Compiled by George S. Hoff.
Butler township was named at the suggestion of the first supervisor, in 1864, from the cock eyed hero who had
solved the difficult questions of the war, each as it arose, with as much ease as he would have settled a quiet
dinner in his own house. He had equipped and marched the first brigade of volunteers to beleagured Washington (or
had commanded the march), in less than three days after notice had reached him, and in less than two days from
the date of his selection by Governor Andrew for the position. He had captured Baltimore one night, while the war
department was making a plan of attack, which it was expected he would join in carrying out the next week. He had
solved the most difficult question of what was to be done with the negroes who continually came into our lines,
under the constitutional provision requiring the return of fugitives owing service or labor, by calling them "contraband
of war." He had hung the only rebel that ever was hung in America (except old John Brown and his party), and
had made the women stop making faces at the "boys in blue," and had just secured a peaceful election
in New York city. Next to Grant, whose name had been applied to the adjoining township, he was the hero of the
day, so Wm. M. Tennery thought, and so his loyal neighbors thought when they gave his name to their home.
Old Butler, as it was often familiarly called by the inhabitants, occupied all of the Northwest Corner of the county,
which is in township 23 north, range 13 west of the 2d principal meridan, all of the east half of town 23, range
14, two tiers of sections off of the north end of township 22 north, range 13 and six sections in the northeast
corner of town 22, range 14, making in all 72 sections or equal to two full congressional townships.
The land was originally a vast prairie and when first looked upon with the longing eye of the early settler, the
vast expanse of the prairie was not broken by a solitary tree. It is different from any of the other townships
in the county in this, and in the fact that there was no considerable stream in the township. While the land in
this township measured up in quality with some of the best in the county and far surpassed much that was early
taken by the early settlers, yet it did not come into cultivation until long after the less productive lands in
the county were occupied, and as late as 1872 or even '75 broad strips of this rich prairie land had not been vexed
with the plough. This township is traversed from east to west, almost directly through the center by a high ridge;
probably this ridge is the highest point in Vermilion County, and the township is drained with a gentle slope both
to the north and to the south with little streams and rivulets which empty in the main into what was known as Blue
Grass creek and later into Middle Fork of the Vermilion river. While from the northern slope the streams and rivulets
were ultimately gathered into bodies of water.
It can but seem wonderful and must ever remain in a great measure a mystery how the land of such eligible portions
of the county were left uninhabited until long after the western half of the state and a greater portion of Missouri,
and Iowa and parts of Kansas and Nebraska were largely filling up with settlers, and the wonder is that people
who had settled along the Middle Fork not twenty miles away had shaken the dust from their feet of old Vermilion
County so to speak, and moved on to the less inviting territory in the west when they could have found within one
half day's ride of their homes, and this long after it had been demonstrated that people could live in the open
prairie with less labor and just as much comfort in health and surer returns for their labors than on timber farms.
It can not be pleaded in this case that these prairies were unknown. True this township was not traversed like
some of the other townships by great public roads, great thoroughfares, so to speak, but the old Danville and Ottowa
road crossed the southwest corner. The road from Attica to Bloomington, along which hundreds of people passed each
year visiting their old homes in Ohio and Indiana, crossed the southern part of this grand prairie; so the people
living to the east and south had fair knowledge of the fertilities and the beauty of the territory occupied by
the township. It would doubtless be well to leave the explanation of the mystery to an adage which the old scholars
had, which being literally translated runs, "In matters of taste there is no use in disputing." Just
so; there is no law against a man going through the woods and picking up a crooked stick beyond.
From the original entry book of the records of Vermilion County it would appear that the southwest quarter of the
southwest quarter of section three, township 22 north, range 14 west of the 2d P. M. was the first tract of land
entered in the township. The records show that it was entered by Samuel Swinford, Dec. 25th, 1844, and the northwest
34 of the northwest 1/4 of said section was entered in '47. There were probably more entries of the land made in
the township in '53, '54 and '55 than any other years. The south part of the township was occupied earlier than
the balance. From the best information obtained, it would appear that Jesse S. Piles was the first settler in the
territory, entering his land in 1854 and settling on the same, being in section 11-22-14. In the same year J. H.
