A Colonel Baldwin built a large house and store that included a post office on an intersection of two trails in Hunter Township. This was a little after the failed city of Cambridge was planned.
Baldwin’s store was a stopping off place for those traveling from Paris to Logan on a north-south route known as the Baldwinsville Trail. The North Arm Methodist Episcopal Church – the first of its kind in Central Illinois – was a landmark a few miles south of the store on the trail. The church was built in 1819 with the Rev. Joseph Curtis as the first minister.
What was commonly called the Baldwinsville Road was an east and west route that included a school to the west and another school to the east of the store. Baldwinsville Road was a route that went to another settlement called Tresner and St. Aloysius Catholic Church was also on the road. Aloysius Brown founded St. Aloysius Catholic Church in 1817 but a building was not constructed until 1837.
Otis McCulloch and his wife arrived in the area in 1820. He is the first person known to have come directly from the Northeastern United States without first stopping to settle land before he got to Hunter Township. He built a log cabin just north of the proposed city that was named after his birthplace of Cambridge, Massachusetts.
John F. Thompson laid out Cambridge on 71 acres and designed the proposed town to serve as the Edgar County seat.
The plans for Cambridge went awry when Paris was selected as the county seat and most of the land was sold back to McCulloch.
McCulloch also built a fine large barn nearby and the building was also used to hold Presbyterian Church services. It was destroyed by fire in 1867. During this time, he built a new larger home on the southwest corner of what became Baldwinsville. The framework was made from trees nearby and the siding and finishing lumber was hauled from Vincennes, Indiana. It was known as the hotel for the area. McCulloch was married three times as he lost his first two wives.
Alanson Baldwin came from New York in 1830 and entered land in Hunter Township and soon married Lucetta Conkey in 1832. He set up shop and started a mercantile business in a connection with Indiana Governor James Whitcomb. It was the first business of the kind located in a rural Edgar County setting. Inventory was shipped from New Orleans, Pittsburgh and New York City. Sometimes the goods were brought overland from Evansville, Indiana.
Whitcomb quit the business in the 1850s and Baldwin ran the business assisted by Marcellus Keys until Baldwin decided to concentrate on his land holdings. After 30 years serving as the postmaster, Baldwin sold the store to John Bright. According to legend, Bright made several trips to St. Louis with money sewed in the lining of his coat to purchase goods for the store.
After Bright, there were several proprietors of the store. James
Gordon ran the business for several years until deciding to tear down the old store that was the front part of a home. J. Ed. Bright and Charles Frey demolished the building.
Charles Todd started a new store just east of the original one and Roy McKinney ran it for a time. Perry Martin took over and the last written about the store indicates how the residents of the rural neighborhood were thankful the store was still in operation for groceries and gas. The store was especially busy during the evenings during farming seasons and when the roads were in bad shape.
Another adventure of life on the back-roads of Edgar County where people and their kids came together for a little gabbing and maybe a candy bar and a Coke® or even something they needed. It served a purpose and who knows maybe some of those kinds of places will spring up again.