Oakwood was founded shortly after the end of the civil war in 1870.
SOME ORIGINAL LOT SALES
Henry J. Oakwood took quite an active interest in the new village of Oakwood Station. He seemed to be the town’s early “banker”. He was a wise business man, shrewd at times and generous at others. In September of 1870 Henry purchased a number of lots from the village proprietor,
Clark R. Griggs, for one dollar. Below is how he disposed of them:
Buyer Lot Bik Date Price Remarks
Milton Stewart 12 15 1-10-71 $ 50 First Store*
Benjamin Longstrethl4&15 15 5-15-71 $100
Margaret Thomas 8 15 1-10-71 $ 50
Martin R. Oakwood ll 15 2-3-71 $ 50
Christian Piepenbrook Outlots 12-5-72 $ 50
John Orr 4 & 5 6 12-5-72 $100
John A. Saylor 7 15 3-13-73 $ 50
William Dulin 10 15 3-28-72 $ 50
William Dulin 13 15 6-10-74 $ 50
Elizabeth A. Lewis 1, 2 & 3 18 8-20-74 $100
Robert Gavin 6 17 6-10-74 $ 50
Lodge IOOF #564 1 & 2 16 8-9-74 $600
Oakwood 1 & 2 16 2-11-79 $600
William Dulin 4 & 5 17 11-30-74 $ 70
John A. Young & Co. 9 15 6-4-81 $ 50
Amanda F. Crawfordl 3 & 14 16 11-24-81 $200
Lucy Whitmore 6 & 7 7 8-29-83 $100
- Lodge IOOF #564 was trying to buy the warehouse. The railroad had promised free lifetime rent to anyone who would build a warehouse. It stood at the southwest corner of South Main and Scott Streets facing the railroad. It had a hall on the second story. Imagine the builder chagrin when he learned the railroad had sold him out. Unless Henry Oakwood was the builder? The railroad apparently promised Stewart and Johns the same, as they had their store going in 1870.
However, Henry let them off the hook, charging them lot price only.
And Then Came the Railroads
The Indianapolis, Bloomington and Western Railroad, better known as the IB&W, was built in 1870 and 1871. It came through Oakwood Township in the spring of 1870. Immediately the villages of Fithian, Oakwood Station, and Muncie were platted in that order. In December of 1869 Clark R Griggs purchased 50 acres along the proposed railroad route from several farmers. They were William C Harrison, Thomas W Scott and Lemuel C Collett. In late March and early April, according to the Danville Press, Lewis S. Olmstead, the Railroad Surveyer laid out the village of Oakwood Station. The County Surveyor, Asa H. Guy was then called in and it is his name that appears in the courthouse officially platting hte village on Apri 14, 1870. Fithian had been platted on the 8th of April. Muncie was platted on September 7, 1875.
Muncie originally was to be named Corbly for the orignal owner of the farm Muncie sits on. A street still bears that name. Independence was then considered for a name, before finally settling on Muncie. Muncie is one of the few towns with a name from an Indian word. Muncie’s original train station was built by Corbly when he reached a deal with the train company and is shown on one of the original maps of Muncie. In a letter from Fithian (Fithian Book by Cannon) Dr. Fithian reflected that Corbly would not be able to find enough water though to supply the trains that passed through and was nothing for Fithian to worry about.
Surveyors stones were set at the center intersection lines of Collett Avenue and Harrison and Scott Streets, and the center intersection lines of Finley Avenue and Harris Scott Streets. The location of these stones and the location of the depot would make one tent to believe that the first surveyor, Mr. Olmstead, was trying to make the intersection of Olmstead and North and South Main Streets the center of town. A fifth stone was placed at the intersection of Oakwood Street and the IB&W Railroad. Supposedly these stones are still there just below the blacktop.
The depot had been already built when the town was platted. The lumber for the depot in Danville was dropped off at Oakwood by mistake and Oakwood ended up with a much larger and nicer depot than they were supposed to get. The April 8, 1870 edition of the Danville Press quoted the Railroad executives as stating that, ” Oakwood Station marks the locality of a great, growing, thriving, populous city, inferior to none between St. Louis and Chicago.” The president of the railroad proposed a lease, indefinite of time, free of rent, to anyone who would erect a warehouse.
While the village is now time miles long from north to south at the 125 year anniversary, it was only three blocks long north to south in 1870. Of the original nine streets, Harrison, Scott, Oakwood, and Seymour Streets and Collett Avenue were named after prominent farm families in the neighborhood. Finley avenue was apparently named after the same man Finley’s Chapel was named for. Olmstead Street, was named after Lewis Olmstead, the chief engineer and surveyor for the IB&W Railroad.
Even though the railroad had probably killed of the first town of Oakwood (somewhere south of Muncie) Oakwood Station continued to be called that for many years before the “Station” part was dropped. As soon as the depot was built James G. Byerly from Canada began building a mill somewhere south of town. The first store was built by two enterprising young men, William Johns, age 25 and Milton Stewart, age 23. They built at the southeast corner of Scott and South Main even though they couldn’t yet afford the lot. It was a spacious open front dry goods store facing the
railroad. They opened the first of June 1870. William Johns was appointed the first postmaster May 9, 1870. There were only 5 people living in Oakwood that first summer, Johns and Stewart and the depot agent William L Perching, his wife Mary and their 2 year old son Earnest. There were probably only three buildings, the dry goods store, the depot and the depot agent’s house. Johns and Stewart soon added a line of groceries and notions.
