History of South Homer, 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 Vermillion county, on the north by Stanton, on the west by St. Joseph, Sidney, and Raymond, and on the south by Douglas county, and occupies Towns 17, 18 and 19, Range 14 west and 11 east, being four miles wide and eighteen miles long, containing 72 square miles, and altogether is one of the finest bodies of land in the State, well calculated for mixed farming or specialties. The Salt Fork runs through the town from west to east, along which there is a splendid growth of valuable timber.

The first lands entered in this town, were by John and James Parker, October, 1828, the S. E. of Sec. 28, Town. 19, Range 14; Josiah Conger, November, 1827, N. W. Sec. 5, Town. 18, Range 14; Joseph Davis, December, 1835, W. N. W. ¼ Sec. 6, Town. 17, Range 14; Zebulon Beard, February, 1830, S. W. ¼Sec. 31, Town. 19, Range 11; Henry Thomas, February, 1828, E. ½ S. W. Sec. 6, Town. 18, Range 11; M. L. Sullivant, May, 1853, entire Section 18, Town. 17, Range 11.

The first settler was a man by the name of Gentry, who set tied just north of' the Salt Fork timber, in 1827. It is not known how long he remained there, but the ruins of his cabin may still be seen. It was the first white man's house in the town. In 1828, Mr. Osborn, Mr. Harris, and Thomas Butler, settled in the township. Mr. Butler now resides in Sidney, the oldest settler living in this part of the county. In 1829, Moses Thomas, a man well known in this and Vermillion county, located on the site of old Homer village, and made improvements of a valuable character. In 1835 he built a grist mill and the first saw mill in the county, and otherwise did much to advance the interest of the location he had chosen for a home. His son, John B. Thomas, has been spoken of in the former pages of this book, and like the father was in all respects worthy that confidence of the people of the county which was so freely and fully bestowed.

M. D. Coffeen, so well known in the history of the county, was born in New York, 1813, and settled at the site of old Homer in 1836, and immediately commenced merchandizeing; which bnsiness he has followed with success ever since. Be was, and still is, though well advanced in years, an energetic, thorough going business man, and has devoted the best part of his life in developing the wealth of his town, to the interests of which be is warmly and ardently attached.

His life and business represents well the growth and material advancement of the county during the past thirty years. From small beginnings, with no advantages or comforts, his store has steadily increased and grown with, the years and the country, successively requiring increased facilities and room, until to day Homer boasts a mercantile house, managed by B. E. Coffeen & Co., that would do credit to any city in the land, complete in all its departments.

J. J. Swearengin is another of the old citizens who has made his mark in his calling, lie came to the town in the fall of 1839, from Kentucky, and entered about 200 acres of land, to which many more have been added. He has farmed from boyhood, and brought to the new lands of Illinois, a rich practical experience, which he put into practice here; and any one who will take the pains to visit his farm, will be richly repaid the same. His residence is one of the most complete of its class in the county, and presents to passers-by a beautiful and substantial appearance, indicative of thrift and comfort. His barns, and all the appointments of the farm, are in perfect keeping with the house and surroundings. His orchard is among the best, containing nearly one thousand trees of the choicest varieties of all kinds of fruit.

Another place where it does one's soul good to visit, is that of Henry Michenor, whose palatial residence, with its beautiful surroundings, gives evidence that a superior hand is at the helm. In all matters pertaining to the farm, thoroughly practical; withal, a fine appreciation of the beautiful and the useful harmoniously blended, Mr. Michenor has so planned and arranged his farm, that few of its equals can be found in the State; and in all candor we say, that our farmers would not only do well for themselves, but deserve the thanks of' posterity, by imitating his example, and learn from this matchless farm.

Broad Lands, for the most part located within this town, is deserving of special notice. The farm, containing 26,500 acres of the best prairie land in the State, was first improved by M. L Sullivant, who, about 1866, sold the same in one body to A. T. Alexander, of Morgan county, Ill. It is seven miles east and west, and six and one-half miles north and south, in solid block, with the exception of about 1,660 acres which are owned by other parties, in different places, standing like islands, surrounded and enclosed by this monster farm. The land is all improved, and is controlled and cultivated by its owner, Mr. Alexander. In doing this, he keeps employed about 150 men on an average, the year round, to work the land and take care of the stock constantly fed there. In addition to the farm laborers, a foreman is also employed, one bookkeeper, a blacksmith, a wagon maker, hostler, butcher, and cooks, for the several ranches, as he calls them, on the farm. Thus the work is all done on the place, repairs of tools and implements, and also the manufacture of same. These shops, during the year ending June 1st, 1870, had done a business amounting to $2,300. There is on the farm over fifty miles of excellent board fence; but a better idea of it may be gained by giving a few statistics.

