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Illiopolis Business Association 

Local History

Taken from a 1901 Supplement to The (Illiopolis) State Center Record



Illiopolis is a prosperous and enterprising town located On the Springfield division of tile Wabash railroad, sixteen miles west of Decatur, and twenty-three miles east of Springfield. It is situated in the eastern part of Sangamon county. One mile west of the Macon-Sangamon county line. The town site was carved out of land owned by Judge Wilson of Carmi, Ill, in 1856, and for many years was called Wilson after the original grantor; subsequently the name was changed by the railroad authorities to Illiopolis which latter is a compound of Ill. the popular abbreviation for Illinois and polls a Greek word meaning town or city. Because of its being the geographical center of the state its position found favor with the legislators when, in 1837, the question of removing the State Capital from Vandalia was before them for discussion and action, Illiopolis’ advantages were seriously considered. On a vote being taken Springfield’s supporters were in the majority and thus settling finally and decisively the location of the State Capital. Destined thereby to a modest and unpretentious future Illiopolis has grown slowly, steadily and surely. It has never striven for any fictitious boom but has progressed as the rich and fertile country, by which it is surrounded, has been developed and built up. And as for the wealth of natural resources, results, and results alone, justify the claim that the section contiguous to and around Illiopolis is unrivaled in any country or clime. Proofs to this statement may be multi­plied but the visitor, whether passing through on the railroad or by wagon or buggy, sees plenty in the great fields of corn, pros­perity and thrift in the substan­tial farm, out buildings, taste, culture and refinement in the pos­session and enjoyment of hand­some homes and modern living ac­commodations and comforts. The bountiful black prairie yields its profusion of cereals and responds faithfully to that industry so characteristic o-f the farmers of this section. Illiopolis might with equal justice urge its ad­vantages as a manufacturing cen­ter, for coal mines are all around and ab3ut it, distant only a few miles, and water may be had in abundance and thus are provided two essentials in industrial enterprises. As for the people of Illiopolis their hospitality is everywhere noticeable in their hearty salutation and cheerful firesides, their marked public spirit strongly mani­fests itself in the loyal support of local undertakings and enterpris­es, social and fraternal qualities are in evidence in their many flourishing societies, progres­siveness asserts itself in the a­doption of advanced ideas, and cultivation speaks only too plainly in the many pretty homes which rival each other in beauty and symmetry. Intertwining all these excellent qualities is a Christian spirit which guides and directs the moral conduct of the people, and which is reflected noticeably in the high standard of the deportment of the young.



Illiopolis has a well organized and thoroughly disciplined fire department composed of about thirty members. The equipment for fighting fires consist of a chemical engine and ladder wagon.  This branch of the public service is in charge of Mr. Jos. Pletz who, as chief renders, as do likewise its members, prompt and efficient service.


SCHOOLS And Educational Facilities.

The educational advantages to be found in Illiopolis are unsurpassed. The course of instruction is both systematic and all the way through and follows the plans laid down by the best educators. The schools are presided over by Mr. L. C. Webb, Principal, assisted by Miss Jennie Taylor in the capacity of Assistant Principal; and J. B. Higginson teacher of the grammar department, Minnie Hurt in charge of the intermediate course of studies, Miss Ellen Scully and Miss Edith

Campbell instructs in the primary branches. All are thoroughly experienced and have made excellent records as educators a  fact evidenced by the high mental attainment so characteristic of the youth of Illiopolis. The schools are well attended and the cooperation rendered by parents in home training con­tributes largely to the marked results obtained. The schools are under the direction of a board of trustees, which comprises the following individuals John W. Constant, Pres. George E Ford, Dr. J.W. D. Mayes and D. W. Peden, Treas. These gentlemen possess the esteem and respect of the entire community, are well known and popular and have never hesitated, when occasion requires, to give their ability and internal support to public measures gen­erally and especially to the development of educational advantages, whereby the people may secure for their children the manifold and invaluable benefits which follow in the wake of knowledge. As has before been hinted at the Christian spirit pervading the community is both conspicuous and edifying. it begets and fosters fraternity, a sentiment and conviction of interdependence, healthy morals and a refinement in both thought and action.