The first lots in town were purchased April 30, 1870 by Lewis S. Olmstead, the chief engineer and surveyor of the railroad. Clark R. Griggs, the proprietor of Oakwood, and who surely must have worked for the railroad, sold the rest of the lots to Lemuel Collett, Christian Peipinbrook and Henry
J. Oakwood. Each man was charged one dollar with the bulk of the lots going to Henry J. Oakwood. Henry J. Oakwood then sold Johns and Stewart the lot their store was on.
In 1871 Henry Dulin opened a drug store and also sold groceries. A doctor by the name of Gavin opened an office. A few more houses were built. All was going well until Saturday, September 28, 1871, when disaster hit. Fire swept through the tiny village destroying nearly everything. Johns
and Stewart were the hardest hit. They had no insurance and probably still owed on their building, lot and contents. They left Oakwood in despair. Life was tough in those days. Henry Dulin rebuilt and became postmaster. Dr. Gavin apparently left. The depot, partially destroyed was rebuilt. Some of the houses had been saved. Tragedy again struck in January of 1872. This time it was Small Pox. There were 15 cases in the Oakwood area alone, with two people dying. Muncie and Fithian area were even harder hit.
NO SCHOOL, NO CHURCH
At first the tiny village had no church or school. The people walked one-half mile south to the State road to Finley’s Chapel and School. Finley’s Chapel was built in 1854 as a union church by the Christian New Lights. They never did get it paid for and it was sold in 1860 to Enoch Kingsbury
of Danville who sold it to the Methodists. School was held in the chapel until a school house could be built about 1855. This was in reverse of the normal way when the school was built first and the Church met there until they could afford to build. While the Methodists were meeting at the Chapel, the Christians would meet at the school. Sermons normally lasted from one to one and one half hours.
Faster by Rail
It was to take Abraham Lincoln two days to travel by horseback via the old “State Road” from Urbana to Danville. Now in the 1870’s it could be done in a little over an hour. Oakwood began to grow. By 1874 there were four businesses and twelve houses. Henry Dulin, George Applegate and Jerome Brown owned stores. The fourth if unknown. George Applegate was alto the postmaster. Jerome Brown built a two story building and the Odd Fellows started a chapter on the second floor.
Farmers in the area were beginning to grumble. Corn, which was fifty cents a bushel before the railroad came was now bringing only eighteen cents. An election was held in April 1874 by Oakwood Township to pass a bridge bill. The election judges were G. A. Fox, Henry Falice, Michael Oakwood, E.S. Fisher and Henry Sallee as town clerk. A fight broke out among four families over a fence. There were charges of impropriety made claiming the ballot was stuffed while the judges were watching the fight. However it was found that there were the same amount of votes as there were signatures. The bridge bill failed. No one wanted taxes back then either.
The third weekend of January 1875 the Meneely Family, a gospel singing group came to town. They sang at Finley’s Chapel for the Methodists on Friday night and Saturday and for the Christian Church on Saturday night. There were about 100 people for each performance, more than double the population of the village.
On the 23rd of February 1875, U. S. Court was held in session at Oakwood before Chief Justice Clem, supported by Esquire Traux. The case was “People versus Thompson”. Thompson was accused of meddling in other people’s business. He was acquitted.
Early in March of 1875 Jerome Brown’s Store burned, his entire stock of merchandise and the Odd Fellows Hall on the second floor also burned. Undaunted, he took on a partner by the name of Tailor and rebuilt. By June he was building himself a house.
Finley Chapel which was 1/2 mile south of the little village (today it would be on the northeast corner of Oakwood Street and US 150) continued to be the meeting place for the village. In October of 1877 a political debate was held there. The Democrats, Republicans, and Green backers all had their say.
In January of 1879 the Danville Press told of the following business people; Mr. Stolen’s Grocery, Mr. Myers, the railroad agent, Dr. Stephens, Joe McBroom, coal dealer and Henry Dulin’s drug store. G.H. Fox, John Saylor and George Applegate also had businesses. John Tailor was a corn buyer. John Chatten was a shoemaker. He skipped town in September owing board.
A FAMILY REUNION
On September 1, 1879, the Oakwood Family held their first annual reunion. They invited relatives, friends, neighbors and anyone who wanted to come. They held the reunion at the old Indian Campground 3/4 mile south of the village. Today this would be the Trailer Court. A 100 foot long table was set up. People came from far and near. It was such a success that they decided to keep it going. Officers elected were: Hen J. Oakwood as president, Hen Sallee as vice president, Joseph Truax as secretary, with G.A. Fox, J.H. Oakwood and Rev. Michael Oakwood as directors. This reunion was the highlight of the summer for many years to come in the Oakwood area.
By 1879 the population of Oakwood had increased enough that the little one room Finley School house was bulging at the seams. (The 1880 census of Oakwood shows 99 people.) During the summer of 1879 a new one room school 25 by 36 with 14 foot high ceilings was built on the same site. It had a porch most of the way across the front with two entry doors, one for the boys and one for girls. Long narrow windows lined each side. This building still stands on the original site at the 125th anniversary. School was held there until 1892. In February of 1893, Henry J. Oakwood purchased it and had it remodeled into a house. At the 125th anniversary it was the home of Mary DeRay Hair Styling on Oakwood Street two houses north of US 150 on the east side.
