Abandoned towns of Vermilion County, Il
From: History of Vermilion County, Illinois
By: Lottie E. Jones
Pioneer Publishing Company
Chicago 1911


All the plans made by any one do not mature; all the flowers that bud do not produce flowers; all the towns which man plats do not come off paper. While attention is centered on the towns, villages and cities which have made a record why not take the time to consider the many promising places that have not come to the point of redeeming their promise.

Some of these villages never went off paper, and some of them have had a few years of life to be abandoned and let go back to the wilderness from which they came. One of these is the once proud and promising Denmark. When it is considered that Denmark was a prosperous village before Danville was platted, and then look at it now, it seems as though there must be a mistake. A few frame houses which have been built within the last few years stand along the country roadside at the front of the old Denmark hill; the river with a modern bridge to span it where once there was the more romantic ford, and one, only one, old house to tell the tale of the past glory of the village where the citizens had made an attempt to become the county seat, when it was located on land which was, as yet, not even boasting of a house. This remaining house speaks in a strange tongue the tale of the rise and fall of Denmark.

Conkeytown and Higginsville will some time at no distant day be counted in the list of abandoned towns, but not now. A book to be found in the office of recorder of Vermilion County is of great interest. It is a record of towns and villages no longer, and for that matter in most cases never abiding places for human beings.

There are some villages which are not recorded, among which is the one called Vermilion Rapids. This was supposed to be located on the site of the town afterwards called Higginsville. In the thirties, there was much talk of making use of the Vermilion river for commercial purposes. The citizens of Danville tried to slack water the Vermilion river and make it navigable to its mouth. But this was never a practical idea, and the only use made of the waters was that on paper, when the effort was made to coin money by selling lots in an imaginary town called Vermilion Rapids, claimed to be "favorably located at the head of navigation on the Vermilion river."

It was in 1836, that Amando Higgins, (a brother of Judge Higgins) and Marcus C. Stearns entered the east half of the northwest quarter of 36 (21-13) and bought sixteen acres off the south end of the east quarter of the southwest quarter of section 25, to bring them out to the road, and laid it out in town lots. This was platted and recorded in 1836, just before the crash came, which made these kind of speculations cease. The town thus platted was called Vermilion Rapids. The plat was on both sides of the river, and showed the same to be about ten rods wide at this point, and large enough to float a steamer. The "rapids" were the main part of this enterprise, since no boat could pass any further up the stream on their account. The prospect of having boats take on produce from the rich land around and in turn deposit all the manufactured articles from the most distant clime were flattering in the extreme. No reason that direct communication might not be kept up with New Orleans and for that matter with Rio, Cuba and any part of Europe. Such was the foundation for the scheme, whereby the promoters of this swindle would coin money. The "rapids," unless removed by government authority and appropriation would always remain a barrier past which no progress could be made up stream, and the prospective city would become the great mart for trade for a hundred miles in every direction.

The principal streets in this prospective city running north and south to the river front were named Parish, Higgins, Chicago and Main; those running east and west were Williams, Buffalo, Bluff, Spring and LaPoer. A wide levee lay between these streets and the river, giving plenty of room for the immense business which was only awaiting the sale of land in this impossible town to be made. This prospective town was nicely platted and the paper taken to New York city to find buyers of the lots. This sort of speculation was carried to an incredible extent in the years just before the crash of 1837. No one knew the real value of land and this plat surely looked reasonable when the waterway was very evidently all that could be desired; every river town was looked upon as a promise of untold wealth. So it was Mr. A. D. Higgins took his plat to New York city to sell the land to speculators on Wall street, but he was too late. The crash of 1837 came and he had no sale at all. Western lots could hardly bring the cost of the paper upon which they were platted. Vermilion Rapids, was thereby relegated to the list of abandoned towns in the county.

An interesting record of the abandoned towns may be found in the county recorder's office.

The earliest recorded town is that of Morgantown or perhaps it should be called Morgans. This town a trace of which it seems impossible to find, is not located at all in the record, a small executed plat with the local coloring of a representation of the Vermilion river running alongside thereof, but not a single mark by which there could be found any idea of where this town was located.

The name is given as Morgantown, and the only reasonable conclusion to draw is that this town was identical with the old one of Morgans, or as often called, Morgan's neighborhood. This town of Morgantown was laid out by Achilles Morgan, and subscribed to before Jacob Brazelton, Jr., July 23, 1830. Each and every lot in this town contained one fourth part of an acre, and had a front of four rods, and extended ten rods back. The public grounds were three fourths of an acre.

This record is in every way complete yet there is no one who has any knowledge of such a town in Vermilion County, nor of ever hearing of such a village, that can be found. Wherever it could have been there is no more trace of it, other than upon the books of the county recorder.