Illiopolis Pubic School  in 1901


The support given a number of societies of a religious, fra­ternal and social nature is an excellent criterion of the people of Illiopolis and vicinity as viewed from a purely ethical standpoint. The Masonic Lodge No. 521. A. F. and A. M. was or­ganized in 1867 and its total membership numbers today about eighty persons. The offic­ers are B. J. Dorrell, W. M.; W. S. Close, S. W.; P. P. Cor­rell, J. W.; W. A. Mathews, Treas.; C. B. Sutherland, Secy.; Samuel Garvey, S. D.; J. D. White, J. D.; Albert Norred, Tyler. The lodge rooms locat­ed in the new Masonic Opera House occupy the third floor of the building and consist of a reception room, two ante rooms, main lodge or assembly room, banquet hall, toilet rooms and kitchen. These rooms are hand­somely furnished and carpet­ed throughout, lighted by a gasoline plant installed in the building and are, in convenience and equipment, a faithful reflection of advanced ideas in this line. The Knights of Pythias, organized in 1893 as Center Lodge No. 460, have a membership of over one hun­dred. Their officers are: A. C. Sutherland, C. C.; P. P. Correll, V. C.; John Sheller, Prel.; E M.. Wurl, Earl Prather, M. A.; J.W. Wilson, K.of R. W.; M. Garvey, M. of Ex.; 0. T. My­ers, M. of H.; Fred May, I. G.; John Pickel, 0. G. Their hall and lodge rooms built in 1899, completed and occupied in March of the present year, cov­ers an area 38 x 56 feet, and con­sist of main hall, three recep­tion rooms, property and ante rooms, all of which are rich in furniture and appointments, handsomely frescoed and carpeted and reach that point in their neatness and luxuriance which calls forth effusive compliments and commendations. In this respect they have been ranked among the finest in the state. Other societies and organiza­tions merit a more lengthy notice did space allow.  These are the modern Woodman, Royal Neighbors, Royal Circle, King’s Daughters, W. C. T. U., W. B. F. M., Christian Endeavor Society, Sewing Society, Shakespeare Reading Club, Bachelor Girl’s Club and others.



Christian Church in 1901


Catholic Church in 1901                        Methodist Church Plan in 1901


The churches, three in number, represent the Methodist, Catholic and Christian denominations. They are well attended and supported, thus indicating a responsiveness to the welfare and advancement of spiritual affairs. The Methodist church is under the pastorate of Rev. J. A. Stout whose persistent and persever­ing labor will soon crystallize in a handsome new church which is being built. During his brief stay in Illiopolis Rev. Stout has made a host of friends who admire him for his zeal, earnestness and unremitting toil in dif­fusing the power and influence of Christianity.

Rev. Fr. Manuel, the esteemed pastor of the Catholic church dedicated to and known as the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin, has labored hard and faithfully for nearly twenty-five years in the spiritual education of his charge. during all these years his excellent qualities of heart and mind have made him an universal favorite, not only among his co-religionists but with the general public as well. All have a kind word for Fr. Manuel and all render him that esteem and homage which sterl­ing qualification never fail to exact.

Elder S. F. Rogers who directs the spiritual affairs of the Christian church ranks among the leading pulpit orators of Central Illinois. His sermons are noted for their logical and in­teresting treatment of Christian doctrine, betraying at all times an analytical mind, expertness in dialectics, and a familiarity with the best efforts of leading minds in history, science and literature.



This beautiful “city of the dead” is situated on a bluff overlooking the Sangamon river, and is distant two miles from Illiopolis. Its general appear­ance evidences that tender care and watchful solicitude prompted by affection and crystallized, by a refined civilization. Such, for instance, are the handsome monuments, artistic tombstones, modest grave marks, floral plenty and variety, and its thickly coated verdure. This cemetery was transferred by the town board this last spring to the Riverside Cemetery As­sociation which is composed of lot owners. It is managed by a board of directors elected by the stock holders. These are now G. XV. Constant, Pres.; D. M. Hurt, Vice Pres.; Dr.  J. W. D. Mayes, Sec.; James Johnston, Treas. and W. A. Matthews. A neat booklet, re­cently issued and containing the by laws of the association, and its rules and regulations, together with a list of lot own­ers, reflects both system and progressiveness in its management.

Masonic Opera House.

It has been said and the facts prove its truthfulness that few places the size of Illiopolis can lay claim to as handsome, sub­stantial and complete a structure as is the Masonic Opera House. The corner stone of this building was laid August 30, 1899, and it was finished and ready for occupancy in February of the present year. This building is 40x86 feet in dimensions, and contains three stories and a basement. It is heated by a hot air furnace and lighted by a modern gas plant. The theatre has a seating capacity of 500, a large stage equipped with scenery, painted by Sassnian and Landes of Chicago, and a handsome drop curtain the work of  J. S. Earhartof Decatur. The third floor of this building contains the hall and reception rooms of the Masonic order and which are also models of interior furnishing and equipment. This building with the opportunities it offers the citizens of this section for amusement and instruction by encouraging high-class theatrical entertainments and lectures, is and will be a monument to that enterprise by which it was conceived and to a degree of culture and taste which sustains and supports pleasing and instructive pastimes. Every week there is some attraction at the Opera House and those living in this section for miles around share alike with the people of Illiopolis the pleasure, of each succeeding occasion.

Inside of Masonic Opera House in 1901


Masonic Opera House on the Pedan Block in 1901


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