About nine miles south of
is Chatham, home to about 10,000 residents and one of the fastest growing
areas in central
Illinois. The town got its start when the first settlers
arrived in 1816 to take advantage of the fertile prairie land between Lick
and Panther Creeks in what is now Sangamon County. Farming families soon
had plentiful fields of corn in the area, attracting more settlers, even
though there was a risk of Indian attacks.
of the earliest settlers was a man named John Campbell, from Tennessee,
who settled on Lick Creek and built an old-fashioned horse mill. Others
early pioneers included Henry Brown, John Darneille, brothers Levi and
Samuel Harbour, and Baptist Minister, Simon Lindley. In 1821, the first
church was organized by the Baptists and the following year, the area had
grown enough for a school, held in a small log cabin, which was taught by
Ira McGlassen. The first water-mill was a saw mill, built and run by
Johnson Hardin, on Lick Creek, in about 1828.
village of Chatham was officially laid out in October, 1836, by Luther N.
Ransom, who built the first house of logs. However, the town would grow
slowly during the first two decades. School was first held in the newly
founded village in 1837 in Luther N. Ransom's smoke house. It was taught
by Roxana S. Lyman.
During Chatham's early years, many of its residents were closely
Lincoln. In 1837, two state senators and seven representatives
from Sangamon County managed to convince the General Assembly to move the
State Capitol from Vandalia to
These legislators, called the "Long Nine", included Lincoln and John
Dawson. Lincoln was a good friend of Reverend Josiah Porter, minister of
the Chatham Presbyterian church. Dr. John Lewis, of Chatham, and
Lincoln surveyed and purchased rights to build the railroad from
through Chatham to
St. Louis, Missouri.
1838, a post office was established and the mail was brought by a stage
St. Louis, Missouri.
A frame school house was built in 1839, which would serve the village for
the next 19 years. later, when the number of students outgrew the
building, it was used as a grocery store.
When the Chicago, Alton, & St. Louis Railroad came to town in 1852, the
village really began to grow. Four years later, the first steam
grist-mill was erected by S.N. Fullenwider, which would manufacture flour
for the next several years. In 1858, a new two story school was built.
of Chatham's most famous residents was Ben F. Caldwell, who moved near the
town with his parents when he was just a boy. His formal school education
ended at age 15 when his father died. Caldwell became active in real
estate, banking and livestock raising, and eventually owned 1000 acres of
farmland in the area. In 1876, he built the towered Italianate style
mansion that sits on Route 4 north of Chatham. He also was a partner and
served as President of the Bank of Chatham, which opened for business in
January, 1880. He also served as president of the Farmer's State Bank in
and in the
Illinois House and Senate before becoming a U.S. Representative
in 1899. The 6,000 square foot residence and immaculate barn sits on five
acres and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is
the early 1880's the town sported three church buildings including the
Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist as well as seven schools in the
1895, Ben Caldwell also paid for a new school for the city of Chatham,
which was named Caldwell School. The school was used as a combination
grade and high school until 1904 when it was destroyed by fire. A new
school was built in 1905 and also called Caldwell School. It continued to
be utilized as a combination school until 1938, when it served as a grade
school only until 1961. Three years, later, it also was destroyed by a
fire in 1964.
Over the years, Chatham moved into the the 20th Century and welcomed the
Route 66 with the typical
service stations and restaurants. As it continued to grow over the years,
its businesses moved to the north closer to
which is now is a typical suburban-like sprawl of strip malls and and fast
Chatham still offers a few glimpses into its past -- one at the Chatham
Railroad Museum housed in the 1902 depot building. In the early 1900's 12
passenger trains came through Chatham daily. After 70 years of service,
the station was closed with the merger of Illinois Central and the Gulf,
Mobile & Ohio Railroads in 1972. In 1991 it was restored and turned into a
museum located at 100 N. State Street. There are also a few old buildings
in Chatham's earlier Mulberry Street business district.
Today, this village offers the conveniences of the larger nearby city of
while still providing small-town charm. Each July, the city hosts the
the Chatham Sweet Corn Festival and
Championship Cow Chip Throw.
Continue southward on IL-4 as your
Route 66 journey moves on to
Auburn. About four miles south of
Chatham, before you reach the town of Auburn,
watch to the west for Snell Road. At 5029 Snell Road is Becky's Barn, a
Route 66 snack shop, information center, and antique store. It is located
right off the historic 1931 1.4 mile hand-laid brick road.
of America, updated December, 2015.