Townspeople began to grumble. Why didn’t they build the school in the village? The children will still have to wade the mud to go to school! Joe McBroom seized the opportunity. The McBroom Petition was circulated. It called for the township to gravel the road from Oakwood south 1/2 mile to
Finley’s Chapel and then west 3/4 of a mile. This would allow the good folk of Oakwood a good road to church and school in all kinds of weather. Now Joe McBroom was Oakwood’s coal dealer, and undoubtedly a good road for his coal wagons would increase his business. This was Oakwood’s first
TEACHERS AT FINLEY SCHOOL
Not all teachers at Finley school are known. W.H. Fox was teaching there in 1879. Mrs. Dr. A.L. Fox “with birch in hand” was the next teacher. Miss Florence Woodruff began teaching in September of 1883. The next known teacher was Miss Dora Longstreth in 1886.
NEW FACES OF THE 80’S
The 1880’s saw many new faces and buildings. John H. Young came from Indiana in 1880. He was a very active and energetic man. He became a top citizen of our town for the next 30 years. He owned a General Store on South Main between Scott and Olmstead Streets, and was also postmaster. Being a religious man, he made several attempts at reviving the now defunct Christian Church, and by perseverance he finally succeeded. In between these attempts he was active in the Methodist Church.
Frank Crawford became a brakeman on the IB&W Railroad in 1883, while G.L. Hiatt now owned the mill and purchased a new portable steam engine. Squire Longstreth built a “commodious looking barn”. The Methodists abandoned Finley Chapel as it was in bad shape. Services were held
in the school.
On April 13, 1885, James A. Rector purchased lots 16, 17, 18 in block 14 of the original town of Oakwood from Lewis Olmstead for $60. James Rector with his brothe-in-law, William K. Johnson started a Tile Factory. Their first building must have been small. There was a steam engine that ran a belt system for running the different machines. A male known as “Old Balsam” was used to haul dirt and clay to the factory. The tile factory was on the North side of Finley Avenue and just West ofHarrison Street. The clay was dug up on the East side of Harrison Street. The hole eventually got to a depth of 3 feet and filled with water and was known as Longstreth’s Pond. Mr. Longstreth deepened the pond and sold ice from it.
For reasons unknown, Rector sold out to his brother-in-law, Johnson, on March 20, 1886 for $1,357. Johnson immediately built on an addition.
The tile made was mostly round field tile of different sizes. A few bricks were made. Area farmers tiled their fields and the village was tiled. There was little call for tile away from the area as several villages in the area had tile factories, including Muncie. Johnson took out a mortgage of $365 in 1888. The loan came from Henry J. Oakwood, John A Clapp, Lemuel G Collett and William P Makemson. Apparently they were the loan company of that day.
Johnson took a second mortgage, April 6, 1889, for $400 from the same group. At least part of the money was used to pay off the first loan. On October 24, he took out a third mortgage of $202.61 from Chesley Brothers.
Henry J. Oakwood stepped in and made Johnson sign over the Tile Factory, the machinery and three lots for $10, but he just held on to the title and did not file it yet. All went well until May 21, 1891, when Johnson was forced to take out a fourth mortgage of $200 from John McCabe, Henry J Oakwood then stepped in and filed his deed and took charge. To compound Johnson’s troubles, “Old Balsam” died in February of 1892, Johnson did get his mortgage paid off by September of 1893, at which time Henry J Oakwood sold the property. The factory was torn down and later on a house was built on the property. The owners at the 125th anniversary were Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Wade. Ralph Wade was always finding pieces of tile and brick in his garden, and even some ladies clay pipes.
Harrison Rogers remembered skating on the old pond before it dried up and was filled in. Today there are houses on the old pond site.
1886 was the busiest year so far in Oakwood’s brief history. A constable was hired by the name of Hughes. Rector sold his interest in the Tile Factory to his brother-in-law Johnson. Johnson started an addition the Tile Factory. Dr. and Mrs. A.L. Fox moved to Danville. Dr. Leaka of Fairmount moved to Oakwood. Up until this time Doctors came and went, some not even staying a year. People did not spend their hard earned money on doctors until they had to. Home remedies were the thing. Dr. Leaka was the first to come and stay. He also sold insurance, was a Notary Public, and became the Postmaster.
E.M. Lowler sold his blacksmith shop and residence to Mr. Wright of Ogden who moved here. Morgan Oakwood began building a large substantial residence on his farm one mile south of Oakwood. This is the large two story house on South Oakwood Street where Don-Mar Nursery is located. Maude McClure presently lived there at the 125th anniversary of Oakwood.
The second weekend in September the town was deserted. Most residents were gone to the Catlin Fair. The Old Soldiers went to the “Grand Reunion” at Hoopeston.
Coal was 4 cents a bushel. There were many wagons of it passing through town from the south. Coal still comes through Oakwood occasionally only now it comes by Semi-Tractor and Trailer at the 125th anniversary.
The Tile Company was also doing very well. The town had been completely tiled. The following area farmers were doing extensive tiling; L.G. Collett, Seymour Brothers, Henry J. Oakwood, William Trimmell and son-in-law B.B. Fox, David Saylor, Charles Hillman, S.B. Young, J.A. Clapp, J.M. Doran, J.B. Kinney, W.M. Oakwood, and William Meade. Samuel Taylor tiled and drained the swamp land one mile southeast of town. This was a marshy lake from which Lake Shore one room school received its name.
By 1886 the village had nearly doubled in size since the 1880 census. Below is a list of improvements completed by 1886;
John H. Young added 3 rooms, a barn and a well
J.A. Saylor Brick stove room
J.H. Young & Co. An addition to store
J.D. Frolen An addition to store
W.F. Crawford Addition to home and well
J. Jones Addition to home and painting
D. Hockenberry Addition to home and painting
W.R. Stillwell New house
F.I. Whitman Addition to house and repairing
Mrs. D.S. Hall Addition to house and painting
Dr. J.W. Leaka New house
G. Wright New House and Blacksmith Shop
W. S. Redman New house
J. Truax New 2 story house, out building and well
C.Hillman New house, barn, well, and out building
F. Cassell New house, stable, and fence
M.E. Church New Church house
The Rest of the 80’s
The winter of 1886-1887 was very cold. The roads were icy and travel treacherous with only the blacksmith’s reaping a rich harvest shoeing horses.
