Click the images below for bigger versions:
Manuscript Records Three Organizations of Tonica, La Salle County, Illinois: Tonica Musical Association; Ladies Missionary Society of the Congregational Church; and the Record Book for the Tonica Grange No. 213, 1881-1927

Four volumes, 436 pp., dated 20 August 1881 to 7 January 1927, as follows: 1. Tonica Musical Association, Tonica, LaSalle County, Illinois; octavo, 21 pp., composition book, bound in wrappers, worn at edges, paper somewhat tanned, entries written in ink, in a legible hand; dated 6 January 1902 to 21 May 1906. 2. Ladies Missionary Society of the Congregational Church, Tonica, LaSalle County, Illinois; octavo, 96 pp., bound in half leather, cloth covered boards, lacks spine, boards shaken, and worn at edges, entries written in ink, in a legible hand; dated 18 April 1903 to 11 November 1914. 3. Ladies Missionary Society of the Congregational Church, Tonica, LaSalle County, Illinois; 8vo, 90 pp., bound in red ½ cloth, paper covered boards, worn at edges, entries written in ink, in a legible hand; dated 27 January 1915 to 7 January 1927. 4. Record Book of the Tonica Grange No. 213, Tonica, LaSalle County, Illinois; quarto, 229 pp., bound in half red leather, marbled covered boards, rubbed and scuffed, entries written in ink, in a legible hand; dated 20 August 1881 to 18 February 1899.

History of Tonica, La Salle County, Illinois

Tonica is a village in LaSalle County, Illinois, about 100 miles southwest of Chicago. The town was originally a small hamlet called Point Republic, founded by Andrew West, the local agent for the Illinois Central Railroad, who owned the land on which the original plat was made in 1853. The tracks of the railroad arrived on 23 May 1853. Tonica derives its name from the Tunica people that West learned about while growing up in New York State.

The railroad arrived shortly after the Illinois Central Railroad began running its trains, crossing the river at LaSalle by descending and ascending to and from the bottoms along the river. In 1854, the bridge over the river was completed, and more travel and freight resulted. Tonica began to benefit from the increase of trade, and a few stores and shops were erected. Among the first to erect houses on the town site was Major Newton, who built his house at the south end of the main business row, and being- appointed postmaster, kept the office here some time, The Union Store, built and operated by the surrounding farmers, and managed by Henry Kingsley, was among the first opened. Shortly afterward Simon Foss erected a store near the corner. In 1868, Mr. Burgess purchased the building erected by the Union Store Company. The next merchant after Mr. Foss was Mr. O. Cushman, who opened the first furniture store in Tonica. Mr. W. J. Wilson started a good drug store on Pratt's corner, where he remained until the fire of 1867. This calamity was a severe blow to the town. It burned nearly every building on Main Street in the business section, and had it not been for a brick structure towards the south end of the row of business houses, the destruction would have been complete. The work of rebuilding commenced at once. Mr. Wilson built again on the corner, A. P. Landes next, G. W. Keller and J. K. Brokaw after Landes, and J. P. Bassett joined to Keller and Brokaw a good brick structure. Nearly all who rebuilt erected substantial brick structures. Shortly after the establishment of the depot, two small warehouses were erected; but the enterprise, not proving remunerative, they were abandoned by their owners, who sold them for other purposes. Subsequently a large one was erected. The shipping interest of Tonica was chiefly confined to live stock, principally hogs. The town had the reputation of shipping more pork than any village of its size on the Illinois Central railroad. In 1867 Mr. W. J. Wilson erected a grist mill. Its chief trade, like that of the village, was with the surrounding farmers.

As soon as the population of town demanded it, a school was opened in an old frame one-room building, located in a corner of the site of the town cemetery. It was moved here for the purposes designated, having been a dwelling previously. Before long it proved inadequate, and a larger building was erected, located in a more central part of town, and the old house moved, as steps were being taken to layout a village graveyard. This second building was used until 1867, when another four-room house was built.

The Methodists were the first to occupy the field here. They formed a class as soon as the town was established. About 1855 they erected their first church, while under the ministry of Rev. J. G. Evans. The Congregationalist Church was organized 7 January 1857 with sixteen members, the same Congregational Church whose later records of the Ladies Missionary Society offered here belonged to. The Baptist church was organized in 1856 by the Rev, G. B. Hubbard, who remained pastor until 1860. They worshipped in the schoolhouse until 1861, when they erected their own church. The members, as well as those comprising the organization of the Congregational church, principally carne from Lowell, a small village some three miles east of the site of Tonica, which was soon abandoned when Tonica was laid out. They erected their church the same year they were organized, and very kindly permitted other denominations to use it until they could complete a house of their own.

    The Ladies Missionary Society of the Congregational Church of Tonica was organized on 4 March 1896. The meeting minutes offered here date from 18 April 1903 to 7 January 1927. Any woman of the church was eligible for membership. The group met monthly with the goal of “aiding in the missionary enterprises of our denomination both Home and Foreign and by study to become informed in regard to our mission work everywhere also to increase missionary interest and zeal in our community.” At the beginning of the first volume is the constitution of the society. The two volumes show the regular monthly meeting minutes of the society and their affairs.

The Tonica Musical Association was founded about 1902. The first dated meeting of this group in the present volume is 6 January 1902, but there are several pages prior to this meeting where it mentions the founding of the association but does not provide a date. A Mrs. Barrass was elected the first president of the association, with Margaret Cowell being selected the secretary. The group appears to have been co-ed as a Mr. Baker was elected the treasurer. Mr. Barrass, presumably the husband of the newly elected president, was selected to be the musical director. From the meeting minutes, it appears the group put on concerts, with some being in operatic costume. Thanks were given to the “Ladies of the Congregational Church” for the use of their room, thus appearing to show a connection between the Musical Association and the Ladies Missionary Society of the Congregational Church.

The records and meeting minutes of the Tonica Grange No. 213 are recorded for 20 August 1881 to 18 February 1899. The Grange, officially named “The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry,” is a fraternal organization in the United States that encourages families to band together to promote the economic and political well-being of the community and agriculture. The Grange, founded after the Civil War in 1867, is the oldest American agricultural advocacy group with a national scope and still exists today. The Grange actively lobbied state legislatures and Congress for political goals, such as the Granger Laws to lower rates charged by railroads, and rural free mail delivery by the Post Office. In 2005, the Grange had a membership of 160,000, with organizations in 2,100 communities in 36 states. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C., in a building built by the organization in 1960. Many rural communities in the United States still have a Grange Hall and local Granges still serve as a center of rural life for many farming communities.