Many changes in Shobonier since 1844

Shobonier, the only town in Kaskaskia Township, was established as a timber town in about 1844.

It is located in Section 16, the School Section, and the first to buy lots here in 1851 were James Albert, Francis, J. Brown, Stephen Hopkins and George Willet.

The survey of Shobonier by James R. Oliver was filed with the county as a permanent record on Nov. 20, 1859. The original town was on the west side of the railroad. Three additions, Blackman, Metzger and William Lee, have been made to the town since its beginning.

North-south streets were named Smiths Avenue, Mill Street and Front Street, with six cross streets numbering from First to Fourth streets, Hatten Street and Carter Street.

It has long been believed that Shobonier was named for Shabbona, an Indian chief, but new research has shown this not to be the case. It seems to be named for Francois Sho-bon-ier, a member of a Chicago Potawatomie Indian family.

In his 1993 book on Illinois place names, Virgil J. Vogel tells of Francois Sho-bon-ier (also shown as Chevalier), whose name appears in the Treaty of Tippecanoe on Oct. 20, 1832. Through the treaty, two sections of land were awarded at his village to Sho-bon-ier.

Another provision in the same treaty awarded to Sho-bon-ier or Chevalier was $40 for a stolen horse and $120 to Francis Sho-bon-ier for the loss of three horses during the Black Hawk War. He signed his name as Francois Cho-van-ier on the Tippecanoe treaty.

Sho-bon-ier appears again in the Treaty of Chicago on Sept. 26, 1833, along with another Indian leader, Shab-eh-nay, known as Shabbona. Vogel writes that the presence of both names in the same treaty would seem to establish their separate identities.

William Lee is credited with building the first house in the neighborhood of Shobonier in 1837. It was a log affair, and was still standing in June 1911 when The Vandalia Union carried a newspaper article about the town.

The son of Lemuel Lee, he with his brother, Benjamin Franklin Lee, and sister, Alzora Lee Pollock, wife of the settlements doctor, formed the framework of early Shobonier.

The first school was probably in the home of Massachusettss native, Edwin A. Frye, who lived one mile north of what would become the town. Having taught in Jerseyville and Virden, Frye came to the area in 1867, and conducted a Sabbath-school in his home.

He later opened a dry goods store in town, and became the first postmaster. Frye was still going strong in 1911.

Shobonier had 275 inhabitants in 1878, along with four general stores, two hotels, two blacksmith shops and one wagon shop. A new brick church had just been built at a cost of $5,000, and was used by the Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians.

The post office in Shobonier was established on April 29, 1869, with Edwin Frye as postmaster. He was succeeded by James F. Kennedy in 1886. When John U. Metzger became postmaster, he moved the post office into his general store.

In 1911, Shobonier’s population was 400, and there were still four general stores, two groceries, two restaurants, a grain elevator (built by John U. Metzger), Henry Metzgers livery stable, three blacksmith shops, a butcher shop and mill.

Anderson & Epps (Norval) had a store in Shobonier at that time. A.M. Perry also kept a dry goods business, as did John U. Metzger, who, like many store owners, had tokens made to give as change for those doing business with his store.

In 1918, there were five general stores, owned by Edward Anderson, Cowger & Cooper, E. Frye & Son, John U. Metzger & Son and A.M. Perry. I.W. Kelly and Henry Anderson were restaurant keepers, and Robert Long was the blacksmith.

The road south from Vandalia to Shobonier was built in 1924. Teams of horses pulling sleds of dirt scooped from the right-of-way built the road through the bottomland. A few years after paving was completed, the roadbed settled, giving motorists a roller coaster feeling.

Shobonier had an Illinois Central depot, with J.C. Lloyd as the agent. For years, this was a major shipping point of hardwood lumber, barrel staves, props and hoops from the Shobonier Manufacturing Co. As the supply of sycamore and elm dwindled, the factory, operated by Metzger and Mitchell, closed.

While the stave factory was in full production, a ‘subdivision’ of Shobonier near the factory, called Spain by the locals, housed the timber workers and their families.

In 1919, the Shobonier Equity Exchange opened. They bought out the H.J. Heckethorn Produce Co. and Telger & Elmore elevator. H.J. Heckethorn was the new co-op manager.

Officers were: F.H. Buxton, president; Henry Blankenship, vice president; and John Schmid Jr., secretary. Board members were: John Hulskotter and Jacob Wasmuth.

In the 1930s and 1940s, John Boye Jr. operated Boyes Cash Grocery and General Store in the former depot building. He also provided a gas pump for his customers. His father, John Sr., was a merchant in neighboring St. Paul.

Shoboniers brick two-story school was built in 1893, and at the time was considered the finest to be found in a town of Shoboniers size. It burned in February of 1956, with teachers and children watching. An inscribed stone marker was dedicated in 2003 to mark the site of the original school.

In 1926, the Shobonier school board rented the old post office building for a two-year high school. Floyd Lape was hired to teach for the term of 1926-1927.

In 1929, a three-year high school was opened; it operated until 1942, when students were bused to Vandalia. In the first year, their transportation to school was via cattle truck. The next year, a bus was provided, with Cecil Smith as the driver.

Next weekend, former students will come together for a reunion. They come not only to remember and reminiscence, they come out of pride in their Shobonier heritage.

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