James Harrison, grandfather and namesake of Harrison Rogers, became a merchant in the town in 1887, and Joseph Truax built a storeroom with a second story hall for the I.O.O.F. This building sat at the northeast corner of Scott and South Main Streets, facing the railroad as did most of the stores at this time.
In February of 1889 word was received that Lemuel G. Collett had shot himself in California. He was a well-respected farmer in the Oakwood area. One of our original streets was named after him. He had been on an extended trip for his health to the Northwest and had gone down to California. Those who viewed the body did not believe suicide and suspected foul play. He was born October 4, 1849 at Bell Foundau, Ohio. He left 3 sisters, Mrs. Layton of Oakwood, Mrs. Bud Lafin of Rossville and Mrs. Mattie Andrews of near State Line City, Indiana, and two brothers in Kansas or Missouri.
Little Frankie Redman, age 10 and son of William S. and Martha Redman was killed June 12, 1889 at the Tile Factory. He was bailing water from a trench under a belt and pulley system that ran the machinery. His foot slipped, he fell into the pulley and was horribly mangled. He is buried at Pleasant Grove Cemetery.
W. P. Trimmell purchased a fine span of matched black Belgian horses. Wm. Atwood of Pilot purchased Amos Seymour’s residence. Joseph Truax built a new tenant house. Charles H. Crawford and family moved here from Glossbrenner.
(DANVILLE PRESS MAY 22, 1889)
Largest Enterprise In Vermilion County
A Magnificent Piece of Engineering
The Biggest Strip-Bank In the State of Illinois
Nine Million Tons of Coal in Sight-Almost
Description of the Works-Origin of the Name-Stephen Griffith’s Estate Rescued and
Restored to Usefulness-Notes of a Flying Trip to the Fields
But few people have any idea of the magnitude of these mining operations, and it can only be realized by a personal inspection of the works. It was the good fortune of a select party to receive ThursdAy an invitation from Superintendent A. F. Bunker to make a visit to the Mission Fields. The party, consisting of a reporter of the Chicago Tribune, the manager and a reporter of The Daily Press, and others, after a pleasant drive of an hour through shaded woodland and roads, through ‘”Whistleville” and still farther on, “Shakerag”, arrived at the extension put down by the company to connect the fields with the 0., I&W. Railroad, one mile east of Oakwood. The company has, including sidings, over three miles of standard gauge tracks and one and one half of narrow gauge, the latter not yet completed, several bridges built in first-class style of the most engineering advances, One in particular is especially is worthy of particular mention, and that is the large one over the deep ravine just east of the sheave-tower. At its highest point it is 35 feet from the ground and is about 300 feet long, built of the strongest material and in design is almost perfect. It reflects great credit on its designer, Mr. Thomas R. Stocket Jr., the assistent engineer of the Consolidated Coal Company. The extension from the O.I. & W. is two miles long and is laid in the best manner known to the railroad engineer. In addition the company has over a mile of sidings and wyes at each end of the extension. The foresight of the engineer is shown by the system of wyes so that the engine coming from Danville Junction comes out head first without the necessity of a turntable, the putting in of which would involve considerable expense and trouble. It is the expectation of the company to send out sixty loaded cars of coal or 1,000 tons per day, keeping an engine busy taking away the loaded and bring back the empty cars.
(In connection it may be stated that every foot of track from the 0., I. & W. is the property of the company, and the railroad company has nothing to do with it only so far as to draw out the loaded and bring in the empty cars.)
Passing over the long bridge from the east siding the first object that attracted the reporter’s attention was the tall stacks of the engine house and the lean ribs of the huge sheave-tower at the brink of the steep hill, that always lies between the bottoms of the Illinois rivers and uplands. The engine room was first visited, and the size of the engines and the huge drum for the cabled incline and their operations were explained. The engines are direct-action Litchfield, with cylinders 18 x 32-giving the immense stroke of 32 inches. Some idea of the power that is exerted by them may be gained when it is remembered that steam is furnished them from these double O’Brien steel boilers of 90-horse power each. The engines are under the control of the engineer by a small lever and it is perfect. By direct-action it is meant that there is no gearing whatever, the engines communicating their power directly to the huge drum which over the 1 1/4 inch steel cable is wound. The weight of engine and drum is shown by the massive foundations of 11 feet of solid masonry.
Another interesting contrivance is a large dial that shows exactly at what point on the incline designer, Mr. Thomas R. Stockett, Jr., the assistant engineer of the Consolidated Coal the car is. The hand that sets in motion this vast machinery, the engineer’s is entirely out of from the dump, but can tell at a glance at this dial where the stops must be made. and the greatest power exerted. With all this mass of moving steel the noise is reduced to a minimum and it is difficult to realize their power, will move tons of coal with as much ease as child draws a wagon. The cable is double and over 1,000 feet long. Two cars of coal will be going up while two empties are going down. The sheave-tower is forty-five feet high and this, too, is the design of the able assistant engineer. It is built of massive oak timbers, and will withstand any strain brought to
bear upon it. The track passes directly under it, over an immense Fairbanks car scale, capable of weighing any weight that can be put upon it. Another feature of the incline cars is that they are entirely automatic, dumping themselves and re-turning to the bottom of the incline again for the loads, requiring only to throw on and off the connecting cables. The incline is pitched at 30 degrees r 58 feet to 100. Directly west of the engine room is the boiler house, containing three double 39 inch by 26 feet O’Brien steel boilers with two 14-inch flues and improved Dorrance grate-bars. These huge boilers develop a total horsepower of 270. These boilers furnish power for the many engines and pumps of the entire plant, six in all. The first, at the top of the hill, is the Ramsey stock car loader for loading box and cattle cars with coal, the engine in the screen house, that will stand directly west of the sheave tower for sorting the screenings from the main chute into nut, pea and slack coal, the car-puller at the top for pulling the cars into place under the dump, two pumps and boiler pump and fire engine in the boiler room. Next came to view the beautiful little narrow-gauge locomotive, that is named the Charles Ridgely, (after the president of the company) No. I,C.C.C. Co.
