History of Wyoming, Il
From: Stark County Illinois and its People
J. Knox Hill, Supervising Editor.
The Pioneer Publishing Company
Chicago 1916


Wyoming, the largest city in Stark County, also claims the distinction of being the oldest town in the county. It was surveyed in March, 1836, by B. M. Hayes, then surveyor of Putnam County, for Gen. Samuel Thomas, and the plat was filed the following May. The original town contains eighteen blocks or squares, one of which was set aside by General Thomas for a public square. William Street, the northern boundary, is the line between Essex and Toulon townships, the plat being entirely within Essex Township. The other streets running east and west are Main, Smith and Agard. Beginning at the west line of the plat the north and south streets are numbered from First to Seventh, inclusive. Since the original plat was filed additions have been made which increase the area of the corporation to more than four times that of the first town laid out by General Thomas. The most important additions are Thomas', Dana's, Scott & Wrigley's, and the two additions laid out by Dr. Alfred Castle, sometimes called "North Wyoming."

Gen. Samuel Thomas, the founder of Wyoming, was born in the State of Connecticut, February 2, 1787. When about nineteen or twenty years old he went to the Wyoming Valley, in Pennsylvania. At the beginning of the War of 1812, he was captain of a company of young men who were well drilled in artillery tactics. ' He offered the services of his company to the Government and the offer was accepted, the company being ordered to Erie, Pennsylvania, where Commodore Perry was engaged in building his fleet. Captain Thomas was placed in command of the post and several times thwarted the British in their attempts to burn Perry's ships before they were completed. His company then joined the army under Gen. William H. Harrison and he was present at the battle of the Thames, where the celebrated Shawnee chief, Tecumseh, was killed. After the war he was appointed inspector of the Pennsylvania militia and in 1828 was commissioned brigadier general. After serving two terms in the Legislature of Pennsylvania he decided to seek his fortunes in the West, and in October, 1834, he purchased the claim of his brother in law, Sylvanus Moore, who had preceded him to Stark County, Ill. When he concluded to lay off a town, his recollections of the Wyoming Valley prompted him to confer that name upon his town. General Thomas was engaged in farming and keeping store until his death, on July 21, 1865. He was one of the leading members of the Methodist Church, a member of the Masonic fraternity, and took an active interest in political affairs as a democrat.

Concerning the early history and growth of Wyoming, Mrs. Shallenberger, in her "Stark County and its Pioneers," says: "For a long time it had little but a name. In a communication to the Lacon Herald in 1838, it is spoken of as having upon its site 'one second hand log smoke house, which serves the double purpose of store and postoflice.' Nevertheless, its name appears upon several maps of that time, and it was a prominent candidate for the county seat. It is said that some speculators interested in the sale of lots, had circulars struck off and circulated in the eastern states, in which this town was represented in 1837 at the head of navigation on Spoon River, with fine warehouses towering aloft and boats lying at the wharf which negroes were loading and unloading, giving the appearance of a busy commercial mart. This may be but a story, still it serves to illustrate the speculating mania of those days; which disease has not yet ceased to afflict mankind, but has only traveled a few degrees farther west."

Whether the story of the circular be true or not - and it may have been, as such occurrences were by no means rare in those days - Wyoming has passed the point where such subterfuges are necessary to call attention to its commercial importance. In 1865, just after the close of the Civil war, there was a marked increase in the number of inhabitants and in response to a petition the "Town of Wyoming" was duly incorporated under the laws of Illinois Unfortunately the early records of the village under this first government have not been preserved. In fact, but little attention was paid to municipal matters until after the completion of the two railroads in 1871. Then a more active interest was awakened and in 1872 A. G. Hammond, Otis T. Dyer, Perry H. Smith, A. J. Conover and C. Collier were elected trustees. In the organization of the board Perry II. Smith was elected president and Mr. Collier, clerk.

