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Illiopolis Business Association 

Local History

THE GROWTH OF THE VILLAGE

(Taken from the Centennial History of Illiopolis 1956)

Mr. E. M. Wurl's  Hearse 

Click here for larger Photo.

In March of 1869, the year the village adopted the name, Illiopolis, government under a Town Council was organized with the following charter members: David Binkley, John S. Hampton, John Blain, Miles H. Wilmot, and Peter Rasor.

Because of the flatness of the town drainage has always been a problem and there were many sections of swampy land which were good skating ponds in winter but were unfit for dwelling houses until drained.  On some streets ditches carried off the water.  The first homes were built on the higher lands.

The town grew rapidly at first and stores, mostly frame buildings, were of a variety to supply the basic needs of the community.  Newspaper advertisements rep­resent W. A. Matthews and Bradley and Peden as lead­ing firms.  Mr. Matthews, who came with his brother, in-law at about the age of nineteen, was a dry goods mer­chant.  Bradley and Peden were grocers.

Of the early business houses, that established by W. H. Fait continued to be carried on by the same family over the longest period of time.  Mr. Fait, a native of Albany, New York, came to the prairies alone at the age of fifteen soon after the beginning of the Civil War.  Having earned an education he taught school several years, engaged in farming for a time, then opened a grocery store.  This business was expanded to include dry goods and clothing and occupied three storerooms south of the Masonic Opera House.  His son, Charles E. Fait, con­tinued the business after his father's retirement.

A favorite place for women of the community to combine shopping with visiting, was Miss Kate Ream's millinery store.  Hats then were not bought ready-to­-wear.  First, a becoming frame was chosen, then the trimming of flowers, ribbons, or plumes selected, accord­ing to the season.  The following year, the hat or bonnet was returned to be remodeled and worn again.

On December 24, 1890, the Farmers' State Bank opened for business in their new brick building on the lot, which had been purchased from George Smith next to A. D. Gilbert's store.  The stockholders had elected the following directors: George Smith, W. F. Correll, George E. Ford, A. H. Loose, I. C. Loose, John Leonard, Sr., M. E. Baker, John Augur, and David Millikin.  George Smith was chosen president, W. Ft Correll, vice president, and G. E. Ford, cashier.  When the State Bank, which had been organized by F.W. Tracy, G. W. Constant, and W. W. Tracy, sold their institution to the Farmers' State Bank, Mr. John Sheller was elected assistant cashier and two years later was cashier.

In 1896 the frame stores on the east side of Fifth Street and on around the corner were destroyed by fire.  These were replaced by brick buildings.  One bears the name of D. W. Peden who erected both business houses and residences.  Others of the older buildings have been remodeled or razed and new ones built on their locations.

There are now only three of the original buildings left.  Of these, the American Legion Building is the oldest.  The two others are the corner store until recently owned by Mr. A. P. Bichenbach, who purchased the drug business of W. G. McNeir in 1901, and the former Farmers' State Bank building east of this. 

Today the citizens of Illiopolis may justly take pride in their neat and modern business district whose appearance gives no indication that the village is now a century old.

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