1879 History of Menard & Mason Counties
Chicago
Published by: O.L. Baskin & Co., Historical Publishers
186 Dearborn Street

Mason County

Natrona Village
Page 613

The village of Natrona was surveyed and platted by E. Z. Hunt, County Surveyor, for James C. Conkling, of Springfield, Ill., and George S. Thompson, of Wheeling, W. Va., in 1857. The original plat contained sixty blocks, 320 feet square, subdivided into 912 lots, 40 x 152 feet. The streets were 80 feet in width, alleys, 16 feet. Soon after the laying-out of the town, Daniel Crabb purchased the site, and is at present proprietor of a large portion of it. Nothing was done in the way of building up the village prior to the building of the railroad. In 1866 and 1867, Daniel Crabb built a few small houses east of the railroad. Samuel Ayers, Lear and McDonald, each erected a building about the same time. Crabb erected a warehouse also, in 1867. This was converted into a horse-power elevator in 1871, by Henry A. Baily, his son-in-law, Lear was the first merchant in the village of whom we have any account. He kept a grocery and saloon in a small building just east of the railroad track, still standing, and now used by John B. Abbott as a grain bin. In 1868, E. W. Nelson came from Wisconsin, and, in connection with Samuel Ayers, engaged in buying grain. They were the first to handle grain in the place. During that and the year previous, a number of buildings were put up west of the track. George Heckel and John N. Catheart each built a large store building on the west side, and E. W. Nelson a small business house on the east side. Heckel occupied his building with a full stock of furniture, James Hampson that of Cathcart with a stock of general merchandise. Nelson opened up a general stock in his building. The first school kept in the village was presided over by Miss Emma Bently. The school was kept in the second story of Crabb's warehouse. A neat frame building for school purposes was built in 1873, at a cost of $1,800. George W. Murphy, from Ohio, taught the first school in the new building. The post office was established in 1868, and J. E. Reynolds was first Postmaster. E. W. Nelson is present Postmaster and station agent, though the duties are discharged by R. Williams, at whose store the offices are kept. In 1871, E. W. Nelson built a steam elevator, and this, as well as the one built by Baily, is now operated by John B. Abbott-the only grain merchant in the village. The amount of grain shipped from this point ranges from three hundred thousand to three hundred and fifty thousand bushels per annum. R. Williams has the only store in town, and carries a general stock. The Protestant Methodist Church was built in 1877. It is a neat frame building and cost $1,600. Rev. Starling Turner was first Pastor. Rev. Hamill, of San Jose, at present supplies the pulpit. Among the early communicants we find the names of Jeremiah Corson, William Preston and wife, George Langley and wife, Richard Langley and wife, Robert Preston, Mrs. Larimore, Reuben Dowell and wife, and H. S. Jackson and wife. No one individual has contributed to the building-up of the village more than E. W. Nelson, who has built several of the more substantial building on the east side. Natrona was erst known as Altoona, and is so recorded. And since the greatest creative genius that ever lived has said, "There is nothing in a name," we doubt not that Natrona would have attained its present importance among the villages of the county had its name remained unchanged. The change was, doubtless, suggested by the fact that the village of Altona, of prior existence in Knox County, from the similarity of name, often led to annoyances in the transmission of mail and express matter intended for this point. We do not give this as positive knowledge, but simply as a reasonable explanation of why the change was made.

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