Swartz with several neighbors came from Ohio to Danville, and applying at the land office of Parker Dressor entered
several tracts of land in sections 30, 19, 29 and in the immediate vicinity forming a settlement that was known
in the early days as the Swartz settlement. In 1854 the Armentrouts entered land in to and 1-22-13, and in '55
Hiram Armentrout and Ambrose Armentrout and Chas. T. Bratton, Jerry Murphy settled in the southern part of the
township along what was known as the Attica and Bloomington road. It is difficult to do justice to the earlier
settlers naming them in their order of settlement, as they came in at this time in '54 to '57 in rapid succession,
C. T. Bales, Ephriam Blackford, David Liggett, Stephen Blackford, Amos Hoff, Daniel Stamp, J. W. Shannon, John
Dopps, all began the development of their farms about this time. It was at this time that the fame of the great
wheat producing qualities of the state had gone abroad. Cases were numerous where a single crop of wheat had paid
the cost of the land, tilling, fencing, harvesting, marketing the crop, leaving a balance to the credit side of
the account. This crop, no doubt, was exceptional, but that such things did happen there is no dispute, and this
fame went abroad to Indiana, Ohio and other eastern states and many came here in '55 and thereabouts expecting
to get rich on wheat raising alone. Men at that time were not so vastly different from men of today, and in the
heighth of their excitement over the prospect of large returns from the successful crops, ran into debt for additional
land intending to pay for it out of the next wheat crop sown on last year's stubble and harrowed in without even
ploughing the ground, and as a result, of course, the subsequent successive failures of the crops ruined many farmers,
crippled others and sent some to the asylum or back east to see their wife's relations, all convinced that this
was not in the wheat belt.
The hard times which followed the financial crash of 1873 was as severe on the new settlers of Butler as had been
the previous one of 1837 on those who were then in the timber belt along the Middle Fork. Corn became the principal
article of food. Money, there was none. The entire currency of the west was based upon the faith which the people
had in bankers, many of which were either foreign to the state, or mere myths. Michigan "red dog," Georgia
"wild cat," Missouri "stump tail," were the nicknames which were applied to the various kinds
of bank bills, which were taken at par one day, and refused at a heavy discount the next. Never was a people so
swindled with imaginary money. Bank note detectors were consulted by every business man whenever he received money,
to try to discover whether it was safe to take. The men of the present generation who complain of "hard times"
may have suffered, but they know next to nothing of the suffering which their fathers passed through then. Taxes
were all payable in specie, and light as they were then, it was more difficult to obtain the hard money with which
to pay them then than now, notwithstanding they are ten times as great.
It is difficult to write the history of this township and give due credit to the men of sterling worth who figured
so prominently in the affairs of the day in working and bringing out of the trackless prairies the homes, churches
and educational institutions and all that which is necessary to build up and broaden the minds of men. Aside from
the ones that have been previously mentioned, without any effort to give the date of their arrival into the township,
or to fix in any degree the positions they occupied, but who were men of sterling worth, high noble character,
and did much toward the development of the county are the following: James Dixon, Jonothan Doan, J. W. Shannon,
Thomas Towed, Wm. I. Allen, Mr. McCune, Raffin Clark, George Mains, Daniel S. French, Jacob Swisher, John it Bowers.
E. S. Pope, J. J. Johnson, Adam Bratton, Dr. Griffin, Benj. Peterson, now of Henning, Illinois, and many others
whose names ought to be mentioned that cannot now be remembered. These settlers were emigrants from northwestern
Indiana, Ohio and many of the eastern states.
