Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The History of Cayuga, Illinois, Well Before Route 66 Came Through Town.

The town of Cayuga, Illinois is a year older than her sister town, Odell. Cayuga was surveyed and platted, then shortly approved on April 10, 1855. It was laid out by Thomas F. Norton County Surveyer, from section 31, for Corydon Weed, of McLean County.
Cayuga, Illinois is 87 miles from Chicago and 40 miles from Bloomington, located between Odell and Pontiac, Illinois. By 1966, no more passenger trains stopped at the pictured Cayuga Station.
The first settlers in the vicinity of this station are given as nearly in the order they came as can now be remembered. Mr. Edwin O. Chapman, along with his brother James Chapman, came to Cayuga in 1855 and is the oldest settler in the Village. They were carpenters, and previous to 1860, they either built or helped to build almost every house in the neighborhood.

J. H. Coe, from New York, settled here in the Fall of 1855, and opened a farm on the southside of the town, and resided here and in the vicinity until 1862, when he moved to Dwight.

Samuel and Charles Packwood, from New York, came in the Fall of the same year (1855) and opened a farm north of the town. Samuel Packwood was one of the first two Justices of the Peace elected in the township. He has long since moved from the county. Charles still lives in the neighborhood, but has changed his location to the west side of the village.

F. J. Church came in 1856. He was a farmer, but did not buy land, but rented, for a few years, until he was appointed Postmaster and Station Agent, which positions he held for a number of years. C. N. Coe, brother of J. H. was the first Station Agent, appointed in the year 1856. He also bought the first grain shipped from this place, during the same year. Grain was handled in a small warehouse which had been built by Weed, the original proprietor of the town.

Eli Pearson, from Ohio, came in the Fall of 1855, and opened a farm just east of the village. He has since moved to the township of Esmen. Hanford Kerr and family, from the same state, came about the same date. Moses Pearson arrived a few months later, and opened a farm east of the town.

In 1856, the Fish brothers, C. U. Udell and Dr. B. J. Bettleeim arrived. The last named was an eminent scholar and a learned and successful physician. He traveled extensively in China, Japan, and other countries. In 1858, he gave a series of lectures in Pontiac, Illinois on his Eastern travels and on various religious subjects.

William Skinner, William J. Murphy and a few others settled in the neighborhood in 1857. Skinner opened the farm just north of the village, where he still resides. Murphy started a broom factory. Mr. Murphy was also a preacher, and moved on to Pontiac, where he took charge for a time, of the Presbyterian Church. While at Pontiac, he opened the nursery where A. W. Kellogg now resides.

David J. Evans opened the first store in 1857, which he continued about a year, when he was succeeded in the business by John F. Pickering.

In 1862, D. Hunt built the first warehouse now owned and operated by C. N. Coe. In 1868, L. E. Kent, of Pontiac, erected the one now operated by him. Thought the village compares but poorly with many other towns of the county, the business done here is, by no means inconsiderable as will be seen by the following items, as given by the agent of the Chicago, Alton & St. Louis Railroad, Edwin Chapman. 

The total amount for freight forwarded in 1877 was $23,209.00; total for freight received $1,644.74 in 1877.

By 1898 the village of Cayuga had a population of 160. It is situation on the Chicago & Alton Railroad, five miles northeast of Pontiac and eighty-seven miles southwest of Chicago. E. O. Chapman, agent of the C. & A Railroad, is also agent for the Western Union Telegraph Company and United States Express Company. The post office is a money order office. 

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

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