Newtown Township History

Probably no other township in the county numbered, in its earliest days, so many men of earnest and stern purpose, or of such positive character, as did these.  Their goals in life seem to lean heavily toward the betterment of all humanity, not just themselves.  You would not think that pioneers coming to a new frontier, whose every minute must be consumed with forging out a life for their families, could have been involved in such social issues and forward thinking ventures. In morals, education and religion, this community took the lead.  We find its first settlers engaged in such enterprises that would be of mutual benefit to all the citizens of the little settlement.

Newtown progressive beyond its years

The first attempt at newspaper publishing was made here; the first church building was erected in this township; the first and only school designed for a higher course of instruction was organized in Newtown Township. This, too, was the very center for that class of philanthropists then reproached with the epithet “Abolitionist.” Most of the leading citizens were ultra on the subject, and if tradition is to be relied on, much aid and comfort was given to the colored man, especially to such as were so fortunate as to make their way this far on their road toward freedom, and thus causing much sorrow to his former master, or his agent, the pursuer.  The area was known as a station on the underground railroad, which helped the slaves to move toward freedom. 

Peculiarities add to the flavor

Somewhat previous to the development of the peculiarities of the community, two or three persons had come into the neighborhood and located, the first of which was Emsley Pope, from North Carolina, who was a man of much more than ordinary combativeness. This seemed to be his pecularity, as long as his physical ability warranted him to cultivate the propensity. (I think that interprets into he would fight at the drop of a hat if he thought he was right and the opponent was not larger than he.) He always contended for right and was seldom judged second best in the result.

Ewin Houchin was the second settler. He came in 1835. Houchin claimed he was the only man who had built a house or cabin before Fall of 1835.  He was a successful farmer and has accumulated a large property. He said he had worked many a day sunrise to sunset for 25 cents a day. He split more than 100,000 rails; has hauled oats to Chicago for 10 cents per bushel and pork at $1.50 per hundred and went to mill twenty-four miles distant, waiting five days for his grist.

M. A. Newman came to the country in 1838 and was a traveling merchant.  He was personally acquainted with every family in the county.  In 1850, having frequently visited this neighborhood, he located at the place now occupied by the village of New Michigan in the northeast quarter of section 22.  A settlement had been made in this vicinity, which bid fair to be a thriving community and Newman conceived the idea of establishing here a town.

Enoch, John and Amos Lundy and their brother-in-law Thomas Copes, came from Logan County. They proved to be first-class citizens, whose words were counted to be as good as their notes.  Samuel Bloomfield came from Ottawa.  He was somewhat peculiar in some respects, more especially in his notion on the subject of religion.  He greatly deplored the wickedness of the world, but curious as it may seem placed the responsibility on the Creator. He reasoned that if God created everything, He was also the author of sin. Further, that if God is omnipotent, He is not only able to control sin, but to abolish it;  and that he is directly guilty of all of the wickedness in the world.  He made frequent appointments to preach his peculiar doctrine wit poor success in the way of conversation.  One of his favorite methods of presenting his faith was to arraign the Author of the Universe as a criminal before a bar of justice, and then bring witnesses to prove Him guilty.  On other subjects Broomfield was sane, and transacted business with the utmost precision.  Jacob Philips came with his father, from Ohio.  The elder Phillips was a very zealous Methodist, and practiced the religion he professed. 

From 1840 to 1850, Charles Paget, John and M. A. Smith, Charles Dixon, Zephaniah Schwartz, James Calder, William Bowman, James and Malley Brown, Charles, Harvey and Samuel Thompson. made their appearance.  Charles Paget’s advent into the township marks the beginning of that decided agitation of the Abolition movement which has not only made this town notorious, but has had great influence in molding the public sentiment of the whole county.  He was perfectly fearless, and made assaults on the institution of slavery in every place and under all circumstances; and neither threats nor bribes were sufficient to cause him to hold his peace. The ground of his agitation has now passed away and Paget’s voice is not heard advocating the cause of the down trodden race; but the work of liberation is credited to him, with others who were bold enough to speak his sentiments at the time.

