Empire Township. - Ever since the settlement of the county, Empire has had a leading part in its history. It
formed a desirable place for first settlers, being provided with timber, water and rich prairie land. John Buckles
came to this section in 1827 and settled at the grove which bears his name. This and other groves in the township
comprise 8,700 acres. Buckles and his family of thirteen children always bore a leading part in the township's
history. Michael Dickerson came in 1830. He had two sons, Henry and Frank, who were leading citizens. The Greenman
family settled at Blooming Grove in 1829 and afterward removed to Buckles Grove. The Crumbaughs came in 1830. Henry
Crumbaugh kept a noted pack of hounds. David Crumbaugh was another well known member of the family. Squire Hiram
Buck was a settler in 1837 and was the first postmaster at Leroy. He also served as justice of the peace for eighteen
years and was one of the members of the county court in the '50's. Mahlon Bishop came to Buckles Grove in 1835
and was elected to the legislature in 1837. He was one of the first known "farmer candidates." A school
was built in 1837, known as the Clearwater School, of which William Johnson was the first teacher.
Empire Township was early the home of the most prosperous farmers and cattle raisers of the county. There was timber
for building, water for the stock and rich prairie lands for grazing. The earliest mill in this township was built
in 1835, and shortly afterward there were mills built on Salt Creek by David Phillips and Isaac Williamson. They
were crude affairs, but helped to grind the grain of the settlers.
A new era dawned for the township on the construction of the first railroad, the Danville, Urbana, Bloomington
& Pekin, later the Big Four and now part of the Nickel Plate. The township donated $75,000 toward the construction
of the road, and got two stations, Leroy and Empire. Later a branch of the Illinois Central was built from Leroy
to Rantoul and West Lebanon, Ind.
Asahel Gridley and Merritt Covell laid out the village of Leroy in 1835, but owing to hard times it made slow progress
the first few years. In 1838 Edgar Concklin built a frame store and next year a post route was established with
Hiram Buck as postmaster. The route ran from Danville to Pekin via Leroy and Bloomington. John W. Badderly had
started a town called Monroe a mile south of Leroy, but moved to Leroy when that place was laid out. Badderly and
Amos Neal were Leroy's first merchants. Other early merchants were Baker & Greenman, L. H. and B. F. Parke,
E. L. Morehouse & Son, and T. J. Barnett. Joseph Keenan was merchant, farmer and banker. The first church was
established about 1830 by James Latta. In 1838 the Methodists built a church on a lot given them by Edward Concklin.
In 1902 the Methodists built their present large and modern church. The Christian church was organized in 1888.
Universalises have carried on services for many years and erected a chapel. The Cumberland Presbyterians organized
a congregation very early and in 1898 erected a brick church, also conducting the Leroy Seminary for higher learning
for some years. The Spiritualists had a flourishing congregation at one time, and the late J. T. Crumbaugh left
them an endowment for a church which is to be built at some time in the future. In 1904, on April 22, the McLean
County Historical Society sponsored a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the settlement of Buckles Grove, at
which papers recounting all the early history of Empire Township were read by Simeon H. West, Thomas L. Buck, John
McConnell, George Hedrick, Mrs. J. V. Smith, Mrs. Adam Murray, Mrs. E. B. Young, Mrs. John McConnell, Mrs. A. L.
Rike, John M. Harper, Nelson G. Humphrey, J. R. Covey, Charles Williams, Joseph Keenan, S. D. Baker, Rev. W. E.
Leavitt, A. B. Conkling. Leroy had several grist and saw mills in its day, the owners of these being Elisha Gibbs,
and Buckles & Farmer. The first burned down and the second was eventually dismantled. Leroy has always had
a good school system. It now has one of the best township high schools in the county. The Eugene Field school houses
the grades. Leroy has one large factory, a branch of the Bloomington Canning Company, which is a busy place in
certain seasons. It has one newspaper, the Journal, run by Melvin A. Cline. There are all kinds of retail stores.
Leroy is the third largest town in the county, having a population of about 1,700.
Modern Leroy has some two miles of fine paved streets and one of the best city water plants in the state for
a place of its size. Just at the west end of the main business section is a pretty, little park and fountain, the
gift of Simeon West, a pioneer. The city has several fine churches, flourishing lodges of Masons, Odd Fellows,
Knights of Pythias, Red Men, Modern Woodmen, Eastern Star, Rebekahs, and a large post of American Legion named
for Ruel Neal. The churches are the Presbyterian, Christian, Methodist, and Universalist. Leroy is one of the few
places of its kind which maintains a Commercial Club, it being ten years old and having a record of much activity.
There is a women's auxiliary to this club. Fine club rooms are kept up. The women of the city maintain an active
Parent-Teachers' Association for cooperation with the schools. Other organizations of women are the Woman's Relief
Corps and the Garden Club, besides several strictly social and literary bodies. There is a Country Club in Leroy,
with a fine golf course and club house. Some day the city will enjoy a public library as a gift from the Crumbaugh
estate. They have a splendid new high school building.
The Leroy fair is one of the best managed and most prosperous public enterprises of its kind to be found anywhere.
It has continued for many years and drew great crowds for a whole week by its agricultural exhibits and entertainment