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

Towanda Township. - Being a prairie district, Towanda was not settled as early as some of the townships having timber. There is only 460 acres of timber in the township and the rest of the land is rich prairie soil. Smith's grove, named for David Smith, who settled there in 1830, is in the center of the township, while in the north part is a strip of timber along Money Creek. John Trimmer and family were the first settlers, coming in 1826, following an Indian trail from the Wabash country and settling at the grove. Frederick Rook came soon afterward, but later moved to Livingston County. William Halterman settled on the prairie in 1840. About 1837 Elbert Dickason and John Pennell erected a sawmill on Money Creek. David Trimmer had a blacksmith shop at the head of Money Creek timber as early as 1828. Jacob Spawr and Eliza Ann Trimmer were married on Dec. 3, 1826. Notices of the proposed wedding were posted, in lieu of getting a license from the county seat. W. C. Orendorif performed the wedding service. The postoffice of the township was at the home of William D. Moore, on the site of the present town of Towanda. The first preacher was John Dunham at Smith's Grove in 1832. Rev. Ebenezer Rhodes visited this section in his rounds. There are now Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist and Catholic churches in the township.

Peter Badeau and Jesse W. Fell laid out the village of Towanda on Dec. 7, 1854. Charles Roadnight, then treasurer of the Chicago & Alton road, established here a country place which became famous in its time for the elaborate expenditures which he lavished upon it. He tried to boom the town and built there a two story building 50 by 100 feet, the upper part of which was designed for a public hall. But the structure fell to decay and finally burned down. A good flour mill was erected by Roadnight and Strothers, but did not long continue in use. Henry Warner's mill met with a similar fate. William R. Duncan was one of the earliest breeders of fine cattle in this vicinity. Towanda at present is a village of some considerable prosperity in trading. It is located on the state paved road forming the direct line of travel between Chicago and St. Louis. The Chicago & Alton railroad runs through it and has a new station there.

Two other railroad stations are in the township, both Barnes and Merna being on the branch of the Illinois Central. Merna is the center of a large and prosperous farming district mainly composed of adherents of the Catholic church, and they have a large church at the town. There are two community halls and two elevators.

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