History of Cheney's Grove Township, McLean County, Illinois
From: History of McLean County Illinois
By: Jacob L. Hasbrouck
Historical Publishing Company
Topeka-Indianoplis 1924

Cheney's Grove Township. - Jonathan Cheney, who with his family had lived at Blooming Grove, set out to find another location in 1825, and decided to build his home at another grove to the north and east. This grove of 3,000 acres of timber ever after took the name of Cheney, and his home became the center of the new settlement which grew into a township and the town of Saybrook. The grove is located at the headwaters of the Sangamon river, which flows through it and makes a delightful place in pioneer times or the present. Until about the year 1829, the Cheneys were the only settlers at this grove, but in the latter year came James Van Scoyoc and the Robert Cunningham family, followed the next year by the Means, Riggs and Myers and the Ball families. During the year of the Black Hawk war, 1832, some of the families were removed to locations farther east in Champaign County, for the sake of safety. The settlement grew in permanent character, and many of the families intermarried. The land of part of this township is not as rich and deep as some of the other black soil townships. Being hilly and rolling, it suffered from hard rains. The settlers in the early years had to go long distances for their milling and supplies, to Bloomington or Mackmawtown, or eastward to the Wabash river, since most of the mills of the time were run by water. A village called Saybrook was established, but it had a very slow growth in the first years, until after the railroad was built in 1871. Robert Cunningham built a grist mill and a saw mill on the banks of Sangamon, but the flow of water was uncertain. In 1850 he changed to steam power. The postoffice which was established in 1831 under the name of Cheney's Grove was changed to Saybrook in 1865. The Methodist church and school board united and built a two-story building along in the '60's.

Cheney's Grove furnished many soldiers for the civil war, and one company recruited here became Co. F of the 116th Illinois. In the world war the township furnished its full quota of soldiers for every branch of service.

A new era dawned for Cheney's Grove when the charter for the railroad was obtained from the legislature in 1867 through the efforts of W. H. Cheney, son of Jonathan Cheney, who was then state senator. Senator Cheney was elected in 1865 to fulfill out the unexpired term of Isaac Funk, who died that year. Cheney defeated Col. John McNulta, who ran as an independent republican. Cheney tried to get the road built through the south side of the grove near his own farm. By the gift of $10,000 from the village of Saybrook and $50,000 from the township, a station was secured for Saybrook, deflecting the line to the south a considerable distance from a straight line. After the railroad was built, Saybrook had a more rapid growth than formerly, and became one of the flourishing towns of the county, in spite of several bad fires it experienced.

Saybrook's business section is among the best built of any town in the county. It has several large brick structures of two and three stories. Flourishing lodges of Masons and Odd Fellows are located here, and a live post of the American Legion. The churches are the United Brethren, Methodist and Christian. The school system includes a community high school and the grades, with a gymnasium in a separate building where basketball and other sports are carried on. There is a live Parent-Teachers' Association. Two live clubs for women are the Fortnightly and the Progressive Literary club. They are both devoted to serious studies. The little park in the center of the city is the scene of annual chautan-quas, band concerts and other public entertainments. The Weekly Gazette supplies Saybrook and vicinity with readable weekly news, conducted by Frank Woolley. J. S. Harper, a veteran newspaper man of McLean County, made his home at Saybrook for many years. The city has a volunteer fire department of ten, men, with horse drawn gasoline pump for equipment. In case of emergencies, water from the railroad tanks can be used.


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