This little locomotive is indeed a beauty and will be used on the track into the fields at the foot of the incline. It will haul two two-ton cars with ease. The senior members of the party by this time expressing the most intense hunger, they scrambled down the hill and made a descent upon the tables of Mother Robinson of the Riverside Hotel, for the Mission People have a real hotel, and that good lady viewed with consternation the inroads made upon her good things, and right good cause had she, for the table when the party finished looked like it had been visited by a devastating cyclone. Not a vestige of the bountiful provision being left.
Cigars appeared in some mysterious manner, and the party started for the fields well pleased with the entertainment afforded by the Hotel Riverside. This imposing building is the largest now standing at the Mission Fields, and is 80 feet long by 20 wide, with a wing 13 x 32. It is under the ample care of Mrs. Joe Robinson, whose portly figure is a good indication of the food she sets before her large number of boarders. The fare is wonderfully good for a mining settlement, and would do credit to many a more pretentious hostelry.
Passing from the hotel the saw-mill of Joseph Dougherty is encountered. This gentleman is largely interested in the undertaking, both in the lumber and in large amounts of grading. He has already sawed for the company 250,000 feet, and will furnish as much more before the work is completed and in running order. Passing on west, the blacksmith shop is next met with. This is under the supervision of Will Wikoff, who was for so long the proprietor of the Walnut Street Shop.
His happy, grimy face was as pleasant as ever as he greeted the reporter with his old-time smile. Here is located the main pump for furnishing the tank at the boiler house on the hill with water. A pipe also runs from here to the culinary department of the Riverside, for the hotel must not for a moment be considered as lacking in improvements.
Passing on the party visited the first grocery and general store of the fields, Mac Dougherty proprietor. This youngster is a worthy son of his dad, and is doing a rattling trade. These buildings are just at the foot of the hill and here opens out the fields proper. The fields are in the form of a large oval with the accessible base lying near the hill; that is, about 500 yards from the foot. The track of the narrow-gauge extends in a straight line from the incline past the blacksmith shop for about 400 yards, where it makes an abrupt curve of about 100 feet and enters the coal strip, the grading for this is being done by Mr. Dougherty. Passing on, the reporter’s eyes beheld a huge bucket of earth rising from behind a huge bucket of earth rising from behind a huge embankment, accompanied by the rattle from its attendant engine. Passing around this large embankment.
STEAM DREDGE NO. 1
was seen busily at work throwing out 100 yards per hour. The engine of this dredge is nearly 100-home power. In addition to the dredge engine there is a pumping engine of 20-horse power aged for throwing the water out of the cut. The stripping contract is let to Wright & Wallace of yette Ind., who are to remove 300,000 yards for the company. At present this work is advancint, rapidly, there being nothing to impede the action of the scoops, except a 2-foot strata of soapstone and that is in reality no impediment at all, the huge scoops, scraping it up as though it were harder than the sandy-clay it underlies. But when the timber is reached at the south end of the oval tug of war will in reality begin. This part of the tract is heavily wooded and has an almost impenetrable undergrowth. To remove this will occasion considerable time and trouble, but nothing seems to be impossible, •judging from what they have already achieved, and the work is being energetically pushed, and before many months the entire area will be laid bare.
