Early Fillmore Illinois History

In the autumn or 1816 a small group of white men from Kentucky, who had settled in what is now Bond County, traveled in a northerly direction on a hunting expedition. The country they discovered was heavily timbered with walnut, maple, oak, and hickory. The woods were infested with bears, wolves, and Indians. The land was abundant with game and plenty of clear spring water and creeks. Since the Indians here were easier to deal with than those to the south, John HILL decided to stay.

In the spring of 1817 Harris REAVIS, Henry HILL, Levi CASEY, Aaron CASEY, John LEE, Joseph WRIGHT, and HENRY PIATT returned. They built cabins around a large spring near what is now Vanburensburg. Some think it might have been in the vicinity of Old Hurricane Church.

Soon after Easton WHITTEN, Colbert BLAIR, Thomas BECK, Stephen WHITE, James CARD, T.J. TODD, John ALEXANDER, M. MASON, BOSTS, and Newton COFFEY came and settled nearby to the north.

Illinois was a part of the Northwest Territory at that time and was not divided into counties and townships. Thus, the first white settlement in what is now Montgomery County was made in Fillmore Township in 1817, South Fillmore Township today.

The original group broke up after a while and took up claims in other parts of the township and county. Among the more prominent pioneers of Fillmore Township was Newton COFFEY who later entered the tract of land where Hillsboro now stands and afterwards donated 20 acres to the county to be used for public purposes.

The first school ever taught in Fillmore Township, was in 1825 by a Mr. HATCHETT in a little log cabin. The first frame schoolhouse was built in 1845 near Vanburensburg. Reading, writing, spelling, and simple arithmetic were taught. School was only in session two or three months of the year.

The early families of Montgomery County made their own meal. The first mill was a hand-mill using a hollowed-out hickory stump. The first mill erected in Fillmore was by John BECK. This was a treadmill which the proprietor operated with a yoke of oxen. In 1838 a horse-mill was built at Vanburensburg and operated by James KIRK and Harris WRIGHT until 1846. Sawmills were built about this same time.

James KIRK was a big landowner in what is now South Fillmore Township. In more recent years part of his land and home was the Edward CRESS farm. Some of his children were Sally ALEXANDER, Betsy PRATER, Sissy HARRISON, Jane RODGERS, and Mary CRESS. He was the great-great-grandfather of many present area residents.

A burial ground, staked off in 1821, later proved to be an old battlefield. Many human bones, musket balls, spear heads, and knives were brought to the surface as graves were dug.

The first town was near the Montgomery-Bond County line. The towns fate was doomed in 1881 when the Cloverleaf Railroad was built passing six miles to the north. As Vanburensburg died, the town it passed through, Fillmore prospered.

Fillmore Township and Fillmore were named after Millard FILLMORE, the 13th president of the United States. Mr. FILLMORE was elected Whig vice-president in 1848. After the unexpected death of President Zachary TAYLOR in 1850, he succeeded to the office of president which he held until 1853.

The actual town history begins when J. BOWERS LANE came to Illinois from Marlboro, New Hampshire with his parents in 1838. On February 3, 1852, he marries Rachale BOST in a ceremony near Vanburensburg. In 1860 he built a home just west of the present town of Fillmore and started a one room country store and post office. The place can still be seen in the field. The mail was hauled from Hillsboro to Vandalia, and then circulated locally.

South of the last curve as one goes west out of Fillmore is an annual patch of tall weeds. There are around concrete that covers a well which is close to the location of the first store and post office.

In 1881 when the railroad was built, LANE moved his stock into a new building nearer the road. By 1883 when the first train was run, the town, now known as Fillmore, really began to grow and enjoyed a considerable boom. Its population jumped to more than 600 and soon shops and stores began to spring up.

Another pioneer who had much to do with the development of Fillmore was Gideon RICHMOND. He was born in Ohio in 1820, was reared there, and became a farmer in his home state. In 1845 he came to Montgomery County in Illinois and settled on the hill just east of what is now Fillmore. He was one of the early settlers of the area. Soon after his arrival he purchased property and transformed wild land into cultivated fields. He married Miss Harriet KNOWLES in 1848. In due time, through his efforts, he became an extensive farmer and livestock man. He possessed good business ability and sound judgment. At the time of his death, he had accumulated many acres of land in the Fillmore area.

The Gideon RICHMOND home was on the hill at the left just at the east edge of town.

The RICHMONDs and LANEs were extensive landowners in the vicinity. When the town of Fillmore was being planned and laid out, these families donated land for the center of town. The LANES gave an area one block wide and four blocks long (north and south) west of Main Street. The RICHMONDs gave one block wide and four blocks long on the east side. Later the RICHMONDs donated an area one block square in the third block east of Main Street just south of the Fillmore Road for a Town Park. If it ceases to be used as a Town Park, it reverts to the RICHMOND heirs.

