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By David Cation
Next to Persifer, this is the roughest township in Knox County. Spoon River enters it in Section 12 and flows out from Section 31, winding through it for fifteen or sixteen miles and touching sixteen sections. This river and its branches, which liberally water Truro, pass through timber land which formerly extended over half the township. Of late years, however, almost all of this vast timber has been gradually disappearing, the land on which it stood having been converted into almost treeless pastures, which have proved a source of greater profit. North of Spoon River, the land is mostly rolling, on the south stretches a broad level, fertile prairie. About one-sixth of the township is underlaid with a good quality of coal which with the timber affords an excellent supply of fuel.
The first settlement was made on Section 19, in 1832, by John Dill. The first birth was that of Andrew Dill, in 1833. During that year, Rev. John Cummings performed the first marriage ceremony, uniting Jake Ryan and Miss Stambaugh. In 1832, within Section 30, Malon Winans, a United States mail carrier, was drowned while attempting to swim Spoon River with a mail bag strapped to his back. This was the first death. Within this same section, in 1834, John Coleman started a ferry across Spoon River, at a point long known as Coleman’s Ferry, but afterwards came to be called Trenton. Here the first post office was established during the same year.
On the northwest quarter of Section 31, the first white settlers found a number of Indian graves. Logs had been split into halves and hollowed out for coffins, and these were placed in the forks of trees, where they rested, with their ghastly human skeletons projecting above their tops. In 1836, pioneers took them down and gave them "white man’s burial.”
In 1834, Rev. John Cummings preached the first sermon at the home of Widow Lambert, on Section 31. The first school house was built in 1848, on Section 33.
Rensselaer Johnson was the first Justice of the Peace.
April 5, 1853, the township was organized. The first election of officers resulted in the choice of the following persons: Augustine Lapham, Supervisor; J.P. Cadwell, Clerk; Benjamin Sweat, Assessor; Levi Seward, Collector; Thomas Ross, Overseer of the Poor; Thomas Crawford, Luther Rice and Joseph Wilder, Highway Commissioners; Thomas Ross and Joseph Oberholtzer, Justices of the Peace.
The population in 1860 was seven hundred and thirteen; in 1870, eight hundred and ninety-nine; in 1880, seven hundred and seventeen; in 1890, eight hundred and sixty-five. For present population, see the population table for the county.
Truro Township is inhabited by prosperous farmers. The land is well tilled, and dotting the pastures are herds of well-bred hogs, horses, sheep and cattle. The farms are well improved, and the people contented and happy.
The population is composed chiefly of American born citizens of English, Irish, Scotch and Swedish ancestry. The hardy pioneers are fast passing away, but they have left energetic and intelligent descendants. Although thus sprung from various stocks, they are all intensely American in their patriotism. Adorning the walls of their homes are to be found not only the portraits of the heroes of their Fatherland, of whom they are justly proud, but also those of Washington, Lincoln and other eminent Americans, who hold no second place in their affections.
Here also is found a generous religious tolerance, Protestant and Catholic joining in advancing charitable and educational enterprises. In such perfect assimilation of different nationalities, and in such broad charity in the matter of religious faith as are found here, lies one of the strongest guarantees of the future grandeur and perpetuity of our country.
Until 1887, Truro was without a railway. In May of that year ground was broken on the farm of Henry German in Section 21 for the main line of the Santa Fe which was laid across the township, and on April 24, 1888, Williamsfield was laid out by E.B. Purcell, on Section 23. Later, Galesburg capitalists interested themselves in the project and promoted it with so much vigor that within thirty-three years the town has become one of the most prosperous in the county, and now boasts of about five hundred inhabitants. There is a graded school, employing from three to four teachers since the completion of the school building in 1890.
A Methodist church was erected early in 1890, under the leadership of Rev. John Gunson, and dedicated on the first day of June of that year. In 1906, the building was remodeled under the leadership of Rev. Franklin Rist and the denomination has a good membership. Two years later the Catholics erected an attractive house of worship.
The Williamsfield Times, an independent weekly, was established in 1889. Its founder was C.D. Benfield. In October, 1890, the building in which the Times was located was burned and Mr. Benfield lost his entire outfit. The subscription list of the paper was purchased by Momeny and Benson and in a few months they were enabled to continue the publication. Later they dissolved partnership and J.M. Momeny assumed control of the paper. In the fall of 1892, S.E. Boggess leased the plant from Mr. Momeny. In April, 1893, it was purchased by M. Hugh Irish and in July, 1918, it passed into the hands of W.G. Johnson the present owner.
On January 22, 1890, L.J. Baird and David Cation opened a private bank under the title of Bank of Williamsfield and so conducted it until April, 1908, when they with Earl T. Main reorganized the Bank under a State Charter in the name of First State Bank Company with a capital stock of $30,000 with L.J. Baird as first president. Earl T. Main was first cashier. The first board of directors was L.J. Baird, David Cation, Earl T. Main, G.W. Wallick, J.D. Doubet, George W. Elliott and H.J. Butts. The bank has had a steady growth and a loyal patronage from the community. In addition to semi-annual dividends paid the stockholders the bank has added $30,000 of surplus and profits to its capital. It has also recently installed a new burglar proof safe and a burglar proof vault that is said to be second to none in the county at a cost of $7,500. The present officers and directors are: David Cation, President; Jay Welsh, Vice President; William Cation, Cashier; Miss Doris Pulver, Asst. Cashier, and Miss Marita Smith, Asst. Cashier; J.J. Nelson, P.A. Sunwall, Burt Hurlbutt and Richard Murphy.