Zephaniah Schwartz came here from Magnolia, lived here a dozen years, then moved to Streator and opened a hotel now known as the Streator House.  James Calder came during this period along with his father John. The Brown’s with their father were from Magnolia.  Charles Harvey was a trapper and hunter, making this his only occupation. In this time, game of all kinds was very plentiful.  Wild turkeys and prairie chickens were so plentiful as to become almost an annoyance.

Moses Rummery came in 1853.  He is known as one of the old “wheel horses” of anti-slavery, and has never been known to let an occasion slip of punishing his opponents when words would tell upon them.

In 1848, George Sardinia and Xenophon Richards, their sisters and brothers-in-law Russell Nelson, made the first settlement on the prairie. They were from the state of Michigan.  This was the year of the completion of the Michigan  and Illinois Canal and from this time forward, for several years, a good many emigrants came from Northern Ohio and Indiana and Southern Michigan by way of the canal. The Richardses settled in the vicinity of the site of New Michigan, naming it after their native state. They were enterprising and progressive men.  When they went so far out in the prairie to select their location for a home, they were pitied by those who lived near the timber, and admonished that they would not survive a single Winter. They also deprecated their loss of social privileges and of neighborly protection against thieves, with which the country was infested.  However, after awhile their sympathy turned to ridicule and finally to opposition as the prairie settlers were stirring fellows, and “the settlement on the plains,” began to rival the timber people. 

The plains people proposed to build a school for the benefit of their own children and the children who might settle near them.  A few years later, a move was made  to establish a public school at this place, that met with direct opposition, as it was believed it would injure the one in operation at the edge of the timber.  However, gradually the opposition wore away and this neighborhood became popular to such an extent that it was proposed to lay out a town at the place.  This was done by Martin A. Newman. The town was platted and it became known that a trading post was to be built there, settlements in the vicinity were frequent.

They had found out the land was of a better quality than what was found in the vicinity of the river.  Coal was beginning to be mined also. M. A. Newman started a little store in the new village; others opened blacksmith shop, shoemaker shop and other branches of business, and soon New Michigan began to thrive

In 1854, the Great Air Line Railroad which proved to be all that its title suggested, was projected and thus a further impetus was given to the prosperity of the village and township.  Before 1854 a large number of families had made their appearance in all part of the township, among which are remembered Otis Whaley, son-in-law of Moses Rummery, C. G. Cusick, Otho and son Ortho F. Pearce, Horace H. Hinman, Flavius Manley,Alexander Savage, James and Thomas Gibson, Eben Norton, Charles Decker, George, James and William Applegate and Joshua and son David McIntosh. Whaley and Hinman were both of the Abolition school, not only as pupils but as teachers; and they never let a picnic or meeting of any kind pass that a good word was said for the negro. Hinman was a man of education, as well as of ideas, and enforced his doctrine in such a manner as to almost overcome opposition.  He was the first School Commissioner after the adoption by the State of a school system.

Otho Pearre was a man of intelligence, and highly respected by the citizens of the town.  Joshua McIntosh was a local Methodist preacher,  a man of much native talent and an impressive talker. David McIntosh is one of the best business men in the county, twenty years as School Treasurer; and as Representative in the Legislature from this district.

Livingston Academy

In 1856, there existed no doubt in the minds of the inhabitants of New Michigan and vicinity, that this would be a town of more than ordinary importance. The Air Line Railroad had been surveyed through the township, and  reports had it that capitalists were interested in making this a national east and west railroad.  It is not surprising then, with this prospect in view, and with the intelligence and culture of the community, that a move should be made to establish in their midst an institution of learning of a higher grade than that afforded by the common schools.  Accordingly the Livingston Academy was founded. The projectors and proprietors of the scheme were Washington Houston, William Strawn, Otis Whaley, C. P. Paget, Eben Norton, C. G. Cusick and Moses Rummery. With such men as these as organizers, the project was sure of accomplishment; and a building and a corps of teachers were soon on the ground.

