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Towanda District Library -- Towanda Area Historical Collection

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  1. 1857 Newspaper advertisement on sale of Towanda town lots
    A Bloomington, Illinois Weekly Pantagraph newspaper advertisement dated August 4, 1857 advertised that Jesse W. Fell of Bloomington had lots for sale in the Village of Towanda among other towns. A public auction was to be held on Friday, September 4, 1857 for 75 lots in Towanda, many of them fronting on, and none more than three-fourths of a mile from, the Depot.

  2. 1867 Photograph of school house in Towanda, Illinois
    This is a photograph of the Towanda, Illinois school house in 1867, located west of the corner of Jefferson and Monroe streets.

  3. 1873 Telegraph reporting military death of Ephriam Peterson
    Western Union Telegraph dated "Glendale O. 18, 1873", received at "8:45 am" to "Elisha Peterson, Towanda, Ill" reads: "Ephriam is dead & will be Buried tomorrow afternoon. Ralph McCormick". Elisha Person was a Towanda resident and father of Ephriam Peterson.

  4. 1876 Warranty Deed for land given to form the Zion Cemetery, Towanda, IL
    This Warranty Deed dated November 25, 1876 described the land forming the Zion Cemetery, northeast of Towanda, Money Creek Township McLean County, Illinois. The land was sold by Pleasant W. Bishop and Amelia Ann Bishop, his wife and John Moats and Louisa M. Moats, his wife, for the sum of $1.00. It stated the land was to be used as a cemetery forever. The signatures were acknowledged before Abner N. Dodson, a Justice of the Peace. Cemetery trustees shown on the deed were W. D. More, P. W. Bishop, Wm. Cary, A. N. Dodson, and F. A. Bishop. The Warranty Deed was not officially recorded at the McLean County Court House until September 8, 1888. A typed transcribed copy of the deed is also shown. Photocopies were provided courtesy of the Lexington Genealogical & Historical Society, 318 W Main St., Lexington, IL 61753 Ph: 309-365-4591.

  5. 1879 Postal card announcing safe arrival home
    Postal card mailed on March 22, 1879 from LeRoy, Ill and addressed to Mr. E. A. Peterson of Towanda, Ill. reads: "Dear Father: I got home Thursday morning, took the folks somewhat by surprise, they were looking for me, but not quite so soon. I was about 10 days on the road when I can make a raise I will come up, all well, except some colds yrs affect. J. B. Alters". Along the side of the card is written " Kansas is all right".

  6. 1885 Biography of John W. Stover, early settler
    A biography of John W. Stover, one of the early pioneers in the Towanda, Illinois area is contained in the book entitled McLean County, Illinois: Portrait and Biographical Album (ca 1885), Chapman Bros. He was born in Ohio on May 15, 1833 and in 1852 he removed to McLean County. In 1857 he settled in Money Creek Township and farmed 600 acres of land. He met Elizabeth Ogden, who was born on January 16, 1839 and they married on August 20, 1857. They had six children named: Benjamin W., Sarah A., Cora, Etta M., Ida B. and one who died in infancy.

  7. 1895 Plat of Barnes, Illinois
    Plat map dated 1895 showing Barnes, Towanda Township which includes the ICC Railroad, its depot and post office together with 22 lots between West and East Streets. There is a stockyard on the east end of the town.

  8. 1895 Plat of the Town of Towanda, Illinois
    Plat of the Town of Towanda in Towanda Township dated 1895. This shows the original town square and the Fell & Holder's Addition together with Roadnight's Division.

  9. 1908 Photograph of Towanda Post Office
    1908 Photograph shows local Towanda residents, George W. Peterson, Wilbur J. Cash, Otis J. Michael, John Smith, Samuel B. McMullen, Benjamin Dotson, Walter Dotson and Roy Vanneman posing in front of the Post Office.

  10. 1910 family photograph of the Francis Marion Jones home built in 1872
    This photograph of the Francis Marion Jones family and home was taken in 1910. The home was built in 1872 in Towanda Township, Section 10. Standing (left to right) are Price Jones and Harry Cary. Seated (left to right) are Ann Hempleman Jones, Francis Marion Jones, Emma Raredon Jones. Ruth Cary child is in front. Price was the oldest son of Frances and Ann Jones.

  11. 1910 Photograph of Towanda Presbyterian Church
    This photograph of the Towanda Presbyterian Church was taken around 1910.

