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

Normal Township. - The boundaries of Normal Township and the city of Bloomington formerly overlapped each other, that part of the city of Bloomington between Empire and Division Streets being located within Normal Township. This made a confusing state of affairs especially in election precincts. This was remedied in the year when the voters of Bloomington organized the township of the city of Bloomington, whose boundaries were co-extensive with the city limits. Normal Township thus lost some of its territory and population.

Jesse W. Fell, who located his home on a high rise of ground north of the then city of Bloomington in 1833, began at once to secure public improvements for his neighborhood. When the crossing place of the two new railroads, the Illinois Central and the Chicago & St. Louis, was fixed, the site was first called the "Junction," and later North Bloomington. Jesse Fell early conceived the idea of locating here some kind of educational institution, and when on June 15, 1854, a sale of lots was held at North Bloomington, one block was named "Seminary Block." Being a strong temperance man, Mr. Fell provided in every deed for a lot sold that no liquor should be sold on that lot, thus establishing the new town as an anti liquor community. In 1867 on a petition of the people of Normal, this prohibition was enacted into special statutory form. Pursuing his intention to secure an educational institution, Mr. Fell went to work after a convention of educators held in Bloomington on Dec. 26, 1853, had decided in favor of founding a state institution for the training of teachers, and this had been followed by a bill passed by the Legislature on February 18, 1857, providing for such a training school. Mr. Fell, Prof. D. Wilkins and others started in to gather funds for making an offer for the location of the normal training school at "North Bloomington." They were successful, making a much better bid than Peoria, their nearest competitor, and the State Normal University was thus founded and located here. In honor of the new school, the name of the Junction was changed from North Bloomington to Normal, and the township was likewise named. The change officially took place April 6, 1858. Mr. Fell had for many years after his first settlement here been busy in planting trees, and hence when the state committee to locate the normal school visited this new community they saw in it possibilities for great future beauty. This was one of the deciding factors in the location of the new school. The lands of Normal Township had originally been rich black prairie.

A second state institution was secured for Normal in 1867, when through the generosity of Jesse Fell, Judge Davis and others, the Soldiers' Orphans' Home was located here.

Normal has been from its beginning a center of the nursery industry in Illinois. Jesse W. Fell had a nursery of limited extent, while along from 1855 to '59 Cyrus R. Overman conducted a nursery in company with his brother in law, Capt. W. H. Mann, a veteran of the 94th Illinois and father of the famous congressman, James Mann, who died in 1923. The F. X. Phoenix nurseries were famous in their day, and later Capt. Henry Augustine conducted a large nursery, which is now owned by his son, A. M. Augustine and run under the name of the Augustine Nursery Co. George J. Foster, H. K. Vickroy and B. J. Vandervoort were other nurserymen of later years.

The town of Normal was incorporated in 1865 under the general law. The first trustees were L. A. Hovey, Wesley Pierce, D. P. Fyffe, John A. Rockwood and S. J. Reeder. For many years the town struggled under the handicap of lack of paved streets, but some fifteen years ago, under the mayorship of O. L. Manchester, an era of improvement struck the citizens and practically every principal street of the town was paved before they stopped. Broadway, which is a boulevard, is one of the handsomest drives to be found in any town of the state. Two of the state paved highways passed through Normal in 1923, one from the southwest to northeast, the other from north to south. The population of Normal is made up largely of families who originally moved to the place to educate their children and became permanent residents. The town has a modern business district and several small factories. Several paved streets connect it with Bloomington, making the two corporations practically as one town, which some day they may become in name as well as in fact.

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