Link to main page




Historical Booklet


Toulon's 125th Celebration

Corporation Officers: President, Clyde Ham
Vice President, Rev. Joe Martin
Treasurer, Gerald Staples
Secretary, Jim Hellmich

The following people are the officers who have worked very hard on this
celebration and keep it rolling:

Harold Settles...........................General Chairman
Jim Hellmich.............................Secretary
Gerald Staples...........................Treasurer
Wm. Jones and Frank Hoffman..............Headquarters Chairman
Myron Arganbright........................Revenue Division Chairman
Jo Anne Williams and Frank Hoffman.......Participation
Donald Griggs............................Spectacle Division
Don Rumley...............................Publicity Division
John Cover...............................Special Events Division
Mary Dunlap and Henrietta Silliman.......Hospitality Division

Toulon Historical Notes

This year marks the 125 anniversary of Toulon, Illinois. We can not claim the distinction of being the oldest town in Stark County.

When Illinois became a state in 1818 this county was virtually a wilderness.

In the fall of 1828 Isaac B. Essex came to Spoon River Valley and selected a claim in section 15, Township 12, Range 6. He remained there long enough to cut logs and make the clap boards for a cabin, after which he returned to the "Shoal Creek Colony" where the trading post had been destroyed by order of Governor Edwards, and there passed the winter, in April 1829, equipped with two horses and a wagon laden with tools and supplies, and accompanied by his wife and little children, he set out for his home on the frontier, pausing for a short time at the settlement known as "Princess Grove'. A short distance North West of the present town of Princeville. He there enlisted the cooperation of Daniel Prince, Frank Thomas, two Baptist preachers -- Elders Silliman and Allen, Simon Reed Stephin Franch and perhaps one or two others, all of whom agreed to go with him to his claim and assist him in building his cabin.

They arrived at the place late in the day and camped the first night in the woods, but before sunset of the next day the cabin was completed and they "had a house to sleep in".

This cabin was the first dwelling erected by civilized man within the present limits of Stark County.

In 1836-37 Stark obtained its full share of towns Wyoming, Moulton and LaFayette in 1836 and Massillom in 1837.

Not until Feb. 27th 1841, when the legislature of the State of Illinois passed an act to locate the county seat of the newly formed county of Stark.

It was also enacted that John Dawson, Peter Van Bergen and William F. Elkin, all of the county of Sangamon, be the commissioners to locate the said town.

At a meeting of this committee on May 17 1841, at the home of Colonel William H. Henderson, they decided to locate the county seat on ninety rods square of land, owned and afterwards deeded to the county by John Miller and his wife Charlotte.

The name of the town was also decided on at the time of its location, no doubt through the influence of Colonel Henderson.

When Mr. Miller donated to the county this ninety rods of choice land, on condition it should be made the shire town or county seat, he reserved on the south and west sides there of certain squares to be sold for his own benefit, also the privilege of removing all standing timber on the town plot, unless it should be afterwards purchased of him.

The first sale of lots took place on the 14th and 15th of September 1841, one hundred and twenty parcels were sold at this time, these choice lots brought but $10.00 to $75.00.

The second sale of lots was held, April 2nd 1849, There were but thirty two lots sold on this occasion.

The town consisted at first of sixteen blocks, or fifteen besides the Court House Square, but has received several large additions, Whittaker and Henderson, lying North and East of the original plot, through which runs the line of the Rock Island Railroad, and two large additions by Mr. Culbertson, known as Culbertson's Eastern and Western additions to the town of Toulon.

No further addition to this town had been made until Coal Strip Mining came to Stark County in the late 1950s, when several new homes were built a subdivision on the western edge of Toulon. The same year the Musselman addition to the East was started and is being developed very fast with fifteen new homes and two public buildings, one the office of Stark County Dept. of Public Aid and one being built this year 1966 to house the co-ooperative Extension Service and Co-Operative Home Economic Extension Service.

Toulon has not grown in population as fast as some of the surrounding towns, but can boast a clean town with a very good educational system and five thriving churches and many people with a smile on their faces.

The first County Court House, a plain wooden structure built to meet present wants, was completed in 1842, and served many important purposes for the county and town, not only as a seat of justice, but sometimes as a church and school house too.

The old jail was built in 1844, by Ira Ward and was made partly of stone the balance of logs and rough hewn logs.

The present Court House was built in 1856 at the cost to the county of $12,000, has met our needs for one hundred and ten years and to some historians is still a thing of beauty many travelers have been seen taking pictures of this building and some of these pictures have ap-peared in magazines.

Toulon was incorporated as a village in 1858 and the village government thus established continued for many years. The first board of trustees was composed of E. L. Emery, Oliver Whittaker, Miles A. Fuller, William Lowman and Isaac C. Reed, April 20, 1909, an election was held to decide the question whether Toulon should incorporate as a city, a majority of votes were cast in favor of the change, and the charter bears the date of April 22, 1909, the first city officers were: Mayor, George Nowlan; Clerk, Arthur Shinn; Treasurer, H. B. Davis; Attorney, V. G. Fuller; Alderman, F. C. MeClenahan, Thomas J. Malone, Wm. A. Newton, Orlardo [sic] Brace, Amiel P. Lehman and E. H. Lloyd.


