History of Virden Township, Macoupin County, Il
From: History of Macoupin County Illinois
Hon. Charles A. Walker, Supervising Editor
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
Chicago 1911

VIRDEN TOWNSHIP.

Virden township lies in the extreme northeastern corner of the county and is bounded on the north by Sangamon county, on the east by Montgomery county, on the south by Girard township, and on the west by North Otter township. The land is mostly prairie. As the years have passed the farms have been well improved and highly cultivated, being settled by a thrifty and energetic class of farmers. The land is afforded good drainage by Sugar and Brush creeks.

The first settlers in the township were Robert Smith and Joseph Davidson, who with their families came from Ohio in the fall of 1829, locating on Sugar creek in the northwest part of the township. The first land entry was made November 9, 1829, by M. Davidson and Robert Smith on the northeast quarter of section 6. Among the early settlers here were John Gelder. Thomas G. Duckles, who settled here in 1838; John G. Smith, who made a permanent location here in 1852; and Abner Kent. William Gibson. Noble 'Walters. Samuel Hullet, and Preston Wright.

Rev. Edward Rutledge preached the first sermon in one of the private homes. He was of the Methodist faith. That denomination built the first church in 1853. Subsequently it gave way to a new church edifice and the old structure was used for a blacksmith shop.

The first child born in the township was Robert Davidson, whose birth occurred in 1831.

Greene B. Haggard and Eliza Smith were the first couple married in the township, the wedding being celebrated on the 22d of April. 1846.

The first schoolhouse was built of logs in 1841, and was located on section 18. The first teacher was Mrs. Rebecca Kent, who taught for three months, receiving as her compensation fifteen dollars.

VIRDEN.

The town of Virden was named in honor of John Virden, who for some years was proprietor of a hotel and kept a popular stage stand two miles south of the village. The town was laid out in 1852 by Messrs. Heaton, Dubois, Chesnut, Hickox and Keiting, and the first lots were sold in October of that year. It was surveyed by John L. Morrell.

The first building in the town was the hotel erected and conducted by John Virden.

The first residence in the town was erected and occupied by Alexander Hord and his family.

The first store in the town was opened by Henry Fishback, in November, 1852. After four months he sold to John I. Beattie, who took possession February 1, 1853. Page Heaton opened the first dry goods and grocery store in the town. In January, 1853, the first postoffice was opened in his store. In the summer of 1853 Joseph E. Walker built a blacksmith shop.

The first mill was built by John Williams, and was known as North mill. It was destroyed by fire a few years after it began operations. A second mill was erected by Matthew Cowens and called South mill.

In the spring of 1853 the first school was taught by Mrs. James Hall in a private home.

In 1853 the first marriage occurred in the town, the contracting parties being Miss Hannah Stead and a Mr. Lloyd.

The first death was that of John Dryr in 1855.

The first child born in the town was Mary, daughter of John Dohoney, later of Carlinville. Her birth occurred December 4, 1852.

The first sermon was delivered by Edward Rutledge, a Methodist minister, in the hotel of John Virden. The first regular preacher was Rev. Baker.

Dr. Charles Holliday located here for practice in 1854.

In 1870 the village voted 30,000 for the building of the Jacksonville & Southeastern railway. It was finished about the close of 1871 and was thirty one miles long. J. W. Lathrop was appointed the first station agent. The first freight received was January 25, 1872. It was two rolls of leather from Jacksonville and consigned to Battise & Gently, of Carlinville. The first freight shipped was a carload of coal from the Virden Coal Company and consigned to J. I. Cochran, of Jacksonville, on the 10th of January, 1872.

The Chicago & Alton railroad also passes through the town.

In 1869 a coal shaft was sunk by a stock company in Virden.

AS THE YEARS HAVE PASSED.

In 1890 the census gave Virden a population of 1,160. Today it has, by the United States census an even 4,000, and is still growing. not only in the number of its citizens, but in a business way. Virden is a first class little city and its mining interests made for it one of the principal coal centers of the county. Its mercantile houses compare very favorably with places of more consequence and the buildings, which surround the public square, are, many of them, new and attractive in appearance. In 1910 Jackson street, considered the main thoroughfare of the city, was paved with brick from Dye street to Madison. Within the past seven years about twenty miles of cement sidewalks have been laid and a project is now on foot by the citizens for the building of waterworks. For some years an electric light plant has been in operation, built by corporate interests, and it is one of the most complete establishments in this section of the state.

NEW CITY HALL.

In 1910, a substantial and attractive city hall was built on the east side of the public square, at a cost of 4,000. Here are the council chambers, city officials' offices and room for the volunteer fire department, the paraphernalia of which consists of a Watrous fire engine, costing $1,400, and purchased in 1909. Hose carts and sufficient hose complete the outfit.

The city is economically governed and well policed. Its streets, surrounding the public square, are kept free from dust by sprinkling them with oil.

Virden, of course, has her societies of various descriptions. Chief among them are the Masons, Eastern Star, Odd Fellows, Rebekahs, Modern Woodmen, Knights of Pythias, Red Men, Foresters and others. John Baird Post, Grand Army of the Republic, was at one time a strong organization. Disease and death have crept into the ranks of the members and today but a corporal's guard is left to answer the roll call.

STATE BANK.

About 1866 this bank was organized by Chesnut & Dubois, bankers of Carlinville, and the firm was composed of C. P. Heaton, A. McKim Dubois and John R. Chesnut. The concern then passed into the hands of Frank Heaton, a son of C. P. Heaton, and C. M. Walworth, the latter now connected with the First National Bank of Chicago. Later Benjamin F. Caldwell, Edward Keys and ____ Lewis. of Springfield, and J. P. Henderson and George J. Pattison, of Virden, bought the concern and run it as a private bank for about six years, when the Springfield interests were purchased by Henderson and Pattison and the banking firm took the name of Henderson, Pattison & Company, the company being George H. Hill. This condition obtained until about 1900, when Mr. Mattison died and soon thereafter the State Bank was organized by J. P. Henderson. Henry Kahle, George H. Hill, John Gelder, and others. Capitalization, $50,000. Officials: J. P. Henderson. president; John Gelder and Howard T. Wilson, vice presidents; T. W. Everts. cashier; Harry G. Hill, assistant. The last statement of the bank issued in June, 1911, showed total resources of $352,000; deposits, $300,000.

THE FARMERS AND MERCHANTS STATE BANK.

In 1893 the Farmers & Merchants Bank was established by O. R. Rohrer and others, which eventually, about three years ago, was sold to C. D. Brown & Company. Most, if not all of this time, O. R. Rohrer was the cashier. In the winter of 1910 Mr. Brown died and on December 19, 1910, the bank received its charter as a state bank and assumed the title of the Farmers & Merchants State Bank. It was capitalized at $352,000. B. R. Hieronymus. president; O. R. Rohrer, cashier.


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