McLean County, Illinois
West Township is located in the southern tier of townships in McLean County, Illinois. Bellflower Township is to the east and Empire Township to the west. Originally the entire area was covered by prairie grass with the exception of 30 acres in the northwest corner of the township.
The soil in West Township is deep black loam and very fertile. In earlier times the roads were an impassable quagmire, especially in the winter months. It was an all-day trip to drive to LeRoy in bad weather using a team of horses and buggy, and since the trains ran regularly, many township residents came to Sabina or Glenavon and rode the train to LeRoy, sometimes in the caboose of the freight train, having a couple of hours in LeRoy and then returning in the caboose.
In the 1930s, gravel was spread and most of the year the roads were quite passable. Now roads are all-weather blacktop. [Heritage of the prairie : a history of LeRoy and of Empire and West townships, McLean County, Illinois (1976) LeRoy Historical Society; LeRoy Bi-Centennial Commission (Transcribed by: Teri Moncelle Colglazier)]
The name of this township was changed several times and finally was called West in honor of Henry West, who took 2,500 acres from the government and was first supervisor. He served during the Civil war and led the county's activities in providing for soldiers' families. West retained its school lands many years after other townships sold theirs, and the income from these lands supported the schools.
Two notable Indian landmarks are in West, an Indian fort and the site of a village. The McLean County Historical Society in 1906 set up a stone marker for the site of the fort. Simeon H. West and George P. Davis paid for the marker. People of West township gave money to help build the Big Four and a branch of the Illinois Central railroads through the township.
Simeon H. West, son of the first settler, served on the board of supervisors and in the legislature he gave to the county a grove of 20 acres for a perpetual park. It is called West park. Population of the township is 900. ["Official souvenir program, McLean County Centennial, Aug. 27, 28, 30, 1930" by: McLean County Illinois Centennial Souvenir Program Committee, Harold Lang and Eugene Funk] (Transcribed by: Teri Moncelle Colglazier)
Settlers and Settlements
Kickapoo Indians had occupied the area and there were no white settlers before 1850. In 1851 Henry West and his son, Simeon H. West, came to Illinois from Nicholasville, Ky. and settled on what was then known as "The Ridge" on the north side of the township. Some of the settlers decided to form a township government and decided on the name of Kickapoo, but soon learned that another township had that name so they gave the name West to the township in honor of the first supervisor, Henry West.
The land was very fertile and the area to the south of the first settlement was covered with prairie grass three feet tall, waving in the wind and full of rattlesnakes. Information soon spread about the fertile land and other families came to settle. Some of the first families along with Henry and Simeon West were the Hedricks and Cawbys whose later descendants were the Riddle, Murray, Fenstermaker, Dooley, Taylor, Horine and Reynolds families
About a mile east of West Park is the site of an old Indian fort. A large stone marker designates the site of the former Indian settlement. Simeon H. West was instrumental in having the marker placed there.
Not far from the Indian settlement site is located the oldest home in West Township which is now occupied by the Merle Kirby family. The house was built by Henry West in 1851 and Mr. West, being a friend of Abraham Lincoln, Mr. Lincoln made the West home a frequent stopping place on his travels over Illinois as a young lawyer.
On one occasion when Mr. Lincoln was spending the night in the West home, Mr. West asked Mr. Lincoln's advice on a legal matter. A few days later when Mr. West received a thank you letter from Mr. Lincoln, enclosed was a bill for $5 for legal advice rendered.
At present there are 425 residents in West Township. [Heritage of the prairie : a history of LeRoy and of Empire and West townships, McLean County, Illinois (1976) LeRoy Historical Society; LeRoy Bi-Centennial Commission]
In years past country schools were located every two miles across the township. Some of the schools were Hamilton, Rosencrans, Kumler, Kimler, Grizzelle, Mt. Olive, East Crumbaugh, West Crumbaugh, Dockum, Salt Creek, White Star and Love.
In the country schools, one teacher taught an average of 20 students in all eight grades. Many times there were only two or three students in a grade and in others both girls and boys were taller and sometimes older than the teacher. One of the social highlights of the school year was the school Christmas program which the entire community attended. There also were annual box suppers held in the various schools which were attended by all.
There being no high school located in the township, students graduated from grade school use to either walk or ride early each morning to Sabina to catch the passenger train and ride to Laurette, a railroad crossing one and one-half miles south of Bellflower, then walk up the Illinois Central Railroad tracks to Bellflower to attend high school.