These scoops are something new in this section of the country and are well worth a trip to see. With what ease they descend, seize their huge mouthfuls of earth and rising out of the ditch swing to one side and eject the earth as if it was no longer tasteful. No. 1 throws out about 1000 yards per day when everything is favorable, and makes but little fuss about it either. Together both dredges have driven about 1500 feet and are rapidly advancing. –
But by far the most interesting part of the field had yet to be seen. Leaving Dredge No. 1 the party passed southeast about half a mile through dense woods to
THE PUMP SHAFT
that is being put down by Mr. Dougherty. This shaft is located at the lowest point on the entire field and it is expected by the company that by this means the water will be drawn off, keeping the entire field dry as a bone. The shaft is fifteen feet long by seven feet wide, and will be dug to a depth of thirty feet, when it will rest four feet below the coal on the underlying soap-stone. To anyone who is not acquainted with the attendant difficulties it would seem to be a small job; when the amount of water that is pumped out is taken into consideration, the immensity of the undertaking is better understood. Mr. Doughtery’s pumps, which are entirely inadequate, discharge nearly 5,000 gallons per hour. The pumps to put in for the company will discharge very nearly twenty-five thousand gallons per hour, and will be driven by a 40-horse power engine; which is now being put in. The new pumps are huge machines, being the double 9-inch centrifugals that are in universal use where immense quantities of water are to be raised, and economy of space is desired. The water is carried in a ditch dug along the side of a hill 2,600 feet long on a falling grade three inches per one thousand feet, emptying into the Salt Fork. This is by far the
BEST PIECE OF ENGINEERING
of the entire undertaking, finding the lowest point of the coal vein in an area of over one hundred acres, and took many days of hard, careful labor. The amount of work that is necessary of making, the estimates for the opening of a field of this size is very great and requires a practical knowledge of civil and mining engineering that is possessed by very few. Illustrative of the foresight of Mr. Stockett, he has drawn up plans for a cross-cut to divert the channel of the river when the present workings are exhausted, to lay open the field of the great horse-shoe bend, east of the strippings. This will insure a supply of over one thousand tons a day for nearly ten years to come. By way of the present channel the distance around the bend is nearly a mile by the cut, the channel of the river would be shortened to about six hundred to nine hundred feet. But this will probably not be done until the other field is exhausted. It is calculated that the fields are underlaid by nine million tons of coal, and this is of the best quality, equal in every respect to the best Grape Creek mined coal. The question is often heard, “How did the Mission Fields receive their name?” And its origin is known to comparatively few. The land originally belonged to Stephen Griffith, of this city, who at his death bequeathed it to the Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist church. The heirs contested the will and won their case in the supreme court some time ago and the tract was by them transferred to the Consolidated Coal Company, of St. Louis, who had located coal veins under it. The company has from time to time added to the original purchase until it now owns an immense body of land. These fields when opened will be one of the largest coal producing points in the state, and will give employment to a number of men. Its importance to Vermilion County can hardly he estimated. And at this point it would hardly be more than fitting if a few lines were occupied in a short description of the
ACTIVE Spirits OF ‘THE AFFAIR
Mr. A.F. Bunker, superintendent assumed the duties of his office at the retirement of Mr. A.C. Daniel some time ago, and his firm judgement and rare abilities pre-eminently fit him for the high position that he occupies. But the moving genius of the whole affair lies in the modest little gentleman, Thomas R. Stockett, Jr. He planned every detail of the huge works and his clear, infallible talents have carried him over difficulties that would dishearten the great majority of men however talented. He has been ably assisted by A.H. Hawes, second assistant engineer, who is a most pleasant and agreeable gentleman. And the contractors, Messrs, Wright & Wallace, must not be forgotten. The work is under the personal supervision of Mr. Wallace, who is a hale old gentleman of nearly sixty years of age, who carries his years as lightly as a man of forty. These gentlemen are possessed of more than ordinary perseverance and knowledge of their business, and are sticking to their contract with tooth-and-toe-nail tenacity. The party returned home late in the afternoon tired, dusty and thoroughly fagged out, but well pleased by the trip, and they desire to return their most sincere thanks for the many kindnesses shown them by the officers of the company and beg leave to assure them that their courtesies were appreciated.
UNCLE JOE SPEAKS
The Oakwood Family Reunion for 1889 was held on Saturday, August 24th near Missionfield near number nine school. Many watched the great coal dredge boats at work, stripping dirt from the coal. A small army of men followed, to sledge of the coal and load it into small flats, thence hauling it with a Pony Engine to the top of the bluff, where the flats are attached to ropes and hauled up a steep incline by ponderous machinery, located at the top of the bluff. Here the coal is dumped over screens and into large flat cars. As usual nearly everybody in the area attended. The honorable J.G. Cannon was the featured speaker.
NEW ADDITIONS TO VILLAGE
In November of 1890 a Brass Band was formed. The Methodists had purchased a bell, and a load of brick was unloaded on a 150 by 100 foot lot for a new school. The town was still growing. Collett’s Addition had been added on the north and now Longstreth Addition had been added on the south.
The United Brethren which had been meeting at Lake Shore School built a chapel near there. General Sherman died. The Rice Brothers, John and George, moved here from Charity (An old town between Muncie and Collison). They ran a grocery store on the northeast corner of Scott and North Main Streets. The coal companies, Missionfield, Middlefork, Glenburn and France Brothers were all having hard times. Many miners were laid off. A new railroad, the Swallow Branch of the Big Four, came through. A spur was built to Glenburn and RUMOR, RUMOR the railroad shops in Urbana would be moved to Oakwood! Dr. J.W. Boggess arrived from Fairmount. Miss Nellie Thompson of Fithian and Miss Georgia Benson of Muncie opened a Millinery Shop. Oakwood started with a two year high school in 1892 and progressed to a four year high school in 1898.
On the last SAturday night in July 1891, Ray Williams, Lou Doggett, and John Lane were loafing in front of Doggett and Williams Livery Stable. About 1:30 AM they saw a match struck in N. Longstrethh’s Restaurant. It happened twice more. They figured it was a burglar. Williams and Doggett went for arms and help, while Lane kept watch. The burglar started to come out and Lane hit him with a rock. About then Longstreth and the others came running. The burglar fired at them. In all the excitement Williams and Doggett forgot to tell the posse that Lane was keeping watch. They pounced on him and broke a baseball bat over him. In the ruckus the real burglar got out. They fired at him. He fired back and escaped into a corn field. He stole a gold watch and some small change.
The I. O. F. (Independent Order of Forresters) instituted a new lodge of forty members on May 14, 1891.
In 1892 Mr and Mrs William Seal began running a hotel on the northwest corner of Scott and Collett Streets, just east of the Methodist Church. The hotel ran until about 1920. The size of the hotel is not known however, 10 rooms were average for a village the size of Oakwood. There was certainly a need for lodging for section hands, corn buyers, cattle and hog buyers and for the visitors to the mines opening up in the area. Rooms were one dollar a day.