About 1882 some of the citizens of Toulon, desirous of having a school that would offer a course of study not provided by the public schools conceived the idea of establishing an academy.

The institution was opened on October 12, 1883, with J. W. Stephens as principal, after earnest work and the over-coming of many obstacles, sufficient funds were accumulated to erect a handsome building, just out side the City Limits at the southeastern part of town, here the academy continued its useful work until it was incorporated into the public school system and made -- the Township High School.

The academy building was used from 1912 to 1923 as Township high school when the present edifice was erected. They have suffered two fires one In 1927 and later in 1942, the new addition of gym and ag shop were built in 1959 or 1960.

We have a very good school with seventeen teachers, guided by the Principal Mr. H. B. Carlock. The pupils this year, 1966 number 193.

The Academy opened for its first term on October 12, 1883 with J. W. Stephens as principal.


The first brick business block erected in Toulon 1872, it was built by John Culbertson's estate, or by his widow, Mrs. Pleasant Follett, the upper story was formerly known as Opera Hall and was used for this purpose until the Town Hall was built. The first floor was occupied at various times by different mercantile firms, probably one of the best know being Starrett Bros. Grocery firm.

The town hall block "we know it as McClenahan Drug Store", was built in 1876 by George Nowlan and Julius Rhodes, the top story was used as a town hall and public hall until 1911 when the present city hall was built, the lower or main floor has been occupied by drug stores, grocery firms, and milinary stores and is now owned and occupied by Williams Paint and Wall Paper store.

The Sundquist Block built in 1895, the odd fellows built the south 60 ft. of the upper story and it is now owned by the Rebecca Lodge.

The firm of A. Sundquist and sons Furniture store occupied the large room on the first floor, also 25 x 40 foot room at the North end of the second floor also the basement.

In 1940 this building was bought by Robt. and Grace Pyle and the New Brunswick Bowling Alley was installed, later in 1947 a billard and pool ball with all new equipment was installed in the basement, in 1956 Milton Ruckman purchased the business and building from the Pyles and is still operating under the name of Rucky's Recreation.

In 1891, the Caverly Block was built by William P. Caverly. The brick used in this building as well as all those built at that time were manufactured by J. P. Headley of Toulon. The metal cornice on the building was also a product of Toulon, being made by the Toulon Sheet Metal Ornamental Works.

The West lower rooms were Starrett Bros. who ran a big department store, the east side occupied by McCullough and Taylor. grocers.

The Sentinel Toulon s second newspaper was printed in the upper rooms. The Southeast corner was the Toulon Library and reading room.


first car ride
O Joy O Theater
log cabin in the courtyard
Wooden side walks
ice cream tables and chairs at Carl Mac's
church bells were tolled when people died, as many times as they were years old.
Claybaugh playing for silent movies.
old hitching rails around the court house
monagrammed shaving mugs, soap and brush were left at the barber shop and used for that client each time he came in
colar boxes were needed for men's heavily starched dress collars and their collar buttons
leggins and black stockings and long underwear were worn by all children
all children walked to school, sometimes over two miles
having company meant using linen napkins
napkin rings were in vogue
hat pins were one foot long and we used hat pin holders
calling card trays were used on the parlor "center table"
women did the family washing on a wash board in a round tub
a three burner kerosene stove was a real luxury
gentlemen tipped their hats to ladies
L. L. Long making house calls with team and cutter
Lehman working at his forge and horse showing
fly swatters were made of old cambric window shades
Mustache cups
Churchill Candy Counter
Walker Bros General Store
Mr. Bowman had athletic clubs
tags from different brands of tobacco, star, horse shoe, etc were horded and exchanged by children
"Youth's Companion" magazine
"Mentor" magazine
When iron toy banks were what little children wanted for xmas
little girls wanted "Little Women" or "The Five Little Peppers" or just any nice story book
two ribbons were a lovely Christmas Gift
a souvenir sterling spoon was a perfect gift for the girl graduate
the boys graduate's gift was a book of Emerson's Essays
balsam blossoms were in every flower garden
a set of sleigh bells was a part of every farmers winter equipment
poll tax of two, or two days work
commencement exercises were held in McClehnan Hall
Toulons corn carnaval and auto days
first flying machine flys over our town


On June 6, 1892, the board of trustees granted to Miles A. Fuller a franchise to construct and maintain an electric lighting plant, the life of said franchise to be twenty five years. Mr. Fuller and his associates went to work almost immediately upon the plant and the result was that on the evening of December 25, 1892, the town of Toulon was lighted for the first time by electricity. Some years later the business was incorporated under the name of the "Toulon Light and Power Company." The power house which was located on Franklin St. between Main and Vine is now owned by Fred Cole and is known as the Cole Garage.
Electricity for Toulon is now furnished by the Central Illinois Light Company, this same company In 1964 also brought natural gas to Toulon, and is now being used by more than fifty per cent of the homes and business establishments.
The water works came in 1910, W. S. Shields and company was given the contract for the erection of the tower and reservoir and the installation of the pumping machinery.
Gray Brothers, were employed in 1911, to sink a deep well and lay about four and one half miles of mains. The cost of the plant complete, including mains was about thirty thousand dollars.

