By Jared Olar
As we continue our series on Tazewell County’s unincorporated communities, this week we go to Dillon Township for a visit to one of the county’s oldest communities: the village of Dillon.
The village and the township of Dillon bear the name of the Dillon family, who, as we have told before in this column space, were among the very first pioneers to arrive in the future Tazewell County during the years immediately after Illinois became a state in 1818. That year North Carolina native Nathan Dillon (1793-1868) brought his family overland from Ohio to Sangamon County, first dwelling on Sugar Creek south of Springfield. Dillon then struck out north, arriving in the future Tazewell County in 1823 and putting down roots in Section 1 of what later became Dillon Township.
Nathan Dillon has traditionally been called Tazewell County’s first white settler, but he arrived here a year after William Blanchard (1797-1883) of Fondulac Township and long after the French fur traders of Opa Post in Creve Coeur. The confusion over who was the first settler arose from the haste with which Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 Tazewell County history was compiled and edited – Chapman didn’t learn that Blanchard preceded Dillon until the printing of his book was underway, so Chapman’s book at first states that Dillon was the earliest, then later on corrects and apologizes for that error.
That error made it into John Drury’s 1954 “This is Tazewell County,” which includes this brief description of the village of Dillon on page 95:
“Another pioneer village of Tazewell County is Dillon, which today has a population of 60. It was platted in 1836 and at first was called Liberty. Dillon is the only community in Dillon Township, with a present population of 602. The first settler of the township, Nathan Dillon, was also the first settler of Tazewell County (sic). He arrived in 1821 (sic) and laid out a farm just north of the Mackinaw River.”
Situated on Springfield Road at the northern boundary of Dillon Township, the village of Dillon consists of about 30 homes in Section 3 of the township, a few miles to the west of where Nathan Dillon had built his homestead. According to late local historian Fred Soady, Dillon started out as a stage coach stop and a post office along Springfield Road, being known simply as Mackinaw Settlement from 1826 to 1828. Though formally platted as “Liberty” on June 18, 1836, people in the area preferred to call the village by the name of the Dillon family who were so numerous in the area, so Liberty was renamed and replatted as Dillon.
The original plat of Liberty was a neat grid of north-south and east-west streets: Farm, Locust, and Cherry streets run east-west, while Walnut, Main, and Apple streets run north-south. The plat of Dillon that was published in the 1873 Tazewell County atlas has the same layout of lots and streets, but the 1873 plat only identifies the north-south streets (with the same names as the 1836 plat of Liberty) and leaves the east-west streets unnamed. Dillon today has three east-west streets (Townline Road, Peach Street, and Washington Street) and three north-south streets (Springfield Road, Apple Street, and Peach Street). Peach Street starts at Springfield Road as an east-west street but curves northward – on the west side of Springfield Road, Peach Street becomes Dillon Road.
The plat of Dillon in the 1891 Tazewell County atlas shows that the village then had a school, general store, a blacksmith shop, a livery stable, and a Methodist Episcopal church. According to Soady, Dillon had a post office until 1901. By 1910 the village had added another blacksmith shop, lost its post office, but otherwise had not changed – but the 1929 plat of Dillon shows only the Methodist Episcopal church. The Methodist church isn’t there any longer, but today there is a congregation of the Church of God (Anderson, Ind.) denomination called New Hope Fellowship at 20639 Peach St. in Dillon.
Dillon is also the seat of township government. The township hall, which serves as the only polling place for the township, is located at 10680 Peach St. in Dillon.