The farm contains 26,500 acres; of this, 26,350 acres are improved, and is valued at $800,000; the farming tools and machinery valued at $10,000; the amount of wages paid for hired labor the year 1870, $36,000. There are on the place, 40 horses, 90 mules, 25 milch cows, 120 work oxen, 2,000 head of neat cattle, 400 swine-all valued at $180,000. There was grown in 1870, 6,000 bushels of wheat, 1,000 bushels of rye, 250,000 bushels of corn, 40,000 of oats, 2,000 of potatoes; made 2,000 lbs. of butter; cut 3,000 tons of hay; made 250 gallons of molasses; and slaughtered, or sold for slaughter, stock to the value of $250,000. The whole estimated value of farm products during 1870, including increase in value of stock fed on the place, is $255,390. Of course, all the expenses of the farm and of feeding the stock, must be taken from this, which will reduce it to less than ten per cent. of the value of the land, to say nothing of the utensils and stock required to run it. Whatever may be said of the ability of Mr. Alexander, who, in addition to this, has another farm of 10,000 acres in Morgan county, or however we may boast in having this mammoth farm within our borders, its presence, as one farm, is a calamity.

The tract of land here controlled by one man, would make 331 farms of 80 acres each, and it is idle to say that it will produce as much wealth together as thus separated and owned by the many. In the one case, we have the rich lands, without roads, but few dwellings, cultivated by hirelings, who have no interest in the work, no schools and no enterprise, save what is carried in the person of one individual. In the other, we have 331 residences, 331 men, all owners, all interested, no hirelings, no necessary waste, schools, roads, enterprise, thrift and prosperity.

This township is by far the most wealthy in its agricultural department than any other in the county. Mr. James has a farm of about 600 acres, worth $23,000; David Michenor one worth $14,000; M. D. Coffeen, 12,000 acres, $600,000; O. M. Conkey, 4,000 acres, $240,000; W. A. Conkey, $18,000; M. Custer, $18,000, and others of similar character.

The village was laid off in 1855, the principal part by M. D. Coffeen. Before this a village had grown up at the river, two miles north of the present site, now called" Old Homer." We are unable to trace, with any satisfaction to ourselves, or the citizens of that beautiful village, the history of the same, since its organization, as our space will not permit. At the time of the completion of the railroad, there was in the little village by the river, about 200 inhabitants. These Mr. Coffeen induced to remove to the new site, by exchanging with them lot for lot, of equal dimensions, and the movers to take their houses with them to the new place, which was accordingly done, and the old town deserted. The first public house opened in Homer was by William Elliot, in 1843, and this building is the north half of the hotel now in Homer, kept by mine host - Holms. M. P. Coffeen made the first wagon in the county, in 1837, in his leisure moments, while engaged with his store; but the first wagon-shop here was by C. C. Stearns. R. C. Wright erected the first house in the new village, and a sketch of this gentleman may be found in another part of this work.

Of the principal men, we have already mentioned B. E. Coffeen and M. P. Coffeen. C. J. Tinkham is another live, energetic man, and, in justice to him, we must make a more extended notice. He was a graduate of West Point Military School, leaving that institution in 1849, well up in his class, after which he was employed by the Government as civil engineer, at the harbor of Chicago, Ill., and remained in Gov. ernrnent employ until 1858, when he came to this county, and, with Judge Thomas, was engaged to survey the swamp lands, Upon the outbreak of the rebellion, Mr. T. assisted Captain Somers in raising a company for the war, and after it bad departed, within ten days he had raised another, of which he took command, and left for the field of strife. This company became company F of the 26th Illinois Infantry, and Mr. Tinkham the Lient. Colonel of the regiment. It is unnecessary to follow the Colonel through all the shifting scenes of war, for it is a story told too oft to be of interest. Col. Tinkham was a most gallant officer. Being in command of the regiment at the battle of Farmington, Miss., he was ordered to cover the retreat of the main army, across a swamp; in doing this, he was compelled to change front three times, and each time under the most galling and destructive fire. Yet although himself painfully wounded, he maintained the most perfect order and discipline among his men, and when all was safe, retired as if moving from dress parade, mid the heaven-rending thunders and hurtling shot of the baffled and enraged foe. Ill health compelled him to retire from active service, and, returning to Homer, he engaged in the hardware business, where he now is, prosecuting the same with vigor and energy, his usual characteristics.

J. O. Gillman, grain dealer, Samuel Custer, dry goods merchant, E. Cuaick, blacksmith, ____ Morris, furniture dealer, and scores of others, are driving, earnest men. Other statistics of the town will be found in this book.

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