Organization of White Oak Township, Illinois

White Oak Township was organized in the spring of 1858, the first election having been held April 6, 1858. The name of the town was a fortunate selection, as thereby this fraction of a township, the smallest in the county, has obtained a name that entitles it to the historical record of the whole grove. White Oak has always possessed a large share of influence in the councils of the county at large-much more than some of the newer and larger townships have been able to secure. The town has had no debt, or, if it ever bad any, it was only of a very temporary nature. In 1878 was built a town hall, at the village of Oak Grove, White Oak being one of the few towns in this county that can boast of this useful public building.

At the township election, April 1, 1879, Albert Wright was chosen Supervisor; Samuel Lantz, Town Clerk; W. H. Wright, Assessor; James E. Harrison, Collector, and Jesse Chism, Road Commissioner.

White Oak started its free schools in 1837. Reuben Carlock was the first Town School Treasurer, and continued in office fourteen years. The first School Trustees in the same year, were Isaac Allen, Josiah Brown, Ormon Robinson and Elisha Dixon. At first, there was but one school, which was attended by an average of fifty scholars. It was seven years before the nest school was started. At that time, the school matters were managed in the school district of what is now the two towns of Kansas and White Oak acting as one township ; at present, in White Oak alone. There are now five school districts, though some of the support comes from adjoining towns. The number of pupils enrolled in this township alone, in 1878, was 123. The total number of children in the school was 144, being about one-third of the total population.

The amount of the township school fund was $2,858. The estimated value of the school property is $3,150. The present School Treasurer is Samuel Lantz. The total amount of money expended for school purposes in the year ending September 31, 1878, was $1,410. White Oak is a very small town. and, of course, does not furnish large figures, but we notice that it’ the children of Bloomington attended school in the same ratio, it would require desk-room for at least 1,000 more pupils.

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White Oak is a Republican town. In the olden times, it was a Whig neighborhood. It is noted, however, for the spirit of toleration existing between the members of the different political parties. This town sent a large number of soldiers to the late war, several of whom laid down their lives in the service of their country. Could the full war-record of White Oak be compiled, it would be of more interest than anything we have given in these pages, and would show that its sons have been heroes in the cause in which they volunteered. There’ are living in this township quite a number of the veterans of the war, who are among its most respected citizens.

We have mentioned that White Oak is rather remarkable for the piety of the families within its borders, and we might state that, from its early settlement, this remark would hold true. Religious meetings were started early, and at first at private houses. The first sermon was preached at the residence of Mr. Smith Denman, by Rev. Mr. Royal, a Methodist minister. The second was by a man of the name of Beach, a Baptist, who also preached at Mr. Denman’s. In the grove near this residence, a great many camp-meetings have been held at different times.

The first church in the township was the Christian Church, at the edge of the grove in the northwest part of the town, and was erected about 1850. A few years after this, the Methodist Church was built near Mr. Denman’s, at the edge of the grove.

Some time after, another Christian Church was built, about half a mile east of Abraham W. Carlock’s. All of these churches are near the township lines, and as near the county line, and quite a portion of their support comes from Woodford County. They help give White Oak its good name, and we are glad they are on the right side of the line.

A few miles south of the grove is the church of the Presbyterians, which is the most central, perhaps, of any in the town. Near Winton Carlock’s is the Mt. Zion Church of the United Brethren, making the fifth in White Oak Township. The total value of these churches is over $10,000. They will seat more people than the total population of the township, something that can be said of the churches of but few towns in the county. There are a number of families of Unitarians, Universalists, a few Second Adventists, and some members of other denominations in the township. White Oak being a farming township, with only one small village, barely three years old, has, of course, no manufactures. As early as 1833, one of its citizens – Thomas Dixon – built a mill on the Mackinaw, which did some service. This mill,, however, was not in this township. Some years ago, the steam saw and grist mill, known as the ” Western Mills,” were built in the township, near its northern line, the only manufacturing establishment in the township of much importance. They have never proved very profitable.

We find the town of White Oak may be classed as one of the most prosperous of any in this part of the State. When we make this statement, we include its moral, social and financial condition, all of which are on a remarkably good basis. Our report of its early history and present state may be imperfect, but we have endeavored to make it clear to our readers that White Oak is, in every respect, a good town.


Le Baron, William., Jr. & Co. The History of McLean County, Illinois: portraits of early settlers and prominent men. Chicago. W. Le Baron, Jr., 1879.

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