  12. 1911 Photograph of the Sachs Brothers Feedlot in Towanda
    A photograph taken on October 21, 1911 is of the Sachs Brothers Feedlot in Towanda, Illinois. A notation of the back of the photograph states that there were 117 cattle on feed,

  13. 1913 Newspaper article on Towanda Presbyterian Church
    A newspaper article on September 15, 1913 tells of a celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Towanda Presbyterian Church. Local residents and many former members made up the attendees of more than 200 people. Cyrus Jones of San Jose, California spoke of the organization of the Sunday school. He had organized the first Sunday school in the Smith's Grove neighborhood in 1852. Charter members of the church were members of the Rayburn family with one exception, David C. Rayburn, Mrs. Mary Rayburn, Sr., David Rayburn, Sr., Mrs. Nancy Rayburn and John C. Rayburn. Samuel March is the oldest living member of the present congregation. The church was built by Wilson Brothers of Bloomington in 1863.

  14. 1916 Photograph of Towanda Main Street Shops
    Photograph taken around 1916 of Towanda Main Street scene, includes Cash & Son Groceries & Hardware store, with a horse drawn wagon and a car in front.

  15. 1919 Army mail envelope to Mrs. M. J. Sachs
    A 1919 army mail envelope from H. W. Sachs to Mrs. M. J. Sachs of Towanda, Illinois has a censor seal.

  16. 1919 envelope addressed to Hans Sachs
    Envelope front dated January 12, 1919 shows addressee as Hans Sachs of Towanda who received the mail from H. W. Sachs in U. S. Army in A. E. F. during WWI. The envelope was postmarked U. S. Army Post Office. The mail was censored by James Moffitt, 1st Lt.

  17. 1922 newspaper articles regarding the death of Dr. Clarence Lloyd McNett
    There are three Bloomington, Illinois Pantagraph newspaper articles reporting on the death of Dr. Clarence Lloyd McNett on June 21, 1922, and the subsequent accident investigation. Dr. McNett was driving a Buick roadster when the vehicle was struck by the Chicago and Alton Train No. 4 at the railroad crossing north of Towanda depot. The doctor died at the scene of the accident and his passenger, Miss Crystal Brennan, of Chicago, was transported to the hospital in critical condition. The funeral Service for Dr. C. L. McNett was held from the M. E. church in Towanda. Interment was at Cary, Illinois. Dr. McNett was born in Cary, Illinois on May 1, 1879 to Charles and Clara McNett. Dr. McNett married Gertrude May Frey of Chicago on April 28, 1905. His wife and one son, Lauren, survived Dr. McNett. Verification and additional information were provided courtesy of the Lexington Genealogical & Historical Society, 318 W Main St, Lexington, IL 61753, 309-365-4591.

  18. 1927 Photograph of Towanda School Glee Club
    This photograph taken in 1927 features the Towanda School Glee Club. Mrs. Ruth Henderson was the music director and is shown in the back row, sixth from the left.

  19. 1930 Program of the Towanda High School Senior Class Play
    This program from the Towanda High School Senior Class Play announced the play, "Getting Acquainted With Madge", directed by Mrs. B. E. Smith and was held at the Towanda Town Hall on May 2, 1930. The cast of characters (as they appeared on stage) included the whole Senior Class. Listed are: Orville Goff, Ivon Hines, Lyle Eastwood, Fannie Stapleton, Mamie Jameson, Marjorie Stapleton, George White, Junior Miller, Cleve Hand, Clark White, Lucille Cary and Henry Lippert. There were 3 acts and the Time: PRESENT. During the Interludes, the Girls' Glee Club performed. The music Director was Mrs. D. E. Henderon.

  20. 1930 Towanda High School Commencement Exercises Announcement
    This 1930 Senior Class Graduation Announcement of the Towanda, IL High School announced Commencement on Thursday, May 29, eight o'clock, Methodist Church (Towanda). Inside it listed the class motto, colors and flower along with the class roll of students which included: Lelna Lucile Cary, Lyle Eldred Eastwood, Orville Allen Goff, William Cleve Hand, Ivon Alice Hines, Mamie Elizabeth Jameson, Henry Albert Lippert, William Dudley Miller, Jr, Fannie Lou Stapleton, John Clark White and George Willard White. The Junior-Senior Banquet was held on May 22; Baccalaureate on May 25; and Class Day on May 27 of 1930.

  21. 1938 Newspaper photograph of 1903 Homemade Steam Auto
    1938 Newspaper photograph shows a 1903 homemade steam auto, driven by Millard McAfferty. The photograph was taken in 1903. Millard McAfferty constructed the auto with his brother Ben. The auto had buggy wheels and a chain drive. Bystanders are, left to right: Homer Dean, Hagel Stretch, "Uncle Bob" Fincham, and Hans Sachs.

