Transcribed by: Jeanie Lowe.
This little gem of a village is situated in the center of Tallula Precinct, and on the Jacksonville Division of the Chicago, Alton & St. Louis Railroad, about eight miles from Petersburg, the county seat. It is in the midst of a fine rolling prairie, surrounded by a splendid agricultural region in all directions. It was laid out in the latter part of 1857, by W. G. Greene, J. G. Greene, Richard Yates, T. Baker and W. G. Spears. The name of Tallula was given by the later gentleman, and is said to be an Indian word signifying "dropping water," though what relation the word or its signification bears to the village, we are unable to discover. There is no dropping water near the place, except when it rains, and water drops from the trees and caves of the houses. Nevertheless, it is a pretty name, whether appropriate or not, and its sound is as musical as the country around the village is beautiful. The first house was erected by W. G. Spears, soon after it was laid out, and is now owned by R. B. Thrapp. The next building was put up by Robert M. Ewing, and so nearly at the same time with that of Spears, that it is not easy to say which was first. It is now occupied by Dr. Sandford. The first store was opened in January 1858, by Thrapp & Spears, which continued about eight months, when Spears retired and Thrapp continued the business alone. Mr. Thrapp is still in business in the village, and is one of the oldest businessmen of the county. A post office was established in 1858, with F. S. Thrapp as Postmaster, C.C. Smedley is at present the representative of the Post Office Department in Tallula. Hugh Hicks opened the first blacksmith-shop in 1859, and still pounds away at his anvil. Dr. J. F. Wilson was the first practicing physician to hand out his shingle in the new village.
The first grain-buyer was F. S. Thrapp, who commenced the business as soon as the railroad was opened. He bought and shipped mostly from wagons, but finally built a grain warehouse. A.T. Gaylord built an excellent grain elevator here two years ago, which cost about $4,000, but is at present standing idle. It has all the modern improvements of steam power, cribs, shellers, grain-dumps, etc. F.S. Thrapp, Bell Brothers and C.B. Laning & Co., of Petersburg, are at present in the grain trade, and a large amount is handled annually. The first tavern in Tallula was kept by Mrs. E. Brooks; but the first building erected purposely for a hotel was put up by Frank Spears, who ran it for some time as such. The village has two hotels at present. The Wathen House - J.F. Wathen, proprietor - is one of the best and most perfectly kept hotels in Central Illinois. The Revere House is kept by Mrs. Zohman. A bank was established here in May 1877 by Wilson & Greene, which still continues under the same firm. A coal shaft was sunk some four years ago by Charles Greene and a man named Deal. It was finally sold in bankruptcy, and bought by C.B. Laning & Co., of Petersburg, who are now operating it. The shaft is about 200 feet deep, at which depth an excellent vein of coal is reached, some six feet in thickness. The trains going north take coal at this point; besides this, much is shipped over the road to other points.
The first church erected in the corporate limits of the village was the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, which was built in 1861. It is a frame building, and cost about $3,000. Their first preacher was Rev. J.G. White, whose greatest forte seems to have been in fighting the Catholics, not with fisticuffs, but with his tongue. The Church is without a regular Pastor at present, and has but a small membership. Quite a flourishing Sunday school is maintained. The next church edifice was the Christian Church, erected in 1864. It was built under the pastorate of Elder H. Osborne; is a frame building, and cost about $4,000. The present Pastor is Elder H.O. Breeden. A Sunday school is carried on, of which, Dr. Metcalf is the Superintendent. There was a church, at one time, of the German Reformed, but their society dwindled down and finally became extinct, and they sold their church building. The Baptist Church was erected in 1871, at a cost of $8,500, and is a handsome brick edifice. This is the original Clary's Grove Baptist Church, already noticed as having been organized in the little log schoolhouse, in 1824. Since that time, it has had fifteen pastors, viz.; Revs. Joseph Cogsdall, Williamson, Trent, J.H. Daniel, William Spencer, Tannehill, Evans, Theodore Sweet, Abraham Bale, J.L. Turner, Gouldsby, Winn, Gross, Jones and H.P. Curry. From this patriarchal Church have grown nine of the Baptist churches of this county, besides some located in the adjoining counties. Since its organization, nearly fifty-five years ago, more than 2,000 members have been received into fellowship. There is no regular pastor at present. A large and flourishing Sunday school is carried on, of which George W. Bell is the Superintendent. There is no Masonic or Odd Fellows Lodge in Tallula, a circumstance that is rarely to be met with in a village of its size in Illinois. There is, however, a Lodge of the Knights of Honor.
