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


No section of the country in this part of Illinois presents a more attractive view than that occupied by Pilot township. Pilot is one of the original townships reported by the committee appointed to divide the county into townships. in December, 1850. It has the name then given. The committee's report, submitted on the 27th of February, 1851, bounded the township as follows: Beginning at the southeast corner of section 34, in town 20, range 12, go north to the east corner of section 3 in said town; thence to the southeast corner of section 33, town 21, range 12; thence north to the northeast corner of section 21 in said town 21; thence west on the section line to the northwest corner of section 22, in town 21, range 14; thence south on the county line to the southwest corner of section 34, town 20, range 14; thence east on the south line of town 20. to the place of beginning. Since that time the township has undergone some changes in boundary, the principal one being the two mile slice from the south side upon the formation of Oakwood township in 1868. At present it is bounded as follows: Beginning at the southeast corner of section 20, town 20, range 12, go north one half mile; thence west one fourth mile; thence north one and one half miles; thence west to the northwest corner of section 17 in said town; thence north two miles; thence west to the southeast corner of section 35, town. 21, range 13; thence north two miles; thence west one half mile; thence north one mile; thence west to the county line; thence south on the county line to the southwest corner of section 22, town 20, range 14; thence east to the point of starting. From these boundary lines it will be seen that Pilot now contains sixty five and one eighth square miles; that it is ten miles from east to west in its longest portion; that it is seven miles wide, and that it lies mostly in ranges 13 and 14, only a small portion being in range 12. Pilot is bounded on the north by Middle Fork township, on the east by Blount, on the south by Oakwood, and on the west by Champaign County. It occupies the middle of the western side of Vermilion County.

The surface of this township is undulating, or gently rolling, in the central part. In the south and southwest portions the tendency is to flatten out and become too level. Along the eastern edge we have the brakes of the Middle Fork. There is a high portion of the township which is known as California Ridge. It is the water shed between the waters of the Salt and Middle Forks. It is exceptionally high ground for this country, and has on it some of the most desirable farms in the state of Illinois. Nearly all of the land is prairie. There is some timber on the eastern side along the Middle Fork, though not much of the Middle Fork timber extends into Pilot townshp, and there is a small grove near the center of the township known as Pilot Grove. This point of timber, away out in the prairie, away from any stream, and on the highest portions of land in the country, very naturally attracted the attention of early settlers. It was called Pilot on account of its peculiar situation, this rendering it a kind of guide - a kind of beacon light to the explorers of the prairie. The township derived its name from this grove. There are no streams in Pilot of importance, with the exception of Middle Fork, which skirts the edge on the east, now in and now without the limits of the township. The head waters of Stony Creek take their rise in the western part, and there is a small stream flowing into Middle Fork from the northeastern part, called Knight's Branch. But water is furnished by good wells in a sufficient quantity for man and beast, and is elevated to the surface by the power of the wind, which in this country has free scope, and is almost constantly blowing.

There is no village within the borders of Pilot. It has one postoffice and store, but a village has not been laid out. It is entirely devoted to agricultural interests, and these are well represented. The soil is black, deep and fertile. In some places it is necessary to drain in order to secure good results, but there is a greater portion of this township that will yield good crops without drainage than of any other, perhaps. in the county. Corn, wheat, oats, flax and grass are the principal products. Cattle and hogs are grown in vast numbers. There is more than the usual amount of grazing and cattle growing. Sheep are kept quite extensively by a few, and they report the business successful. It is said to be the best paying business that can be followed in this country. Very little of the vast acres of corn are shipped. It is generally bought up by cattle feeders in the neighborhood. A good thing in Pilot is the herd law. People fence in their stock instead of their grain. This they found easier and less expensive. Vast areas of corn and other grain may be seen growing by the roadside, with nothing in the shape of a fence anywhere in sight. Pilot, like some other portions of West Vermilion, suffers socially from a number of large land owners. When this country began to settle up, men who realized the importance of the movement strove to get possession of large areas, that they might have the advantage of the rise in value. The prairies of Pilot offered as attractive farms as any in the country, and accordingly we find here a number of farms, each of which includes vast areas. These would not have been as detrimental to the best interests of the community, had the owners been able, in every case, to improve them and keep them up with the progress of the times.

The points for early settlement were two - the timber of Middle Fork and Pilot Grove. Accordingly, we find settlements made at the places at quite an early date. The first white settler within the limits of this township is not now positively known. So many conflicting stories reach the ear that one cannot positively affirm that such were actually the first persons within certain limits. It is probable that James McGee was the first man in here. He came, as near as can now be ascertained, in 1824 or 1825. The McGees (for there were a number of them afterward) remained in the neighborhood for a long time, but finally moved away. Mr. Griffith, we are told by some, came before this man. Griffith was in what is now Oakwood township, but just on the edge, and in the same neighborhood. In 1827 Morgan Rees and the Juvinalls came into the township and settled on the Middle Fork, above where the others had stopped. Morgan Rees is still living in Blount township, but on the west side of the creek, near where he settled fifty two years ago. He has been most of his time right here, and is, perhaps, better acquainted with the history of this part of the county than any other man living. The Juvinalls were well known in this community, all through the years of pioneer life. The old man, father of a number of boys, came with his family at the early date before mentioned. His first name was John, and his sons were Andrew, David James, and John Juvinall, Jr. David and Andrew were married when they came. The children of Andrew still live in the neighboorhood. But the Juvinalls came from Ohio. The Morrison family came in a little farther up, about the same time. Morrisons were important elements in the neighborhood, but they finally went away. William Trimniell came about the year 1828. He settled in the same neighborhood. There are still a few of the name found in various parts of the county.

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