was chartered October 1, 1867, Jerome B. Gorin, Grand Master of Illinois, signing the charter, and H. G. Reynolds, Grand Secretary. The charter members were George R. Wells, E. L. Nelson, W. H. Jones, D. E. Shaw, E. A. Simmons, A. E. Anway, James Davis. J. H. Dalton, Charles L. Wells, Ira W. Trask, J. S. McElhiny and D. W. Hunt. D. R. Wells was first Master ; D. R. Shaw, Senior Warden, and E. A. Simmons, Junior Warden. The present Master is N. C. Kenyon, and W. H. Wakelin, Secretary, with forty members.

Chatsworth Lodge, No. 339, I. 0. 0. F., chartered October 9, 1866, J. K. Scroggs, Grand Master, and Samuel Willard, Grand Secretary. Charter members— Arthur Orr, N. A. Wheeler, Peter Shroyer, T. L. Matthews, H. J. Roberts and G. W. Blackwell. Arthur Orr was first Noble Grand, and N. A. Wheeler, Secretary. C. Guenther is at present Noble Grand, and Arthur Orr, Secretary, with thirty-seven members.

Livingston Encampment, No. 123, I. 0. 0. F., was chartered May 31, 1871 ; D. W. Jacoby, - Grand Patriarch, and N. C. Nason, Grand Scribe; J. B. Renne, first Chief Patriarch; Peter Shroyer, Scribe. L. C. Spiecher is at present Chief Patriarch, and P. J. Garhart, Scribe, with about twenty members on the roll.

Chatsworth has a well organized fire department, with a good volunteer company. Their engine is the old "Prairie Queen," formerly used in Bloomington, and this village bought it for $1,300, which, with hose and other equipments, runs the cost of the department up to about two thousand dollars. The company has been a valuable acquisition, and has saved to the town more than twenty thousand dollars' worth of property since its organization.

The bar is represented in Chatsworth by Hon. Samuel T. Fosdick and George Torrence, Esq. The former was elected to the State Senate in the Fall of 1876, on the Republican ticket, receiving 5,056 votes over C. C. Strawn, of Pontiac, Democrat, who received 4,313 votes. The Senatorial District is composed of Livingston and Ford Counties.

The medical fraternity here are Drs. Charles True, D. W. Hunt, Wm. C. Byington and --- Bostock.

John Walter, a merchant of the village, has a very ancient relic, and one to be highly prized. It is an old Bible, printed in 1536. The following is the inscription on the fly-leaf:

Printed in Zurich
Christoffel Froschoner
and finished on 15 day of March

It is printed in the Swiss dialect of the German language, bound in heavy wood backs, covered with leather, with heavy iron clasps and corners. Mr. Walter claims that it is the oldest Bible, but one, in the United States; and, for a book that is 340 years old, it is in a state of excellent preservation. It is profusely illustrated throughout the Old and New- Testaments with colored engravings of Bible scenes and incidents.

The village of Chatsworth has one of the most beautiful little parks in this section of the country. It embraces just one square, or block, in the village, and is very handsomely shaded with young maples, of which there are over 500 in the enclosure, making it a fine place to pass an hour or two of a warm evening, and a lovely promenade for the boys and girls, who

Find in their wooing much moonshine yearning,
Such as young folks always have when they are learning

to be sweet on each other, and yearn for moonlight, solitude and the " mournful cooing of the turtle dove."

Chatsworth Cemetery was laid out January 4, 1864, and an addition made to it March 2, 1865. It is a pretty little burying ground, and the good order in which it is kept shows a high regard of the living for the dead. The first party buried within its silent shades was an old German laborer who lived, at the time, with Patrick Monahan, of Charlotte Township, and was buried on the spot, before the cemetery was laid out. as noticed in the history of the latter township.

[The History of Livingston County, Illinois - Wm. LeBaron, Jr. & Co. - 186 Dearborn Street, Chicago (1878)]

Platted nearly a century ago, the incorporated town of Chatsworth, in the southeast corner of the county, today has a total population of 1,119.

It has numerous retail stores, service establishments, banking facilities and a postoffice. The town is located on the Illinois Central and the Toledo, Peoria & Western railroads and on US 24. Chatsworth was founded in 1859 by Zeno Secor and Cornelia Gilman, both of New York.

Today, it is the principal community of Chatsworth Township, which has a total population of 1,582. First settler of the township was Franklin C. Oliver, who arrived in 1832.

It was in Chatsworth Township that the Reverend Jesse Walker, known as the "Daniel Boone of Methodism," established a mission at an Indian camp here called Kickapoo Grove (later called Oliver's Grove).

[This is Livingston County, Illinois by: John Drury, The Loree Co., Chicago, Illinois (1955)]


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