The year 2000, marked the one hundred and seventy-fifth anniversary of the founding of Canton, Illinois. The area in which it is located is known as the Military Tract. A result of an act of Congress which gave this land to those who served during the War of 1812, each veteran was given a quarter of a section as a bonus for serving.
In 1824, Isaac Swan and his brother-in-law, Nathan Jones, were among the first to settle and plan a village which was laid out on December 10, 1825. Within a few years, pioneer industries began to appear including pork packing, cooperages and distilleries, brick manufacturing, foundries, woolen mills, and plow manufacturing. It was the latter which was to make Canton internationally famous with the name of Parlin and Orendorff Plow Company, later to become International Harvester Company.
In the 1940s, Canton Works, IH became one of the nations defense factories during World War II. In August of 1941, Canton Works was awarded a government contract for the production of shell clips for stopping shell containers. After the war, production returned to emphasis on farm equipment.
In 1983, the International Harvester Company closed its doors, and that same year the mines ceased operations. Canton did survive the difficult times and has come back even stronger than before with a promise of a future sparked with new growth and developments, including the redevelopment of the 33 acre International Harvester site.
In 1855, the manufacturing of cigars began, and 40 years later it was one of the most important industries. There were 18 to 20 factories which produced over six thousand boxes of cigars annually. Canton was the largest cigar manufacturing city west of the Alleghenies.
Other industries such as farming and coal mining have contributed in a large part to the success of Canton.
Despite the loss of the foregoing commercial aspects of this community, Canton has been and still is producing outstanding citizens, and a peaceful setting in which to reside.
Several former citizens of Canton have been recognized state and nationwide for their accomplishments which far outnumber those found in most communities of its size.
William Parlin was admitted to the Illinois Farmers Hall of Fame at the University of Illinois, Urbana, in 1912, cited for his contributions in development of the steel plow, stalk-cutter, disc harrow, and "Lister" or "double plow." He has also been noted for his philanthropies to Canton. The Parlin-Ingersoll Library is one example. His brother-in-law, William J. Orendorff, and his son, U.G. Orendorff, also contributed much to Canton with their philanthropies.
Harriett E. Vittum, founder of Cantons first hospital, was named recently in "Early Illinois Women and Other Unsung Heroes, 1818-1918" for her humanitarian work at Northwestern University Settlement as Head Resident for 40 years.
Josephine Craven Chandler was nationally recognized as an author, lecturer, historian, and poet. She lived in Canton from 1901 to 1908. Her husband, Carl Chandler, was a partner in the Saville and Chandler Foundry in Canton. His grandfather was the founder of Chandlerville, Illinois. Mrs. Chandler authored several books, included in which was "The Spoon River Country." At the New York World Fair in 1937, Mrs. Chandler was awarded a gold medal for submitting the best poem. She lectured over radio station WOL, Washington, D.C.
Elizabeth J. Magie, whose father was owner of the Canton Register from 1866 to 1878, has been given credit for inventing the board game Monopoly, which she copyrighted in 1924, and sold to Parker Brothers during the Depression years of the 1930s.
Dorothy Fennell graduated from Canton High School and the University of Illinois with a B.S. degree in bacteriology, and made her mark in the world of science. It was a week before the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor that she became employed as a scientific aide with the National Regional Research Laboratory in Peoria. Within a few months, Ms. Fennell became actively engaged as a member of the Penicillin Team. Following the discovery and development of the most prolific strain of penicillin, she, along with the other team members, received the prestigious Lasker Award. During the next 13 years she co-authored several books and scientific articles, leading to the title of Microbiologist, and numerous other awards. Her contribution as a member of the Penicillin Team in Peoria during World War II ushered the Antibiotic Era into the world.
In 1981, NASA began shuttle flights in space. Four years later, Steve Nagle made his first flight into space as a Mission Specialist and was given the unofficial honor of being the 100th man in space. A few months later he served as pilot, and in 1991 and 1993, was commander of a space shuttle. He was a member of the planning group with the Russians to develop the international space station which is now under construction. During the 175 years, Cantons greatest asset has been its citizens.
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