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

Lexington Township. - Indians still had their villages in this township when the first white settlers came, one band of Kickapoos being located near where Selma was afterward, and the Delawares with a band farther up the Mackinaw. In 1828 several white men arrived, including Conrad Flesher, John Haner and his sons, Jacob, John and William; Isaac and Joseph Brumhead. John Patton and family' reached the settlement next spring, having wintered near the home of John W. Dawson at Blooming Grove. When Patton arrived he found the deserted wigwams of the Kiclcapoos, who had moved out. The Indians came back in the summer, but found their habitations occupied by white men. The red men stayed around the vicinity all summer and helped Patton build his first cabin. In the fall they removed to Livingston County to remain. Patton's house was turned into a block house or fort during the Black Hawk War, but no Indians attacked it. Valentine Spawr and Milton Smith were the next additions to the settlement. The latter became a prominent citizen and member of the county commissioners' court. The Mackinaw River and its surrounding timber proved an attraction to settlers and several mills were early built along the stream. William Haner, John Patton, John Haner and Harrison Foster were those who erected grist and saw mills. Patrick Hopkins was a newcomer about 1831 and he became well known. He and General Bartholomew made a noted trip to the Indian settlement at Oliver's Grove in Livingston County, to see if the Indians were disposed to be hostile. Instead, they were given a friendly greeting. Hopkins was in demand by Judge Davis as a juryman and served many times in different court houses. James R. Dawson arrived at about the time of the Black Hawk war and he became county commissioner in 1845.

Lexington Township had two villages, one of which survived, the other passed away. The village of Lexington was laid out by James Brown and Asahel Gridley in 1837, taking its name from Lexington, Ky. The panic of 1837 struck the town as it did everything else, and it got a slow start. Jacob Spawr, who was born in January, 1802, in Pennsylvania, settled here in 1826, and located in Money Creek. He lived in the vicinity of Lexington until his death on Aug. 20, 1902, having attained the remarkable age of 100 years, six months and 26 days. Spawr's tavern was a favorite stopping place for lawyers and others going from one county court to another, and among the other guests at the place was Abraham Lincoln on several occasions. The village of Lexington began its prosperity when the Chicago & St. Louis Railroad was built through the place. Noah Franklin and his bride rode to Bloomington on the first train that ran through the village. Franklin and Long built a hotel, and among the early merchants were J. C. Mahan, George Dement, and men by the name of Gregory and Knotts. Soon after the village was incorporated on July 12, 1855, the citizens held a public meeting to denounce intemperance and take measures to put the rum sellers out of business. There were two of them, Edward Gleason and Albert Hancock. They set a price upon their stocks, which sum was raised by public donations, and the liquors then emptied upon the streets. No liquor was afterward sold in Lexington for many years. William M. Smith, a prominent resident of Lexington and member of the Legislature, secured the passage of a law giving power to the town council to prohibit the sale of liquors. Attempts to incorporate under the general law were defeated until 1901, when the change was made and Lexington had licensed saloons until prohibited under the local option law in 1914. There were three saloons in 1907 each paying $1,200 annual license. William M. Smith was perhaps Lexington's most distinguished citizen for many years, being legislator, speaker of the House, and member of the Railroad Commission. Bernard Claggett, another resident of Lexington, was Democratic candidate for State Treasurer on one occasion. He afterward moved to Oklahoma and died there. W. M. Claggett, of Lexington, was superintendent of the Soldiers' Orphans' Home at Normal for several years and was very successful in the position. Lexington always had progressive schools and churches. The United Brethren, Methodists and Baptists were the earlier denominations. The Christian Church later organized a congregation, and the Catholics also formed a church there.

The town in Lexington Township which once was and is not now, was Pleasant Hill, in section 21, which was laid out in 1840 by Isaac Smalley. It had a fine location and good prospects until the location of the Chicago & Alton Railroad left it isolated, when it began to go backward. Mr. Smalley tried to get the proposed east and west line, the Peoria & Oquawka road, to pass his town, but he died before success crowned his effort, and when the road was finally built it ran considerably north of Pleasant Hill Only one or two buildings now mark the site of the village.

Lexington held a notable celebration on July 4, 1901, when a meeting under the auspices of the McLean County Historical Society commemorated the seventy fifth anniversary of the settlement of the upper Mackinaw. Hon. Lawrence Y. Sherman was the speaker of the occasion, and Joseph Spawr, then in his 100th year, was the guest of honor. Governor Fifer, Judge Tipton and others gave talks, and at night there was a concert and fireworks in the city park.

Lexington Township made the first attempt at making hard surfaced roads in McLean County. Using the beds of gravel that abound in the township, the road commissioners in 1887 began hauling it to the roads forming a central bed ten feet wide with earth roads at the side. It cost about $1,200 a mile and served the purpose of travel in wet weather better than any other form of improved highway in the county up to that time. Thirty miles of such road was constructed in the township.

Lexington people have always believed in education, and have now two as substantial schools as can be found in any place of similar size. The primitive churches have given way to beautiful and substantial edifices. Lexington has one of the best town parks in the county. The public library is one of the things of which Lexington is proud, being well supplied with books and also serving as a public meeting place. The business district is well built, mostly of brick buildings two and three stories in height. It is electrically lighted, with some paved streets and sewer systems. It is a fine trading center and is well known as a grain and stock shipping point. The city has two banks and one weekly newspaper, the Unit-Journal, edited by Miss Florence Wright.

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