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

Chenoa Township. - The name of this township was meant for Chenowa, which Matthew T. Scott, its earliest settler, gave it. He came from Kentucky, and Chenowa was the Indian name of Kentucky and he bestowed it upon his new settlement. The postoffice department made a mistake in first noting the name, leaving out the "w", and refused ever afterward to correct it, hence Chenoa was the word that stuck. The prairie lands of Chenoa Township long remained unsettled after other portions were taken up. The Chicago & Alton railroad having been built through the township in 1854, settlers began to come after that. By 1856 there were rumors of a new road to be built east and west. Matthew T. Scott, a young man from Kentucky, had taken up a large tract of land in the vicinity, and he wanted to found a town where the new road would cross the Chicago & Alton. To locate the spot, he went east and found engineers running lines. Being an amateur engineer, he was able to calculate about the place where the line would reach the Alton road, and there he took up land and laid it out in town blocks. Meantime, another man, W. M. Hamilton, formerly a friend of Mr. Scott, started a rival town east on his own land lying considerably east of the Scott tract. The Hamilton plat was called "East Chenoa." The latter plat became the more popular section of the town for residences. In 1854, J. B. Lenney, then living in Pennsylvania, was informed by friends living along the Mackinaw river that there was a good site for a town at the new railroad crossing. He sent his brother in law, John Bush, to erect a building there for store and shop, but after arrival Bush was dissuaded from building. Next year Mr Lenney himself arrived and put up the building which became known as the Farmers' Store, west of the Alton and south of the T. P. & W. tracks. Mr. Bush erected a building for a hotel known as the Bush House, and Mr. Lenney put up a residence in "East Chenoa." John M. Bryant built the "National Hotel" in 1856. The first drug store was built back of the Bush House in 1857 by Dr. Stevenson, the first practicing physician. In the same year George Lounsberry built a blacksmith shop and he with Louis Ziegler erected a wagon shop. The first depot was built on the Wye, some distance north of the present one, and occupied by Samuel Emery as a hotel along with the station uses. But it caught fire while the first meal was being prepared and burned down. The town was organized in Aug., 1864, and elected J B Lenney as president, Thomas Sandham as clerk, and R. C. Rollins as treasurer. The town's charter of 1868 forbade sale of liquors within the village, but in 1873, the place was incorporated under the general law for towns and villages, which permitted saloons, resulting in Chenoa having saloons for many years when other towns of the county were without them. The first mayor under the city corporation was J. R. Snyder. In fixing the boundaries of the town, the board included the plats of both Chenoa as laid out on the Scott land and East Chenoa on the Hamilton land, with the territory lying between. The election on organization as a city was held Aug. 5, 1873, with 150 votes cast for it and 18 against. Chenoa has many churches. The Presbyterians organized a congregation in 1860, the Catholics in 1863, and the Methodists built a church in 1867. A Congregational church was organized July 21, 1867. The Masons formed a lodge in Chenoa in 1859, and The Times was started as the first newspaper in 1867 by Silas P. Dryer and James McMurtrie. Chenoa now has a population of 2,000, has many good business buildings, a fine school house, many blocks of paved streets, a modern brick railroad station and one newspaper, the Times-Clipper, edited by W. H. Hawthorne.

The township of Chenoa formerly comprised the territory now included in Yates Township, which was later separated and formed a separate organization. Being located within a mile of the Livingston County line, much of the trade of Chenoa is drawn from Livingston. The farms were taken up in large tracts in the early days, and even yet much of the land is farmed by tenants rather than by owners. The estate of Matthew T. Scott still owns a large tract of land, Mr. Scott having left it to his widow, Mrs. Julia G. Scott, who died in 1923.

Chenoa at present is a modern little city, having much pavement, good schools and other advantages. It is on the main line of the Illini trail state hard road. It has several churches and one newspaper conducted by W. H. Hawthorne. The Roman Catholic church was built in 1869, the Baptist church founded in 1866 and the Methodist church the same year. One of the strongest Congregationalist churches in the county existed there for many years, and there was a Presbyterian church also. Chenoa has suffered much from fires, having been swept by several which were very destructive.

Chenoa adopted the commission form of city government in 1916, and in April, 1917, held its first election for commissioners. Park C. Gillespie was elected mayor over John H. Ketcham, and the commissioners elected were W. A. Chapman, C. F. Churchill, S. T. King and L. J. Schultz. The second election for mayor and commissioners was held in 1919, when the following were elected: Mayor, W. A. Chapman; commissioners, Jacob Balbach, B. F. Elfrink, L. L. Elliman and T. W. Weatherwax. In the quadrennial election of 1923, Mayor Chapman was re-elected, and Messrs. Balbach, Silliman, Elirink and Weatherwax were also chosen again. The city clerk in 1923 is F. M. Power, the treasurer V. L. Nickel, and the police magistrate is M. F. Quinn. The 1923 supervisor for Chenoa was V. L. Nickel.

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