The first school taught in the village of Tallula was by Miss Sarah Brockman, in 1859, in the district schoolhouse, which stood just without the corporate limits. This may seem an Irish bull, but it was termed the village school, and patronized by children from the village. The German Reformed Church was afterward used for a schoolhouse. The brick school building erected in 1868-69 is one of the finest in the county, and cost between $8,000 and $10,000, besides three acres of land, upon which it is located, and donated by Mr. Greene. The corps of teaches employed for the coming year is as follows: George S. Montgomery, Principal, assisted by Miss Sallie A. Johnson, Miss Nellis Robertson and Miss Mary D. Riley. The usual attendance at the school is about one hundred and fifty pupils.
Tallula was incorporated as a village under the general law in 1871-72. The first Board of Trustees were J. F. Wilson, R.H. Bean, J.T. Bush, J.F. Wathen and F.S. Thrapp, who organized for business by electing R.H. Bean President of the Board. The present Board is J.Q. Spears, S. T. Carrico, G. Bullock, Dr. E.T. Metcalf and Frank Wilkinson, of which John Q. Spears is President: C.T. Spears, Clerk; J.F. Wilson, Treasurer and N.L. Randall, Police Magistrate. The population is about eight hundred and the business may be summarized as follows: Eight general stores embracing dry goods, groceries, hardware, drugs, etc., with the usual supply of blacksmith, wagon, shoe and harness shops. There is no saloon in the place, and has been but one since it was laid out as a town, and it was starved out, which speaks well for the high standard of its morals.
The cemetery of the village is a beautiful and well cared-for burying ground. It has been carefully laid out and incorporated, and has a fund of about $1,500, with which to keep it in order. Col. Judy is President of the Association, and F.S. Thrapp, Secretary and Treasurer. About one-forth of the lots have been sold, and, when the remainder have been disposed of, it is intended to spend the proceeds in beautifying the grounds, by laying out walks, planting trees and shrubbery and otherwise improving it. Nothing speaks more highly of a people than a loving care of their dead, and Tallula's pretty little cemetery bears many a token of affection to the loved and lost.
The village of Rushaway, once a thriving business place, almost the equal of what Tallula now is, has rushed away among the things that were. It was laid out by J. T. Rush and William Workman some time in the fifties, but just what time is not now remembered. The first store was kept by J. T. Rush and a man named Way. These two names, associated in business and combined together, gave the name of Rushaway to the village. F.S. Thrapp also had a store there. A post office was established, with Rush as Postmaster. When the railroad was built, it missed the town a few miles, and on the layout-out of Tallula, a portion of the place rushed to Tallula, and the remainder to Ashland. The post office was moved to Tallula, and its name changed to its new location. The proprietors of the railroad, it is said, would have run their road through the village, if they had received the proper encouragement, but the people of Rushaway, believing that the road would be compelled to come that way, stood upon their dignity and even refused to give the right of way, save at the highest market value. As a consequence, the road was located elsewhere, and Rushaway was left out in the cold. The completion of the road sealed their doom, and, as already stated, a part of the businessmen removed to Ashland, and the others to Tallula. At present, there is nothing left to designate the spot. The original site of the town is a flourishing farm and orchard, and the passing strangers would be surprised to learn that the place was once a thriving village.