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Litchfield History


Source: "Centennial Edition", Litchfield News Herald, Aug. 1, 1953, Family History Section
Submitted by Lynn Boyd Reener

Second choice to Huntsville for engineer After Post Office turns down first
The Litchfield family of three brothers are responsible for the city's name.

The town was first named Huntsville for George Hunt, chief engineer of the newly organized railroad, who came here to lay out the roadbed. However, the post office department, to whom the founding fathers applied for a post office, said there was another Illinois post office bearing the name and they couldn't have it. So they picked Litchfield as a second choice.

The founding of the city of Litchfield was strictly a business proposition during the great railroad building era of the mind-nineteenth century, according to early community histories.

The construction of the first railroad line through the city was itself largely due to three native New Yorkers who were active in railroad expansion throughout the eastern half of the United States; Elisha Cleveland Litchfield, Edwin Clark Litchfield, Electus Bachus Litchfield.
The story of the Litchfields starts with their father, Elisha Litchfield, born in Canterberry, Connecticut, in 1785. He served in the American army during the War of 1812 before entering politics in New York.

Elisha Litchfield served several terms in the New York State Assembly and in the Seventh United States Congress. He became Speaker of the House in the New York Assembly.

Elisha married Percy Tiffiny in Canterberry, Connecticut, in 1808. They had one son Elisha Cleveland, on 11 October 1810, before they moved to Delphi Falls, N.Y. They later had four more sons, Electus Backus, born 15 February 1813, Edwin Clark born 21 January 1815, Erastus Darwin, 27 December 1818, and Egbert Deles, who died in infancy.

Percy Litchfield died in 1827, and a year later Elisha was married to Mrs. Lucy Savage Bacon, a young widow who had lost her husband seven years earlier. The new Mrs. Litchfield had had one son, William E. Bacon, before the death of her first husband.

Elisha and Lucy Litchfield had four children, Eliza Adeline and Emma Lucy, both of whom later lived in the city of Litchfield, Edward Everett and Egbert S.

The similarity of names in the Litchfield family caused some confusion as to who of the sons was who. This was reflected in their personal affairs, when the post office often mixed up their mail delivery.

By this time the three oldest sons, Elisha C., Electus B., and Edwin C., were old enough to be in business for themselves. They remained closely associated for the rest of their lives and formed one of the foremost combinations of the nineteenth century railroad boom.

Edwin C., trained in law, was a member of a New York legal firm, but his interest soon swung to railroad legislation. Elisha C. and Electus B. had a wholesale grocery business in Cazenovia, New York, before they joined their brother.

Their first jump into the railroad came in 1846 when they bought the uncompleted Michigan Southern road. They united this line with the Northern Indians Company and completed construction on both railroads.

Edwin was the leader in this venture but the other brothers were active in other railroad franchises in the mid-west.

Electus was treasurer and later president of the Toledo & Cleveland railroad, which the Litchfields had joined with other groups to build. Elisha C. was a director of the Chicago and Rock Island road.

The Litchfields expanded their interests considerably and were caught by the panic of 1857. However, they came out of this financial difficulty all right.

They soon became interested in the construction of the Terre Haute and Alton railroad. Electus came to the present site of this city and bought out the company which had been organizing the town.

Electus and Edwin became directors of the Terre Haute and Alton Company and with P.C. Huggins, led in the completion of this line through the town.

Reports of directors meetings of the corporation for the years 1853 and 1854 filed in the New York Public Library state that the road was completed to the town of Litchfield in 1854.

After this the Litchfield family was firmly established as a part of the city, although none of the three brothers had homes here.

Their uncle, Daniel Litchfield, moved to Litchfield and served as preacher at the Baptist Church up to his death during the Civil War. His son, Elisha W., was later to become the city's second mayor.

In 1856, William Enos Bacon came to Litchfield to serve as the brothers' (his stepbrothers) agent for their holdings in this area. He held power of attorney over the lands owned by the Litchfields here and handled the sale of this real estate to citizens of the community. He was a businessman in his own right, serving as secretary of the Litchfield Car Manufacturing Company.

His greatest distinction came in 1859 when he was elected to two terms as the first mayor of Litchfield. One of his first projects was setting up a school system.

Born March 19, 1821, in Onondaga County, New York, the son of Enos and Lucy Savage Bacon, William E. Bacon was readily accepted into the Litchfield family after his mother's marriage to Elisha Litchfield. He was associated with Elisha C. in the mercantile business in Fabius, New York, before they went railroading.

Mr. Bacon was educated at the University of Michigan and later served as paymaster for the Michigan Southern railroad. He prepared most of the early abstracts of title in Litchfield and was one of the founders of the Oil City Building and Loan Association.

At the time Litchfield was laid out, Mr. Bacon insisted that State Street be 100 feet wide, and after considerable debate, his idea prevailed. There are no descendants of the Litchfields still living in this city.

(For more information on William E. Bacon, consult the LITCHFIELD CENTENNIAL 1853-1953; page 511 Bacon-Stuttle-Goeke Families.)


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