This township was not organized until 1864. Until that time it had been a part of Middle Fork, but the citizens
now deemed it necessary to have a closer compact of government to better their condition financially, socially,
and to be in a position to organize schools, began to take steps toward the organizing of a township. A meeting
of a few of the citizens of this territory was called and Amos Hoff was appointed as a committee of one to make
what was then a long trip over the country to the home of Squire Oakwood who then lived in the neighborhood of
Bean Creek settlement to draw the necessary petition to set off this township and it was finally agreed and set
off as has been heretofore described with Wm. Tennery, who at that time lived in Middle Fork township, as the supervisor
of the joint townships, but J. H. Swartz was elected as the first supervisor of the joint townships, in 1865 with
37 votes. The early settlers being of an intelligent, bright, active people, early turned their attention toward
schools. It is very difficult to say where the first school was organized, but it is quite probable that the first
school in the township was what has been known ever since its organization as the Bratton school, and the first
term of school was taught in the smokehouse of Hiram Arrnentrout, and the next in order was probably the school
that has been, ever since its organization, known as the Swartz school, and the next in point of organization was
what was known as the Murphy school. All of these were held in temporary quarters. The first school building built
in the Murphy district was nearing completion when it was entirely destroyed by a wind storm. The building that
took its place and used as a school house for many years was quite small. It was used by the United Brethren for
church purposes, and because of its structure and size was familiarly known all over the community as "The
Box." At the time of the organization there was in the township not a solitary village, post office or any
building of importance. The mail for almost the entire township was received at the post office at Blue Grass,
which at that time was quite a flourishing village. The first post office in the township was Circle, and Jesse
Piles was postmaster. Churches were early organized in the district. The first Methodist class formed in this township
was probably what was afterward known as Swartz's chapel in about 1855. It was formed at the house of Eli Dopps.
It was a very interesting class and from this class three distinct churches were organized, the Swartz church at
Rankin, and the one at Pellsville, but the church at Pellsville has long since been disbanded. At the time it consisted
of r6 members, C. Atkinson was preacher in charge, and John E. Vinson was assistant. It belonged to what at that
time was known as the Danville circuit, and there was no other church in all this country but Wallace chapel, the
one at Blue Grass and the old log house called Partlows church. The preaching appointment was each alternate week,
and it was a terrible winter, as all remember so that Atkinson did not reach his appointment at any time during
the winter, but Vinson was very regular. Greenbury Garner, Milo Butler and W. H. McVey were on the Danville circuit
before 1861. Mr. Elliott was presiding elder and after him. L. Pilner.
After this, W. H. M. Moore, was elder, Sampson Shinn and Enoch Jones, preachers, John Helmick, assistant, J. S.
Barger and John Long, preachers in charge. In 1855 the Blue Grass circuit was formed and Swartz school house was
built, in which they held services, Sampson Shinn was presiding elder. Prairie chapel, the Christian church, was
built near Swisher's at the extreme southeastern corner of the township in 1861, Elder Rolla Martin used to preach
there. He was for many years the pioneer preacher of this denomination. It is a pleasant church with a strong and
active membership. Hon. Clay F. Gaumer is the present pastor. The organization of this church was effected at Blue
Grass in 1859 by Elder Martin. Jacob Swisher who lived near where the present edifice stands was an influential
member and had much to do with the removing of the organization to the present quarters. The frame work and much
of the material used in the construction of the present church was a part of an old church that was bought by the
organization many years ago that stood near Danville, but was torn down and removed to its present location. The
U. B. church was organized at what was known as the Murphy school house, the exact date of the organization not
being known, but it was probably between 1865 and '70. Mr. Zeigler was the first preacher in charge. For a number
of years Sunday school and church services were held in the Murphy school house, but Mr. Stephen Biddle who owned
the land adjoining the cross roads gave a plat of ground to the church upon which a very comfortable building was
erected in about 1878. The denomination still occupies the same church and have a very active organization, and
they now associate in the Rossvilie circuit and B. B. Phelps is preacher in charge. Besides the churches named,
there are a number of very active organizations in East Lynn and Rankin, which are treated of elsewhere.
This township was void of railroads for many years after the first settlers entered it, and until the Lafayette,
Bloomington and Muncie railroad which traversed the township from east to west, now known as the L. E. & W.,
and intersecting the C. & F. I. R. R. at Hoopeston, there was not a village in the township. This road was
built in 1872 and in that year W. P. Moore, in the southeast part of section to, and T. J. Van Brunt in the northeast
1/4 of section 10, and John P. Dopps, in the northwest 1/4 of 11, and Aiken and White in the southwest 1/4 of 11
(in 23-13) platted and laid out the town site of East Lynne, giving it its name from the charming novel of Mrs.
Anna S. Stephen. Henry Ludden was appointed first station agent and first postmaster and the first merchant. In
the west part of the township, the laying out of the village did not run so smoothly. At a very early date W. A.
