Little Indian 1830

About 1830 Little Indian was first started. It was located about four miles south and a little east of Virginia, the county seat. It was never "laid out" as a village but was considered a very important place for shipping out grain and livestock. Of course this was made possible by the building of a railroad about 1869, then known as the Peoria, Pekin and Jacksonville. It was a branch of the Wabash system. When they were constructing this railroad, they found an old burial ground here. Human bones were taken up from the place where they built the water tank for the railroad. The bones were removed to Zion Cemetery about a mile east of there. Zion Church and the cemetery are still there. The church has now been sold and will probably be torn down. In early days Little Indian comprised a railroad station, a shipping point, one store, and a Swedish church. A number of other buildings were added in later years.

Jacob Epler, in 1830, was the first white man to locate here. He became a successful farmer and also took part in the banking business. His son, John Epler, made one of the most important improvements in the community. He built a grinding mill of very crude construction and run by horse power. It was not only of great benefit to the Little Indian community, but also to people from Sangamon County. Many of them came and camped overnight, in order to get the first turn the next morning. If the team was a good one, they could grind one or two bushels of corn per hour.

James Stevenson was the first railroad agent. He also became well known as a livestock farmer. His herd of Shorthorn cattle was one of the finest in all the surrounding country. Levi Conover, my step-father's grandfather, came to the vicinity about 1841 and purchased a farm about one and one-half miles east of Little Indian. All of these pioneers had formerly lived in the East, moved to Kentucky, and later came to settle near Little Indian, Illinois.

About 1869 John Asplund, an immigrant from Sweden, settled at Little Indian. He had a wagon, blacksmith and repair shop. He made the bricks and built his own home, which is still standing. The house had two rooms on the first floor, two on the second, and a room above this which could be reached only by ascending an outside ladder. There was a little cellar under the house. He also built a store and sold merchandise.

When I was a child there were two stores, two elevators, a railroad station, and several homes, besides the Swedish Church about a half a quarter of a mile to the east. The railroad became known as the C. P. and St. L. or Chicago, Peoria and St. Louis. They had a shipping yard for livestock, and a great deal of grain from miles around was sent out by train. In two different fires, the stores and one elevator were destroyed. The stores were both rebuilt and carried on some business until sometime in the 1930's. Later the railroad was discontinued and one store was sold and moved away. The other store, formerly Mr. Asplund's, is now owned by a farmer who uses it for an implement shed.

Another old landmark known as the Stevenson cemetery or sometimes called the Swedish cemetery, is still being cared for. It is in the middle of a field adjoining our place. Several of the early settlers are buried there. One of the first to be buried there was James Stevenson who died in 1851. A negro slave, who was born in Georgia, was also buried there. This slave belonged to the grandfather of one of my classmates in high school - Maxine Ward.

The Swedish church was moved away many years ago to a place east of Virginia and made into a home. Mr. Asplund's house is standing but it is in a delapidated condition. This house and the old store are all that are left of what was once Little Indian. Old residents coming back to visit the community never know when they pass through it.

(Mrs. Winhold was a teacher for many years serving in Virginia, Chandlerville and rural Cass County schools.)

Little Indian by Gertrude Wright Winhold.
On the occasion of the Sesquicentennial of Virginia, IL
Cass County Historical Society, Virginia, Illinois 1986