The first school in the community was about two miles north of Fillmore, taught by Lyman ALLEN in 1862. This building is about where Gary KNODLE recently tore down the IVY farm. In 1870 another was needed and built at the south boundary of town. After 1881 a building one block north of the railroad was converted into building No. 2. In 1889 a third and larger schoolhouse was built. In 1890 a two-year high school course was added. The first graduating class of Fillmore High School with eleven graduates was in 1892. As time moved on other additions were made. A gymnasium was completed in 1935. In 1953 Fillmore became part of Nokomis Unit and high school students attended there.

The elementary school was constructed in 1960. Classes in the new building began January 27, 1961. In the spring of 1983, Fillmore School was closed, and elementary students were bused to Nokomis.

Lyman ALLEN built the first hardware in 1883. Joe COX had the first harness shop, run by A. J. WOLLERMAN who bought it in 1892 and ran it over 50 years. The first hotel was built in 1883 by George MILLER to accommodate the railroad workers. In 1887 the Wilson Hotel was built on Main Street and Durley BOST ran a boarding house just back of it. The firs bank was a branch of the Montgomery County Loan and Trust Company of Hillsboro and stood just south of Mr. WOLLERMANs shop.

The bank was opened at the time the railroad was being built so that money would be available for the workers. Later Lyman ALLEN started the first privately owned bank south of Allen’s Hardware. Ed DOUGLAS was the owner of the first drug store. The second hardware was started by WHITTEN and LUDWICK in 1906. Later the building was used for a store and restaurant until it burned in 1926. Isaac HILL started the first lumber yard. In 1903 Elmer WOLCOTT bought it, and then built his own in 1907 in the space now occupied by the Fillmore Fire Protection District.

The Fillmore Opera House was built in 1912. It was used as a place of entertainment until the school gymnasium was built in 1935.

Around the 1890s Fillmore had its own newspaper, THE RECORDER published by MILLER and HINTON.

In early times the town had three churches. The Baptist and Lutheran were built in 1891 and the Methodist in 1892. The Baptist and the Lutheran churches were built at the same time. The village had a church bell which they promised to the group that finished first. The Baptists won the bell which was presented by Lyman ALLEN. In recent years the Sovereign Grace Baptist has been added.

We hear that sometime in early history Fillmore had a saloon on Main Street. Rufus A. SANDERS used to tell that the big building just northeast of his home had been a saloon downtown.

John GREENE COLE had the first automobile, one he made himself. Dr. HOYT had the first factory made car. The story was told that Mr. COLEs car ran to the top of what is now Prater’s hill, stopped, and would not run no more.

The first baby born in Fillmore was Philmore PHILLIPS and Dr. SHORT gave him a lot in the new town.

A deed for the original portion of Glendale Cemetery, just south of Fillmore was recorded in Hillsboro on April 27, 1891. Three additional tracts of land have been purchased.

In 1914 a second bank, the Fillmore State and Savings Bank with John Q. BOST as cashier, was opened in a new building on the northwest corner of Main Street and Fillmore Road. Later the two banks consolidated then closed in the early 1930s.

Many more shops sprung up and Fillmore was a thriving little community at the turn of the century.

Beginning with M. F. TOBERMANs Feed and Grain business in the early 1900s Fillmore now has the modern Rt.16 Grain Coop.

On October 25, 1966, General Telephone Company of Illinois completed installation of Direct Dialing Service for Fillmore. Mayor Raymond WILLIAMS made the first call.

Author: Claire CRESS

(Revised Sept. 27, 2003, by: Janice Toberman and Tonya Rench)


When the village of Fillmore was laid out, it was a thriving farming community. Earlier the pioneers had settled on surrounding hills and gradually accumulated more land until several owned farms of a few hundred acres. Some who contributed to the development of the village were J. BOWERS LANE, Gideon RICHMOND, Lyman C. ALLEN, C. W. BLISS, Alfred BLISS, the KNOWLES, ALEXANDERs, BOSTs, MOODYs, LIVINGSTONs, HARRISes, HILLs, BUTLERs, WILLIAMs families, HERRENs, COLEs, TOBERMANs, and many more. Only a few of the original families remain. Many here in surrounding areas are descendants of these early settlers.

J. BOWERS LANE came here from New Hampshire with his father Dr. Timothy LANE in 1838. In 1849 he was married to Sarah HARRIS a sister of Wooten HARRIS, a pioneer. She died when their son Timothy was born. In 1852 J. BOWERS LANE married Rachael BOST. Seven children were born to this union: Tornie H., Roxie, and Margaret left Illinois, Augusta married A. A. CRESS, Ora E. married Dora RICHMOND, Carrie married Jesse WHITTEN, Elsie married Sherman DOWNS.

When J. BOWERS LANE came to Fillmore, he settled on a farm having 90 acres. By the time Fillmore was platted, he owned 650 acres. In 1860 he started the store west of the creek and soon after got the post office. He was interested in politics and active in social and civic affairs of the village. Mr. Lane was an Associate Judge at the time the Old Court house was built in Hillsboro.

