EARLY HISTORY OF SMITH GROVE (provided by Alice Temple, October 11, 1964) There were originally about 400 acres of timber in Smith Grove � probably 140 acres remain along Money Creek to the east and south of us. Because the groves offered shelter, fuel, logs for cabins and fences, and usually fresh spring water, the first settlers chose to live in the groves rather than on the prairie. It was to Smith Grove that the John Trimmer family - father, mother, and 8 children � came in 1826, the first white family to come to Towanda Township. When the Trimmer's came, there were no whites in the Mackinaw Timber. Johnathan Cheney was at Cheney's Grove. John Dawson was at Old Town. And there were fifteen families in Blooming Grove. They made camp on a site just west of this cemetery (Smith Grove) and down the slope a bit. From this camp, Mr. Trimmer journeyed out looking for suitable land to buy. He was carrying a goodly sum of money for this purpose. In October, upon returning from one of his trips, he was suddenly stricken and died without telling his wife whether he had bought land. In any event, his money was gone and Mrs. Trimmer spent some time and effort trying to find out whether he had purchased land, and where. He was buried in a rough-hewn walnut coffin at Pennel Cemetery. That same year Jacob Spawr had come in a wagon train with the Cox and Guthrie families. He stayed in Smith Grove to work for Mrs. Trimmer while the others went on to Blooming Grove. On December 3, while the Trimmers still lived at Smith Grove, Jacob Spawr was married to Eliza Ann Trimmer, the first marriage recorded in Towanda Township. Since Mr. Spawr would have been obliged to go to Vandalia to get a marriage license, he instead posted notices on trees announcing his intention to marry, and Mr. Orendorf from Blooming Grove performed the ceremony and reported it to the clerk at Vandalia. After about a year, the Trimmer family moved a mile north of Towanda into Money Creek Township. George Womack, through his mother Zanna Trimmer Womack, traces his ancestry back to these pioneers. Jesse Trimmer, one of the 8 children, recalls in "The Good Old Times" that his playmates were Indian children. Not too much is said about the Indians around Smith Grove, but a George Gastman remembered about the Indian Trail which led from Hudson to Smith Grove, then on south to Old Town Timber. On Old sign reading" Livingston Inn" was found in the original barn at Winter's, about 1.2 mile west of here. This inn was supposed to have been an overnight stop for cross-country travelers, but we have never found any further information about it. Smith Grove was named for David Smith who came here in 1830, and who with his son, John Smith, immediately entered the land. A log schoolhouse built here a few years later by residents of the Grove served as school, church, and public meeting place for some time. Zanna Womack felt that the old log structure was probably on the east side of the road. Her account reads, "According to statements in this record the old schoolhouse stood near the southeast corner of our present school yard (1937). Because on page 25 of
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the old register, the site of the present building was voted on and was described as follows: "Nearly six rods inside the field northwest of old schoolhouse in said district." It was replaced by a frame structure in 1855, which stood directly south of us about 1/2 mile inside the curve in the road. The first record of school in Towanda Township was at Smith Grove in 1850, designated as District 1, the directors were James V. Bishop, Jessie Walden, and William Halterman. The first teacher (of whom we have record) was Miss Johanna Beaty, who taught a term of three months for the sum of $20. There were 27 pupils and there were 54 school-age youngsters in the district. All of the Smith Grove School records have been given to Illinois State University by Mr. and Mrs. George Womack. Bateman & Selby say, "The first preaching (in Towanda Township) was probably by John Dunham, a member of the United Brethren Church of Smith's Grove about 1832." Baptists and Presbyterians are also recorded as holding services at Smith Grove quite early. More families were coming to Smith Grove � Joneses, Whites, Strouds, Arbuckles, Baylers, Bishops, Flings, Abbetts, Krafts, and Dodsons, to mention a few. In 1849, Abraham Russ Jones, Jr. came here from Clark County, Ohio and purchased 600 acres, including 300 acres of timber in Smith Grove, at $5 per acre; this land he shared with his brothers Cyrus and Nelson who joined him at Smith Grove. Later they were joined by two more brothers, Frank and William Washington Jones, Sr., a sister, Eliza, and their parents, Abraham, Sr. and Matilda Jones. Most of the Jones family are buried in this cemetery. Abraham Jones home place is a mile north and a mile west of Merna. The red brick house still stands much the same as when he built it (razed in 1972). The Nelson Jones home, also red brick and also little changed, is to be found a mile farther west, near Money Creek. The Frank Jones home is � mile south of Smith Grove Cemetery. It has been extensively remodeled and is occupied by the Brokaw family � Mrs. Brokaw being a direct descendant. The foundation of an earlier log structure can be found to the east of the Brokaw home. The Cyrus Jones home was north and east of the Cemetery about � mile. Mr. & Mrs. Maurice Jones (he being a descendant of Frank Jones) now live in this home which also has undergone extensive remodeling. On the east side of the road, and across the Creek south of the Cemetery, stands the house where the parents of the Jones brothers, Abraham, Sr. and Matilda Noel Jones, lived after coming to Illinois and before moving to the village of Towanda. Surprisingly enough, all of the timber, and several hundred acres of farm land adjoining Smith Grove is still owned and farmed by descendants of the Jones brothers. I understand the bridge down here at the foot of the hill is to be replaced next year and will be called The Smith Grove Bridge. Bibliography Bateman & Selby, Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois & McLean County,
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Vol. I, pp 729-30. Brigham, William B., "The Story of McLean County & Its Schools" 1951 pp 169, 172, 173. Duis, E., "The Good Old Times in McLean County" 1874, pages 637, 665, 701. Folsom, Peter, "Map of McLean County," 1856 (shows the graves, etc.) History of McLean County, 1879, pp 589-598. Lexington Unit Journal, June 10, 1937, "History of Smith Grove Community" by Mrs. Ray Womack. 10-11-1964 by Alice Temple
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Illinois State University, Milner Library, Normal, IL, 61790 - for the Towanda Area Historical Society/Towanda District Library
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