Brimfield Township History


Residence of David Kemp Esq. Section 29, Brimfield Township
Atlas Map of Peoria County, Illinois, 1873, page 100



     The town of Charleston, now Brimfield, Peoria county, Illinois, was surveyed and laid out in the year 1835, on the N. W. quarter of section 24, in township 10, north of range 5, E. 4th, p. m. The proprietors were Jacob Showalter and Almon Clark.
     Previous to the laying out of the town a number of pioneers had located in the vicinity. Among them Philip Atkinson, supposed to have been the first settler in the township. On section 10 N. of range 6, were Asahel and Roswell Walker, James Adams, and Daniel and A. W. Harkness. The first house in Charleston was built of logs, on the northwest corner of Knoxville and Galena Avenues, by A. Woniger, in 1836, who opened a grocery store in the room below, and made his residence in the room above. The same year Jacob Vanhouton, who was the first postmaster, built a log house on the northwest corner of Knoxville Avenue and Washington Street, better known as the old Wolcott house. In the township and vicinity many new settlers arrived in that year, among them were John F. and N. H. Wiley, Levi Jennings, L. L. Booth, John Tucker, Isaac Cutter, T. N. Wells, Daniel Simmons, Isaac Harrison, and L. L. Guyor[Guyer], who succeeded Jacob Vanhouton as postmaster, and in the following year built a log house on lot 7 in block 17, in which he opened a general store for supplying the inhabitants of the surrounding country with dry goods, groceries, etc., keeping bachelor's hall in the upper room, which was freely thrown open for preaching the gospel to any pioneer minister who might travel on the circuit. Those who settled in the west half of township 10, north of range 6, east (now Jubilee) in 1836, were the Powells, the Sniders, Shanes, James Berrian, the Martins, the Johnsons, and William Camphor, who was subsequently elected to represent Peoria county in the legislature, Daniel Stansburry, now living in Brimfield, at the age of 88 years; also Jacob Wells, who started the first blacksmith shop and opened the first coal bank in the vicinity, being on the northwest quarter of section 18.
     The first settlers had to obtain their mail from Peoria. The first mail to Charleston was carried on horseback. The first line of mail coaches was started from Peoria to Oquawka, early in the year of 1838.
The first election in the precinct was held at the house of Isaac Cutter, when Clark D. Powell was elected justice of the peace, and Samuel Johnson, constable.
     The first preaching in the township was at the house of Isaac Cutter, by Rev. Zaccheus Hall, a Methodist minister. Rev. Geo. G. Sill, was the first Presbyterian minister, and preached occasionally at L. L. Guyer's store, in 1838. The late Bishop Chase, of Jubilee College, also preached there a few times.
     The year 1838 marked quite an era to the new town in respects to improvements and increase of population. James Wollcott and family, comprising eight in number, came from the East purchased and occupied the Vanhouten House; Daniel Belcher built the two story frame house for a tavern, on the northwest corner of Knoxville Ave. and Washington Street; A. S. W. Goodwin and Daniel Caldwell, who built a log-house on lot 8 in block 16 ; Wm. Tobey, who was subsequently the manufacturer of the cele­brated Tobey & Anderson plow, at Peoria; also came Dr. Prouty, John Towell, John Shores and E. Haywood, making an additional population for that year, of thirty-three persons in the town. Those who settled in the vicinity were Alpheus Willard, David Sanborn, James M. Wiley, Bradford Hall, George H. and Samuel W. Pulsifer, Luther and Gilbert Hathaway, Washington Cockle, Noah Alden, Sr., Noah Alden, Jr., and Hiram Alden; Noah Alden, Sr., died a few years since at the advanced age of ninety-eight.
     The first fourth of July celebration in the new town was in the same year, and participated in by most of the inhabitants of the town neighborhood. The Declaration of Independence was read by A. S. W. Goodwin, and an ode composed by Miss Lucretia Wolcott for the Sixty-Second Anniversary of American Independence, and was sung by herself and others.

Polluted never be thy shrine,
May love's bright halo round thee shine,
And unity and peace divine,
Forever dwell with thee.

     In 1839, the Hon. Wm. Thompson with his wife and two daughters removed from Northampton, Mass., to Peoria county. He was born in Brimfield, Mass., on the 23d day of February, 1786. Through a long life Mr. Thompson enjoyed the esteem and confidence of all classes of the community. For four years he was a member of the Senate of Illinois, also a member of the convention to alter the constitution of the State in 1847. He died at Brimfield on the 24th day of February, 1850, aged 64. He married Miss Eliza S. White of Chesterfield, Mass., who survived her husband twenty-seven years.
     The first school-house was built in 1839. The first teacher was Miss Ellen Bartlett, of Peoria. Among the arrivals this year was Chas. H. Freeman and Capt. Fisher.
     The first marriage in town was Mr. L. L. Guyer and Miss Elvira M. Wiley, and Rev. George Wilkison performed the ceremony.
     In 1842, Wm. W. Thompson was elected to the Legislature of Illinois for the session of 1842-3, and succeeded in getting the name of Charleston changed to that of Brimfield, a change had become necessary on account of two other towns in the State having the same name, one being the county seat of Coles county, which claimed precedence. There was some dissatisfaction with the change, some wanted it called Wolcottsville and others Guyersburg; but the town was to be known as Brimfield, not such a bad or disagreeable name after all for a town with a territory so famous for its fertility of soil and salubrity of climate, the brimfulness of its barns and corn cribs with each retiring year, gathered from its extensive and teaming fields.
     In the year 1849, township organization was adopted by Peoria county, so that each congressional township had jurisdiction only within its own boundary lines, and the west half of 10, north range 6 east (now Jubilee) ceased to be a part of Brimfield election precints, and this township was named Brimfield after the chief town. From the year 1850 to 1860 the town and neighborhood had a very considerable accession to its inhab­tants.
     A branch of the C., B. & Q. railroad passes through the east side of Brimfield township and the town of Brimfield. It is a place of about eight hundred inhabitants, and contains a number of prosperous business houses in different lines of trade, prominent among which are C. B. & E. K. Hayes, in dry goods; Wesley Stain and W. Cowls, in groceries; J. P. & B. B. Bowman, in hardware; Win. Robinson, in drugs; F. P. Wiley, in jewelry, wall-paper, etc.; F. H. Camp, in furniture. Daniel Belcher is proprietor of the Brimfield House, one of the best managed and popular country hotels in the county. (The History of Peoria County, Illinois, 1880, pages 572-574, submitted by Janine Crandell)

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