Rankin's attention had been called to the fertility of the soil and the beautiful prairie, and he purchased eight
sections of land lying near together and commenced improving it in 1867. He built a fine residence on section two,
which had been beautifully surrounded by trees, changing the bleak prairie of only a few years into the most delightful
shady resort to be found in this part of the country and he early conceived, when the talk of the new railroad
was on, the idea of establishing a station near his home. But there were others, and W. H. Pells, who lived just
a short distance west of Mr. Rankin, owning but eighty acres of land conceived the idea of establishing a station
at his place, hence the contest in site was on. The construction company of which Col. Snell was the head, had
the right tinder their contract to designate the depot but were also authorized to receive payment for the same
sufficient to cover expenses of side tracks, depots, etc. When Mr. Rankin went to negotiate for the location, he
placed the argument that as the whole township was taxed for the road, a location should be selected as near equidistant
as possible, and the location that he proposed was as near the western line as East Lynn was the eastern, and that
more people of this township would be accommodated by this location than any other; that he was ready at any time
to pay the $2,500.00 required for putting in the job and any other little matters required could be easily arranged.
On the other hand Mr. Pells pleaded that the custom of the road which had been to permit each director to name
a depot; that every other director had been accorded that privilege and that the farmers around the proposed location
would give as much or more for the location. The citizens in the vicinity of Pellsville raised $3,500.00 by subscription
and got their depot. The Rankin people paid their subscription and got theirs. It then became a question for the
railroad company to decide which one should be retained and Mr. Boody was appealed to by both parties. At one stage
of the contest a proposition was obtained to locate a station midway between the two places. This was accepted
by one party, but declined by the other. After the matter had come into the jurisdiction of Mr. Boody, he proposed
a plan which was very likely to decide matters, but just then the road was put into the hands of a receiver, who
decided that he had no authority in such matter, and would not decide.
The village of Rankin was laid out in June, 1872, by A. Bowman, county surveyor, and J. R. Bowers, making twenty
four blocks, each of which were 240 X 250 feet. The streets are eighty five feet wide. It was laid out one half
on the land of D. and W. A. Rankin, in section 12, and one quarter on each of the lands of George Gutherie and
Mr. Johnson. The Gutherie portion was sold to Prof. Joseph Carter, of Champaign, Illinois, who still owns it. The
two open strips between the blocks and the track were left for public use.
The first building was commenced by Mr. E. Wait, who lived in Loda, intending to go into the grain and coal trade.
Before it was completed he was killed on the construction train between Paxton and this station. Mr. F. A. Finney
took Waits' interest and completed the building, which was afterward sold to Mr. Chapman. Rankin & Thompson
put up the next building, a grain office. C. H. Wyman put up a store and put in a stock of drugs. Milton Holmes,
from Bloomington, built most of the buildings that were put up the first year.
He and his hands had to camp out, sleep under work benches or wherever they could find a chance, for there was
no boarding place here. Cowell & Weaver built several. There was no lumber yard here, and the freight from
Paxton was fifteen dollars per car. All the stone brought here for building purposes came from Kankakee. While
the construction company retained the control of the road no less freight could be obtained, and thus it was necessary
to pay at Paxton as there was no office here. Holmes built the drug store and grain office, and six dwelling houses
for Mr. Rankin, a store and the hotel the first season. His family were the first persons who came here to live.
They resided in the Wait House. J. T. Wickham was the second. They resided in the Wilson House.
The Campbell House which was put up among the very first buildings was at that time, without doubt, the finest
hotel in the county outside of Danville. It was built for J. F. Campbell and was occupied by him continuously for
many years. It with its appurtenances was built at an expenditure of $5,500.00. J. R. Bowers, who since the first
opening of business in Rankin was one of the solid men of the village. He came to make a farm on section 7, two
miles east of Rankin, in 1865. He remained there until the village was commenced and then brought the old flax
seed warehouse from Blue Grass and went into business.
