Elmwood Township History


Farm Residence of H. Schenck, Sec. 5 and 6, Elmwood Township
Atlas Map of Peoria County, Illinois, 1873, page 140


     Elmwood is in town nine north, range five east, and is one of the western tier of townships in Peoria county. It was originally about one half prairie and one half timber, and possesses a superior soil. The surface is gently undulating and well adapted to agriculture. Some parts are slightly broken by the branches of Kickapoo creek, along which are some of the finest coal mines in the county. The township is crossed by two branches of the C. B. & Q. railroad, which form a junction at Elmwood city. The Peoria branch connects it with that city, twenty-five miles distant. Elmwood city is located on sections seven and eight, was laid out in 1854, and is a flourishing place of 2,000 population; is next to Peoria city the largest and most important commercial manufacturing town in Peoria county. During the year ending June 1,1879, 681 cars of produce, and 1010 of coal were shipped from Elmwood.
     First Settlers. — John Ewalt was the first settler in Elmwood township. He came from Sangamon county, Ills., on the 1st of May, 1831, located on section twenty-nine, and broke the first soil. Isaac Doyle was the next, settling on Section thirty, May 1, 1832. In the Fall of 1834, W. J. Phelps settled on section eighteen, where he now resides. During the Winter of the same year Fountain Watkins settled and made improvements on section twenty-nine. Avery Dalton settled on section nineteen in 1837, coming from Fulton county. The early pioneers went thirty-five miles to mill. One barrel of Kanawha salt cost them $20.58. Isaac Doyle was the first justice of the peace, elected in 1833. The first marriage was that of Abner Smith to Eliza Ann Doyle, in March, 1834. The first child born in the township was Rebecca Ewalt, February, 1834. Daniel Fast was the first school teacher. The post office was established in the township in 1847, at the residence of Hon. Wm. J. Phelps, which was first called Elmwood, before the name was given to the township. Mr. Phelps was the first postmaster.
     For some time after Mr. and Mrs. Phelps settled in their new home the township including it was not laid out, nor was there at first any post office nearer than Peoria or Canton, though a little later one was established at Farmington, Fulton county. They felt it necessary that their place should be known by some more specific designation than that which described it as a "place in Peoria county," and accordingly decided to call it "Elmwood," from the beautiful grove of elms near their dwelling. And in this way Elmwood became noted as the home of Mr. Phelps long before the township or the village had been so called. Mr. Phelps succeeded in getting the mail route extended from Farmington to his place. Subsequently when the township was laid out it took the same name as did the village and railroad station, all taking their names from Elmwood, Mr. Phelps' home.
     Little did he think when he gave that appropriate name to his rural home that in a few years a town taking the same name would spring up within a mile of him, containing many first-class stores, a bank, fine church buildings, and manufacturing interests, and would be a center of enterprise and refined society, such as Elmwood is today. Mr. Phelps has always been a public spirited man and has been intimately identified with the progress and development of Elmwood. He owned the land where Elmwood is located and laid out the town in 1854. And being desirous that it should be the home of intelligent and moral people, he used his best efforts to induce only that class to come and settle here. With this view he decided not to sell a town lot to a saloon-keeper, or for any other purpose incompatible with the moral interests of the community. Thus the young town got well started, and was the legitimate offspring of a high and noble purpose. Who can tell how much Elmwood is indebted today to its good beginning? (The History of Peoria County, Illinois, 1880, pages 583-584, submitted by Janine Crandell)


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Updated December 6, 2004