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Illiopolis Business Association 

Local History



After the passing of the original town of Illiopolis nearly a score of years elapsed before the present village had its beginning.  This delay can be attributed to the sparseness of prairie settlements and lack of public trans­portation.  With the invention of improved farm machinery, development of the land was facilitated.  The wooden moldboard plow was replaced by a heavier type, strong enough to break the tough sod and to be held to the furrow.  Be­fore the invention of the McCormick reaper, grain had been harvested by hand with "cradles" and steel sickles.  The threshing machine ended the slow laborious method of beating out the grain with flails and winnowing it by hand.

The coming of the railroad was another important factor contributing to the increase in the farm population, and subsequently, the founding of the village.  With no near market and no way to transport products to distant, ones except by cumbersome wagons over country lacking roads and bridges, crops were fed to livestock which could transport themselves to the city packing houses.  The journey might take several days.

In 1854, the Great Western railroad came through and the first house was built for a Mr. Ganson, the station agent, which he also used as a store.  A watering tank here, the water pumped by a windmill, was the only station of that kind between the Sangamon River, near Springfield, and Decatur.  A mail route extended from here to Mt. Au­burn and on to Buckhart Grove.

Two years after the coming of the railroad the town was founded by Colonel Thomas S. Mather of Spring­field, Timothy J. Carter, and Judge William Wilson of Carmi, Illinois.  Colonel Mather is said to have laid out the town and named it for judge Wilson, owner of the land.  On October 15, 1856, they received a charter from the state.

William Wilson, like many of the early settlers was born in Virginia and came to Illinois after living for a short time in Kentucky.  He located in White County near Carmi where he made his home until his death April 29, 1957.  In 1819 he was appointed Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and in 1825 was re-elected as Chief Justice of the Court, his entire term covering a period of twenty nine years.  He was the father of five sons and the follow­ing daughters; Mary Illinois, Margaret Eleanor, and Sarah.

Mary Illinois, who was educated at New Harmony, Indiana, married Dr. Bernard Stuve of Carmi and for six years they lived on land they owned southeast of Illiopolis.

Margaret Eleanor was the wife of John M. Pearson and they were the parents of Isaac, Agnes, and Dr. Will Pearson, owners of land adjoining the village, which is still in the possession of the Pearson heirs and has long been farmed by the Michael Murphy family.

The village continued to be called Wilson until 1869, although the post office was "Illiopolis Station."

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