Flax was for many years one of the leading crops in this part of the country. It was no uncommon thing to see large
acreages of this crop sown, and it was indeed a beautiful sight when the flax crop was in bloom. A Lafayette firm
which was interested in the business had erected a warehouse at Blue Grass which was then the great central point
of trade and traffic. This firm planned their warehouse so as to keep the seed from one year to the other, and
in the spring they would loan the farmer the seed to seed his land; attached to the loan contract was an agreement
to sell the firm the seed when it was harvested, and as soon as the railroad was built this brought about the opportunity
which Mr. Bowers seized when he removed the old warehouse from Blue Grass to the village of Rankin. Rankin and
Thompson were the first to open up in the grain trade under the firm name of D. and W. A. Rankin. They built an
elevator which was 30x50, 40 feet high, at that time was a great structure. This same elevator is in operation
today, but its capacity has been much enlarged. The war between Rankin and Pellsville occasionally broke out, but
it soon developed that Rankin had come to stay and that Pellsville was doomed, and today there is scarcely a vestige,
and not a house nor a corner stone to tell the story of what was once a flourishing village.
In 1902 the C. & E. I. R. R. built a branch road, leaving the main line at Woodland, crossing the county, making
a short line to St. Louis. This road crossed the north line of Butler township at about 1 1/2 miles east of the
village of Rankin, it crossed the township from north to south angling a little from the direct line to the westward
and just south of Rankin was the little town or village of Riley. At this place sprung up a number of business
houses, an elevator and excellent railroad facilities to the part of the township that heretofore found it very
Much of the early history of the township is a matter of tradition, and inasmuch as the memory of man is fickle
and many of the facts that would be of great interest to have recorded in this article, have long since been forgotten
by the present generations and the ones who could relate them best have long since passed away. Only a few of the
early settlers that occupied this country prior to 1860 are living to tell the story. As nearly as can be determined
there are but very few of these early settlers living today who came to this township prior to 1859. Of these there
are Hiram Armentrout and his wife, who settled on the south half of section two (22-13) in 1855, and resided on
the same until a few years ago when they removed to Rossville, and reside there at the present time. Scott Armentrout
their only son resides on the farm having lived where he was born and nowhere else all his life.
Mr. Armentrout is 81 past, very hardy and never used glasses and his eye sight is good to this day. Amos Hoff moved
to the northeast 1/4 of the southeast of section 9 and the northwest 1/4 of the southwest 3/4 of sections 10-22-13
in 1857 and resided there until a few years ago when he and his life companion removed to Rossville where they
now reside. Mr. Hoff is 78 and quite active, and his wife is 75. Wesley Blackford settled on the west half of the
southwest 34 of sections 2-22-13 in 1859, where he now resides having lived there continuously ever since. His
wife having passed on several years ago. As far as is known he is the only one now living in the township that
was there at that time. The pictures of these very old people and the companions of the first two are given elsewhere
in this volume.
Coal was unknown in this territory in these early days. It was a custom of the farmers who resided in this country
to procure for themselves a small tract of timber to furnish them their supply of fire wood and material for their
fences and building purposes. These years of hard times were full of many incidents that would be interesting to
relate if they could only be procured and space could be given. In the absence of the railroads the markets for
this township were Chicago and Danville after the railroad came, and later Loda and Paxton when the I. C. railroad
had been built. During the winter months the farmers were busy marketing the grain because it took much time to
deliver a few bushels as the distance was so great. An incident is told of Thomas Towe and Mr. McCune. Towe had
come to this country in '56, settled on section 7-23-13. Along in the fall sometime Towed and McCune had gone to
Middle Fork. McCune to get a load of wood and Towe for a load of sand. This timber, twelve miles away, was the
nearest fuel they could obtain. They knew nothing of coal at that day. McCune had a good team of horses and his
partner was driving three yoke of oxen of course, he had to go on foot. Night overtaking them they became completely
To be lost on the prairie at night is the nearest thing to being "finally lost" that one experiences
in this life. There is absolutely no clue by which the most skillful detective could work out. Especially is this
so when the wind does not blow. Teams are liable to walk around in a circle, and in the absence of any light, which
can be seen on such occasions many miles, the wanderers not unfrequently find it necessary to spend the night on
the prairie. In this case the benighted travelers set to hallooing with all their might, and after an hour of such
exercise they were heard by Mr. Stamp, who fired a gun to attract their attention. As soon as they could ascertain
the direction of this first "gun at daybreak" they started for it at double quick; Towe ahead leading
the van with his steers, and McCune following like a general officer on dress parade, glad to ride where Towed
should lead. They came to one of those ponds which at that time were numerous on these prairies, and the leader
fearing to turn to the right or the left lest he should lose his direction, plunged in knee deep, yelling at the
top of his voice to keep up his courage, and to keep their gunner acquainted with their whereabouts. McCune rode
out the storm like a major, and never looked on that pond after that without almost fancying he could see Towe
knee deep in the flood. Mr. Towe returned to New York, and John, who remained to carry on the farm, went to the
army and was killed. Squire Bowers, in returning from Loda one night, got lost and became mired in a pond. He took
off the horses and walked around all night to keep from being numbed with the cold. It was customary when the father
of the family was belated, to place a candle in the window which looked in the direction he was to come, and many
a man has been saved a night on the prairie by "keeping the lower light burning."
