History of Rantoul, 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



Is bounded on the east by Compromise, on the north by Ludlow and Harwood, on the west by Condit, and on the south by Somers and Stanton, and includes Town 21, Range 9, two tiers of sections from the west side of Town 21-10, and the south-east quarter of 34, and south-west of 35, Town 22-9, making 48½ square miles.

The first entry of land, as it appears of record, was by Lewis H. Long, in June, 1853, being the entire Section 9, Town 21, Range 9. The land, with the exception of Mink Grove, which lies just west of the village of Rantoul, is entirely destitute of forest trees, save those planted by man. The land, though high and elevated, has a gently rolling surface, indicating a deep, rich soil, exhaustless in its fertility and productive wealth, and is of that character most excellent for mixed busbandry, in which by far the largest number of farmers are engaged.

The first settlement in the town was at Mink Grove, which by the Indians was called "Nieps-wah," their name for Mink. The whites taking that name gave it to the grove, and to the town, which was called Mink Grove until 1854 or 1855, when it was changed to Rantoul, the name of one of the corporators of the Illinois Central Railroad, then but just completed.

Mr. Archa Campbell, well known to the citizens of this county, was the first settler. He was born in May, 1816; in Stark county, New York, and came to the county in 1835, but did not settle in Rantoul until 1849. The next year after Mr. C. settled at the, grove, he broke up a large tract of prairie, and planted the same in sod corn. At this time his nearest neighbor was one Adkins, at the head of Big Grove, about nine miles distant, and one Dodson, about the same distance to the west, on the Sangamon river,-the man of whom we have had occasion to speak before.

The farming operations of Mr. C. consisted mainly in providing food for his stock, of which he had a large number, and so confident was he that he would never be troubled with near neighbors, that he only entered 40 acres, expecting to cultivate the domain of "Uncle Sam" to any extent he might desire, which illustrates the prevailing opinion of but twenty years ago in regard to the improvement of our prairies. Game, at this date, was oppressively abundant. Wild fowl of all kinds, deer, muskrat, wolves and hogs. Mr. Campbell says that he discovered his corn field was being destroyed by some animal which rooted like a hog, but could not find the depredators. One morning, however, he made the discovery by hearing the baying of his dogs. Upon going out he saw about a dozen long, lank, lean, fearfully ugly looking creatures, resembling the hog, standing at bay, the dogs having attacked them; and this mode of defense was as wonderful and novel as it was effective. Like trained soldiers on skirmish line, they rallied by sections, and the whole squad, tail to tail, stood with an unbroken front, presenting on every side most formidable rows of teeth and tusks, against which his dogs threw themselves in vain. Mr. C., having secured a good opportunity, discharged his piece into the mass of hogs, killing two. This broke their ranks, which they immediately re-formed, and closed up, not five paces from the old one, where two of their number lay dead. A second shot brought down the leader of the band, but without effecting a breach in the ranks of the well disciplined hogs; a third killed one and wounded another; by which time the porkers of the woods, finding that this style of warfare was entirely new to them, and was getting altogether too warm for comfort, concluded upon a change of tactics, and taking to their heels, soon disappeared in the deep shades of the grove, and were never afterward seen in that vicinity.

Settlements here were exceedingly sparse, until 1855, when the Illinois Central Railroad having been completed, the tide of immigration turned this way, and has continued to this date.

Guy B. Chandler, John and Guy D. Penfield, and the Jennings, were the next real settlers, though others bad come and gone before their advent.

In 1855, the village of Rantoul was started by the erection of depot buildings by the Railroad Company. Then came John W. Dodge, from New York; A. and I. Cross, from Pennsylvania; with others, who located at the village, probably as unpromising a spot to the casual observer, as one would expect to find. But those men, who invested their money there, knew what they were doing, and knew, too, that it would, or rather, they would make a place of credit and importance. They were joined by J. J. Bois, A. J. Benedict, P. Myers, S. Tomlinson, I. Estep and others, of kindred grit, who have pressed the improvements, and advanced their town with such persistent energy and vigor, that to-day, a more flourishing, comely, wide-awake and inviting village cannot be found in all the Northwest, of its population.

It is a noticeable fact, that they have more sidewalk, to the extent of their territory and number of inhabitants, than any village or city in the country, while the whole appearance of the place impresses one with the idea of thrift, comfort and wealth.

The first house in the village, excepting the Railroad buildings, was built by the Penfields. The first orchard in the town was planted by John W. Dodge, in 1857.

The principal business men are Peter Myers, whose extensive flouring mill and grain warehouse would be an honor to any town in the State. This mill has a storage capacity of 20,000 bushels, can grind 300 bushels in 12 hours, has 3 set of burrs, and is run by a 40 horse-power engine, and has the most perfect facilities for loading and unloading at its bins. Mr. Myers is an enterprising business man, too well known over the county to require any notice from us, and in all quarters deservingly popular.

Isaiah Estep & Son, blacksmiths, are superior in their craft, of which the citizens of Rantoul and vicinity are well informed.

Mr. J. M. Gray has no superior in the harness and saddle making business. He is an energetic man, pursuing his vocation with vigor, and has acquired a wide-spread reputation for the quality of his work, and fair dealings with his fellows.

J. H. Doane, the furniture man, has few equals in. the land for his prompt business qualities, and attention to the wants of the community in his department.

E. J. Udell, the gentlemanly representative of the Telegraph & Express Company at that place, is another of the representative man of the town. He is a Notary Public, and also Ageut for the New American Cyclopeadia, and may also be found at his post at the depot.

We might multiply these. The dry goods stores, the boot and shoe stores, grocery stores, drug and hardware stores, are all managed by men of practical knowledge, and experience in their business.

They have three church buildings here,-the Congregational, Episcopal and Baptist; also two other organizatons, the Presbyterian and Methodist.

The schools are their crowning glory, having one of the best graded schools in the county, and one of the best and most complete school buildings that can be found in a town of the proportions of this, in the State.

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