History of Middle Fork Township, Vermilion County, Il
From: History of Vermilion County, Illinois
By: Lottie E. Jones
Pioneer Publishing Company
Chicago 1911


The township called Middle Fork, lies in that part of Vermilion County where the three main branches of the Vermillion river unite and form that stream. Middle Fork township is bounded on the north by Butler, east by Ross, south by Blount and Pilot, and west by the county line. At the time of organization this township included not only all of Butler township but all of that part of Ford, running up to the Kankakee river, and was more than 60 miles long. That was in 1851. There was not an inhabitant north of what is now known as Blue Grass Grove, where a few families had collected around Horse Creek. These people refused to recognize the authority vested in Danville some 75 miles to the south. When Richard Courtney was elected assessor, in 1852, he determined to enforce the law, and went into this neighborhood to assess the property. He was met with defiance on the part of the people which went to the extent of the women attacking him with brooms and other feminine articles of warfare. A determination to do his duty under the law, however, made him stand firm and after securing the help of a lawyer, who lived there, to make the assessment. Middle Fork township contained, originally, about twelve sections of timber land, which was more in the form of pretty well defined groves, with little of undergrowth, and hazel brush patches which later grew into timber land, than of what is generally called timber. This timber is about all gone at this time, however. The main branch of the Middle Fork passes nearly through the township until its junction with Bean creek, when it turns southwest and passes into Pilot township. Along the Middle Fork, after leaving the main body of timber on the south, were Collisons Point, Colwell timber, Partlows timber, Douglas Moore timber, and Buck Grove. The Blue Grass branch, which comes from the north, joining the main branch near Marysville. had Bob Courtney's grove and Blue Grass Grove on it. Merritt's Point was on Bean creek as were other early homes of the early settlers who were eager to take advantage of the combined shade and shelter and good water for their cattle. Of all the territory of the northern part of Vermilion County, none offered a better opportunity for comfortable homes than did Middle Fork township. Many of the early settlers made their homes along the creek bottoms seeking at once protection from the imagined terrors of the prairie, and the convenient water. Without exception such families were subject to sickness, severe and fatal. This fear of the prairies seems hardly to be credited now, yet to the early settler they were of but one use, there was no doubt that the prairies of Illinois would never have other use than to pasture great herds of cattle which would roam over them, as the herds do over the vast pampas of South America. The streams through the pieces of timber were peculiar in one respect. When the first settlers came these streams seemed to have worn no channels for the water courses. Every little rain spread them out into great ponds. Whether it was owing to the peculiar nature of the soil, or whatever may have been the cause, or causes, they did not wear deep channels. Wherever there was an obstruction as a fallen tree, the water poured over and made a deep pond or hole, which remained deep the year around. In these deep places large fish were caught and many and startling are the fish stories, even yet, told of the fish caught in Middle Fork township.

One of the singular things about the grass found on the prairie when the first settlers came, was the fact that it was without seed or any means of propagation. When it was once killed by any means, or circumscribed in any way, it could not by any process spread. It was impossible to spread it. It was the more strange because Nature has never given another case of the actual absence of the quality of propagation. When this native grass was destroyed, Nature furnished another covering. Several thousand acres of Kentucky blue grass which lay around and through the Blue Grass Grove in Middle Fork township, was found by the earliest settlers and seemed unaccountable. Many accounted for its presence by thinking the Indians had brought the seed. This belief was cherished until after the nature of grasses was more generally known. Blue grass is as much a native product as is the prairie grass. The Pottawatornie and Kickapoo Indians had this grove as a habitat. They had cultivated in their own way, a small patch of corn which had destroyed the prairie grass and blue grass ran "in" as is said. The actual spot where the corn was planted was but a small portion of the space where the native grass was destroyed, for the entire place where the Indians lived and kept their horses, made the same conditions for the spread of the other native grass supplied by Nature, and the vast space was covered with blue grass. This is the simple cause for the presence of the vast blue grass pasture found in Middle Fork township. The first settlers found corn growing here so recently had it been the home of another race. No plow was known to Indian farming. The corn was planted in hills a little closer than it is now, and was hoed by the women and hilled up very much in the way potatoes are cultivated in small gardens. The following year the corn was planted in hills between those the first year and the soil which had been hoed up around the the last year's planting was billed around the new. The only variety of corn they planted was the spotted ears, red and white. When the corn was harvested it was put into a cave dug in the dry knolls. Here it was buried until it was wanted.