The first year, E. B. Neville was put in charge of the institution.  Though the founders were enthusiastic in regard to the enterprise, they left out of account a few necessary elements of success, among which was the necessary growth of the town, which was dependent on the completion of the railroad and from which would come in great measure the support of the Academy. The school was kept up one year; and then, for two years the building was idle.  In the Fall of 1859, O. F. Pearce was employed and took charge of the school for three years.  During his administration through a good deal of hard work, the school was quite prosperous.  However, at the end of the period named, Mr. Pearce accepted the position of Principal of the Dwight school; and then the academy drooped, and finally died.

Blasted hopes

The building of other railroads, the Illinois Central and the Chicago & Alton, attracted the attention of merchants, mechanics and tradesmen to other points and in a few years New Michigan, with its institutions, lost rank.  It continued to be a local trading point, until within a few years, when it was overshadowed by Streator; and later, when the Chicago & Paducah Railroad was completed and a station established within a short distance, the place, as a business point, was entirely abandoned.  One of the churches was moved away, all of the stores were closed, the post office was abolished and the academy having been a few years later consumed by fire, nothing remains but a few dwelling houses, as a monument to blasted hopes.

The first church building erected in Livingston County was the one known as the “Old Bethel” of this township.  It was built in 1848, used nine years and now it stands, weather-beaten and decaying.

The United Brethren also had a comfortable house of worship in the village of New Michigan.

The first attempt at newspaper publishing was made here in 1853. Thomas Cotton, a Methodist preacher was the projector of the scheme.  The name of the publication was the Vermilion Herald.  He obtained quite a number of subscribers and issued the first number.  It is said to have been a sprightly little paper, but Cotton concluded that it would break him up, so he didn’t issue a second number.  He returned all the money to his subscribers.  About three years later, the first copy of the Livingston County News, published at Pontiac, made its appearance.

One of the most sad and mournful accident occurred here in the county September 13. 1877. Three young men, Clark Cusick, Isaac Rummery and James Scovell undertook the job of cleaning out an old well on the farm of C. G. Cusick, formerly owned by Otho Pearce. The well was about 35 feet deep. Rummery was let down by means of a rope, and when within ten feet of the bottom, he let go of the rope and fell.  Cusick hastened down to his relief, fearing the worse but had not been let down more than 15 feet and he also fell. Then young Scovell, who was a grandson of C. G. Cusick, was let down; but he fell before he had proceeded 10 feet.  Assistance was obtained as soon as possible and some of the old well-diggers coming upon the spot pronounced the well infected with “damps” or carbonic acid gas. Burning straw being thrown into the well, and instantly being extinguished proved their theory correct, and that the persons at the bottom were dead.  Grappling irons were used to bring the bodies to the surface. The accident cast a deep gloom over the whole community.

Formation of Township

The township of Newtown was organized April 6, 1858, by the election of Supervisor and other offices. This part of the county had, prior to this time, been set off as a voting precinct in 1854, called the “New Michigan Precinct.” Charles Decker, one of the old settlers, had served as Justice of the Peace from the establishment of the precinct until the organization of the township in 1858.  The first supervisor was Eben Norton in 1858.  Since 1858 to 1878 the supervisors in succession have been as follows: Eben Norton, C. H. Hart, Otho Pearce David McIntosh, Chester Manley, Jacob Phillips, David Hoobler, Z. R. Jones and Stephen Hinds. The following is a complete list of the township officers as returned for 1878: Stephen Hinds, Supervisor; William A. Phillips, Clerk; John S. Paget, Collector; David McIntosh, Treasurer of  Schools; John Forsythe, Assessor; Z. R. Jones and E. Sheibley, Justices of the Peace; F. M. Davis and A. J. Fulwiler, Constables and Jacob Phillips, James Mortlan and Z. R. Jones, Road Commissioners.

Formation of Schools

In 1855, when the present system of schools was adopted (which indeed was the first public school system adopted in the State), Newtown Township had more schools within its limits than any other in the county.  More attention was given to education in this locality than in any locality within forty miles.  This point can be verified by their creation of the Livingston Academy in 1856. In the selection of teachers, this township has almost always been very fortunate.  Some of the best schools in the county have been taught here and many of the best teachers have been educated in these schools.

