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A Brief Introduction to Manito History
Settlers came to the Manito area as early as 1838 or 1839. Probably the earliest known settler was William Herron who settled just east of the village on Hickory Grove Road. He emigrated from Ohio to Mackinaw in Tazewell County and finally to Mason County where he settled on the edge of Black Oak Grove, as the village of Manito was then known His spinster sister kept house for her bachelor brother until his death. He was buried on the farm where he lived, but the exact spot is not known. Perhaps the words of the poet describes it best:
“Not in the churchyard's hallowed ground,
Where marble columns rise around,
By willow or by cypress shade,
Are thy poor mortal relics laid.
Thou sleepest here, all, all alone-
No other grave is near thine own.
‘Tis well, ‘tis well, but oh, such fate
Seems very, very desolate.”
Stephen W. Porter, with his wife, came to the area about the same time as Herron and settled on the edge of the “pond” which was in the village limits. Porter, being a nephew of Herron’s, also came from Mackinaw, Illinois.
The village of Manito was surveyed and platted by James K. Cox, Robert M. Cox, and William A Langston in 1858. One hundred and ten acres were laid out in blocks, streets, and alleys. Manito is located in Section Twenty-one, Township Twenty-three North, Range Six West, Mason County, Illinois. A part of Broadway Street was reserved for the use of the Illinois River Railroad Company and such a portion of street as needed for depot.
Several small communities contributed to the growth of Manito, namely, Egypt Station, Spring Lake and Durang. Even though Egypt Station had the post office, Manito got the location of the depot and that immediately ended Egypt Station. Spring Lake furnished both businesses and citizens for the new village. Durang, a settlement across the county line from Spring Lake furnished some of the homes for Manito. There are 2 known buildings still being used in Manito today that were moved in from Durang.
When the village was incorporated, the first Board of Trustees were: R.S. Eakin, President; Joe W. Brooks, Treasurer; Joe Cranwill, Clerk; Smith Mosher and E. W. Crispell. Stephen W. Porter was the first Police Magistrate.
A petition was presented to the Post Office Department asking that the post office be removed from Egypt Station to Manito. The petition was granted and Smith Mosher was appointed postmaster.
Manito is now a progressive community with a population of 1,869. The cost of running in 1886 was $500 as compared to $346,963 in 1982. Manito’s growth can be measured as we go down the list of utilities as they came to the community: 1888-telephone; 1908-electricity; 1937-water; 1964-natural gas; 1973-sanitary sewers; 1980 Cable TV.
The first telephone in the area was a private line from J. A. Marshall’s place of business to his home. On August 6, 1888, Central Union Telephone was granted right of way to erect poles and service into the village. In 1882, public telephone service was initiated by a privately owned company, after which, the Turnew-Hudnut built its first telephone plant with H.G. Cox as manager. In 1906, the business was sold to Citizens’ Telephone Company. In 1914, the main switching equipment was destroyed by fire. A fireproof building was built at a cost of more than $3,000. In 1926, the Citizens’ Telephone Company was sold to Middle States Telephone. The service now included 5,000 subscribers as compared to 65 in 1906 when the company was sold to the Citizens’ Telephone Company. In 1958, the equipment was converted to the dial system-Mayor Ernest Beebe making the first call to Forest City Mayor Vernon Langston. Middle States Telephone merged with Central Telephone Company of Illinois in 1967. A new telephone building, on the corner of Washington Street and Main Street was built in 1968.
Wooden sidewalks were built during the summer of 1879. These were described as “two 12" plank with 6" plank in center with cross piece 2x4 laid flat ways on the ground. The cost was 49 cents per rod with 46 rods being laid at that time. More were built during the following years. In October of 1889, the Board passed an ordinance that the citizens make their own sidewalks. In 1891, a sidewalk “these were to 5'4" wide and made out of inch stuff”. Later brick sidewalks were built, a few of these still exist. In 1909, an ordinance was adopted that only concrete walks would be permitted.
The first mention of a street commissioner was made in 1881. It seems in those early years, residents were required to work on the streets for in 1880, the clerk was instructed to “make a list of person subject to road labor”. In 1884, the trustees and clerk were exempt from street labor for that year. Hay and straw was bought to put on the village streets, with the purchasing of 14 loads at 50 cents a load. This was in 1888. Also in the early days the street lights were gas and it was necessary to have a lamplighter. Often, it was the job of the night watchman. The Board instructed the police in July of 1912 to give notice to those pasturing stock on the streets to keep them up or the owners would be subject to a fine.
Fire protection is nothing new to the area. In January of 1882, a chimney and clue inspector was appointed. In 1890, ladders and buckets were ordered. Racks for the ladders were made in May, 1891 and watering troughs were made and placed in “conspicuous places” one for each town pump. In 1902, the Village purchased from the Waterus Gasoline Fire Engine Co. A $1,400 outfit which consisted of 1 gasoline fire engine, one hose cart, 500 feet of hose and attachments. The engine seemed to be of poor quality and after several years of struggle, it was sold in 1906 for $10 as scrap iron. J.A. Marshall was given a contract in April of 1906 to keep the fire engine in good repair and to run it at least once a week for which he received $100 a month. In November of 1934, the Fire Department was reorganized and during the following years different typed of new equipment was purchased. On October 7, 1958, all the equipment of the Manito Fire Department was turned over to the newly formed Forman Fire Dept.
Every progressive community need street lights. Manito purchased 3 gas lamps in 1886 from the city of Pekin for $4 each and were placed in the “public square”. The trustees later purchased 4 more to be placed in “dark” places in the village. At this time it was the duty of the town constable to light and extinguish the lights. In May of 1901, a separate lamplighter was appointed at $12 per month. Miller and Smith were given a franchise to erect an electric light plant in September of 1907. In April of 1908, the village board voted for the village to purchase and install an electric light plant. The old street lamps were sold for $2 each. Fred Reed was hired to operate the light plant daily from 4 p.m. until 11:30 p.m. It was necessary to relocated the plant in 1913 and the calaboose lot was selected. In 1915, the light plant ran each Tuesday and Wednesday for one half day for ironing. These ironing days were started again in March of 1918. W.S. (Tad) Beebe was the Supt. Until the municipal light plant closed in April of 1925, and the Central Illinois Light Company took over, which gave the village continuous service. A franchise with Cilco in July of 1957 resulted in new mercury vapor lights.
The earliest water system in Manito was probably the town pumps. Two are mentions-one at Marshalls and one at the Smith-Hippin elevator. An application was made to Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works for a loan and grant to construct a complete water works system. This was in Sept. of 1935 and on May 28, 1937, the contract was let. William Hilst was appointed Supt. Of Water Works. In May of 1943, C.A. Beebe was made Supt. of Water Works with Dan Jenkins appointed in Feb. Of 1963. Since Feb. 1977, Calvin Willard has been the Street, Water and Sewer Supt. During the decade of the 70's, a sewer system was installed.
This year of 1983 finds Carl Armburst. Mayor, Winnifred Willard, clerk; and Donna Sarff, Lowell Searcy, Lee Lacey, Jack Woiwode, Ernie Vogel, Norton Brenner, board members.
In 125 years, Manito has come from gas street lights to mercury vapor lights; from town pumps to a modern water system, from ladders and buckets to modern fire protection; What will the next 125 years bring?
(The Historical Society thanks Mrs. Winnefred Willard for researching village records for the information in the preceding article. Some information on the telephone from Central Illinois Telephone.
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