The village of Farina began as a station on the Chicago Branch of the Illinois Central Railroad. It was surveyed by James Carson on Nov. 9, 1857, and a post office opened the following year, with William L. Dillon as postmaster. It is not known who chose the name.
Farina was organized as a town on July 6, 1867, and reorganized as a village in 1875. The illustration from the 1878 History of Fayette County shows Farina as a good-sized town with substantial structure.
Farina boasted a steam flouring mill with three run of burrs, five general stores, one drug store, two hotels, three blacksmiths, two shoemakers, one shirt factory, one grain merchant, two schools, three churches and two physicians, Asa Snyder and T.O. Hatton, the latter doubling as a druggist.
Its Masonic Lodge No. 671 began in 1871, and the local newspaper, The Farina News, was established in 1877 by Edward Freeman.
Farina merchants listed as “subscribers to the view” in the 1878 book were E. Richardson, W.W. Halliday, J.W. Harris, Schuyler Carson and W.C. Crandall. George Newton was a hotel proprietor and miller. Christian Ambuehl and John Rewiter were saloon keepers, E.W. Titswell was a druggist and R.A. Brown, the veterinarian.
E.G. Brown and S.C. Smith were carpenters and builders, and W.L. Arnold was the postmaster and express agent.
The history book goes on to say that this township did not settle up as early or as rapidly as did some others in the county for the reason that it was mostly level prairie land and inclined to be wet.
There were no streams of importance in the township, “it being the dividing line for the waters running east and west into the Wabash and Kaskaskia Rivers.”
Recently, I had the good fortune to study a scrapbook compiled by Rhoda Wing, whose husband, A.H. was the county surveyor from 1869-73 and from 1888-96. An article written by Mrs. Wing under the pseudonym of “Rosa Autumn” told of her husband being summoned to Farina in 1889 following a devastating fire there.
She wrote, “They contrived in some mysterious way to set fire to and burn down almost all of the business part of it. The town papers and road records were burned – no road plat. At once, there were disputes. Some said the roads were in one place while others said they were in other places.
“On those big prairies you were all at sea, like a ship without a compass, you have no roads to guide you. How would the folks at LaClede township know where their roads were?”
Mr. Wing deputized three men to assist him in the job of resurveying the disputed area, the job taking several weeks to complete.
The editors of the 1878 history mentioned that “Farina claims the credit (if it be a credit)” that Victoria Woodhull once lived there, her husband John Woodhull being the first station agent for the Illinois Central railroad at that place.
Active in suffrage and women’s rights, Victoria Woodhull was the first woman to run for president of the United States, nominated in 1872 by the Equal Rights Party. Her running mate was Frederick Douglass.
The third station agent was W.L. Arnold, and his wife was a niece of President Fillmore. In the winter of 1863-1864, the public school was taught by a niece of John Brown.
Another interesting fact about Farina is that the Vincennes to Vandalia Road passed at an angle through what later became the site of the town.
From simple beginnings as a station on the Illinois Central, Farina became a major shipping hub of farm materials and fruit. In 1914, Farina was considered the third-largest strawberry shipper in the world. Today, farming is the major industry in Farina.
The Farina News, begun in 1877, continues to publish a weekly newspaper, and the population is listed as 558 in the Fayette County Area Tourism Guide, published last year.