Chrisman, Edgar County, Illinois
Centennial 1872-1972 on-line
Part 1

Chrisman, Edgar County, Illinois<br /> Centennial 1872-1972 on-line September 1997

This Book is a reissue of the 1972 Chrisman Area Centennial Book: a project undertaken by the Chrisman Public Library Board and Staff members, and made possible by generous contributions from area businesses and individuals. Additional pages have been added listing these sponsors.

Our sincere thanks to all who helped us in any way, and a special thanks to Mrs. Kay Wolfe, treasurer of the Chrisman Public Library and the City of Chrisman. Chrisman Public Library Board: Mr. Clyde Samford, Mrs. Mary Lee Buntain, Mrs. Mary D. Woodyard, Mrs. Bonita Wyatt,Mr. Benton Caldwell, Mrs. Doris Compton, president, Mrs. Kay Fidler, secretary, Mr. Gary Mills, and Mr. George Fischer. Staff: Mrs. Mary Marvin, librarian and Ms. Mary E. Galway, assistant librarian

[For clarification, please remember while reading that all references to "today" refer to circa 1972.]

from the water tower; 1906 looking north on Ohio street. Christian and Baptist Church right
Chrisman, Edgar County, Illinois<br /> Centennial 1872-1972 on-line

Years after Illinois became a state in 1818 and Edgar County was formed in 1823, Ross Township came into being. The township was organized as a separate precinct in 1857, being one of the original "thirteen" to accept the township organization act. In those days Ross Township was an undrained, swampy country covered with a coarse, pointed wild grass that grew several feet high. The southern portion of the township was fringed with timber and here were the first settlers. The pioneers, of that day, came from timbered country, and they could not believe the prairie land was of any value, but only an abode for wolves, deer, snakes and wild fowl. The Kickapoo Indians roamed the broad prairies when the first white men came to Edgar County. These Indians were peaceable and caused very little worry for the pioneers.

In 1832 several families came from Kentucky, Ohio, and Indiana and settled in the township, and before 1852 the following families were residing here: Samuel Scott, Elijah Bacon, Abram Smith, John Chrisman, Samuel McKee, Johnson Ross, Daniel Triplett, Silas Dickson, Matthew Hoult, James Gaines, Robert Swank, Robert Knuckles, William Boone, William Wyatt, Eugenia Hoult, William Hurst, and Sarsafield Clark.

The work above was sponsored by ADAM'S, Dale, Barb, Ruth, Jim, Rob, and Mike, Chrisman, Illinois

These people came with money, took up large tracts of prairie land, created wealth, organized society, and made this part of Edgar county as fine as any in Illinois through their work and ability to meet hardships.

The most important actions taken by the township, in an organized capacity, were those by which the location of Paris and Danville, and the Indianapolis and Decatur Railroads were secured through this section. The latter road had been located and much work done a number of years before, but the panic of 1857 coming on, work was suspended.

In 1870, the Legislature of the state having previously passed an act favorable to voting township aid to railroad corporations, a company was formed for the completion of this line, provided the townships through which it was located should render substantial assistance. Among others, Ross Township voted for the scheme and agreed to subscribe $12,000. This action took place in 1869, the terms being that the road should be completed by 1873. The provisions agreed to by the company being complied with, the proper authorities issued the said amount of bonds to the corporation as stipulated. This, however, did not give this section an outlet to Chicago, and it was not long before a scheme was started by which that desirable end should be accomplished. The Paris and Danville railroad, to connect with the Chicago and Eastern Illinois at Danville, was incorporated, and township aid solicited. To this line Ross Township contributed most liberally, donating $50,000 in May, 1870.

The right-of-way for the present Baltimore & Ohio road had been secured a few years before. The Chrisman family gave the right-of-way and eighty acres of land to secure this road. The first train through this section was run from Danville to Paris in 1872. Several neighbors of the Chrisman family gathered on this farm to see the train pass over the new road. During the time they were waiting that day, the dream of a city was born. When it became certain that the Indianapolis-Decatur road would be completed, the intersection of the two railroads became a most desirable site for a village. The 800 acres which Mathias Chrisman owned was divided into four nearly equal parts by the railroads.