Various lines of mercantile business are well represented such as general stores, hardware store, meat market, lumber yards, undertaking establishment, restaurant, barber shops, blacksmith shop and dry goods and millinery stores, physicians and veterinaries. It has a grain elevator and has always been a great center for the shipment of grain and livestock. Recently there was organized a Williamsfield Livestock Shipping Association with a membership of about one hundred. Its officers and directors were A.L. Doubet, President; A.W. Gale, Vice President; B.L. Baird, Sec.-Treas.; Taylor B. Johnston and Jas. L. Cation, Directors, and L.L. Nelson, Manager. Under Mr. Nelson’s leadership more than 120 cars the last year have been sent out from Williamsfield, amounting in value to $2 92,000. This excels any other point in the county
In September, 1897, Williamsfield suffered a disastrous fire in which a livery barn, two general stores, hardware store, two blacksmith shops, lumber yard, paint and wallpaper store, harness shop, two doctor’s offices, and one residence were all swept out of existence. From this catastrophe, the village soon emerged with better business houses and better equipped to provide for the wants of the community in the several kinds of business represented.
Again in September, 1920, more than twenty business houses in the heart of the business district were swept out by fire. But the populace is not to be outdone for within a short time foundations were laid for 3 new brick buildings and other brick buildings are being contemplated.
The list of enlisted men in the army was: Glen Cole, John O’Brien, Cecil Kimler, Roscoe Gibson, Dale Stemple, C.W. German, Clyde Tucker, Ernest Hart, Bert Daniels, Isidore Daub, Fred Schultz, Grover George, Clyde Huber, Eldred Mackie, Julius Shaw, Harrison Cole, Patsy O’hern, Wiley Burch, Sidney Cook, James Mahar, Albert King, Vance Chambers. Frank Stodgel, Vergil Dudley, Raymond Wall, Lloyd Harmison, Edward Larsen, Harley Tucker, Harry Bennett, Homer Larson, Harry L. Gibson, Arthur Carrigan, Edward D. Parker, Harley Benjamin, Michael Phelan, Clarence Spencer, David Tucker, James Larsen, Harry Harmison and James H. German.
Of these soldier boys, John O’Brien and Grover George were gassed.
C. W. German, Lloyd Harmison and Homer Larson narrowly escaped with their lives from the sinking vessel, “Otranto,” on the coast of Scotland.
All of our boys returned home. Vance Chambers reenlisted and returned to service in Germany where he was shot and killed while on duty.
The neighborhood Committee through whom most of the war activities were carried forward were as follow:
Executive Committee—G.E. Morgan, Chairman; M.H. Irish, Secretary; J.M. Baird, C.H. Pulver, S.R. Tucker, David Cation.
District Committeemen—Fred Hurlbutt, T. Johnston, John Mackie, C.D. Rice, A.W. Gales, W.__. Huber, E.D. Johnston, R.W. Morgan, Jay Welsh, George King, W.S. Potts, W. H. Machin, G.L. Doubet, L.L. Nelson, P.A. Sunwall, E.S. Willard.
Mrs. Nellie J. Tucker, Mrs. Rhoda Philbrook, Mrs. Celesta C. Potts, E.S. Moon, C.A. Caldwell and C.H. Pulver made up the registration board on the bond subscriptions.
While very many did much to assist in the war work, it is fitting and proper that special mention should be made of the very tedious, very exacting and responsible work done by Miss Marita Smith in accounting for the many hundreds of pieces of bonds amounting to more than half a million dollars.
Truro Township went over the top on every quota asked and in one case carried off the German helmet for being the second township in the county to report.
Red Cross Drives
The Williamsfield Branch Red Cross Association was organized Sunday evening, April 22, 1917, as follows:
G.E. Morgan was elected General Chairman
Rev. J. W. Pruen, Secretary
David Cation, Local Treasurer
More than 250 members were secured.
Red Cross Shop
Mrs. Rev. Pruen was the first Chairman and afterwards resigned and Mrs. Dr. Cole was elected and carried the work through to the end.
Mrs. Ida Willard had charge of the knitting department.
Mrs. Nellie Irish had charge of the surgical dressing department.
Mrs. Eva Rice had charge of the Belgium Relief department.
Mrs. Lillie Wesner, Mrs. Kate Pulver and Mrs. Nettie Caldwell had charge of the cutting department.
Mrs. Dr. Cole, Mrs. Nettie J. Tucker and Mrs. Eva Rice, constituted the inspection committee.
In all these War Activities of Truro Township, we have mentioned only those who were officially connected, but there were scores of privates, many of whom were well up in years, and some of whom were very young as well as the intermediates, all whose names we dislike to omit, but desire to say that the loyal assistance they gave the work created a force that no enemy could successfully combat.
Community High School
A Community High School was organized in 1916, comprising 56-1/4 sections of land with an assessed valuation of $1,553,000. The first Board of Education was as follows: M.H. Irish, President; C.H. Pulver, Clerk; F.J. King, Jay Welsh, Loren Trowbridge, Otto Grohs, Mrs. Nellie J. Tucker.
Early in the summer of 1920 ground was broken for a new brick Community High School Building now (1921) nearing completion at a cost when furnished of $75,000. The building will accommodate 160 pupils and is splendidly located on six acres of land. The intention is to add Domestic Science, Manual Training and Agriculture and make it a High School equal to the best. W.H. Brown, of Abingdon, is the contractor.
The present Board of Education consists of: C.H. Pulver, President; Mrs. Nellie J. Tucker, Clerk; Jay Welsh, Mrs. Minette Baird, G.E. Morgan, Otto Grohs, F.J. King.