Newspaper articles do not mention anyone running the hotel prior to the Seals. There was a boarding house in the village before the hotel called the Gault House. An 1883 newspaper article mentioned, “Corn bread and hasty pudding are all the rage at the Gault House. The boarders look like bloated bondholders”
Besides the completion of a new school, 1892 also brought Oakwood a second church. The Christians who had been meeting at different places around town set up a tent in Nancy Harrison’s pasture in July. It still stands there though much added on to.
Other events in 1892: F.F. Knox sold the butcher shot to M. A. Snyder and Simpson McPherson. “Old Balsam”, the Tile Factory mule died. He was 35 to 40 years old. He was known for running away with the dirt cart and could kick a wart off a driver’s nose. A wolf hunt was held in February.
Some village people formed a Cemetery Association and purchased four acres ½ mile south of the village. The beginning of our cemetery! Dr. E. B. Cooley of Pilot moved here. Collins and Burke opened an Undertaking Parlor in April. Several new homes were built during the summer and the rock work was completed for a new bridge over the Middlefork between Oakwood and Hillery.
CREIGHTOM HILL DEBATE
Debates between the Christian and Methodist Churches happened several times in the earlier days of our county. Although these religious debates were not as common as political debates, they did happen and were well attended. One of the last of these debates occurred right here in Oakwood. It drew attention in the Danville newspapers. Reverend Samuel Creighton, a former Christian Minister here, came from Olney, Illinois and Rev. J.W. Hill, a former Methodist Minister here, came from Decatur, Illinois. They had made plans several months earlier. The debate was set for Monday, July 24, through Friday, July 28, 1893, with three sessions daily of two hours each A tent was erected in a field just northwest of the Methodist Church where the Green family later built the large brick house now owned by Charles and Betty Montgomery. The discussion was on “Sprinkling by the Methodists versus Baptism by the Christians” and “Are infants proper subjects for Christian Baptism”. The Methodists said yes, the Christian Church said no. Approximately 1500 people attended the sessions with the following ministers present: R.E. Howell of LeRoy, J.C. Meyers of State Line, Indiana, H.C. Cossell of Boswell, Indiana, H.B. Sherman of Rockville, Indiana, T.L. Stipp of Vernal, A. Eason of Gewais, Oregon, E.C. Stark of Farmer City, A.. Plunkett and W.H. Kerr of Crawfordsville, Indiana, S.S. Jones of Champaign, J.C. Ashley of Tuscola, B.N. Anderson of Fithian, William Elmore of Covington, Indiana, J.J. Cosat and H.S. Griffin of Danville, G.W. Pearl of South Chicago and J.N. Clement of Normal.
GAY NINETIES BACHELORS’ CLUB
In 1893, 19 men in Oakwood and the surrounding area, formed the Oakwood Bachelors’ Club. They took an oath to “Remain in single blessedness forever, and to shun the so-called connubial bliss that the marriage state is supposed to bring”. Charles Doran was the first “benedict”. He married 3 months after they took the vow. In all, 15 of the 19 wed. William Pate, who died one month after the Club was formed, Lon Doggett, Buck Craigmyle and James Howard were the only ones who remained true to their vow.
Oakwood was truly a railroad town. The railroad had laid out the town and had been the chief reason for its prosperity. It had hauled our crops and the coal of the area. It brought all the supplies to the village. Merchants could easily ship in supplies from far away cities like Indianapolis. Joseph Truax and Henry J. Oakwood rode all the way to Dayton, Ohio just to see a new kind of fence. John Harrison, the city editor of the Chicago Dispatch, rode down to visit his aunt, Nancy Harrison.
Now there were two new Railroads coming through the village. The big Four (Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis) was built through the village in 1893 and 1894. The C&EI (Chicago and Eastern Illinois) built a line from Rossville through Henning and on south crossing the Big Four about a mile west of west of Oakwood and ending at Sidell. At the crossing on the Big Four, the C&EI built a spur through Oakwood to Missionfield. Apparently the Big Four and the C&EI had bought out different sections of the old IB&W. The C&EI apparently came through in 1894 as both railroads were here on the 1895 map. Both railroads had sidings which meant that there were now four sets of tracks between our two Main streets.
The coal companies which were having such a hard time in 1893 were going full blast by the fall of 1894. Everyone was employed. The farmers were having trouble finding anyone to shuck their corn, Missionfield took advantage and cut wages 10%.
James Ballah, James Carpenter and D. Green all built new houses in 1895. The village voted for incorporation on the April ballot. It was defeated. W.P. Trimmell struck gas on his farm one mile east of Oakwood at 100 feet deep. Professor O.P. Hayworth, Superintendent of School dismissed school for the summer on May 16, 1895. Richard Seymour, 36 and Huldah Bell Longstreth, 31 were married in July of 1895 after a 10 year engagement.
Oakwood’s first newspaper was started July 1, 1895. A.D. Wallace of Fairmount was the Editor. He promised a correspondent in every hamlet. The price 75 cents a year.
LODGES & SECRET SOCIETIES
In 1897 the Modern Woodsmen of America, the I.O.O.F., the I.O.G.T., the O.G.C., Rebeckah Lodge and the Royal Neighbors were all meeting in Oakwood. Neither Church had a fellowship hall and both were using the Modern Woodmen’s Hall.