The land where the city of Chrisman stands today was entered from the government by Abraham Smith in 1840. He was the first man to venture on the prairie to make a home. His farm was purchased by John Chrisman, who came from Kentucky in 1851. At that time there were about twenty families in the township. A few years later, in 1860, he built a home where the Nazarene Church stands today. John Chrisman lived in this home until his death in 1870 when this farm of 800 acres became the property of his son, Mathias Chrisman.

Abraham Smith home

The work above was sponsored by CHRISMAN AMERICAN LEGION, Chrisman, Illinois
Chrisman, Edgar County, Illinois<br /> Centennial 1872-1972 on-line

On August 5, 1872, the site for a new town was surveyed by Nelson Guthrie, county surveyor. He was assisted by Mathias Chrisman, Charles T. Caraway, and William Kenton. The name of Chrisman was suggested by William Kenton in honor of Mathias Chrisman, the owner of the land where the town was plotted. For a few months the village bore the name of Dolly Varden. The town site extended from the south side of the square to the Montezuma road on the north, now known as Washington Avenue, and from the State Road on the east to the new railroad on the west. One hundred acres were platted.

Before the coming of the railroads, Bloomfield had been a thriving village just south of Chrisman for 41 years. It was one of the most prosperous business, religious, and social centers in the county. The State Road, established by an act of the Illinois Legislature in October 1830, started from the west bank of the Wabash River, opposite Vincennes, and ran through Paris and Danville to Chicago. The Montezuma Road and the State Road crossed in the South part of Bloomfield, and this was a great advantage to the village.

Some time between 1840 and 1850 a stage route was started between Paris and Danville. Along this old State Road the stage coach traveled. If the mud was deep, four horses were used, but in the summer two horses were sufficient. The stage coach carried the mail, as well as passengers. Those living in the south portion of the township went to Bloomfield for their mail, while those residing in the north portion went to Ridgefarm and Indianola.

In the stagecoach days an inn was located north of Chrisman on the present site of the Elmer Malone home. Here Abraham Lincoln stopped when he traveled this road during his court practice 1847-1859. The advent of the railroads brought great changes to Bloomfield. The business men foresaw the doom of the village and commenced moving to what they considered better locations. Stanfield and Mitchell were among the first merchants to locate in Chrisman. Earhart Brothers moved their blacksmith shop, Abe Mitchell his harness shop, and James Boles and Son their drug store. By the end of 1872 Bloomfield had practically vanished.

The work above was sponsored by CHRISMAN LIONS CLUB, Chrisman, Illinois

The first building erected in Chrisman was a carpenter shop owned by Samuel Kenton. It stands south of the Presbyterian Church, and was built just before the erection of a two-story store building by Mr. Kenton in 1872. This building stood on the northwest corner of the north side of the square. One room was occupied by Jacob Brant and C. A. Smith with a stock of dry goods and groceries, while the adjoining room was occupied by James Boles and Son with a drug store. These were the pioneer business men of the town. These rooms were later occupied by J. R. Sousley with groceries and S. W. Thayer with dry goods. Later J. F. Newlin, Lee Moss, and J. M. Heidrick operated this grocery store.

Chrisman, Edgar County, Illinois<br /> Centennial 1872-1972 on-line

In the fall of 1872 Alexander Clark built a two- story building with two store rooms on the first floor, on the northeast corner of the square. In one room Stanfield and Mitchell sold dry goods and groceries, and Stubbs, Rafferty & Johns sold hardware in the adjoining room. Butter and eggs were traded for dry goods.

Chrisman, Edgar County, Illinois<br /> Centennial 1872-1972 on-line

The first lot purchased in the town was by Frank and James Earhart. This was the lot where the United Methodist Church and parsonage now stand. People were quick to see that this was an excellent place for business. Lots were sold rapidly; Earhart Brothers paid $200; W. M. Livett, $100; William Kenton, $200; Harvey Stubbs, $100; Dr. Welch, $500; B. F. Waldruff, $100; Henry Barth, $100; John Mitchell, $200. The first house was built on the site of the Chevrolet garage.