  22. 1938 Newspaper photograph of S. B. McMullen and his "Modern" Car
    1938 Newspaper photograph shows S. B. McMullen, a Towanda resident for nearly 40 years and the village postmaster, driving his "modern" car . He recalls the "steam buggy" that would have driven the streets of Towanda 35 years ago.

  23. 1938 Newspaper photographs of Towanda Civil War Veteran's birthday
    1938 newspaper photographs depict Towanda Civil War Veteran, George Peterson, celebrating his 93rd birthday with flowers and a cake from local residents. He is also pictured with two granddaughters, Rose and June Michael.

  24. 1939 Towanda (Illinois) Community High School Yearbook
    The 1939 yearbook of the Towanda (Illinois) Community High School was the first annual yearbook that was published. Titled "The Totem", all the work, except pages with photographs had been done by Towanda students. Selected pages from the yearbook include a history of the school, the senior pictures page, lists of the juniors, sophomores, and freshmen, and their picture page. A special treat is the ^Alumni Notes^, which consists of a list of all the graduates of Towanda High School from 1894 through 1938 and where they were in 1939, if the information was known. Another page is titled ^Settlers of our Community^. The complete 1939, 1940, and 1941 yearbooks or annuals of the Towanda Community High School can be viewed at the Towanda District Library.

  25. 1939 Towanda School Eighth Grade Graduation Program
    This is a program from the Eighth Grade Commencement of Towanda School District Grade Schools on May 29, 1939. The graduates include the following students: Eleanor Moore from Bishop School; Isabel Sweeney from Frog Alley; Dorothy Arnett and George R. Womack from Smith Grove; John Barnard and Helen Ogden from Trimmer; and Phyllis Abbott, Verne Deutsch, Vera Howell, Earline McReynolds, Jean Marsh, Albert Miller, Lloyd Mitchell, Ruby Mounce, Howard Nettleton, Glenn Shelton, and Russell Craig from Towanda. Eleanor Moore performed an accordion solo and Isabel Sweeney performed a piano solo. Superintendent William Brigham gave the address and presented special certificates to the 17 graduates.

  26. 1940 "Country Gentleman" Magazine Cover
    This December 1940 "Country Gentleman" newspaper issue shows one of the 11 year old twin daughters of Mrs. Louise Bolton Jerry, granddaughter of Dr. and Mrs. S. S. Boulton of Towanda, Illinois. We cannot tell if it is Gloria or Patricia in the photograph.

  27. 1940 Campaign Poster for Cash for Senator
    1940 campaign poster is for Wilbur J. Cash, a well known Towanda native who served as Republican Senator from the 28th District to the Illinois State Legislature until 1952. He also was in the general merchandise business and had farming interests. He served many positions with the Village of Towanda, He and his wife Ruby moved to Bloomington in 1952 where he served as a director of the McLean County Bank. He died on June 3, 1956.

  28. 1941 Newspaper article on Leslie Sutter Family
    A Bloomington, Illinois, Pantagraph newspaper article on June 19, 1941 tells of the Leslie Sutter family living near Towanda on 380 rented acres. Mr. and Mrs. Sutter along with their children, Jean, Alice and Sonny were all members of farming organizations and their involvement in church and school activities kept them quite busy. The parents endorsed education and favored letting their children choose their own careers. The Sutter family tried to use farm raised food as much as possible. They specialized in grain farming, but also raised livestock and sold cream and eggs.

  29. 1941 Newspaper article on Towanda High School Superintendent
    Newspaper article in 1941 says that George Bodecker, a Western State graduate, has been named to the post of Superintendent of Schools. He was currently on a leave of absence to do graduate work at Northwestern.

  30. 1944 photograph of Eleanor Threlfall at State Farm
    This photograph of Eleanor Threlfall of Towanda, Illinois was taken around 1944 at her work place at State Farm Insurance Company in Bloomington, Illinois. Eleanor went to work at State Farm in 1942 and is pictured next to the multigraph machine that she operated. This machine is a combined rotary type-setting and printing machine and Eleanor set type that could print letterhead and envelopes and other paperwork needed by insurance agents. Pictured with Eleanor is Marvin Summers, a co-worker or supervisor. Eleanor relates that they wore special work clothes (which she is wearing in the photograph) since they could get quite dirty with the ink and print setting. She really enjoyed the work and found it to be a great experience. Eleanor worked at State Farm for about three years. She married Paris Hensley in 1950, had two daughters and became the Towanda Township Librarian in 1971. Eleanor Threlfall Hensley has now retired (2007), still living in Towanda, and has been a Towanda District Library volunteer.