The nearest mill for a time was at Myersville, until Persons purchased and refitted the Ross Mill. The nearest
trading point was at Loda, twelve miles north, which was a famous point for trade for all this country until the
distillery burned and the building of the railroads drew merchants away from there, until now there is nothing
left of its former business importance.
In the early days the people here did not raise many cattle for some reason. As previously stated, all tried wheat
for a time, until continued failures used up all they had kept for seed, without any return. Still they bought
seed and sowed again. Corn and hogs were the staple. Hogs always brought a paying price, and it was before cholera
had been invented. Stock and corn are the principal staples of the farmer yet. Flax has been raised some, and was
considered a fair crop. To the renter it was considered an available crop, for it "turns" so much earlier
than corn that it enabled him to get something to live on several months before he could for corn. It is doubtful,
however, if there is a native of the township of the present generation that ever saw in its confines a crop of
Land was worth from $2.50 to $5 per acre. Some sold as high as $9 before the railroad was built, and some sold
in anticipation of that building as high as $12. Eight dollars was probably a fair average for land two years before
the railroad was built. Twenty to twenty five dollars could hardly be called an exorbitant price as late as 1885.
The present price of land in the township is from $100 to $175 or probably $200 per acre.
McCune says that as late as 1857 he has seen here on this prairie as many as twenty deer at a time, and at one
time he saw on section 7 fifty four in one lot going in a northwesterly direction, and wolves were as thick as
rabbits. As late as 1858, of a flock of sheep, which had got away from a man living north of here, eighty were
killed in a single night. Badgers were also plenty. They were as large as a dog, and stronger, with a thick neck,
and too strong for any dog to master. Rattlesnakes were so plenty that on a single farm a hundred were killed in
a single season. It is a wonder that more people were not killed by them. Dogs that were bitten by them seemed
to know how to cure themselves.
Prairie mud was a very certain cure. They were really a dangerous neighbor, yet the children went bare footed to
school or hunting strawberries as now. They seem as adverse to civilization as any of their wild neighbors, and
as the prairie grass was killed out by being plowed and cultivated they disappeared. The last seen of them here
was about 1870. It is doubted whether any survived the shriek of the locomotive or the high taxes of modern civilization.
We used to have squirrels here, red and gray, not unlike those in the timber but smaller, and with shorter tails.
Prairie chickens were of course very plenty, and the reverberating "boom" of their matins, ushering in
an October morning, will never be forgotten by the old settlers, and probably never heard in its fullness by the
new. Sand hill cranes were very numerous, as they nested here in the ponds on this divide, and, if undisturbed,
would make havoc of the corn in the spring, taking two rows at a time, as clean as any man could root it up, and
in the fall would congregate in great numbers if not driven away. The writer remembers very distinctly when a boy
of building a trap for the purpose of catching prairie chickens, that was in shape of an ordinary square box about
18 inches wide by 4 feet long, and 2 feet high, and the top was simply a trap door. The trap was baited with corn
and an ear of corn usually extended upright on a cross piece. The prairie chickens would light upon these trap
doors to peck the ear of corn and would be precipitated, before they could get away, into the box or trap, and
it was not uncommon in going to the trap on the early morning to find from two to one half dozen prairie chickens
William H. Tennery who lived across the line in Middle Fork township was known far and wide as the stock man of
that country. It was he who turned the grand prairie of Butler township into a grazing field for the Texas cattle.