The work above was sponsored by RICHARD H. ROGERS, farmer, Chrisman, Illinois

Mr. John Boles, the son in the drug firm of Boles and Son was given three lots by Mathias Chrisman for his assistance when the town was laid out. He built his home where the apartment house owned by Israel Say re now stands; it is a part of the present building. Mr. Cash Chrisman received the lots where he built. Later E. W. Hartley built on this location and it is the home of Mr. and Mrs. Otis Clark today.

Mr. Chrisman enlarged the Boles house and he and Mrs. Chrisman opened the Chrisman Cottage. Mr. and Mrs. Boles built and moved to a new home which is the home of Mr. and Mrs. Roscoe Stultz at the present time.

Mr. Chrisman helped to make the town, as he was a plasterer of those early days, and Henry Barth followed the same trade. The latter was an artist in decorating the ceiling for the hanging lamp. The town, growing at a rapid rate, gave all classes of workman plenty to do.

The town was incorporated March 24, 1874. Its first officers were: President, W. T. Hunt; Trustees; Watson H. Murdock, John H. Mitchell, and Joseph Stanfield. In order to incorporate the first census was taken by John Scott to determine if the required 200 people could be found in the village. The last member of the 200 arrived just two hours previous to the taking of this census. The honored baby was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James Rafferty.

Chrisman, Edgar County, Illinois<br /> Centennial 1872-1972 on-line

The first post office was located on the northwest corner of the north side of the square in conjunction with a dry goods store. C. A. Smith was the first Postmaster. On November 4, 1872 the first mail arrived. This was quite a convenience for the public since mail had been received at Bloomfield up to this time.

Milling was one of the first occupations in the new village. The first mill was built west of the Pans and Danville tracks on the north side of Madison Avenue. It was a feed and meal mill, a corn products factory built by Mr. Sanderson. Mathias Chrisman built the flour mill that stood west of the railroad and northwest of the first mill. For a number of years the farmers exchanged wheat for flour at this mill. Later in the eighties when flour from the city roller mills was on sale in Chrisman, this mill was closed.

The Campbell brothers and Charles Rice built a hominy mill that stood where the elevator on the B & 0 railroad stands today. This was a project that was a success for a number of years, in the eighties, but was destroyed by fire. All three mills burned. Later Isaac and Ben Scott operated a flour and feed mill on the north side of Jefferson Avenue between Illinois and Indiana streets.

William Livett was the first shoemaker, and he was considered the best in this section. He was particular about the leather used and the proper fitting. The men wore boots to combat the mud and for dress the boots were made with the box toe. The calfskin shoes in the spring and winter were often greased with tallow to cause them to turn water. Some early shoemakers tanned their leather, but William Livett was of a later period. Even after the merchants handled shoes of various makes, the men had their boots made for they lasted much longer.

Women as well as men knew how to handle a horse, and they rode horseback to town wearing a long riding skirt to protect their dresses from the mud and water. They would often carry a basket of eggs or butter to trade for groceries. On each side of the square were stiles where women could alight.

The work above was sponsored by RIDGEFARM STATE BANK--every banking service, Ridgefarm, Illinois 247-2104

In the days of the pioneer the grain of the township was fed to stock. Men without sufficient stock would take in stock to feed at a normal price, so in this way the grain from the farms was disposed of prior to the days of the elevators which followed the building of railroads.

In the days of the pioneer the grain of the township was fed to stock. Men without sufficient stock would take in stock to feed at a normal price, so in this way the grain from the farms was disposed of prior to the days of the elevators which followed the building of railroads.

Chrisman, Edgar County, Illinois<br /> Centennial 1872-1972 on-line

When Chrisman was young, the cows grazed in the streets and on the commons. Everyone who could purchase a cow owned one, for a dairy was unknown. Folks gave milk to people without a cow. Fences were necessary to keep out the town cows. On each cow was a bell. After school the children went for the cows, and they knew the sound of their bell just as the children today know the sound of the motor in their car. The cows continued to run at large until the townspeople began building sidewalks. It was a sorry day for the men on the town board who declared the cows a nuisance and must no longer run at large.

Chrisman, like all other towns, had saloons. The reputation of the town spread far and wide on two occasions when men were killed in the saloons. Outside of this blemish, Chrisman has ranked as a high-class town.

The Chrisman Cottage was known far and near for its excellent meals and accommodations. Many traveling men (often called drummers in those days) made a special effort to include an overnight stop at the Cottage to enjoy Mrs. Chrisman's good food and friendly hospitality.


