Sketches of Marshall County Illinois from Dr. Samuel S. Wood

Sketch of Sparland
Taken From the Henry News Republican
July 2, 1868

The traveling correspondent of the Chicago Journal of Commerce, Dr. Samuel S. Wood, writes to that paper a pencil sketch of Sparland in this county, giving its advantages as a business point, what its business is, what it contains, and how it thrives. We copy it entire:

Sparland, Marshall County is a smart little place, situated on the Chicago & Rock Island railroads on the Peoria branch. I found the traders and mechanics here active and industrious in prosecuting their various callings, as well as intelligent and patriotic. Many of the fine residences which crown the high bluffs overhanging the city show also that the inhabitants possess good taste as well as the necessary means to indulge it. Standing upon these  elevations, a distant view is caught of Henry city, seven miles up the river towards the north, and Lacon city nestling before you on the opposite shore among a profusion of green shrubbery, rendering the scenery rather picturesque and beautiful. I found in my rambles, somewhat to my surprise, that coal cropped out of the ground in all directions, which makes fuel in this section remarkably handy to obtain as well as cheap. Good hard cord wood here is only $3 per cord being brought to these low figures by the abundant supply of coal. What a blessing would such rates be to the thousands of poor families in your city! Well, let them move into the country and till the soil, instead of huddling into the city, to which they are so prone, to freeze and starve.

Sparland contains one Presbyterian church, one Methodist church, and a Christian Advent church will be built this summer; one Masonic lodge; one Odd Fellows lodge; one large flouring mill; one carriage and wagon shop; three blacksmiths’ shops; one harness shop; three saloons; two clothing stores; one shoe shop; two lumber yards; three drug stores; one furniture store; one bakery; two meat markets.

The shipments of wheat from this section is small compared with other grains, for the reason that the flouring mill use nine tenths of the amount of grain grown in the vicinity. The amount of grain shipped from this point within the past year were 300,00 bushels of corn, 150,000 bushels of oats, 40,000 bushels of wheat, 20,000 bushels of rye, and 1500bushels of barley; 65,000 barrels of flour, 260 cars of stock - embracing cattle and hogs.  The passenger receipts for the same period amount to about $19,000.

The elevator here was erected in 1853, and is the property of the railroad company. It is 150 feet long and two stories high; engine house and sheller room 60 x 50 feet. The sheller is capable of shelling 3000 bushels a day. The elevator will contain 40,000 bushels.  The engine - a 25 horse power - and the sheller and machinery are owned by C. F. Hitchcock. The storage cribs for corn are 160 x 25 feet, will contain 20,000 bushels and cost from $2400 to $4000. They were built in 1867.

The Steuben House is kept by John W. McClanahan Jr., and is a frame building built about seven years ago. It is near the depot; is 60 x 60 feet, and two stories high above basement, which is used for a saloon and a billiard room. The proprietor is a courteous and gentlemanly fellow, and very affable in his manner. I found him kind and attentive, and his house a very pleasant refuge after a hard day’s tramp.

Swift & Brother keep the hardware store here, and are very fine men. They commenced business in 1866, with an aggregate business the past year of $25,000. This house was formally known as N. G. Swift & Co.

Messrs. Sargent & Haskins are dealers in dry goods and groceries. The firm was formed in November, 1867, and notwithstanding the short time they have been in business, they succeeded in acquiring a trade of nearly $2000 per month. They are bound to go ahead.

P. & C. Fossbender deal extensively in live stock. They have been in business about three years. The aggregate amount of their business is about $80,000 a year.

Stone & Fossbender are largely engaged in the lumber trade, established this spring, and are doing business at the rate of $30,000 per year. They are thriving business men.

Messrs. Fisher & Fossbender, general store; commenced business in 1865, and carry an average tock of $15,000; for the past year their sales will aggregate nearly $60,000. Everything about them is kept neat, and they are industrious, thrifty business men, and bound to succeed.