The year the I. C. R. R. was built as far south as Loda, which at that time was the terminus, he bought from Butler
township, mostly, and from adjoining territory a load of hogs for shipment, and this was in all probability the
first and the largest drove of hogs that had ever been shipped out of the territory. He loaded his hogs on the
1. C. R. R. at Loda, having 500 head, intending to ship them to Buffalo, New York. He landed in Chicago in due
time, unloaded the hogs, was detained there three or four days waiting for cars to ship them from Chicago east,
and at last he succeeded in getting cars enough for his hogs. He reached Detroit without a mishap, arriving there
in the early winter, learning that the Detroit river was frozen over and the railroad traffic between Detroit and
Buffalo, by means of ferry, was closed. He unloaded his hogs, kept them in Detroit for several days, feeding them
60 cent corn. Early one morning he conceived an idea, and he says to the landlord of the hotel, "Is there
not a place in the river where the water is still that would probably freeze over?" The landlord advised him
that there was, a short distance out of the city. Mr. Tennery procured a saddle horse and started out to investigate.
He found the river frozen over and with an axe crossed the river testing the ice from time to time to determine
whether it was solid enough to bear. He found the river coveted with a coat of ice about six inches thick, and
satisfied that his idea was good, he returned to the city of Detroit, engaged six teams for the next clay to haul
him straw. Early in the morning the teams arrived on the scene with the straw, which he had them scatter on the
ice entirely across the river, then he had men cut holes in the ice, threw water on the straw until it was frozen
fast to the ice. This done, it formed a footing for his hogs. He opened the gates in the stock pen, drove his hogs
to the road, thus made across the river and drove the 500 head over the river on the ice landing them safely on
the other side at which point they were reloaded on the railroad train and shipped into the city of Buffalo. Such
was the transportation of stock in those days.
The women who had the courage to leave their more comfortable homes in the cast and come west to assist their husbands,
their chosen companion for life, to carve out of this uninviting prairie a home, are certainly deserving of mention
in this article. When the neighbors were few and far between and the husband was away on the business of making
a living, it was indeed, lonesome for the wife who was left to look after the household affairs. One incident has
been mentioned, the wife of Adam Bratton said that after she came to this country there was a period of three months
that she did not see a solitary woman. Mr. Bratton settled in 1854 on the east half of the northwest quarter of
12-22-13. Many such incidents could no doubt be mentioned. There was also the danger of burning of the house and
the buildings by the prairie fires. In the fall of the year when the fire would get started it took more than an
ordinary plow furrow or a trail across the prairie to stop it, and when once the fire was started the flames would
leap a furrowed track many feet in width and gather velocity and go on. It was no uncommon thing for the settlers
who had been from home to discover when they came in sight of their little belongings that it was threatened with
the dreadful prairie fires, and were forced some times to run their horses for miles in order to save their little
Game was very abundant, deer, prairie chicken, duck and geese in the spring and fall. It was no uncommon thing
even as late as '65 and '70 and even later than that for the men of the community to gather together and have a
wolf drive and chase over the prairies. It was certainly a pretty sight to see a half dozen mounted men riding
without a thing to impede their progress for miles over the prairies chasing the wolf. The prairie wolf was very
cunning, and it was not uncommon for them to elude their pursuer and get away.
Butler township furnished its quota of men for the Civil war, among the number were the Liggett boys, the Ballard
boys, and many others. Most of them mentioned were in the 125th Illinois, but there was no company organized distinctly
from this township.
The writer recently visited the township calling upon the old settlers, and was much surprised to find that so
few of the early settlers of the township or their descendents now owned or occupy the land in the township. O.