The Original Town of Chrisman 1872, consisted of the part bounded by Monroe Avenue on the south, the railroad on the west, the State Highway on the east and Washington Street on the north.

The Railroad Addition 1873, (eighty acres given previously by the Chrisman family to secure the east-west railroad) extended from the south side of Monroe Avenue to the railroads on the south and west, and to Vermont Avenue on the east.

The John Moss Addition 1874, known then as Moss Town, included the land within the present city limits south of the B & 0 railroad.

The S. R. Gray Addition 1874, extended from Ohio Street on the west to Jefferson on the south, Washington on the north, and the old State Road on the east.

The Robert Swank Addition was north of Washington Street and west of the Penn Central railroad.

Mapleton Addition in 1904; was an important addition for Chrisman. It comprised the land north of Monroe Avenue, east of Vermont Street, south of Washington, and east to Maryland. The homes on the east side of Maryland were included after 1959. Homes on the north side of Washington Avenue and east of Delaware Street are outside the city limits.

The work above was sponsored by LUCILE HOLDEN WOODYARD, Ridgefarm, Illinois

The Samuel Scott Jr. Addition October 1905, was bounded by Monroe Avenue on the north, Vermont Street on the west, Lincoln Avenue on the south and east to the present city limits.

The Chrisman Addition included that part of the city west of the Penn Central railroad bounded by Alabama Street on the west and Jefferson Avenue on the north.

Chrisman, Edgar County, Illinois<br /> Centennial 1872-1972 on-line

Blanchard's Addition extended north of Jefferson Avenue to Alabama Street on the west, Washington Avenue on the north, and the railroad on the east. The five homes on the west side of Alabama Street are outside the city limits.

The Highland Addition in 1913; takes in that part of Chrisman which lies north of Washington Avenue between the Penn Central railroad and New York Street. The two homes east of New York Street and north of Washington Avenue are outside the city limits.

Acreage sold in plots and not included in the different additions are designated as County Clerk's Sub-Division for tax purposes.


In 1920, after almost fifty years of existence, the census figures showed Chrisman with a population of 1,101. In 1970, after another fifty years, the population was 1,265, and it has made little change since. Although Chrisman's population has remained almost constant, it is a beautiful little city with an excellent location and many advantages.


The history of Chrisman would not be complete without mentioning Punkin Center or Hollywood as some call it.

The first business in Punkin Center was a filling station at the corner of Monroe and Pennsylvania. The station was built by Frank Senter in 1923, and later sold to Ott Mason and Bert George. Mr. Senter later built a grocery store south of the filling station and it was operated by Mr. Mapes. Soon other businesses were added and Punkin Center became a thriving little community of its own.

The work above was sponsored by CHRISMAN FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT, Chrisman, Illinois
Chrisman, Edgar County, Illinois<br /> Centennial 1872-1972 on-line

The store and restaurant on Route one was purchased by the Haws family, and they operated both businesses for several years. Mr. and Mrs. Wayne Knight rented the restaurant from Mr. Haws, and in 1959 Mr. Knight sold his business to Mr. Dixon. At the same time Matthew Hoult had a grocery store on the south side of the restaurant.

Chrisman, Edgar County, Illinois<br /> Centennial 1872-1972 on-line

The Standard station was erected on the corner of Madison and Pennsylvania by Po Perrin. The John Yelton house was moved from the corner farther east. Mr. Perrin operated this station until 1932. Several years ago the station was remodeled and has since been used for a restaurant. At present it is known as the Chuckwagon.

The work above was sponsored by EPPS-HILL-CLINE FARM, Chrisman, Illinois
Chrisman, Edgar County, Illinois<br /> Centennial 1872-1972 on-line CHRISMAN STREETS

The first streets in Chrisman were almost impassable in bad weather. Doctors and others needing transportation often rode horseback. In better weather they went by horse and buggy. Then came gravel roads and later rock roads. Ross Township, organized as a separate precinct in 1857, has always worked to develop and keep good roads. It was first in the county to experiment with the building of hard roads.

