Village History Continued:
Regardless of the legal name, the core
and heart of the Village from its
inception has been one of community.
The early settlers came by wagons,
carriages, horseback and some on foot
carrying what few belongings they
could to carve out new beginnings in
the as yet unsettled territory known
as Illinois. Tradesmen, craftsmen,
farmers, housewives and the families
they brought with them all helped to
make up the humble beginnings of
Like many communities, Elkhart has
experienced hardships and tragedies.
In 1870 and 1882 winds and hail
brought destruction to property and
crops. In 1889 lightning struck and ten
buildings were burned to the ground.
In 1914 half of the buildings on the
north side of Main Street burned, as
did most buildings on Railroad Street
when lightning struck a few years
later. The 1900's have also had their
share of destruction. More recent, on
the evening of August 8, 1988, the
post office and the J & K Tavern was
found aflame and was consequently
destroyed. On May 9, 1995, a tornado
struck the Village with a fierceness
never experienced by Elkhart
residents. Early warning sirens
sounded a weather alert at 5:30 p.m.
Thirty minutes later a level three
tornado with 200 mph winds struck
the Village. Governor Edgar declared
Elkhart a disaster area with more than
$5 million in reported damages.
Although more than 25 homes, the
post office and 15 area farms were
heavily damaged by the tornado,
residents pulled together and cleaned
up most of the debris within 36 hours.
With each destructive blow dealt the
Elkhart community, residents have
always matched with just as much
community spirit to clean up, build and
Along with unfailing determination and
courage, the pioneers and settlers of
Elkhart City brought with them their
faith to see them through the trials
and hardships they faced. St. Patrick's
Catholic Church was established in
1856. The Methodist Society was
organized in the early 1830's but the
first Methodist Church was not erected
until 1863. The Christian Church was
organized in 1865 and a church built in
1867 and in 1890 St. John the Baptist
Chapel was built on the hill by Lemira
Even though the Civil War was not
fought on Central Illinois soil, the rank
and file of the Union Army was filled
with many men from Elkhart City and
the surrounding prairie lands.
Business and family life alike, came
almost to a standstill during those
years. The end of the Civil War,
however, brought with it prosperity for
the town once again as men returned
to their livelihoods and families.
Henry Stahl brought his family and
opened a tinsmith shop which later
was expanded to a hardware store. A.
Barnett was the town attorney.
William Kiler used his skills to build a
new pine desk for City Hall and L. B.
Dana was a contractor hired to "throw
up the roads". William Dolvin came in
1867 and opened a grocery store.
David Lippott brought his wife and
family and ran a blacksmith shop.
The 1870's found the business district
flourishing. Samuel Hunter began a
grocery business and Dr. James Taylor
started his medical practice. One of Dr.
Taylor's sons also became a doctor
and established a drug store for the
community. More and more families
came to farm the land and become
part of the growing community.
Governor Richard Oglesby, President
Abraham Lincoln, world renown
cattleman and exporter John Dean
Gillett, and the illustrious Captain A. H.
Bogardus are just some of the
personalities that graced the fledgling
Village with their presence. Governor
Oglesby, John Gillett and Captain
Bogardus kept residences in Elkhart
and interacted with the people of the
community, while Abraham Lincoln was
a visitor on many occasions.
As time went on, the plank sidewalks
were replaced with brick and
eventually concrete; the telephone
came to town; the electric railway
serviced residents and electricity
became a household word. Along
came dry goods and millinery stores,
harness shops and grocery stores,
restaurants and saloons, barbershops
and butcher shops, ice cream parlors,
the public library and the bank. The
invention of gasoline engines brought
with them the need for gas stations
and repair shops. Allison Elevator rose
to compete in height with the "Hill".
Interstate 55 replaced Route 66 and
the Elkhart Coal Mine delivered its first
load of coal in November of 1982.
Through many wars, the great
depression of the 1930's, natural
disasters, fires, personal tragedies,
deaths, changes in technology, school
consolidation, loss of businesses and
residents, the Village of Elkhart has
maintained a proud sense of
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