History of Chatsworth, Illinois

Chatsworth is situated on the Toledo, Peoria and Warsaw Railroad, about 70 miles from the city of Peoria. Town 26 north, range 8 east of the Third Principal Meridian.

In 1853, the land where Chatsworth is located was entered by Soloman Sturges, who, in 1857, conveyed it to William H. Osborn, and Osborn and wife in turn conveyed it to Zeno Secor and Cornelia Gilman of New York. Secor and Gilman had it survey and laid out by Nelson Buck, County Surveyor, June 8, 1859. The original town contained 160 acres of land. Since then several additions have been made at different times, to the original plat.

It was organized as a village under the Incorporation act. The first Board of officers were: Jacob Titus, President; E. A. Bangs, John S. McElhiny, W. W. Sears and Albert Tuttle. George E. Esty, Village Clerk;

The first building was put up in 1859, by Charles D. Brooks and Trueman Brockway, both of whom were from New York. It was a store and residence combined, a frame building one and a half stories high, with rooms over the store. They went into partnership, and after Brockway married he lived over the store. A post office was established in 1860, the first in the township. Charles D. Brooks was postmaster, second postmaster was Matthew H. Hall, then Hall was succeeded by Col. N. C. Kenyon.

In 1859, there was one house in the village (Brooks & Brockway’s store), a little grain house and an old carpenter shop. There were two others in sight, the section house and one 2 miles out on the prairie, owned by Franklin Foot.

Early Chatsworth Business Directory


1859 Charles D. Brooks and Trueman Brockway

Post office:

1860, Charles D. Brooks


1859, C. W. Drake, since converted to a residence

Cottage House, William Cowling


1859, Samuel Patton, inventor of a corn husker,


1858 on two lots donated by Wm. H. Osborn, replaced in 1870 with a two story frame building, stone basement, finished in fine style Germania Sugar Company, 1865, extracting sugar from beets, stayed about 5 years, was moved, for lack of sufficient water, to Freeport.

Coal: 1867 shaft sunk near village, by Capt. Beard, stock company formed, never paid up. Beard was paid for sinking the shaft. Reports differ on whether or not there was actually coal found and concealed for some reason. Capt. Beard was also associated with the coal industry at Fairbury, at one time.


1861, the first grain elevator was built by Charles D. Brooks, burned in 1866.

Brooks built another and moved it to Piper City.

Samuel Crumpton built an elevator next.

Havercorn & Mette built one occupied by A. B. Searing,

Joseph Rumbold built one which is now owned by Searing & Crumpton.

Next, was an old mill, moved by the railroad, changed into an elevator by

Charles Weinland and owned by H. L. Turner, after many changes, disposed of.

Mill: December, 1877, Williams erected a steam mill. A frame building used for grinding corn meal and stock feed.

Star Wind Mill, put up by David E. Shaw, who is also the patentee of the Marvel

Feed Mill, which is adapted to wind mills

Wagon Factory:

L. C. Spiecher, makes wagons and carriages principally.


C. A. Wilson & Company, successor to Chatsworth Bank

E. A. Bangs & Company


December, 1873, Chatsworth Plaindealer, a five column quarto newspaper, established by C. B. Holmes, in August 1876, passed to R. M. Spurgin. It is an independent paper, takes no side in politics.


Methodist: 1859, first religious society organized in the village, by Rev. M. Dewey with about 40 members. The charge included Forrest, Five Mile Grove, Pleasant Ridge, Oliver’s Grove and Bethel, with Rev. J. W. Flowers as Presiding Elder of the District.

Presbyterian: 1859, first organized in the school house under Rev. Thomas. First regular minister was Rev. Oscar Park. Rev. George F. McAfee, came from Missouri, Superintendent of Sunday School, with 135 children attending.

Baptist: The Baptist Church was built in 1871, with Rev. A. Kenyon as pastor of over One hundred, with A. H. Hall as Superintendent of Sunday School.

The Roman Catholic Church: built in 1864, dedicated to St. Patrick on the 17th of March, 1864 by Rev. Thomas Roy, President of St. Victor’s College. The church was built under Rev. John A. Fanning of Fairbury. Became an Independent mission on July 22, 1867 when Rev. Learner Moynihan, of New Orleans succeeded the Rev. Fanning.

German Evangelical Church: Rev. Frank Beuschler, pastor

Lutheran Church: known to exist, no information found in 1878.

Secret Societies:

Livingston Lodge, No. 264, Knights of Pythias. Meets at K of P Hall

Chatsworth Lodge, No. 539, A. F. and A. Masons, chartered Oct. 1, 1867

Chatsworth Lodge, No. 339, I.O.O. F. chartered Oct. 9,1866

Livingston Encampment, No. 123, I.O.O.F. chartered May 31, 1871

E. G. Trask Post, No. 388, Grand Army of the Republic

Chatsworth Lodge, No. 1829, Modern Woodmen of America.

