The History of Mendon
PIONEERS OF MENDON TOWNSHIP
Ebenezer Riddle appears to have been the first to settle in that portion of the county. He was a Kentuckian and in 1829 located on the southeast quarter of section 9, where he built his cabin and left descendants to inherit the la-nd which he then purchased. In the same year Col. Martin Shuey settled on Mendon Prairie, just over the line in Honey Creek Township. John C. Hardy located on section 29. Mendon Township, in 1830, and within the next few years Samuel Bradley, John B. Chittenden, the Bentons, the Baldwins and other thrifty Connecticut Yankees came to the Prairie and formed there a prosperous settlement.
MENDON VILLAGE PLATTED
In 1833 the settlement was first laid out as the Town of Fairfield by John B. Chittenden, Benjamin Baldwin and Daniel Benton, but as the proprietors were soon notified by the postoffice department that there was another Fairfield in the state they changed it to Mendon.
In the year of its platting E. A. Strong opened a blacksmith shop, and while working at his forge he studied theology and eventually became prominent in the Episcopalian ministry. A postoffice was established in 1834 and Abram Benton was placed in charge of it. Daniel Benton was the first merchant, but the postmaster soon succeeded him in business and continued to conduct a growing general store for half a century. S. R. Chittenden was also a pioneer merchant, his sons followed him and his descendants to still later genera.tions are in business at Mendon. The grain elevator of the present is owned and operated by a member of the Chittenden family (C. A. Chittenden).
EARLY POLITICAL CENTER
The fertility of Mendon prairie, with the consequent development of the region, gave the village quite a standing as a political rallying point in the early days when so much of the electioneering was done in. the rural districts. For example, in the William Henry Harrison campaign of 1840 a grand wliig barbecue was held at Mendon Village, and hundreds came in for miles around to attend it and consume the roasted carcasses of oxen, sheep and hogs, representative of the riches of the Bear Creek country. Upon that particular occasion Daniel Nutt was manager of the roasts and the eloquent O. H. Browning, the principal speaker.
It is said that the first school in the village was taught in J. B. Chittenden's house, during 1832, by the Miss Burgess who became Mrs. Willard Keyes, of Quincy. She lived only a short time after her marriage. What was considered to be quite a handsome brick schoolhouse was erected in 1876.
CHURCHES AND LODGES
In 1833 the church people of the town erected the Union Meeting House. in which those of any religious faith could meet if they could secure the services of a minister. The Congregationalists also organized a church in February of that year, and theirs was said to be the first society of that demonination in Illinois. They erected a frame meeting house in 1838, a larger structure in 1853, and the edifice in which they now worship in 1905. The old Congregational church was purchased by the Mendon Improvement Company and transformed into a public hail. Rev. Milton J. Norton is the present pastor in charge.
The Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church of Mendon was organized in April, 1853, at the town hail, and the meeting house was dedicated August 5, 1854. It is still standing and is one of the old landmarks of the place. Rev. Joseph C. Miller is serving as pastor.
Zion Episcopal Church has also been organized for many years, Dr. D. E. Johnstone being its pastor; the Methodist society is in charge of Reverend McNally, of New Canton, Illinois, and St. Edward's Catholic Church is served by Rev. Father Paul Reinfels.
Considering its size, Mendon has a number of rather strong lodges. Mendon Lodge No. 449, Ancient Free and• Accepted Masons, was organized in 1865; Mendon Chapter No. 157, Royal Arch Masons, in 1873, with a present membership of about fifty, and Mendon Star Chapter, No. 153, Order Eastern Star, instituted in 1889, has a membership of 95. There are also Mendon Lodge, No. 877, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and Mendon Rebekah Lodge; Golden Grain Camp No. 422, Royal Neighbors, and the Tri-Mutual and the Modern Woodmen of America, Camp 751.
When the Methodist Episcopal Church was organized at Mendun in 1839 the circuit included all of Adams County, as well as considerable adjoining territory. The Quincy district, over which Peter Cartwright was presiding elder, was formed in 1832, and included nearly all the western half of Illinois. Enos Thompson was the first pastor of the Mendon circuit. A meeting house was erected in Mendon during 1840, which was replaced by the house of worship built in 1854. Rev. Mr. McNally, of New Canton, Illinois, is in charge of the present Mendon circuit.
MENDON INCORPORATED AS A VILLAGE
Mendon had made such a showing as a town by the late '60s that the villagers applied for incorporation. This was effected by special act of the Legislature in 1867, its corporate boundaries embracing an area of one mile square. In the early '90s it was incorporated as a village under the general laws of the state. Since that time it has increased in population and general attractiveness. Nothing has contributed more to that development than the coming of the Quincy & Warsaw Railroad to its doors in 1870. Col. John B. Chittenden, the original proprietor and platter of the town, set aside a beautiful plat of ground for a public park. It was gradually improved, the most. noteworthy single addition to its attraction being made in 1876, when it was bordered by a row of fine sugar maple trees, appropriately called Centennial Row. They have since developed into a feature of real beauty.
The present Village of Mendon is a pretty, prosperous community, well adapted for residence and comfortable living. Its streets are kept in good condition and well lighted by electricity. Light and power are furnished by a private company, of which James Thompson is president. Fire protection is afforded by a volunteer force of twenty men. The village authorities have provided special cisterns for that purpose, with a gas engine as the chief feature of the apparatus.
THE LOCAL NEWSPAPER
In 1877, seven years after the coming of the railroad, Mendon's first newspaper made its appearance. It was the Mendon Enterprise; publishers, C. A. Bristol & Co. After several changes of ownership it was purchased by Jacob R. Urech in 1878, and the name changed to the Mendon Dispatch. The late D. H. Darby was editor for several years. In. 1883 W. H. McIntyre purchased an interest in the paper and became its editor; later, he became its sole owner. In 1899 he disposed of the paper to J. R. and C. H. Urech, who continued its publication, under the name of J. R. Urech & Son, until August, 1911. At that date it was purchased by its present editor and pro. prietor, Joseph B. Frisbie.
Mendon has two substantial banks. The oldest, the Mendon State Bank, was established as a private institution in April, 1889, by J. S. Wallace & Brother. They conducted a general banking business until February, 1895, when they disposed of their interest and the concern was reorganized under the name of the Mendon Bank, which still later became a states institution, as at present. C. A. Chittenden is its president.