  31. 1945 Newspaper article titled: Towanda Library Auction Nets $300
    On April 13, 1945, a Bloomington, Illinois Pantagraph newspaper article reported an auction for the Towanda Library netted $300. Some history of building was given by Mrs. Emma Baylor. The article also reported what they had for supper. It mentioned Ralph Crose as auctioneer, and some of the items sold and amounts sold for. Leslie Sutter and Merle Sutter donated 24 bales of clover hay for auction. Mrs. Bill Martin milled among the crowd as a fortune teller of the past and present with fortunes tied in peanut shells. There were four generation represented at the auction. They were Emma Baylor, Daughter Mrs. Warner Luster, a daughter Mrs. Ed Wesley and son Norman, all of Towanda.

  32. 1948 Photograph of Bettie Arnette (Schultz) standing on Towanda's Main Street
    Photograph taken around 1948 shows Bettie Arnette (Schultz), pictured on Main Street.

  33. 1948 Photograph of Students at Ballard Grade School
    This photograph of Ballard Grade School students was taken in 1948.

  34. 1949 newspaper articles regarding proposal and approval of kindergarten in Towanda, Illinois
    November 22, 1949 and December 23, 1949 newspaper articles from the Bloomington, Illinois Pantagraph discussed the proposal that Towanda, Illinois have a kindergarten. The November article also discussed board members, advisory council, hot lunch, meeting times and bills. The December article reported the approval of kindergarten for Towanda by the Unit District 5 board of education..

  35. 1950 Photograph of Towanda fire engine
    1950 photograph depicts the Village of Towanda Fire Department firemen and white fire truck. The truck was known as "old Whitey".

  36. 1955 Towanda Community Church Community Calendar
    This 1955 calendar was published for the Towanda Community Church of Towanda, I. Each Calendar month includes the church information of service times. The calendar states the Towanda Community Church is ^A CHURCH IN THE COMMUNITY - SEEKING THE SOULS OF MEN." Besides listing the many Towanda area birthdays and anniversaries, there are many advertisements for local businesses including: Bob Spence, Income Taxes and Accounting; Richard's Garage on U.S. Route 66; Fern's Café and Texaco Station on Route 66; Bargain Center Auction House-Fred Gering, Auctioneer; Towanda Grain Company CO-OPERATIVE; Dr. S. S. Bolton; Ratliff's Coffee Shop; McLean County Service Station - Farran Brown, Prop.; Towanda Post Office Employees; Blue Ribbon Grocery, H. E. Oldfield.

  37. 1959 Newspaper article regarding the teaching of evolution discussion by Unit 5 Board of Education
    The Bloomington, Illinois newspaper, the Pantagraph, reported in 1959, that Robert Spence of Towanda dissented the teaching of evolution at the Towanda Grade School. Mr. Spence charged that a book titled "The First People In The World" states man came from the monkey and is offensive to Christians who believe the Bible. Superintendent Lowell V. Krutsinger suggested the book be pulled off the library shelf until the board could review it. Board President John English took exception to Mr. Spence. Board Member George Kelley backed up Mr. Spence.

  38. 1960 Picture postcard of Pure Truck Station
    Picture postcard taken around 1960 is of the Pure Oil Truck Stop or the "Delco" in Towanda. It was located at U. S. 66 and Towanda Road (Jefferson Street). In 2007, the Fast Stop gas station occupied this location.

  39. 1961 Aerial Soil Classification Map near Towanda
    This 1961 soil classification map is of a section of Towanda Township in McLean County Illinois viewed with the North on the Right side of the image. The areas identified by number on the map correspond to the description: 1) Village of Towanda is on the right. 2) U.S. Route 66 and 3) the railroad run from the upper left (southwest) with the railroad going through Towanda and Route 66 curving to the right (northwest) edge of the Village. The property that was to become 4) Lamplighter Subdivision (78 acres) is outlined in pen and is in the center of the map which is east of 5) Towanda-Barnes Road. 6) Duncan Mansion can be seen in the upper left (east) of Towanda-Barnes Road. 7) Money Creek can be seen flowing from the left to the right (south to the north-east) through Lamplighter Subdivision property, under 8) Hely Street and through Towanda.