Some of the early road commissioners were: Joseph Ellsberry, Nimrod Coe, William T. Scott, 0. E. Patrick, Andrew Smith, and Pierce Clark. Under Mr. Clark the last mud road vanished. Mr. Kenneth Coe is road commissioner today.

Chrisman, Edgar County, Illinois<br /> Centennial 1872-1972 on-line

Improvement in township roads led to improvement in the streets of Chrisman. Hitching racks, watering troughs, and mounting blocks were to be seen around the city park for many years.

The first sidewalks of Chrisman were wooden walks. There were few concrete walks before the early 1900's. In 1914 the first paving of streets started with the paving of Madison Avenue. It was a brick pavement.

The work above was sponsored by DR. HARLEY A. LINEBARGER , Chrisman, Illinois

In 1915 Monroe Avenue was paved from the east side of city limits to Illinois Street and north of Illinois to Washington Street. Then in 1919 Illinois Street was paved south to the railroad, Monroe Avenue from Illinois west to Colorado, and Colorado north to connect with Madison Avenue.

Chrisman, Edgar County, Illinois<br /> Centennial 1872-1972 on-line Chrisman, Edgar County, Illinois<br /> Centennial 1872-1972 on-line

When the State Highway was paved in 1921, Chrisman then had two east-west pavements and two north-south pavements. Other streets in Chrisman have been black topped from time to time. Chrisman can claim more paved streets and hard roads than most towns of its size.

In 1904 the city council appointed the City Attorney, J. F. Van Voorhees, and Alderman, A. E. Schnitker, to rename the streets of the city. Their plan, presented in the form of an ordinance, is still used today. The streets run north and south and are named for states.

The avenues run east and west and are named for the presidents of the United States. In 1951 new street name signs were erected on steel posts at every corner. The new four-way signs were made of steel with a baked enamel finish and can be read from any direction. The street name sign project was sponsored by the Chrisman American Legion Post under the direction of Wilbur Yates, chairman. The signs were paid for through public donations. When installed, Mr. Yates and Mr. Nash Breen, commander of the local Legion, officially presented the new street signs to the city, and the Council accepted the signs as permanent city property.

The work above was sponsored by MARY JANE SEE In Memory of Grandfather, J. R. HARTLEY CHESTER LYCAN SLEMMONS and WINIFRED HOULT SLEMMONS, And; Ju Ru Don FARMS-Julia L Boone, Russell and Donald Boone, And; MARY L. WOODYARD In Memory of ISSAC and ROSA WOODYARD
Chrisman, Edgar County, Illinois<br /> Centennial 1872-1972 on-line

Chrisman received its charter as a city in 1900. Mr. A. G. Tucker was the first mayor elected. Succeeding mayors were:

1901-1903 H. T. Pierson
1903-1905 J.T. Johnson
1905-1907 W. H. Robison
1907-1909 L. B. Bacon
1909-1911 L B. Bacon
1911-1913 Wm. H. Scott
1913-1915 Wm. H. Scott
1915-1917 J. M. Rhoads
1917-1919 I. D. Sayre

The municipal form of city government was adopted in May 1916. There were four commissioners. Mr. Sayre served two years, and after that time the mayors were elected for a four-year term.

Chrisman, Edgar County, Illinois<br /> Centennial 1872-1972 on-line 1919-1923 John H. Owens
1923-1927 R. P. Morris -- W. J. Gonwa, Sr.
1927-1931 John M. Wasson
1931-1935 H. P. Perrin
1935-1939 C. C. Smitley
1939-1943 C. C. Smitley
1943-1947 Howard E. Wilson
1947-1951 Lyman J. Ellsberry
1951-1955 Lyman J. Ellsberry
1955-1959 R. W. Abel -- Marshall Sparks
1959-1963 Marshall Sparks
1963-1967 Marshall Sparks -- Fred Yates
1967-1971 Fred Yates
1971- Lyman J. Ellsberry

The work above was sponsored by THE KEITH TINGLEY FAMILY
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This on-line production is based on the original
centennial work of 1972 and a reissue of same
in 1997 by the Chrisman Public Library;
transcription, organization and web publication
provided by Ronald E. Yates; 2012; In memory of:
Arthur Yates 1881-1964 and Harry Yates 1888-1969
This page was last modified: Tuesday, 11-Dec-2018 19:45:59 MST