Their classes were so arranged that they could leave school in time in the afternoon to walk back to Laurette Station to catch the passenger train and return to Sabina about 4:30 p.m. Such was the method that several students from the Sabina and Glenavon area received their high school education. [Heritage of the prairie : a history of LeRoy and of Empire and West townships, McLean County, Illinois (1976) LeRoy Historical Society; LeRoy Bi-Centennial Commission]
Many years ago there was a church in Glenavon, also Mt. Zion Church was located on the north side of the township and Mt. Olive Church was located one mile south of Sabina, one mile west and a mile south. [Heritage of the prairie : a history of LeRoy and of Empire and West townships, McLean County, Illinois (1976) LeRoy Historical Society; LeRoy Bi-Centennial Commission]
[Heritage of the prairie : a history of LeRoy and of Empire and West townships, McLean County, Illinois (1976) LeRoy Historical Society; LeRoy Bi-Centennial Commission]
1858 - 1867 Henry West
1867 - 1868 John Weedman
1868 - 1869 Henry West
1869 - 1870 J. B. Leurs
1870 - 1871 J. M. Moon
1871 - 1872 William Biggs
1872 - 1873 Jacob B. Lewis
1873 - 1876 S. H. West
1876 - 1877 Stephen E. Clarno
1877 - 1881 S. H. West
1881 - 1883 W. J. Kimler
1883 - 1885 John Hamilton
1885 - 1886 G. W. Payne
1886 - 1887 W. J. Kimler
1887 - 1889 John Hamilton
1889 - 1892 W. J. Kimler
1892 - 1893 E. W. Clarke
1893 - 1897 Albert Whitaker
1897 - 1899 Harrison Horine
1899 - 1905 Thomas D. Irish
1905 - 1907 H. C. West
1907 - 1913 Thomas D. Irish
1913 - 1919 Charles Umstattd
1919 - 1927 R. A. Johnson
1927 - 1935 Harry W. Reid
1935 - 1947 W. P. Dean
1947 - 1962 Lillard Horine
1962 - Freda Horine
In the extreme northwest corner of West Township is located West Park which was given to McLean County by Simeon H. West.
The park consists of 20 acres, the north half to be left untouched as virgin timber. Today the undergrowth is very thick and is home for all manner of wildlife. The south half of the park is very beautiful with many fine trees. For many years the park area was only an open area.
William Dean, being township supervisor, some years ago organized the neighborhood men and built an enclosed brick shelter house with a large fireplace and tables and benches in the building. The park is popular in warm weather with gatherings of organizations as well as campers. [Heritage of the prairie : a history of LeRoy and of Empire and West townships, McLean County, Illinois (1976) LeRoy Historical Society; LeRoy Bi-Centennial Commission]
Community of Glenavon
In the southeast corner of the county lies the small village of Glen Avon, with a population of twenty. It is served by the postoffice at nearby Bellflower (in Bellflower Township).
The village is situated on the Illinois Central Railroad. It is the principal community of West Township, which has a total population of 677.
Among early settlers of the township area were Henry West, after whom the township is named, and John Weedman, after whom the hamlet of Weedman is named. They came in 1850 and 1851, respectively. [This is McLean County, Illinois by: John Drury, The Loree Co., Chicago, Illinois (1955)]
Glenavon is located three miles east of Sabina. In earlier times Glenavon had a general store as well as a grain elevator. The passenger train stopped there twice a day as well as the freight train which hauled grain, coal and other supplies to and from both Sabina and Glenavon. The elevator station of Glenavon at one time had a post office named Delaney, Ill. [Heritage of the prairie : a history of LeRoy and of Empire and West townships, McLean County, Illinois (1976) LeRoy Historical Society; LeRoy Bi-Centennial Commission]
Community of Kumler
Also in West Township is the small settlement of Kumler. It is located on the Illinois Central Railroad. The settlement derived its name from the Reverend John Kumler, a pioneer landowner of the area. [This is McLean County, Illinois by: John Drury, The Loree Co., Chicago, Illinois (1955)]
Community of Sabina
Sabina received the name from Mrs. Sabina Moore. Mr. Moore was a large land owner near Sabina and he gave his wife's name to the freight station.
The grain station of Sabina is situated in the center of West Township. Many years ago there was a hotel, church and post office as well as two grain elevators, a general store and several homes.
The hotel had a thriving business with salesmen and other travelers and visitors, who arrived on either the 7 a.m. train that ran from LeRoy to West Lebanon, Ind. or the 4:30 p.m. train on its return to LeRoy.
The post office was located in the hotel lobby and was known as Monarch, 111. The post office was discontinued many years ago. A branch line of the Illinois Central Railroad which passes through Sabina and Glenavon was popularly known as the "Pumpkin Vine."
Also, a church flourished in Sabina, it being affiliated with the Christian Church in LeRoy. The church was located on the west side of the road and north of the railroad.
After church services were discontinued the building was used as a residence for a time and later was torn down and the lumber used to build a home near Glenavon.
The general store stocked many items from tobacco, cough syrup and candy to canned goods. Sabina has had a general grocery store for many years. After the original store, which was owned and operated by Jay West was discontinued, several other owners operated the store, and most recently, the store was in the front rooms of a home, two houses south of the original store, and owned and operated by Ira Hess.
All kinds of canned goods were available as well as a variety of cold meats and gasoline pumps were operated to supply the farmers' needs.
At one time, there were stockyards located south of the railroad on the west side of the road. When the farm animals were ready for market, the farmers, assisted by their neighbors, walked or rode horseback, herding their cattle and hogs to the stockyards to be shipped out on freight cars to market. (Transcribed by: Teri Moncelle Colglazier)
Community of Weedman
Another small settlement in West Township is Weedman, which also is on the Illinois Central Railroad. It was named after John Weedman, early settler of the area. [This is McLean County, Illinois by: John Drury, The Loree Co., Chicago, Illinois (1955)]
Weedman is located in the extreme southeast corner of West Township on the main line of the Illinois Central Railroad.
Today it is a center for handling corn and soybeans with several homes and a thriving Methodist Church located across the road in DeWitt County. [Heritage of the prairie : a history of LeRoy and of Empire and West townships, McLean County, Illinois (1976) LeRoy Historical Society; LeRoy Bi-Centennial Commission]
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