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

Dawson Township. - This township was named in honor of John Wells Dawson, one of the two early settlers of Blooming Grove, who made his home for a time in 1826 in a site that is a part of the area of the township. The Dawson home was on the land afterwards occupied by John Wirt, near where the Old Settlers picnic was held for many years. There were many Indians in the vicinity when Dawson settled there. In fact, they had a small village near his home, having moved from the older site at Old Town timber. The Indians remained in this vicinity for a few years, when they moved to Livingston county. Other settlers joined Dawson in 1827 and 1829 in the persons of William Goodheart and Jesse Frankeberger, the latter a local preacher. Dawson was but one of the several townships which were formed from the settlements grouped about Old Town timber, a body of 12,600 acres of fine grove. There were 4,600 acres in Dawson, 6,620 acres in Old Town, about 250 acres in West, 320 acres in Arrowsmith, 300 acres in Downs and 600 acres in Empire. The Indians naturally grew attached to this fine grove, and great was their grief when they finally departed. The late Hon. Simeon H. West donated to the county 20 acres of the timber which he owned in West Township, to be a perpetual county park. About one fourth of the total area of Dawson Township was originally in timber, much of it being very wet and needing drainage to make it good farming land. The headwaters of the Sangamon River and Money Creek were in this township.

When a railroad was proposed to be run through this region from Bloomington east, many of the townships voted bonds to aid in its construction, and of this sort of aid Dawson voted $30,000. The road was first called Lafayette & Bloomington, later the Lake Erie, and finally absorbed as part of the Nickel Plate system. Two stations were located on this road in Dawson Township, one in the east called Ellsworth, the other to the west called Padua. The township was also called Padua at first, but the board of supervisors in 1891 changed the name of the township to Dawson on request of the citizens. Ellsworth was named for Oliver Ellsworth, who with Jonathan Cheney and A. B. Ives owned the land on which the town was located. Cheney and Ives were directors in the new railroad. The station of Holder, just across the line in Old Town, was named for. Charles W. Holder of Bloomington, another director in the railroad. At one time there was a settlement called Stumptown south of Ellsworth, where a mill had been erected in the timber; it disappeared after the railroad went through. A village settled largely by Quakers was named Benjaminville, in the northwest corner of the township, but the station of Holder attracted nearly all the business that Benjjaminville formerly enjoyed. Annual meetings are still held at the Quaker church at Benjaminville. On July 11, 1885, there was an Old Settlers association formed by a body of citizens assembled in Shinkle's hall in Ellsworth, and for 25 years an annual meeting and picnic was held at Betzer park, south of Ellsworth. The first president was Mark Banks, who served till 1902, when he retired. He died in 1907. The organization was incorporated in 1898, the incorporators being Mark Banks, William Van Gundy, H. R. Arrowsmith, C. H. Whitaker, and G. W. Bane. The continued interest in the picnic was remarkable, the attendance often reaching from 5,000 to 8,000. In the years of its prosperity, many notables addressed the meetings, including Judge Weldon, Gen. McClernand, Hon. T. C. Kerrick, President David Falmley, Gov. Joseph W. Fifer, Hon. J. H. Rowell, Judge Thomas F. Tipton, Rev. J. J. Burke, Hon. John A. Sterling, Judge Roland A. Russell, L. H. Kerrick, I. N. Phillips, Dr. Richard Edwards, Dr. A. E. Stewart, Hon. Simeon H. West, and many others. Judge Tipton served as president of the day from 1891 until his death. On Aug. 8, 1901, the McLean County Historical Society met with the Old Settlers association and the papers on this occasion were of great historical value, recounting the early history of that region. They have all been preserved in the archives of the Historical society, and will some day be published, no doubt. The paper of Simeon H. West on the history of Old Town Timber was the best ever given on that subject. The farming lands of Dawson Township are not so large in extent nor so rich in soil as some other townships, but values have gradually increased with the years.

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