O. Ross, now of Hoopeston, one of the early settlers in East Lynne and the first to open a bank, now owns a large
acreage south and west of East Lynne. The village of East Lynne has not made any rapid growth, but has about held
its own. N. R. Hall entered business in 1875 and seems to be the only one who has continuously been in business
for that length of time now in the village. He still conducts the hardware store where he opened it many years
ago. As has been elsewhere stated in this article, the old school building consisting of two rooms was added to,
and is today a good school of four rooms. The Methodist church with J. W. Armstrong, pastor, is the only church
in the village. There was formerly a Baptist church, but it has been abandoned for several years, and the ground
upon which it stood reverted to the original owners. There are two grain elevators that are doing an excellent
business, furnishing a market for the grain in a large area of the county. E. C. Kelly of the south side, runs
a general store, as does also Mr. Cunningham. Dr. Berry is the only physician in the village and the proprietor
of the drug store. The town has a very comfortable hotel conducted by the Misses Harris. The village has one bank
known as the Bank of East Lynne. It is a private institution with T. G. Luxton, one of the old settlers, as president,
and F. P. McCord, as cashier. The capital stock of this bank is $10,000.00, carries a surplus of $10,000.00 and
the deposits aggregate about $75,000.00. The individual responsibility of the bank is rated at $150,000.00. The
familiar names that were formerly on the places of business such as O. E. Wilson, Messrs. Aiken, Hall, French,
Morey and Gardner are all gone. Arthur R. Hall, a prominent attorney of the city of Danville, is a son of F. M.
Hall, who was in the grain business many years in this village.
Rankin today is a prosperous village of one thousand inhabitants. It has three general stores, conducted by Henneberry
& Morrow, successors to J. L. McCauley; the Rankin Store Company, by William Bauer, manager; and the other
Cuno Sidel, successor to Sidel & Bramer. There are a number of grocery stores and restaurants and one exclusive
jewelry store. Rankin has an eight room, brick, with basement, school building, with a four years' high school
course, employing at the present five teachers. It is one of the good graded schools of the county. The present
building was built in 1892. There was some opposition to this building, but as is usually the case right prevailed
and an excellent building was the result. They have a library in the school worth probably $18,000.00. The school
property is valued at $18,000.00. The school is held for a term of 8 1/2 months, and W. E. Waggoner is the present
principal. In 1893 the L. E. & W. R. R. established just east of the village a round house and shop, which
today has a pay roll of approximately S10,000.00 per month, giving employment to 8o or too men, which gives business
enthusiasm to the village. Rankin has four churches. The Catholic church, with Rev. Father Healy of Loda as pastor,
holding services every two weeks. The Methodist church, which was mentioned before as an off spring of the Swartz
chapel or class, has a very comfortable edifice and parsonage, and Rev. John Cusic giving one half of his time
to this church and the balance of his time to No. One chapel, is the pastor. The Presbyterian church which was
originally a branch of the United Presbyterian church has a very active membership and Rev. C. J. Grimes is the
present pastor. The Swedes have played a very important part in the development of the north and the northwest
part of the township, and they have an established church with a very comfortable building known as the Swedish-Lutheran
church, Rev. Peter Pierson is pastor. Rankin has two grain elevators that does a business of about 400,000 bushels
of grain per annum each.
One of the early established financial institutions of the village is the bank known as the Rankin Witham &
Company Bankers, organized as a private bank with a capital stock of $25,000.00, deposits $150,000.00, with an
individual responsibility of $1,000,000.00. This bank is one of the strong financial institutions of the county
and one in which the Butler township people may well be proud. The township boasts of one newspaper, which is located
at Rankin, known as the Rankin Independent, having been a very influential factor in the community for more than
twelve years with C. E. Groves as editor. M. C. Ellis manages and controls the present tile factory of the village.
It has been a long established business. It is doubtful if there is another township in the county in which so
few of the early settlers or the descendants of the early settlers now reside as in Butler. The title to the land
in the township has practically all passed from the original owners to others. Notwithstanding this Butler township
has been wide awake and its people have been active and energetic and are proud of the fact that the legalized
saloon has never had a footing in its territory. There have been a few times when liquor was sold clandestinely,
but they were permitted to stay but a short time until the active people of the community drove them out. There
has truly been a wonderful transformation from the vast and trackless prairie as it existed in the early fifties,
and as it appears today dotted everywhere with beautiful groves, elegant farm homes, school houses, churches, railroad
and good public roads, all the evidence of thrift and industry. It hardly seems possible that within so short a
time, practically a half century, such wonderful transformations could be brought about.
If any name has been omitted in this article, or any industry or business that should have been mentioned, it is
an oversight and not the intent.