The first settlement was made in Middle Fork in 1828 by Mr. Partlow, and his grown family from Kentucky. Michael Cook, William Bridges, Mr. Gray, and John Smith (plain) were among the earliest settlers of this section. This particular John Smith was a singular man and always signed his name in this manner. There was a John Smith in the county who always signed his name John Smith (Eng.) and this other man of the same name made his signature in this way. After Gurdon Hubbard went to Chicago there was a strong drawing of Vermilion County people toward the north of that direction, and many of the citizens of Middle Fork township went to Milwaukee and Galena. Few of these bettered themselves, however. Charles Bennett settled at Collisons Point in 1828.

The first school taught in the township was by Rev. Ryman, being in a house four miles west of Myersville, about 1842. In 1835 a county road was established through Rossville and Blue Grass from the state line, west. A few years after, this was known as the Attica road. Thomas Owens bought a farm and moved a house on section 16, and commenced keeping a tavern. A store and postoffice soon followed, and a blacksmith shop was started. Blue Grass, as the little burg was called, was a busy and promising place until the era of railroads, where neighboring villages secured the new means of transportation and outstripped it in the race for distinction.

The postoffice at Blue Grass was established in 1843 and John Carter appointed postmaster. This was the only postoffice in the northwestern part of the county and it was no uncommon thing to see a hundred people standing there when the mail came in. In 1850, John Carter and George Small laid out and platted a town which consisted of two blocks, one on each side of the county road. The La Fayette Oil Mill Co. built a flax warehouse there and for some years Mr. Hartwell run that and did a thriving business. Hartwell, Scott & McDaniels, Groves & Butler, Henderson & Lee, and Davis & Hall, successively, sold goods in Blue Grass. During and after the close of the civil war trade was good, these firms selling as much as $25,000 per year.

The Havana, Rantoul & Eastern R. R. (narrow gauge) runs through the township from east to west, a mile south of its center. Mr. Gifford, the president of the company, lived in Rantoul. He went to Blue Grass in 1874 and asked for a stock subscription of $2,000 per mile. The citizens had heard a lot of railroad talk before and had not much confidence in this, but subscribed some $16,000. The road was completed to Alvan by Christmas, 1876, and from Alvan to Lebanon in 1878, and from Rantoul, west to LeRoy in 1879. Marysville was built upon the prairie, but at the time of its being built, was pretty nearly surrounded with timber. John Smith (plain) was the first man here, but Isaac Meneley, Mr. Morehead and Robert Marshall, who were living on the other side of the creek, soon came to help him make a town here. When the village was a certainty, and a name was sought, it was found that both Mr. Smith and Mr. Meneley had wives whose given names were Mary, and it was decided to call the new village for these two women and Marysville was the name it has ever since borne. When it became a postoffice this name had to be changed to Potomac. At the February term of the county court, in 1876, a petition was presented by Rigden Potter and thirty seven others, asking for the organization of Marysville under the act for the incorporation of villages, with the following bounds: commencing at the southeast corner of section 3, town $1, range 13; thence north to the northeast corner of the section; thence west to the northwest corner of the east one half corner of the northeast one fourth of said section; thence south to the north of the right of way of the railroad; thence west along said right of way, 40 rods; thence south 40 rods to the center of Main street; thence east along the center of Main street, 27 rods; thence south to south line of said section; thence east to place of beinging. The petition set forth that there were within said proposed bounds 323 inhabitants. An election was called for April 2, when fifty seven votes were cast, forty six of them being for incorporation.

Marysville has lately been lost in the name of Potomac, and the artesian sells of the section has made it famous.

Armstrong is another of the villages of Middlefork township. It is located on the H. R. & E. R. R., four miles west of Marysville. It was platted in 1877 on land belonging to Thomas and Henry Armstrong.

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