Chatsworth Court of Honor, No. 732 meets fourth Saturday of month

Fire Department:

Volunteer fire department is well organized. Their engine is the old “Prairie Queen,” formerly used in Bloomington, bought for $1,300, with hose and other equipment runs cost up to about $2,000


Represented by Hon. Samuel T. Fosdick and George Torrence, Esq. Samuel T. Fosdick was elected to the State Senate in the fall of 1876, on the Republican ticket, receiving 5,056 votes over C. C. Strawn, of Pontiac, Democrat.


Drs. Charles True, D. W. Hunt, William C. Byington and Dr. Bostock.

Chatsworth Cemetery was laid out January 4, 1864, and an addition made to it March 2, 1865. The first party buried within its silent shades was an old German laborer who lived at the time with Patrick Monahan, of Charlotte Township and was buried on the spot before the cemetery was laid out.

1898 Chatsworth Business Directory

Attorney: William Van Vorhis, attorney at law

Banks: Commercial Bank, G. W. McCave, Cashier

Bank of Chatsworth, J. E. Brown, Cashier

E. A. Bangs, Banker

Barbers: Thomas Baldwin

D. J. Sullivan

Blacksmiths: F. R. Beckman, blacksmith

Fred J. Harbecke, blacksmith

Brick and Tile:

George J. Walter, brick and tile

Clothing and shoes:

Stiefel & Fox Clothing

D. Levy, clothing

H. Wrede, Shoes

J. J. Lantry, Shoes

Contractors and Builders:

George J. Walter, Manufacturer of brick and tile

Hiram Royal, Contractor and builder

H. M. Miller, Contractor and builder

J. Dorsey, Contractor and builder

J. Entwistle, Contractor and builder

Entwistle Bros. Contractors and builders

Drugs and Medicines:

E. A. Bangs, Drugs, groceries, shoes

H. M. Bangs, Drugs and Medicines

J. F. Sullivan, Drugs and Medicines

Dry Goods and Groceries:

Albert Walter, dry goods, groceries, clothing and jewelry

Bushway & Co. dry goods

John A. Kerrins, dry goods and groceries

T. E. Baldwin, groceries

M. Ressing, groceries

John Bochen, groceries

A. Ortman, groceries

Furniture and Undertakers:

C. J. Becker, furniture and Undertaking

Doolittle Bros., furniture and Undertaking

Grain: Cowan Bros., grain, lumber, coal and farm machinery

Middle Division Elevator Co., James Kerrins, Manager, grain

S. R. Puffer, grain

Hardware and Farm Machinery:

Sneyd Burns, hardware

B. N. Slone, hardware, farm machinery and buggies

H. P. Turner, farm machinery and coal

E. A. & A.C. Roberts, farm machinery


D. L. Henry, harness

Edward Robbins, harness


Commercial Hotel $2.00 a day, J. A. Nuenschwander, Proprietor

City Hotel and Restaurant, William Gardner, Proprietor

Insurance and Collections

Robert Rumbold, Fire and Life Insurance

Clarence M. Bangs, Police Magistrate and Collection Agent

W. W. Sears, J. P., Real Estate, Loans and Collections

J. M. Myers, Constable and Collection Agent


L. I. Doud, Jewelry and Bicycles

Livery and Feed Stables

William Cowling, Livery and Feed Stable

Lee Bros., Livery and Feed Stable

Lumber and Coal:

L. A. Walter Lumber Co., lumber and coal

Meat Markets:

John Mouritzen, meat market

John Ferrias, meat market

Millinery and Dressmaking:

Miss O’Hara, Millinery

Mrs. H. Megquire, Millinery and Dressmaking

Mrs. Reissing, Millinery

Painters and Paper Hangers:

John W. Orr, Painter and Paper Hanger

Ed Folbrig, Painter and Paper Hanger

Joseph Reising, Painter and Paper Hanger

L. I. Haberkorn, Painter and Paper Hanger

Physicians and Surgeons:

G. J. Carson, Physician and Surgeon

C. V. Ellingwood, Physician and Surgeon

T. C. Seright, Physician and Surgeon

Photographer: Marie Stevens,

Printers and Publishers:

The Chatsworth Plaindealer, $1.50 yr. Est. 1873 by James A. Smith, publisher

Railroad and Express Agents:

L. E. Waugh, T. P. & W Railroad and Pacific Express agent

John Brosnahan, Illinois Central R.R. and American Express Agent.

Restaurants and Bakeries: J. E. Fitzgerald, Home Bakery and Restaurant.

Saloons: John Brown, Saloon

Harmon Bros., Saloon

J. Klug, Saloon

John Meister, Saloon

Ryan & Lahey Saloon

Stock Buyers: P. Fay, Stock Buyer

J. Spear, Stock Buyer

Tailors: Greenstone, Merchant Tailor

L. Sorg, Merchant Tailor


Rohde, C. H. – The Fair, notions

Stanford, D. J., Electric Lighting

The Livingston County Telephone Company Exchange

Messler, W. G., postmaster

Brigham, O. H., Dentist

Shaw, M., Feed Mill

Haberkorn, L. J., Billiard Hall

McArthur, Hugh, Billiard Hall

Mees, Philip, Shoemaker

Morgenstein, A., Junk

Chatsworth Telephone Exchange:

15 Aaron, Thos., residence

11 Brigham, O. H. residence

38 Bangs, H. M. Drugstore

42 Bushway, F. M. residence

37 Bushway & Co. Dry Good Store

34 Baldwin, T. E., Grocery

43 Brown & Co. Bank

8 Curtis, Mrs. E., residence

22 Commercial Hotel

18 Ellingwood, C. V. residence

33 Ellingwood, C. V. Office

23 Electric Light Plant

49 Harmon Bros., Saloon

27 Heald, James, residence

41 Kerrins, J. A. Grocery

24 Mills, E. L., residence

3 Meister, J., residence

40 Nothnagle, E., saloon

26 Puffer, S., residence

6 Quinn, Rev. J. J., residence

48 Slone, B. N., residence

50 Sullivan, J., Drugstore

7 Smith, J. A., residence

32 Smith, J. A. Office

12 Stanford, F. C. residence

2 Stanford, D. J. residence

35 Walter, Albert, Dry Goods Store

10 Walter, A. F. residence

21 Walter, L. A. residence

17 Walter, George residence

31 Walter, L. A. Lumber Office

Walter, George J., Tile Factory

Chatsworth History & History Related Items

Chatsworth is a typical small Midwest farm town (with an attitude) and is rich in agricultural, political, railroad and just plain people history.

During the Indian Wars at the turn of the 19th century, all the settlers fled but one stalwart surveyor, Franklin Oliver. He was well-respected by the peaceful Kickapoo Indians, who had a large village south of Chatsworth. He stayed on for two decades. Oliver was controversial with some very nasty rumors about him that have since be debunked. He was alleged to have diverted pioneers through the swampy areas and some supposedly were never heard from again. The truth is, he stayed on, and only when President Jackson created the famous "Trail of Tears" by forcing Native Americans to move west to "Indian territories" did settlers return to find some of the wildest towns in what was then the nation's west. Chatsworth and other towns along Historial Hiway 24, were among those wild towns.

Chatsworth was also a hub of activity at the railroad crossings of the Illinois Central and the Toledo, Peoria and Western Railroads. its fame came from the dubious honor of being the location of what is still the worst train wreck in Illinois history, the Niagara Excursion disaster of August 10, 1887. We know of at least 85 people who died, but have no way of knowing how many died from injuries or complications later. It is possible the final fatalities exceeded the famous Nashville wreck a few years later. Five local residents opened their houses to care for people in coma and bodies were hauled into town to other locations. The dead and crippled from that wreck are still memorialized in Chatsworth, in two other out of print books by Louise Stoutemyer, "The Train That Never Arrived" and another general history of the area, "Sands of Time, 150 Years around Chatsworth."

Chatsworth attractions:

One of its main attractions in Chatsworth is Miss Plaster's One Room Schoolhouse founded by the late Louise Plaster Stoutemyer. Restored to "living museum" status and housing various historical museum artifacts and displays. Located on Campus Road (town north of Chatsworth) at the Chatsworth Area Park District's recreation center. The story of the moving and restoration of that school is told by Mrs. Stoutemyer in her book, "The Heritage of the One Room Country School." One of Illinois' largest swimming pools and other recreational opportunities are also on this property just West of Chatsworth.

The historical downtown "merchant's row" provides a hometown atmosphere with shops and eating places. Several shops provide for gifts, hardware, convenience stores and two, mind you, count 'em, two service stations! There are several churches and to balance that out, about half as many pubs to make sure local residents and tourists have places to worship or wet their whistles.

A full block park and what we call the "mini-park" provide peaceful settings for sitting or playing. The town is filled with beautiful trees and a mix of fine homes and more humble dwellings. There was a time when Chatsworth was so famous that big bands played in the Grand Hotel.

Each year, Heritage Days are held within the last two weeks of July. Old fashioned firemen's competitions and other attractions provide wholesome family fun.

Wooded areas abound, some in hedgerows with the famous Osage Orange trees, which were considered by the Indians as the sources the best material for archery bows. It is said that Indians traveled from as far as what is now Tacoma Washington to get bows from the Midwest. A good completed bow could bring two Native American Maidens and a horse in trade!

Please drive carefully during planting and harvesting seasons because our ultra-modern farm equipment travels fairly slowly on the farm to market roads. Meet some of our many farmers and maybe you'll get a ride in a tractor or combine! Agritourism is one of the development possibilities here as well.

Chatsworth is currently working with other towns along Highway 24 to build "24 Corridor," a Stateline to Stateline historical highway. Developers with an eye on tourism and light industry are welcomed by very receptive officials and citizen-business groups. Chatsworth is centrally located between Chicago and Springfield and about a two hour drive from each of those cities. It offers a getaway from the crowds and into a peaceful countryside with lots of opportunity for quiet recreation year-round. Currently in development are projects designed to attract and please tourists and investors. Chatsworth is a nice place to visit, if you like quiet hometown atmosphere and a lot of pleasant people (well, maybe a few grouches, too.) Chatsworth is a great place to visit and to be. Come watch us and our neighboring towns go through our "re-growing" pains.

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