In the spring of 1898 a census was taken, which showed the number of inhabitants to be 1,311. An ordinance was then passed by the board of trustees dividing the town into three wards and ordering an election to determine whether or not Wyoming should be incorporated as a city under the general laws of the state. The voting places were designated as follows: First Ward, Engine House No. 2, on Main Street; Second Ward, Engine House No. 1, on the north side of William Street; Third Ward, King Brothers' store, on the south side of William Street. The election was held on April 19, 1898, and a majority of the citizens cast their votes in favor of a city government

A special meeting of the old board of trustees was then held on April 26, 1898, for the purpose of inaugurating the new regime. As this was the last meeting of the town officials under the old village system, it may be of interest to know who the men were that changed Wyoming from a village to a city. C. P. McCorkle was president of the board; W. E. Nixon, clerk; H. B. Brown, J. A. Klock, M. P. Ryan, W. J. Townsend, Marshall Winn and Peter Lane, trustees. The first and most important business of the special meeting was to appoint the 19th day of May as the date of the first election for city officers. On that date S. R. Perkins was chosen mayor; A. W. Higbee, Henry Duckworth, Fred Stevenson, Fred Ditewig, H. B. Brown and C. F. Hamilton, trustees; Ernest Mortimer, clerk; M. H. Lutes, treasurer.

In 1899 A. J. Harty was elected mayor and served until 1905, when he was succeeded by John W. Smith. George F. Garden was elected mayor in 1909 and was succeeded by the present incumbent, William H. Hartz, in 1913. The other members of the city government in 1915 were: Frank Jacobs, clerk; Charles Peve, treasurer; F. S. Foster, Elting Arganbright, Charles Ingram, C. F. Scott, A. C. Cooper and A. C. Stagg, aldermen.


As stated in the chapter on Township History, the first postoflice in Stark County was established in the Essex Settlement in 1833, with Isaac B. Essex as postmaster. When Gen. Samuel Thomas came to the county in 1834 he was accompanied by several others, among whom was a man named William Godley. Two years later the Town of Wyoming was platted and a movements was started to secure the removal of the postoffice to the new town. This project was favored by the people living about Osceola Grove and those living along the Spoon River above the Essex Settlement, as a matter of convenience, and a petition was circulated asking for the removal of the office and the appointment of William Godley as postmaster. The petition was granted and the new appointee, accompanied by James Holgate, went to the Essex dwelling to receive possession of the property appertaining to the postoffice. What happened upon their arrival there is thus told by Mrs. Shallenberger:

"Mr. Holgath soon noticed indications of a coming storm in the countenance and conduct of Mrs. Essex. She was washing when they entered, and for awhile continued her occupation with a vim that astonished her visitors, rubbing and scrubbing almost furiously, then she deliberately turned from her tub, wiped her arms and hands, sat down and gave them her opinion of men who would steal a postoffice, in terms which those gentlemen can never forget. Later in the day a neighbor coming in and observing she was excited, inquired the cause, when she made the apt, but petulant, play upon their names, Mr. Clifford has recorded, saying: 'God Almighty and Hellsgate have come and taken away our postoffice.' Surely enough to upset any woman, and coming on washday at that!"

It could hardly have been the income that at that time made Mr. Essex so desirous of retaining the postoffice, but rather the prestige it gave him in the settlement. The affair created some strife between the settlements on the lower and upper portions of the Spoon River, but the office remained at Wyoming and in time the affair was forgotten.

At the close of the fiscal year ending on June 30, 1915, the Wyoming postoffice showed receipts of about five thousand dollars, employed two people in the office and four rural carriers who delivered mail daily to a large tract of the surrounding country. P. B. Colwell was then postmaster.


On April 7, 1890, an ordinance was passed by the village board granting a franchise to R. C. Jordan & Company to light the Town of Wyoming with electricity. It seems that the recipients of this favor failed to do anything under the provisions of the franchise, and on July 6, 1892, anther ordinance relating to the subject was passed, giving to E. B. Gillman & Company, of Peoria, authority "to construct, maintain and operate an electric light and power plant," filing the rates to be charged by the firm, and containing provisions for the purchase of the plant by the village. Soon after the passage of the ordinance, Mr. Hillman and his associates began the construction of a power house just west of the Rock Island Railroad station, setting poles and running wires through the streets, and before the close of the year Wyoming was rejoicing in the fact that it had an electric lighting system in operation.