Sketch of Lacon
Taken from the Marshall County Republican
August 13, 1868

The traveling correspondent of the Chicago Journal of Commerce, Dr. S.S. Wood, who gave a favorable and extended notice of Sparland in that paper not long since, has also visited Lacon and has paid it unusual attention. His notice is elegant, and the advantages of Lacon are delineated accurately. The sketch is long, but we transfer it all to our columns.

Lacon, Marshall County is situated on the east bank of the Illinois river, and is the county seat of Marshall county. It is 99 miles from Springfield and 117 miles from Chicago. Steamboats ascend the river to this place in all stages of the water, and the Peoria & Bureau Valley railroad runs through Sparland on the opposite bank of the river, where Lacon station is situated.

Few places of its size contains more evidence of thrift, enterprise and intelligence. It contains four dry goods, six or seven grocery stores, four clothing stores, two banks, two hotels, one hardware store, three drug stores, one shoe store, two bakeries, two restaurants, two wagon and carriage factories, two plow factories, one woolen factory, three harness shops, three mills, one distillery, one plaining mill, two furniture stores, one book and stationery store, one high school, one masonic lodge and chapter, one odd fellows lodge and seven churches – Presbyterian, Episcopal, Methodist, Baptist, Congregationalist, German Reform and Catholic.

The Presbyterian church, a wooden frame building was built in 1849, and cost about $5000; the Episcopal church, wooden frame, was built in 1859, and cost about $2500;  The Methodist church, wooden frame, was erected in 1857, and cost $5000; the Congregational church, wooden frame, built in 1865 and cost $4000; the Baptist church, wooden frame, erected in 1854, and cost $4000; the German Reformed, wooden frame built in 1867 and cost $2000; the Catholic church; brick, erected in 1860 and cost $15,000; the court house, built in 1852 and cost $10,000; the high school, graded department, built in 1855 and cost $8,000. From this exhibit it will be seen that the Laconians have not neglected the proper institutions for their intellectual and moral culture.

First among the business institutions of the place is the FIRST NATIONAL BANK of Lacon, No. 347, was established in 1864, Phineas Stevens, president, and Henry L. Crane cashier, with a capital of $50,000. The circulation of the bank was reported on the 1st of April last at $45,000; surplus or contingent fund, $244; exchange account $5810; due individual depositors $78,015. The business of the bank is well and prudently managed and it possesses the entire confidence of the business men of the city and country.

LACON WOOLEN MANUFACTURING COMPANY, for the manufacture of shawls, cassimeres, flannels, etc., was organized in the spring of 1866, D. E. Thomas president, Spencer Ellsworth secretary, and John Grieves superintendent. They commenced erecting their factory in May and had it completed and in operation in December following, It is built of handsome brick manufactured in Lacon, and of stone purchased in Joliet. It is pleasantly situated on the east bank of the Illinois river, in the southern limits of the city.  The building measures 75 x 54 feet and is four stories high. In the first story is the machinery and other appliances for fulling and finishing cloth and drying wool; in the second story are two Crompton looms, a dressing machine, and shawl fringe twister; in the third story are two sets of superior cards, made by Furbish & Gage of Philadelphia, a picker from the same works, a ring twister, from the factory of Davis and Furbish, Andover, Mass.; and the skein machinery built by the same house; in the fourth story are four spinning jacks running 960 spindles, two spooling machines, and the garret is devoted to drying purposes. The engine and dry house is built of brick, resting on heavy stone basement 82 x 40 feet.

This vast amount of machinery is driven by a powerful steam engine, and everything about the factory to facilitate work is of the best kind, the proprietors setting out with the determination to build up a reputation by the superior quality and make of their goods.  The capital invested in this enterprise, at a close calculation, foots up over $90,000. They employ 40 hands, and exclusive of material, their running expenses amount to $34,000.  They possess facilities for manufacturing 10,000 long shawls, 15,000 yards of cassimeres and flannels, besides blankets and toher articles. The officers of the company are courteous and thorough business men. The mills and machiney are kept in the most perfect order and neatness. I examined samples of the shawls and other products and could hardly believe from their superior qualities and (..?..), they were the results of a new western enterprise.