Lancaster is another of the abandoned towns in Vermilion County. It was laid out by Noah Bixler, July 17, 1832, on the north half of the east half of the northeast quarter of section six in township 19, north of range 9 east. The plat was recorded July 18, 1832. Whether this town ever was off paper is not known. Another one of the abandoned towns was laid out and surveyed in 1832. This was Greenville, and was laid off by Joseph Osborn. It was located on the west quarter of section No. 31, township 19, N. of R. No. 13 west in the county of Vermilion and state of Illinois.

All lots in this town were provided to be four rods wide except lot No. 5, in block No. 1, lot No. 8 in block No. 2; lot No. 1 in block No. 3; and lot No. 4 in block No. 4, which were four rods square, with Main street running north and south and High street running east and west, both being four rods wide.

The plan of this street was a cross roads with a hollow souare where the streets crossed. The survey and plat of this town was recorded July 26, 1936. The town of Shepherd or as it appears on an early map Shepherdstown, was laid out in 1836. It was located directly east of Danville very near to the state line. This was one of those early towns which sprang into existence and while they were platted and attempts made to sell lots, yet never came off the paper used to plat and advertise them.

This town, unlike that of Greenville, was not built on the plan of many of those in Vermilion county, of which Danville and Georgetown are samples: namely, with a hollow square in the center of the town.

Provision was made in Shepherdstown for lots eight rods long by four wide, with Illinois street running north and south. This street was on the west of the platted town, and Chicago street running on the east of the lots. This latter street was to be but two rods wide. Main street was to run east and west, and Prairie street was just north of it, while south street was to run sorth of Main street. All the east and west streets were four rods wide. This town was laid out by John Villars July 28, 1836. This town was on the map as Shepherdstown, but it is platted as Shepherds.

Franklin was a town laid out by I. Swisher, and H. Rogers, on March 13, 1837.

The town of Marion was surveyed by Dan Beckwith, May 23, 1835. He was at that time yet county surveyor of Vermilion County. The town was laid out by Alexander Bailey, but had no growth. Monroe was laid out on the southwest quarter of the Northwest quarter of section 36, T. 17, N. R. 11 W. It was surveyed and laid out by Stephen Nearfield, and J. W. Hayworth.

Provision was made to have all lots four rods wide by eight long, with Main and High streets running north and south, both being four rods wide and Green 2nd Prairie streets running east and west, the same width. Other streets were numbered 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. These were to be one rod wide each.

The town of Monroe was recorded, May 4, 1837.

The town of Leesburg was laid out by Joseph Smith. It was located on a part of the northwest quarter of the northwest quarter of section No. 14, in town No. 18, north of R. No. 14, W. It was surveyed by Uriah M. McMillen, May 1, 1850.

Prospect city was laid out by Ransom R. Murdock, William H. Pells, Leander Britt, Benjamin Stites and Dryden Donelly. This village was located on the south half of southwest quarter of section 8, the northeast quarter of section 18, N., 20 acres of the west one half of the northwest quarter, of section 17, and the east one half of the northwest quarter of section 17, and the south cast quarter of Section 7, and the west half (less twenty acres of north end) of the northwest quarter of Section 17, lying in township 23, N. of R, 10 E. of the 3d Principal Meridian. The plat of this village was recorded July 31, 1857.

Salem, another of the abandoned villages of Vermilion County, was surveyed for B. D. C. Herring. Its location was somewhat complicated, being six and a half acres out of the north half of the southeast quarter of section No. 30, T. 21, N. of R. 12, west; also three acres one pole out of the east half of S. W. quarter of three sections. Beginning at corner stake, in the south line of said section. Thence west 14 poles to a stone, thence north 31 poles to a stone; thence east 9 poles to a stone; thence north 9 poles to a stone; thence east 31 poles to a stone, thence south 40 poles to a stone; thence west 26 poles to the beginning. The plat contained nine acres, and seventy nine poles of land.

This list of abandoned towns have been given without regard to the fact that some of the locations are at present in Champaign County. However, when they were platted it was before the division of the two counties, and when they were abandoned the division had not even then been made. That being the case, as abandoned towns or villages, they belong to Vermilion County and as such are considered here.

Gilbert may or may not be considered an abandoned village, since its successor has been built so near to the first town named for Mr. Alvan Gilbert, and was given a part of his name. Whether or not Gilbert is considered an abandoned town depends on whether it is correct to consider Alvin the same town as Gilbert.

Salina might he also considered since it was the name given to the railroad station now known as Fairmount, although the latter name was given first. When the new name of Salinas was given it was found that there had been another town in the state named Salina, and the old name of Fairmount was continued.

The present town of Indianola was formerly called Chillacotha and before then was called Dallas, yet it is hardly the correct impression to give to put either of the two former names in the list of abandoned villages of Vermilion County.

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