1893 plat book listed who owned what in Champaign County | News

CHAMPAIGN — The slice of the globe known as Champaign County looked decidedly different in the late 1800s than it does today — and so did the names of who owned land.

Names such as JW Irwin were listed in the Longview area, and JL Heller and RS Fisher in the Ogden area.

Towns were smaller. Some no longer exist. That much is evident when leafing through a plat book of the county from 1893 that is owned by the Champaign County Farm Bureau.

Manager Brad Uken said viewing the recently restored plat book is like looking at a piece of county history.

The plat book is a record of who owned what piece of land and is laid out by township. Plat books are still produced, but relatively few are still around from 129 years ago.

Uken said the 1893 plat book was given to the Farm Bureau after the previous owner discovered it in some belongings as he was cleaning out a building.

“The thing’s in very very good shape,” Uken said. “The spine or binding was not in the best of shape. The book had been opened hundreds or thousands of times.”

After inquiring whether a Champaign-based company restored book spines and being told it didn’t, Uken spoke to representatives at an Indiana-based company.

“They said, ‘I think all it needs is a new binding. We’ll tell you what it needs when we get it,’” said Uken, who put it in the mail.

“I was a little nervous. You’re putting something in the mail that’s 100 years old.” After it arrived, “they called back and said, ‘Wow, this book is in really good condition’ and said ‘all you need is a new binding and maybe there’s one page we need to work on.’”

Every page is the original and easily legible, “and the book is absolutely beautiful.

“The pages have color to them. They’re legible; they’re readable,” Uken said.

He said he has had a handful of people look at the plat book and tell him there are names of land owners listed whose families still own land in the county today.

In the back of the book are listed landowner names and where they own land. It also tells approximately when the landowner came to the county, what their occupation was and where they came from. Some came from Europe, some Ohio. All over.

It also provided other information. Some of them became landowners fairly quickly when they arrived in the county. Others, it might have taken them 20 years. It also listed occupation.

“Occupations were across the board from farmers to business people,” Uken said.

The plat book also lays out the municipalities.

In Champaign, “you can see University Avenue, Prospect Avenue. There (is a plat) of what Thomasboro looked like or Rantoul and Philo.

“There are towns that no longer exist or weren’t incorporated by then.”

The public is welcome to view the plat book by visiting the Farm Bureau office. Uken encourages people to call him before coming in. The flat book can’t leave the office.

He doesn’t have a way to make quality copies of the book, but photos can be taken of the pages.

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