History of Norman Illinois

Norman Township lies across the Illinois River from Erienna Township. One of the distinguishing formations of Norman Township is what is called Devil’s Mound, a peculiar elevation, believed to be a survival of the Mound Builders’ period. This is a circular mound, 75 feet in height and 200 feet in diameter. Located as it is at the head of a small bayou, it is a noticeable feature of the landscape, and people come from far distances to visit it. As far as known there have been no excavations made in it, so there is nothing definite known about its origin. No trees grow upon it, and it possibly will always remain as something about which the eternal question can be asked.

Bills’ Run, Hog Run, Armstrong Run are all streams of considerable size which empty into the Illinois River and drain Norman Township. Oak, blackberry, walnut and maple trees are all yet found here, although now much fewer in number than when the first settlers came to the region and found miles of unbroken woodland. The soil is principally the black, prairie mold, free from stones, and in the low lands inclined to be wet. In the high lands, a clay soil is found. Corn is the principal product. Hogs are raised in large numbers, as well as cattle, while dairying is found profitable. Some high-grade breeds of horses are raised here, one of the earlier breeders having been E.B. James.

First Settler

David Bunch was the first settler, as he came to Section 21 in the winter of 1834-5. The attraction of this locality for him, was the fine timber, for there was a good market for it at Ottawa and other river points. For years, Mr. Bunch cut and raised timber from Norman, but did not make it his home until much later on, when he developed a fine farm. In 1835 Datus Kent joined Mr. Bunch, and they carried on the lumber business together. Mr. Kent had a cabin on Section 15, and he also built a hotel of logs across the river, known as Castle Danger. In 1837, he left Norman Township and went to Arkansas.

Township Named

Henry Norman arrived here about 1839, having been in Braceville for several years. He located on Section 25, and this continued to be his home until 1842, when he went to Morris, his son, Thomas J. Norman, remaining on the homestead he had secured. The latter was the first supervisor from Norman Township, and it was after him that the township was named. Dr. Timothy Horrom was also an early settler, who located on Section 20; and he it was who founded Horrom City across the river, which existed only on paper. Later, he moved to Erienna Township. John Sullivan, like many others of his countrymen, came here from Ireland to work on the canal, arriving about 1841. He settled on Section 13, and developed a fine farm. E.B. James came to Norman Township in July, 1847, locating on Section 25, where he lived until 1906.

Other Early Settlers

Other early settlers of Norman Township were as follows: Isaac Nelson, Elisha Misner, John Riley, Amos Dewey, Timothy Kelley, Thomas Winsor, Abe Lloyd, C.W. Burows and D.W. Comage. Chief Shabbona made his home in Norman Township on Section 20, where the people gave him forty acres of land.

Later the canal commissioners got the land and settlers bought it. Grundy County was not developed as rapidly as some other divisions of Illinois, owing to the fact that lumber speculators early took up the land and held it for the timber, making no permanent settlements on it. Not until they were forced to abandon their claims, did the real settlers have a fair chance to secure it for homes.

Religious Bodies

The Methodists were the first to gain a hold in both Norman and Erienna townships, sending out their itinerant preachers from the Fox River settlement and the first religious organization in Norman Township was of this faith and was established by the Rev. Fowler. John Platt and E.B. James were among the first members. Services were held in the different cabins, and then in the schoolhouse, until it was possible to secure the use of the Baptist Church. In 1870 the Methodists built a church of their own on Section 35, which is still the only country church anywhere this side of the river within fourteen miles.

The Baptist Church had its beginning about 1854, and the families of Messrs. Haymond, Winters and Manley were among its first members. At first the schoolhouse was used for a meeting place, but in 1862, a neat edifice was erected on Section 23, and it was used until 1887 as a church, and in 1895 it was burned. Not one of its members is left in this part of the country.

Schools

The first schoolhouse was built of logs, in 1853, at Bills’ Point, and was taught by Miss Reniff, and later by Mrs. Stoutemeyer. At present Norman Township has the following schools: the Haymond, in District 19; the Woodbury, in District 18; the Hull, in District 20; and the Raymood, in District 17.

All the old pioneer conditions which once prevailed, have passed away, and Norman Township compares favorably with any division of its size in the entire state. Its people are proud of their agricultural supremacy, and keep up with the high standards in every direction they believe necessary. There are those yet living who remember some of the interesting pioneer social enjoyments from which they had much entertainment. Often the scattered families would gather at different neighbors for the evening where they would spend the time in dancing to Justice Hollenback’s music. Horse racing was quite a sport with the young men who would sometimes gather on Sundays at church and then see which horse was the fastest. It happened that they even took the preacher’s horse while he was conducting the services in the church, to see how many others he could outrun. It was all innocent sport, no betting or other objectionable features, all being merely a playtime for those whose daily tasks left them little opportunity for enjoyment, and whose surroundings offered no chance for recreation.

Supervisors

The men who have served Norman Township as members of the County Board of Supervisors from 1850 to 1912, have been as follows: Thomas J. Norman, 1850; Elisha Misner, 1851-1854; Marion Lloyd, 1855-1856; Amos Dewey, 1857-1858; Elisha Mizner, 1859; Charles M. Pierce, 1860-1863; Wm. Bullis, 1864; Seneca Tupper, 1865-1867: Charles Burrows, 1868; S.H. Raymond, 1869-1871; Geo. W. Raymond, 1872; John Reilly, 1873; L.H. Raymond, 1874; John Reilly, 1875-1876; A.G. Woodbury, 1877; E.B. James, 1878; Chas. M. Pierce, 1879; E.B. James, 1880-1882; C.M. Pierce, 1883; E.R. Dewey, 1884-1885; John Reilly, 1886-1889; Timothy Kelley, 1890-1894; C.W. Burroughs, 1895-1896; Daniel Comage, 1897-1906; M.F. James, 1907-1910; Thomas Downey, 1911-1912.

 

Source: History of Grundy County, Munsell Publishing Company, 1914

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