Courtesy of Keith Parks

 

The following article appeared Friday, May 11, 1883 in THE SUN which was a Greenville newspaper in competition with The Greenville Advocate. It appeared in the August 23, 2007 edition of The Sorento News.

There is a beautiful scope of country in the northwest portion of Bond County which has long borne the very applicable name of Pleasant Prairie. It is a fertile spot and almost every foot of ground in that region is under a high state of cultivation. The farmers there are all well-to-do and many of them wealthy. This portion of country has been, until very recently been "fifteen miles from nowhere" and the residents were obliged to travel a long and weary distance to find a trading point. They are equal distant from Mt. Olive, Litchfield, Hillsboro and Greenville, but owing to superior advantages offered by merchants, dealers and traders in the latter place, Greenville carried off the lion's share of all products raised there and also sold all articles of home use and consumption going to that locality.

All that is now changed. Last fall, the Jacksonville Southeastern railroad was built through the prairie and a few weeks later the Narrow Gauge road made a crossing there. A town was at once laid out and great preparations made to establish a trading point such as would naturally grow and grow up and thrive at the crossing of two railroads in the midst of a prosperous farming community located at that distance from all trade centers. The first house was erected last October, about seven months ago, and now the place already contains nearly 40 houses, finished and in course of construction. Besides a score more dwellings and business houses are already contemplated and contracted for. Every branch of business almost is represented and the several trades are being pursued by able and willing workmen.

One hotel, which has from 35 to 40 boarders has been running all winter and a second will be opened in a few weeks. A lumber yard has existed from the beginning and up to the present date has sold no less than 60 cars of building material of every description. Two brick yards are making brick with machines that have a capacity of turning out 25,000 each daily. Three general stores are in operation and four more will open as soon as the rooms are prepared. Two restaurants are also awaiting the finishings of buildings. A public hall of good size will also soon be ready for use. Of the businesses which are without competition are a barber, butcher, harness maker, hardware and agricultural implements, shoemaker,, tinner, blacksmith, a boot, shoe and clothing store, and a drug store. A firm is buying and shelling corn for shipment and several and several contractors and builders are reaping a harvest that will doubtless last all season.

On last Tuesday, a member of the Sun newspaper took a buggy ride to the new town for the purpose of seeing the booming village as well as become acquainted with the people and business men who make up the population of that enterprising town. It would seem strange that one would choose to make the trip in a vehicle over a long and dusty road when a railroad runs within five short miles of our door and reason is obvious. In order to catch a train going north on the            Jacksonville railroad one must be in Smithsboro before 6 o'clock in the morning. This would not be too early upon extraordinary occasions like the one of which we

write, but having reached Sorento by this 6 o'clock morning train, if we wish to remain longer than two hours, we cannot again return to Smithsboro before 6 O'clock in the evening, which is too late for the west bound train on the Vandalia line. With the railroad trains running as they do time is saved by going "by land."

The people of the place were found very busy, and all are elated over the success attained and particularly elated over the success anticipated.

The newspaper man was cordially received and although he sought not after patronage particularly, the opportunity afforded to deal directly with one of the firm was embraced by a number. A stroll over the place and an interview of the several business men discloses the following directory:

Siemen and Gracy Lumber ...... these gentlemen have an advertisement in The Sun, not withstanding the fact that they are taxed to supply the demand for building materials. They are

natives of the prairie.

A.F. Gwvn is postmaster and keeps a general store. His post office outfit is part of that formerly used in Greenville and some brought from Hillsboro. Mr. Gwyn moved to Sorento from Elm point and was the first man to open a business in Sorento.

Jesse Driskill is the proprietor of the Central Hotel. His building would be a credit to Greenville as a hotel. Mr. Driskill is a native of the prairie and also one of the "best liked" boys there. The hotel is situated near the crossing of the two railroads. Cress Brothers and Company have two stores; one for hardware and queensware and the other for agricultural implements. These gentlemen came from Hillsboro, where they also have a store.

S. L. Elliott has a boot, shoe and clothing store and moved from Raymond, Montgomery County.

M. A. Griffith came from Vandalia and is running a general store and promises to advertise in The Sun soon.

J. W. Beeson has a drug and grocery store and came down from Litchfield. M. Rutledge, lately from Hillsboro, has a brickyard near the town and runs a machine, His advertisement is in The Sun.

John Roper, a Greenville man, also has a brickyard, using a brick machine. Eli Smothers, from Litchfield, has opened a barber shop.

William Bone is a harness maker who came from Vanburensburg, Fayette County. Palmer and Titsworth, butchers and dealers in flour, emigrated from Walshville, Montgomery_County.

G. D. Ferree, also a Walshville man, is the village shoemaker.

E. Ogan, who has been an employee of Theo. Smith in Greenville for several years, opened a tin shop last week, and is literally over run with work.

J. P. Sand, blacksmith, is another Montgomery County man, from Hillsboro. He is anxious have some good wagon maker to go into partnership with him.

Dr. J. H. Mason is a physician, formerly from Watteka.

Martin Reason contractor and builder, is rushed with business and employes several workers. He came from Brownstown, Fayette County.

Jesse Driskill, grain buyer. Mr. Driskill now has a corn shelter running by steam.

T. E. Bilyeu, late of Litchfield, but formerly of Pocahontas, is station agent and telegraph operator for Jackonsville railroad. He is a most pleasant and obliging gentleman. Andrew may is employed by the railroad office as assistant and is learning telegraphy. Mr. Bilyeu also has a portable photographer's house and outfit and takes pictures during odd moments for amusement."

Among the businesses who will open soon and are awaiting the completion of buildings are the following:

S. M. Shivers will open a store at one of his three buildings and will have a public hall above. Mr. Shivers is from Taylorville.

Mr. Lilly, another Taylorville man, will open a general store. J. F. Whitworth of Wonurn, will also open a general store. John Burkhardt, formerly of Greenville, has a very large two story building for a hotel.

John Long of Old Ripley will open a general store.

J. Wright of Vansburensburg will open a general store. John Sutton of Mulberry Grove, a restaurant.

All the buildings in town are frame but very large, roomy and neat in appearance. The streets are wide and straight and run "square with the world." The real estate market is brisk and as high as $300 is asked for some lots.

One very humiliating fact became known during the visit to Sorento and that was the apparent damage the Jackonsville railroad is doing Greenville. There are many articles which are not yet sold in Sorento and for all these many people in that locality now go to Litchfield. These articles include furniture, stoves, carpets, etc. The tare on the railroad is but a few cents, and they just run up in the morning and come back in the afternoon with their goods. They would naturally prefer coming to Greenville but cannot except by a long drive. Thus we not only lose that trade which Sorento cuts off, but must surrender to Litchfield that which would come here but for our inaccessible condition.