Ora E. had four children: sons Ernest and Burr and daughters Fern and Hazel.

Gideon RICHMOND, son of Henry and Eliza RICHMOND, was born in Licking County, Ohio in 1820. He came to Montgomery County in 1845 and settled on the mound which was later to become a part of the village of Fillmore. In 1848 he married Harriet KNOWLES, a native a New Hampshire. They had four children but history only accounts for two: George A. and Dora. George A. married Ada BOST daughter of John J. BOST; they had three children; Nellie married Rufus SANDERS, Zella married Frank WOLCOTT, and Kent married Hazel SMITHDEAL. Dota who married Ora E. LANE has already been mentioned.

Lyman C. ALLEN, born in New Hampshire on September 12, 1836, came to Illinois in 1957 and taught school for several years. On September 28, 1864, he married Alice D. BLISS, Yankee pioneer settlers in Montgomery County. To this union four children were born, three of whom survived him at his death on April 5, 1918. They were Ned B. ALLEN, Jessie HERREN, and Carlos E. ALLEN. His first wife died in 1879. In 1881 he married Emaline RUSSELL of Nokomis. She died in 1892.

At one time Mr. ALLEN was an extensive farmer and stock raiser, making the breeding of fine draft horses his specialty.

When the village of Fillmore was established Mr. ALLEN left his farm home which was about two miles northeast of town and moved to Fillmore. He organized the Fillmore Bank and he and his son Ned also engaged in hardware, furniture, undertaking, and farm implement business. He always took a leading part in every public enterprise. He contributed generously to the churches. He was a generous, public spirited, and useful citizen.

When the village was platted, it was laid out at the crossroads where the Hillsboro to Ramsey road crossed the north and south road to The Burg. The original town consisted of eight blocks with two on each side of Main Street south of the intersection and two on each side going north. Gideon RICHMOND owned the land on the east side and J. BOWERS LANE and his son Tim on the west side.

There was a church not far from the railroad the stood in the middle of the road going on both sides of the church. It was moved after the village was laid out.

Fillmore the BOOM TOWN leveled off after the turn of the 20th century. Industry did not develop as fast as the population, therefore the young people had to leave town to find employment. The residents gradually became retired people.

Fillmore’s worst enemy was fire. Many of the original frame buildings were lost by fire and were no rebuilt. Violent deaths were at a minimum in the beginning. Later they were causes mostly by run-away horses, car accidents, suicides, and fights.

The village has long been blessed with three churches (now four) also with fraternal organizations and then auxiliaries. Only the Masonic Order remains.

In the early 1890s Fillmore had its own newspaper, THE VILLAGE RECORDER. From the issue of December 26, 1890 we find the following:

Miller and Hinton Publishers

$1 a year in advance

Village Directory:

President: O.P. KNOWLES


Clerk: J.I. BOST

We also learn that John A. WILLIAMS, barber, did shaving, shampooing, dyeing, and cutting in the latest styles.

Dr. H.S. SHORT and J.T. HENDRIX each had an office in Fillmore.

There were many advertisers.

In earlier years Raymond RICHMOND was Fillmores only professional baseball player. After pitching some during his college days, he joined the Bloomington Three I League. He pitched for the St. Louis Browns in 1920 and 1921, then went to Tulsa where he was in the Texas League. Mr. RICHMOND was the son of Ernest and Jennie (NELSON) RICHMOND. He was born in 1896 and died in 1969.

Author: LaRue Lovelace

(Revised Sept. 27, 2003, by: Janice Toberman & Tonya Rench)


Business Directory of 1918

N.B. ALLEN- Hardware and Funeral Director


Kearney BATEMAN- Restaurant

V.A. BOST- Veterinary

Cloverleaf Depot- Otter LEHR, Agent

Jimmy COLE- Draying

Fillmore Bank

Fillmore State and Savings Bank

Fillmore Opera House

Dr. W.O. FISH- Physician

M. FREEMAN- Meat Market

C. FULLER- Hardware

HILL Brothers- General Merchandise

Ray ISBELL- Restaurant

Mike KESSINGER- Tin Shop

T.L. LANE- General Merchandise

Doc LAWSON- Livery

MADDOX and WHITLOCK- General Merchandise

E. McFARLAND- General Merchandise

Henry MOORE- Barber

Mutual Telephone Co.- Zella TURNBOW, Operator

Riley STEPP- Blacksmith

L.F. STROBEL and Co.- Poultry, Feed

M.F. TOBERMAN- Grain, Feed

WILSON Brothers- Drugs, Cameras

Bill WILSON- Hotel

WOLCOTT and Son- Lumberyard

A.J. WOLLERMAN- Harness, Shoe Repair

Mollie WRIGHT- Millinery

John ZIEGLER- Grinding Mill

Town Board in 1918

Edward WHITLOCK- Mayor

Earl WOLCOTT- Clerk

Frank WOLCOTT- Alderman

Ezra WRIGHT- Alderman