History of Philo, Il.
From: J. S. Lothrop's Champaign County Directory
With History of the same, and Each Township Therein
Published by: Rand, McNally & Co., Printers & Binders, Chicago 1871


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Is bounded on the north by Urbana, on the west by Tolono, on the south by Crittenden, and on the east by Sidney; being Town 18, Range 9 east. There is not in all the township a single forest tree of nature's planting. It is wholly a prairie town, yet on the broad earth there cannot be found a finer body of land of its size. Yankee Ridge, as it is called, divides the town in twain, yet takes in the whole township in its course, dividing the course of streams from east to west, and near the southern limits to the south. The highway from Urbana to the village of Philo is along this ridge, which passes through the whole county, from south-east to north-west, but is more prominent here than at any other place. In traveling this road, in approaching Philo, the scene is one of singular beauty. On either hand the prairies descend by those gently waving lines, seen nowhere else but on the prairies; falling gradually away, the one below the other, till the undulating surface meets the timber lines, standing like a dark back-ground to set out the more strikingly this beautiful picture; in the shades of Sadorus Grove, the borders of Salt Fork, or the belts surrounding the Ambra. Nor does this commanding site render the soil less valuable in consequence of its altitude, for on the very apex, water in abundance is found at a short distance, below the surface, supplying moisture and enduring strength to the deep, rich soil that covers this prairie, in all things adapted to a mixed or class husbandry. Every variety of cereal and grasses flourish here, while stock, especially swine, are raised with success and profit.

The first entry of land in the town was in April, 1837, by Philo Hale, being the north-east quarter of Section 15, Town 18, Range 9 east The first settler in the town was one Hooper, who came here in 1853; where from, we are uninformed, nor are we able to tell how long he remained, or where he went.

Lucius Eaton was the next, who came there in 1854, built his house and commenced the improvement of a farm; he still lives there upon his farm, which gives evidence of his careful and earnest attention. In 1855 population flowed in quite rapidly, there being at the end of that year quite a number of persons who had made permanent settlements. It may be a matter of marvel, why, while the towns along the streams and timber belts, boasted of settlements as early as 1830, and even earlier, the town of Philo must wait until 1853, more than twenty years later, to commence improvements. The answer, or explanation, of this is, as has been before stated, the earlier settlers regarded the prairies wholly unfit to live upon, and that he who would venture to live there was a fool, or insane. This opinion prevented the early settling of the prairies, while all of those who came early flocked to the timber.

The town derived its name from Philo Hall. It was first called "Hall," but afterward, in 1861, was changed to "Philo." One remarkable feature of this town is, the absence of any very large farms. There are come of fair size, as that of Jos. Davidson, nearly 600 acres, and of Jesse and Abram Meharry, about 1,000 acres, but by far the larger part are in 80 and 160 acre farms; that size, which for the thrift and prosperity of the community, is by far the most advantageous, securing that healthful growth, unattainable in the large farm communities. Philo boasts of many prominent men in their various callings, and in the history of the county; among them Jesse Meharry, though a new corner, has few peers in the county, and gives to the town and county his earnest endeavors to promote the public good. He has twice represented his town in the county legis lature, with satisfaction to his fellow townsmen. His large farm is yet new, but under his hand and that of his brother, is rapidly developing into comeliness and usefulness.

The old Griggs farm, now owned by Spradling, is one of the best improved in the State. The houses, barns, orchards and all its appointments are of the most perfect character, and in all respects it furnishes a model for farms, large or small.

George Havens, B. F. Rice, Mr. Ennis, the Cliffs, McHarry, E Thayer, Van Vlick, and many others, are making wonderful strides in the science of agriculture.

The small farm of the late Captain B. F. Helm is a model of its class, and shows conclusively that the ambition for neat, tasty and handy farms, need not be confined to large landed proprietors. The improvements here are crude, to be sure, as the place is a new one, but the Captain's plans are all developed, and leaves none in doubt of the beauty and utility to come, if the care is bestowed that was designed by its former owner. His untimely taking away was a severe loss both to the town and county.

The village of Ptiilo stands on the most commanding lookout in the county, and is one of the neatest villages in the whole Northwest. It was laid out in 1864, by E.. B. Hall, the son of Philo Hall, and includes 80 acres of land. One Mr. Wright built the first house in the village, and he was also the first station agent for the Toledo, Wabash and Western Railway, which runs through the place. The house which he built is now used for a depot and passenger house. The next settler here was Elmer Elthorpe, who erected the next house, which now stands in the village, and we are informed is used for a harness shop. B. C. Morris, M. D. was the first to sell goods, and drugs; also, to build a hotel; and was the first physician. He came here in 1865, and was the third man to make improvements. That was five years ago, and in that short time the population has run up to 300, and gives evidence of a steady, healthful increase. Lewis Crawford has done much to improve the place. He has built, in all, about sixteen dwelling houses, which shows that he is an enterprising man of superior order. S. Fee is a lawyer there, of rare merit, possessing a logical and legal mind. The town contains one fine school house, two churches, one mill, eight stores, three blacksmith shops, two hotels, two grain dealers, with warehouses, one lumber yard; and all the citizens are energetic, go-ahead, thriving people.

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