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