Civil War

As might be expected from the sentiments which had prevailed in this township for many years prior to the war which liberated  the slave population of this country, many of the young men shouldered their muskets and marched off to the scene of action, thus proving by their acts their belief in the doctrines taught them by their fathers. Some never returned alive.  The names of a few are given as remembered: Henry F. Houston was killed at Gallatin, Tenn., John Benrick was killed by accident in Tennessee; William R. Houchin was killed at Bowling Green, Ky.; Franklin Hoobler was accidentally killed at Buck’s Lodge, Tenn. Some others, whose names are unknown, died either of wounds or of army diseases, some in hospitals and some living till they had reached home, dying among their friends and kindred.

Settlements in Newtown Township

Newtown township consists of a little less than a full congressional town, the west line of the township being the Vermilion River, which cuts off all of Section 30 and 31 and parts of 7, 18, 19 of Township 30 north, Range 4, east of the Third Principal Meridian, and throwing this territory into Reading Township.  The river, however, flows through the northeast corner of Section 30, Range 3 and these add about two sections of that township to Newtown, thus making the township consist of about thirty-four full sections. In general appearance of its surface, it resembles Sunbury Township, which lies on the east, being somewhat rolling. About one-sixth of the land is covered by the timber of the Vermilion and Mud Creek. These streams of water, together with some small tributaries, furnish stock water to almost all of the farms in the western and southern parts. Coal is believed to underlie the whole township. Considerable mining has already been done in the west part, along the river, where the coal crops out.

Vermilion City

At Vermilion City, the Vermilion Coal Company have sunk shafts from which immense quantities of coal were taken. This is simply a settlement made by the miners about the Vermilion Coal Company’s works, on the Chicago, Pekin & Southwestern Railroad, at the crossing of the Vermilion River, a mile southwest of Streator.

 Note from 2004: I believe this to be the settlement in SW south Streator on the Vermilion where the old route 23 went through years ago, now a bridge goes above that property and crosses the river into South Streator. There was an old tavern sitting right on the river, on the right side of the road as you went into South Streator (which is in Livingston County), which I’m sure will help jog a lot of people’s memory on this location. 

A plat of the place was made by A. C. Huetson, for J. M. Walker, President and A. T. Hall, Secretary, of the Chicago, Wilmington & Vermilion Coal Company. The plat consists of fifty-one acres, from Section 2,  Township 30, Range 3.  In the record of the plat, the right of mining all coal beneath the land is reserved. The town consists of forty or fifty miners and other employees of the Company, a few of whom have families.


This is only a station on the western extension of the Chicago & Alton Railroad. William Shepard laid out a town here in 1870. The plat consists of thirty-two acres, from Section 8, but has never been improved, and the stationhouse is all that exists to indicate the presence of a town.


It would be my guess that Manville was originally known as Newtown, and or Collins.  In 1871, the Chicago & Paducah Railroad having been completed through this part of the county, and a switch being laid at this place .

The following information concerning Manville was taken from the 1898 Livingston County Business Directory: 

“Manville is a village of about 100 inhabitants, situated on the Streator branch of the Wabash Railroad, fifteen miles northwest of Pontiac, and six miles southeast of Streator, which is its nearest banking point.  It has several general stores, drug store, post office and Pacific Express.  A toll station of the Central Union Telephone Company is located at C. C. Leonard & Son’s general store.

            Manville is one of the oldest settlements in the county.  Two town plats were laid out, one known as Collins and the other known as Newtown, while the original settlement was called New Michigan, about two miles distant. The first house in the village was moved from the farm of M. A. Newman, and the first storeroom was moved from New Michigan.  In the fall of 1874 the Methodist Episcopal Church was also moved to the station. The church is still maintained at this point in connection with the Cornell charge.  The village has a large local trade and is a shipping point for grain and stock.  The shipments for 1897 were 100,000 bushels of corn and 75,000 bushels of oats.


1898 Manville Business Directory

Gillman & Burton, dry goods, groceries, shoes and shelf hardware

C. C. Leonard & Son, dry goods, groceries, shoes and shelf hardware

A. N. McCord, Drugs and Farming Implments

Middle Division Elevator Co., Grain, Gus Wenzelman, L. Goddard, Manager

C. C. Leonard, postmaster

Andrew Fout, Blacksmith

W. Hoobler, buggies

W. Hoobler, railroad and Express Agent