Wm Fisher is the proprietor of these well know flouring mills. The building is frame, erected in 1855, 92 x 40 feet, including engine house, and is four stories high. It contains four new burr stones 4 feet, and one run 3 feet, with all necessary machinery for first class mill. The machinery is driven by a steam engine of ample power; the boilers having been in the mill and in constant use since it was first built, and still are in good repair. Adjoining is a warehouse 66 x 48 feet, with conveying apparatus that carries the bran from the mill, and also an office and weighing scales. Capital invested about $50,000. The capacity of the mill is rated at 200 barrels per day. Mr. Fisher is also the senior partner of Fisher & Tuttle, proprietors of a flouring mill over the river in Sparland, 60 x 40 feet, four stories high and furnished with three run of French burr stones, with other necessary apparatus.  The machinery is driven by ample steam power and the mill is capable of manufactruing 80 barrels of flour per day. The mill is within a few rods of the railroad, handy for shipment, and I understood that it was for sale on very reasonable terms. Coal is found here in unlimited abundance and fuel costs but a trifle.

FISHERS SONS & CO, pork and beef packers. This firm is doing a large and extensive trade in the branch of business, for which they possess many superior advantages. The building they occupy is brick, 100 x 100 feet, which they are raising four stories in height. When this extension is completed their arrangements for facilitating their business will probably be the most complete of any in the country. The packing rooms, the cutting up rooms, the rendering rooms, the slaughter pens, are all furnished with complete outfits.  The employ a 20 horse engine to run the machinery of the establishment. In connection with the main building aer extensive warehouses sufficient for storing from 3000 to 4000 barrels. They have also extensive yards outside the city for keeping securing their live stock. They possess all the necessary machinery and other faciliteis for manufacturing their own barrels, tierces and hogsheads, which is quite an extensive branch of business in itself. Their capital invested in buildings and real estate amounts to $75,000. They employ, through the packing season, 60 to 100 men, and at other times about 25 men.  Their expenses for labor the past year foot up $40,000j; packed 11, 769 hogs, making 7000 barrels of park, exclusive of the usual accruing quantity of bulk-meats and 16000  tierces of lard.

ST. CLAIR & CO., organized in June 1867, for manufacturing wagons, carriages and plows. Their main building is frame, 50 x 36 feet, two stories high, and fitted up with all necessary machinery to facilitate their business. Attached is also a building 60 x 40 feet, which besides including the plow shop, is also used for a flouring mill, with two run of French burr stone, and the whole machinery is driven by a 16 hourse power engine. The company have invested $12,000, employ 10 hands and pay out for running expenses about $300 a week. They are turning out this season a large amount of work in wagons and agricultural implements, which are becoming very popular with the community.


This firm was organized in 1867 and is largely engaged in the lumber trade. They occupy the yeard purchased of Mayer, Hall & Co., and have at present on hand a stock worth over $10,000, consisting of building lumber of all descriptions for building and manufacturing purposes. Also, materials for fencing. Their aggregate antes the past year amounted to over $50,000. There is no better point in the country for the lumber business than Lacon, on account of its water and railroad communications, and the present company is wide awake to these advantages.


This firm was established in 1867 and are large dealers in lumber, sash, doors, blinds, and all articles in these lines of trade. They employ a capital of $10,000 and their business average the past two or three months $2000 per month. Their yard is very conveniently located, and tehy ae men of energy and thrift.

PIPER, STEVENS & CO., lumber dealers, commenced business in this city in September 1866. They carry a large stock and are doing a fine business. The aggregate amount of their sales the past year foot up $60,000. The firm sustains the confidence of the public and is rapidly increasing its business. John Piper, the senior partner of this firm is dealing largely in agricultural implements, and is building up a remunerative trade.

THE SHERMAN HOUSE, the popular hotel of the city, claims a share of my notice. The proprietor, Z. S.Cracroft has had some 16 years experience in this present business, is courteous and friendly, and attentive to the wants of his guests. The house is built of brick, located on the corner of Main and Sixth street, is convenient of acces and the traveller or sojourner in the city will ifnd it a capital huse in all its appointments.