  40. 1962 Newspaper article of Mrs. John Thompson with 15th Child
    May 15, 1962, newspaper article with photograph showing Mrs. John Thompson holding daughter Margaret, her 15th child. Little Margaret had four sisters and ten brothers ranging in aged from 1-1/2 to 18 years old. (The mother was the former Betty Ethington.)

  41. 1964 "Pioneer Prairie Trails Tour" Guide Book of McLean County, IL
    On October 11, 1964, the McLean County Historical Society, IL sponsored a tour of Northwestern and Central McLean County, called "Pioneer Prairie Trails". This tour included pioneer history of areas of Dry Grove, White Oak, Hudson, Lexington, Money Creek and Towanda Townships. Within Towanda Township, information of Smith's Grove and Barnes are included. Towanda Area pioneer families mentioned are: Jess Havens, the Hinthorns, J. Moats, the Gildersleeves, Issac Smalley, Lewis Sowards, Jacob Harness, Jacob Spawr, Samuel Ogden, Isaac Messer, the Van Dolahs, General Bartholomew, Ogden, William Bishop, Peter Badeau, Jesse Fell, Charles Roadnight, David Smith, the John Trimmers, Amanda Gilmore, and the Jones, White and Kraft families. Notations have been added to the script to assist in identifying locations on the map.

  42. 1971 Newspaper article on population loss in Towanda
    Newspaper article on February 12, 1971 describes the population loss in three McLean County, Illinois towns: Saybrook, Arrowsmith and Towanda between 1960 and 1970. Towanda's population decreased by 1.4%.

  43. 1972 Newspaper article and photographs on Lamplighter Subdivision
    This is a July 16, 1972 newspaper article with photographs from the Bloomington, Illinois Pantagraph, that described the development of the Lamplighter Subdivision, south of Towanda, Illinois. The Lamplighter Recreation Association was formed with a board of directors consisting of Jerry W. Quick, Armand Hartweg, Phil J. Reimer, Marvin H. Randall, Larry Reese and President Robert Riker. Tennis courts were created and a pond was to be prepared for a beach, ice skating in the winter and might become a swimming pool. Picture 1: Larry Bielfeldt, developer of subdivision, provided raw materials for the newly formed group's three tennis courts and pond. Picture 2: Tennis courts, entrance with recreation board members, Marvin Randall and Robert Riker. Picture 3: Paul Fox plays tennis with his mother, Mrs. Donald Fox (not pictured).

  44. 1974 Photograph 1908 bathing suit
    Photograph taken in 1974 shows Towanda resident, Rose Remschner modeling her mother's bathing suit worn in 1908-1910. It has knee length pants to go under the skirt.

  45. 1975 Photograph of Merna Railroad Depot
    Photograph taken in 1975 of the Merna Railroad Depot at Merna, Illinois. The depot is no longer in use.

  46. 1976 Newspaper article reporting 1926 electric lighting system in Towanda
    A 1976 newspaper article described an event from 50 years previous, when an electric lighting system was inaugurated in the village of Towanda, Illinois. Illinois Power and Light Corporation gave talks and demonstrated electrical fixtures and appliances at the Presbyterian Church, which was one of the first buildings in Towanda in which lights were installed.

  47. 1977 Detailed history of Duncan Manor
    In 1977 William D Walters, Jr. wrote a report titled "Historic Buildings of McLean County 1830-1914". The report includes background information of the Duncan Manor or Towanda Meadows, William R. Duncan's second wife, Mary Quisenbury, and third wife, Sara Bean. Also included are William R. Duncan's business ventures as a cattleman and his public life. The report lists Duncan's daughter who married Franklin Barnes, Duncan's eldest son James, and daughter Lizzie who married Ellis Dillon, who was a horse breeder. Lizzie and Dillion were married in 1883 at the Duncan Manor, .A description of the structure of the Manor and some of the myths surrounding the mansion are included in the report.

  48. 1978 Sales brochure advertising the development of the Indian Creek Subdivision
    The 1978 brochure describes the Indian Creek Subdivision, its location and the amenities available. It includes a map of the lots and a description of their size.

  49. 1982 Newspaper article on Merna Community Center
    Newspaper article dated July 2, 1982 showing the demolition of the Merna Community Center. The 1916 cornerstone is the only visible reminder of the old building that housed dances, card players, family reunions and wedding receptions.

  50. 1984 Limited written history of the George Womack Family
    This is a limited condensed version of the George Womack family taken from their family history booklet done in July of 1984. It covers the history of the family from 1843 to 1984. Information further than what is included may be obtained from the Historical Society. A copy of the booklet is located at the Towanda District Library under the number of 929.2 TEM.

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