On November 6, 1912, the company was reorganized and incorporated for fifty years, under the name of the Stark County Power Company, with a capital stock of $20,000, held by Edwin B. Hillman, Adele S. Hillman and Edgar P. Reeder. This company now furnishes electric light and power to the towns of Castleton and Bradford, as well as to the City of Wyoming. Its plant is equipped with modern machinery and the service is as good as is generally found in cities of Wyoming's class.


The first move toward establishing a system of waterworks for the City of Wyoming was the passage of an ordinance by the city council on April 22, 1902, granting to S. V. Deem, of Galva, Ill.; a franchise to construct a water system at a cost of $28,000, the life of the franchise to be twenty years. Mr. Deem carried out the provisions of the ordinance and the waterworks were completed the following year.

On March 7, 1904, the city council passed an ordinance entitled the "Waterworks Purchase Ordinance," under the provisions of which the city purchased the entire plant from S. V. Deem for $30,685. The first bond, or waterworks certificate, for $685, was made payable on the first day of April, 1904, and the remaining $30,000 in certificates of $1,000 each, payable annually and bearing interest at the rate of 5 per cent per annum. The amount of these bonds or certificates outstanding on September 1, 1915, was $9,000. Both the franchise for the construction of the plant and the purchase ordinance were adopted during the administration of Mayor A. J. Harty.

The system consists of a water tower 100 feet in height, with a capacity of 36,000 gallons; five miles of mains, and a pumping capacity of 200 gallons per minute. The rates charged are 35 cents per 1,000 gallons per month, up to 10,000 gallons, and all over that amount 25 cents per 1,000 gallons per month. The number of consumers on October 1, 1915, was 245. The supply comes from a deep well and the quality of the water is excellent.


Wyoming has two public parks - the public square laid out by General Thomas when he platted the town in 1836, and Central Park, at the northeast corner of Galena Avenue and Van Buren Street, in Scott & Wrigley's addition. The latter was set apart at the time the addition was platted as a site for the courthouse in the event Wyoming secured the county seat, which the people were then trying to obtain. Both are real "beauty spots," being provided with bandstands, seats, swings for the little ones, handsome shade trees, etc., and they form place's for recreation and amusement for the people.


About the time the waterworks were completed the subject of a sewer system began to engage the attention of the people. The first sewer, which was constructed by general taxation, rims from a point on the south side of Van Buren Street, opposite Central Park, to the southwestern part of the city, near the cemetery. Since it was built other sewers have been added from time to time by special assessments until Wyoming has a method of disposing of its sewage that is as good as that found in most cities of its size.

The fire department is a volunteer organization, but is marked by efficiency and promptness in time of need. Prior to the establishment of the city government two engine houses were built by the municipality - one on the north side of William Street and the other on the south side of the same street - and both were supplied with approved fire fighting apparatus. With the completion of the waterworks an additional supply of hose was purchased, to be attached to the hydrants in case of fire, and this assured ample fire protection for all ordinary occasions.

Within recent years Wyoming has given considerable attention to building sidewalks and oiling the roadways of the streets. The result is several miles of excellent concrete sidewalks and dustless. streets that makes the little city one of the cleanest in the State of Illinois.


The fair grounds of the Wyoming Agricultural Society are located in the eastern part of the city, a short distance east of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad and within easy walking distance of the business district. The first fair was held here in September, 1881.

Besides being the oldest town in the county, Wyoming claims the honor of having the first frame house. A year or two after the town was started by General Thomas, Whitney Smith erected a small frame building, which he used for a store, and it is generally conceded that this was the first frame structure of any kind to be erected in Stark County.

Two modern public school buildings, one known as the South Side School and the other as the North Side, furnish excellent educational facilities for the city. During the school year of 1914-15 eleven teachers were employed.

Wyoming has two banks, a public library, a weekly newspaper, a number of mercantile houses that compare favorably with those of larger cities, Congregational, Catholic, Episcopal and Methodist churches, grain elevators, lumber and coal yards, hotel and restaurants, a large poultry house, a motion picture theater, an opera house, a baseball club, a large number of cozy homes, and in 1910 reported a population of 1,506. Being located at the junction of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy and the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific railroads, it is the principal shipping point for a rich agricultural district in Essex, Penn, Toulon and Valley townships and large quantities of grain and livestock are handled here annually.

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