It is not known exactly when Bronson began. The C&EI Railroad built a line from just south of Rossville southwest past and through Henning then turning south and and making a crossing of the Big Four one and one half miles west of Oakwood in 1894. This caused the Village of Collison to pop up in that year. Brothers Station appeared shorty there-after. In the spring of 1895, C.D. DeLong of Fithian built a warehouse at “the crossing of the Big Four and the C&EI Railroads. In the summer of 1898 Mr. DeLong built a grain elevator at the same “crossing’. The March 23rd, 1899 issue of the Danville News listed six villages in Oakwood Township; Fithian, Muncie, Oakwood, Newtown, Glenburn and Missionfield. The first mention of Bronson in a Danville newspaper was July 4, 1901. It is not known when the name was given to that village, but the first building was erected a century ago in 1895.
By January of 1897 there were 367 people in Oakwood. A few bad ones slipped in though as young’s General Store, Saylor Brother’s Hardware and C.W. Cox’s Photograph Gallery were robbed in March. A movement was started again to get the village incorporated. There was much talk about the Soldier’s Home that Uncle Joe Cannon had got awarded to Vermilion County. Wouldn’t Oakwood be the ideal place? Didn’t the Cannons come out of Oakwood Township? Oakwood’s hopes were dashed in June as Uncle Joe announced that Danville would get the Soldier’s Home.
OAKWOOD’S SECOND BIG FIRE
1897 appeared to be a happy time for most marred only by a coal strike in July. On the fourth of July, a large crowd gathered at the old Indian Campground. There was much food and entertainment. People came from Catlin, Fairmount, Muncie, Fithian, Pilot (Newtown), Collison and Danville. There was a speech by W.R. Jewell. The Oakwood Clippers played the St. Joe Clippers. St. Joe won. That night there were two hours of fireworks.
In the middle of September the Annual Oakwood Family Reunion was held, everyone was welcome and as usual was a great success. Dr. Leaka became postmaster and immediately began building a “government building” to dispense mail. Mr. Miner, from Indianapolis, began building a new elevator and hoped to have it done by mid October.
All seemed peaceful till Friday the 24th of September when the most dreadful disaster, for a small town in those days, happened. Fire broke out in the kitchen of W.F. Crawford’s Restaurant at 12:10 P.M. Someone ran and rang the school bell. Men, women, and children all came running. By now the fire was blazing high and already was consuming Saylor Brothers Hardware and John Young’s General Store. At this time most of the stores were on South Main Street between Scott and Olmstead Streets and facing the Railroad. John Young’s store was the finest in town. It was considered well built and was lined with sheet iron as was the restaurant. Both burned to the ground. The wind, out of the southeast, carried the fire west along South Main Street burning Collings and Craigmyle’s Butcher Shop and Hayworth and Longstreth’s Grocery. Then it jumped Scott Street and caught the warehouse owned by D. Greg of Danville on fire. The buildings were all wood frame and went up like kindling, including 1500 bushels of oats in the warehouse. The fire also jumped the railroad tracks and burned the older elevator along with three railroad cars of grain. Joseph Truax owned the Rice Brother’s Grocery on North Main Street. It was threatened but saved. Other buildings caught on fire but were put out. Many buildings north of the tracks suffered smoke damage. The Methodist Chapel was among these and held their services at the Christian Church for the next three weeks.
Unlike the 1871 file, these merchants had some insurance. John Young and Hayworth and Longstreth were fully covered. The rest partially covered except W. F. Crawford who was renting the restaurant from C. R. Hillman.
The fire had wiped out nearly everything on South Main Street. The Harness Shop, the old Post Office and the new “Government Building” were all east of the alley between Scott and Olmstead. This would be where the Laundromat is today. As they were upwind, the townspeople, with great effort, were able to save them. The depot, while damaged, was also saved. The new elevator, under construction, was apparently far enough east to be safe.
The merchants that stayed moved to Scott Street. W. F. Crawford gave up on the restaurant business and went into partnership with Wilson Smoot to open a butcher shop. John Young and son opened two stores, a grocery and a drug store. Redman and Cramer opened a new grocery store. F.M. Harris got to stay in his harness shop on South Main. Dr. Winslow, a young man from Ohio, came with his wife and daughter to live on East Main. M.A. Snyder sold his livery stable and house and moved to a farm 1 mile south. Corn was averaging 45 bushels to the acre. A Good Templars Lodge was started.
Dr. Jesse Leaka besides selling insurance now had the following titles; Postmaster, MD, Notary Public and school director.
A newspaper article of October 29, 1897 listed the following old soldiers of the Civil War in the Oakwood area; Charles Hillman, W.S. Redman, J.F. Illk, J. Simpson, Joe Truax, and John H. Young. The article did not say they were the only ones.
The third week of June, 1899 the Village of Oakwood held a bicycle meet. A six mile course was laid out in and around Oakwood. Wheelman came from all the neighboring towns. A large crowd gathered to see this new sporting event. Kid Thompson of Danville came triumphantly across the finish line with the best time.
In the evening after the bicycle meet, Professor Donaldson of Armstrong entertained at the Modern Woodsman of America Hall. He had brought along his magic lantern that showed moving pictures.
GRAND UNION PICNIC
On the 28th of August, 1899 a Grand Union Picnic was sponsored by all the Lodges and Orders of Oakwood. A parade was started in Oakwood with entries by all the Lodges and Orders. The Modern Woodsmen of America Band led the way. Little Henry Oakwood (son of Thomas Oakwood) drove the proverbial goat decorated with MHA letters and harnessed to a cart. This was the goat that new members were required to ride. He was gentle to drive but refused to be ridden. The parade went south out of Oakwood to the “Grove”, the name now given to the Old Indian Campground. A huge picnic was held. The crowd was estimated between 2500 and 5000 people. Leaders from each of the Lodges and Orders spoke, with Professor O.P. Hayworth of the Oakwood Schools as the main speaker.