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Early History Of Nokomis Illinois

Union Station - Nokomis Illinois

Up to the beginning of the nineteenth century little progress was made in extending the frontier beyond a small strip on the eastern seaboard. There were a few venturesome souls who pushed west and brought back glowing accounts of the possibilities of the regions lying in the valley of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. In 1763 a settlement was made by the French at Cahokia and another at Kaskaskia; these two were the beginning of what was to become Illinois, which got its name from the Algonquin Indiana word Illini which means “perfect and accomplished man.” Illinois as a commonwealth remained part of Virginia until 1787 when it was conceded to the Northwest Territory and continued so until 1800. By this time there were enough settlers to make a separate territorial government possible, so Illinois was admitted to the Union in 1818. After the admission, a county was made called Bond which included what is now Montgomery County. Montgomery looked to the Legislature to afford them some relief from the cumbersome machinery engendered by the large area forming Bond County. In 1821 the Legislature approved an act creating Montgomery County.

From the first obtainable information it is conceded that the Kickapoos were the most numerous tribe in this county. The first white settlement was made in this county in 1816, the settlers coming from Tennessee, Georgia, Kentucky, the Carolinas, and Ohio. The soil was remarkably fertile.

About 1834 the town of Audubon was laid out, lots sold, and stores opened. The colonists went so far as to build a courthouse but the people refused to aid their efforts and the investors saw they were losing money so dissolution was inevitable. Other towns in more favorable surroundings succeeded and, as the Spirit of Progress is never actually crushed, the spirit of these towns continued to live and as Hamilton and Woodside became Hillsboro, so Audubon became Nokomis.

There is no better township in the county in productivity than Nokomis. Here are the best stockraising and marketing in the county. In its natural state, Nokomis Township was one-sixth in timber of oak, elm, and several varieties of maple and hickory.

Bluford Shaw was the first settler in Nokomis Township, who lived here with his family prior to 1840. In 1843 Hugh Hightower settled in section 33 and built the first house within the boundaries of the township. Following Mr. Hightower were R. N. Lee, John Wetmore, William Bonton, Absolom Van Hoosier, William Lee and Andrew Coiner. John Whitmore, living just north of the present city limits, was the first Justice of the Peace and the first Constable was J. W. Hancock.

The first sermon was preached in Nokomis township by Rev. J. L. Crane, a Methodist Episcopal minister. The Baptist congregation was organized in 1856, with Rev. Hueston as pastor. History tells that the Lutherans were active in this community as early as 1852 in Audubon Township; the Daniel Easterday family, from Jefferson County, Ohio, was the first to come, the Rev. D. D. Swaney was the first minister. Within a few years the Lutherans moved to the new town of Nokomis, where St. Mark’s Lutheran Church was established.

Other denominations established themselves in Nokomis in the years to come, and more detailed information will be found elsewhere.

The first school is said to have been taught by Henry Lower, at his residence in 1848. It was a private school supported by subscriptions. The first school house was built in 1853 near the former Jacob Haller farm south of the city. It is said that some of the original lumber is at present in the Oak Grove school still standing near the farm.

The first road through Nokomis was known as the Nokomis-Hillsboro road and was laid out in a northeasterly direction. Today it is our main street and an important State Highway which was paved in 1923.

The first railroad was the Alton and Terre Haute and the first train rolled over its tracks in 1855. Since that time the railroad property has changed hands several times and is now the property of the New York Central. The tracks of the New York Central are also used by the Chicago and Eastern Illinois railroad passing through Nokomis and directly into St. Louis.

A station was established in Nokomis in 1856, which was the beginning of Nokomis as a place of importance, and now one of the most beautiful small cities of South Central Illinois. It was platted and surveyed by P. C. Huggins of Bunker Hill, and Captain Samuel Ryder of Alton, in the fall of 1856.

The first mercantile establishment was opened by Oliver Boutwell the year the railroad was completed. In 1857 the first blacksmith shop was put in operation by A. Swords of Audubon, who also operated a wayside inn to accommodate the traveling public. A Mr. Hart built the first hotel in 1859, the Eureka, located on Front Street. Mr. Hart was also a lumber merchant.

Dr. Welch moved from Audubon in 1857 to Nokomis and put out his physician’s sign to practice medicine.

The first marriage recorded in this township was that of J. W. Hancock and Miss Margaret Meritt, in 1853; the second one was Mr. Borar and Miss Margaret Hightower also in 1853.

The first undertaker was George Culp.


The Village of Nokomis was incorporated and received her charter March 9, 1867.

The first board of trustees were C. H. Schaper, president; A. H. Draper, clerk; N. M. Belnap, treasurer; E. K. Brighton, constable and street commissioner; B. W. Henderson, assessor.

Presidents of the board of trustees or mayors down through the years follow: C. H. Schaper, G. H. Upstone, Thomas Triffet, H. M. Randle, John Hukill, John Woltmann, J. H. Weinstein, Nick Singer, Dr. W. C. Hovey, A. O. Kettelkamp, V. C. Singler, F. Kroeger, A. J. Eekhoff, S. B. Brown, Earl Jenkins, Frank Yackle, A. E. Vandever, Virgil Adams, Kenneth Kellerman, and the present mayor, Homer Stanley. Current commissioners are Gerald G. Cain, Alvin Hagemeier, Primo Tosetti and Clarence Hard.

The appointed officers include T. H. Harrison, city clerk; Lee Dawson, city treasurer, Andrew Cibulka, supt. Of water; Robert Bowes, chief of police and John Price, supt. of streets.

March 27, 1869, the charter was amended by a special act of the legislature. At this time the city had a population of 700 people, three churches, ten stores and such industries usually found in places of comparable size.

In 1927 Nokomis adopted a commission form of government which is in force today.

Taken from the Nokomis Centennial Booklet 1856-1956