Towanda, Illinois: A Modern-day Scrapbook 

When the first settlers arrived in 1822 in what are now Towanda and Money Creek Townships in McLean County in central Illinois, most of the Kickapoo and Pottawatomie natives had left the area following a ‘peace treaty’ in 1819.  The last had departed by 1830.

The settlers came from
Ohio, Virginia, Indiana, and other points east. They came from Ireland, England, and Germany. When they came they found vast stretches of prairie interspersed with swamps and ponds and only small tracts of timber. Some moved on, some returned east, but those who remained drained the swamps, broke the sod, tilled the soil, built the roads, established the businesses, churches and schools, and created a life for generations of Illinoisans.

The railroad line that bisects the village was central to the life of the residents and local farmers. Originally self contained, with doctors, cafes, groceries, blacksmiths, churches, schools, a drugstore and a bank, Towanda has become primarily a bedroom community for the nearby cities of Bloomington and Normal relying on them for employment, entertainment, shopping, health care and other services. And although the railroad still passes through, it no longer makes a stop at Towanda.

In 2007 the Village of Towanda has a population of 550. There are approximately 1800 additional residents in Towanda and Money Creek Townships, which include Lamplighter and Indian Creek subdivisions and the village of Merna as well as rural areas. And although there are still many working farms where corn and soybeans are grown and a few where hogs are raised, many former farmsteads are occupied by non-farmers and the property is being developed for homes as Bloomington and Normal expand.

Thus the Towanda area, like so many small towns and rural areas in our present society, is in danger of losing its identity as urban sprawl threatens its future. This site is an effort to capture that rich history before it is lost. The scrapbooks of the community with their photographs, newspaper clippings, and personal stories trace the history of the area.

The history behind this website

Duncan Mansion, built ca 1869, located 1 mile SW of Towanda, Illinois.To preserve Towanda history, and in part inspired by the frequent questions from the public about the Duncan Mansion visible from nearby Routes 55 and 66, the Towanda Area Historical Society partnered with the Towanda District Library in 2006 to obtain a digital imaging grant from the Illinois State Library entitled “Capturing Towanda’s Past for Eternity”. 

This grant allowed us to make the area's historical materials available to the widest possible audience through the Internet. Anyone with access to the Internet may obtain cultural and historical information about the Towanda, Illinois area at this site and at the Illinois State Library digital archives.

See more about the Towanda Area Historical Society by clicking on the Historical Society history, plans, and photo album. button.  See more about the Duncan Manor at

What you will find here

The Towanda area history is captured through more than 1,500 images, documents, and audio files listed in this index, including:

Ø       Photographs from 1860 to the present
Ø       Newspaper articles, obituaries
Plats and maps
Advertisements, posters, programs, official documents
Excerpts from history books and magazines
Pages from high school yearbooks
Letters and postcards
Narratives of families, businesses, organizations, and events
Personal stories, including audio interviews with local residents
and much, much more…..


The Towanda Area Historical Society has made a good faith effort to present accurate historical information about this area.  However, personal recollections, transcriptions of handwritten material, newspaper articles, and even public records are all prone to human error, despite the best of intentions.  Additionally, the traditions of earlier times caused writers to idealize their times, to discount or eliminate information about women and minorities or to portray them through the filter of bias and stereotype.

In a project of this type, perfection is certainly a goal and an ideal, but it is not achievable in a realistic sense. The alternative is to do nothing or to do very little, screening out all but the proven items. The work here represents the efforts of many people each of whom has contributed her or his very best, and we are passing it on to you as well as we can. So, be warned, and use the resources accordingly, with due caution. We hope that you will not be critical of errors, some of which are ours, and some of which we carry on from our predecessors.

If you find something on this website that you know to be incorrect, please contact us at to give us corrections, and/or information about where we can research to find the correct information

Site Help
Read our Site Help for how to best view and hear our collection by clicking on the button.       

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Towanda Area Historical Society
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Last update: November 02, 2008