The City Hall, located on Franklin Street, adjoining the water tower and the old electric plant was erected in 1910, at a cost of $6000.

The sewer system was constructed in 1914. A septic tank and four miles of sewer were installed that year. Since this time many new lines have been laid and more improvements made at the disposal plant until now with its treatment plant and lagoon system Toulon has a very good and adequate system.

John Culbertson, who located just outside the town plot in 1841 and bought a stock of goods, was probably the first merchant, he commanded a large trade in and around Toulon, built a flour mill and established a woolen factory, and was otherwise active in building up the new county seat. Another pioneer of 1841 was Dr. Thomas Hall, who was the first resident physician.

The first hotel was kept by Benjamine Turner, who also kept a small stock of goods in one of the front rooms. Other early hotel keepers were B. A. Hall and William Rose. Alexander Able kept a tavern on the north side of Main at, between Franklin and Miller sts. where the "Virginia House" was built by J. A. Cooley in 1849.

From this beginning in 1841, Toulon has grown to a city of 1200 inhabitants, with many new developments and homes, It has two fine school buildings, State Bank of Toulon, Toulon Public Library. Six flurshing churches, a large Kraft Food Plant, two large grain elevators, the county highway building as well as county farm bureau, Soil Conservation Office and A. S. C. Office, weekly newspaper, locker plant, three grocery firms, two fine restaurants, recreation hall, garages, filling stations, and other business houses.

Toulon may never be a big city but it will always grow in spirit if not in size, thats the way the founders wanted it.


Toulon has never been a manufacturing town. The first factories in the very early days was the Flour and Woolen Mill of John Culbertson, these mills were operated under his personal supervision and employed a number of people, after Mr. Culbertson's death in 1869 the industry was allowed to lanquish and finally went down.

At the close of the Civil War, John Maxfield began making brick near Toulon, James P. Headley operated a brick yard at Toulon in the '80's. Among the other manufacturers were wagons and carriages, cigars, harness arid sorghum molasses, but the one product still being manufactured is that of whole milk and cheese.

A cheese manufacturing company was organized at Toulon. in May, 1875, producing 41,800 lbs. of cheese in the first year. In 1885 the plant was closed and the building was converted into a skating rink.

In 1932 when the Toulon Milk products company was practically defunct. Mr. Axel Madsen came to Toulon from Plymouth, Wisconsin, he believed in the dairy cow, and had the foresight to make plans, import dairy cows, start the movement of milk routes and started the organized manufacturing of cheese and butter, soon adding; Tiskilwa and Tonica to his holdings his brand became the triple T. In early 1940's local operation had out-grown all the small plant facilities even with round the clock operations, and Mr. Madsen sold his plants to Kraft Foods Company.

Mr. J. L. Kraft, the founder of the giant food processing industry, was one of eleven children of a Canadian family. He sold imported European cheeses. One of his customers was the future governor of Illinois. Henry Horner.

In 1914, at the start of World War I, his source of imported cheese was curtailed. This was the year he founded the J. L. Kraft and Brothers Company and decided to establish his own cheese factory.

The first Kraft plant was at Stockton, Illinois in 1914.

The present Toulon Kraft plant was built in 1945 and started operations in 1946. During the first years of operation American cheese was made. Many varieties of cheese have been made here at one time or another. Now only Swiss cheese is produced. Milk is purchased in cans and bulk from seven counties and delivered to the plant by independent milk haulers. Clyde Ham has hauled milk to the plant almost since the plan: was built.

J. L. Kraft became a connesseur of fine jade and gathered a valuable collection of gems. His interest in jade led him to discover the only jade deposit in North America. Today, Kraft awards the Jade Ring to outstanding employees.

Mary Webster, the office manager, has been with Kraft since the plant was built. Byron Tonn, Grace Mortimer, Jack Silliman, Charles Catton, Robert Warren, Cecil Little and Axel Henriksen are also some of the employees that have been with Kraft for over twenty years.

The three fieldmen working with the patrons to help improve their dairy practices are Milo Shaw, Ernie Treat and Louis McDonald.

The three plant foremen are Adolph Rechsteiner, Max Hatfield and Ron Baird. The plant is managed by James Hellmich.

The Kraft plant spends approximately three million dollars for milk purchases, supplies, services, and wages paid to employees a year in the Toulon area, a major factor in Toulon prosperity.

Home | Online Books | Next