The soils of Champaign County seem to be especially formed to raise corn and oats. The elements were what they should be, as furnished by Nature, and the husbandman has not allowed the necessary ingredients to be exhausted. The result is that year after year corn and oats are bumper crops, and grain dealers throughout the country have long considered the Champaign County cereals as standard. In the production of corn the county not only leads the State but the United States. The figures vary considerably, as in other sections of the State, one of the most productive years being that of 1915, in which the county raised 13,742,000 bushels of corn and 11,928,000 bushels of oats, valued together at $11,219,924. In 1916, the yield dropped to 8,131,644 bushels of corn and 9,124,920 bushels of oats, the total value of which was $9,699,037 $6,505,315 for corn and $3,193,722 for oats. In that year, also Champaign County led all the counties of the State in the yield and value of its oats, and, on the whole, has but one serious competitor in Illinois, McLean County. The county has a large acre-age in winter wheat nearly 30,000 acres, and has made a good start in alfalfa and timothy seed.

The friable soil and the equable climate of Champaign County are adapted to the raising of fruits, and its horticultural society has been maintained for many years. Despite the advantages of soil and climate and the best efforts of the birds, however, the insect pest has been most aggressive of late years, and the cereals have almost superseded the fruits. In early times that great drawback was little known in the county or the State, and before the year 1853 the planting of orchards in the county had become quite common. Apples were the favorite fruit and the Milam the favorite variety. Peaches were also abundantly grown, while the smaller fruits flourished in their wild state. Thickets of plums grew along the margins of the timber belts and in some of the groves, and wild blackberries and strawberries in the denser woods. But these conditions are now almost things of the past, although there still remain striking evidences of what may be done in horticulture with extreme care and large means in the wonderful Dunlap orchards at Savoy. As early as 1858 M. L. Dunlap settled at Rural Home, planted his first orchards, set out his nurseries and protected all by belts of forest trees, and now sends out his luscious apples by the ton, and resides in a country palace which is world-famed. But his is the notable exception to the general rule that other branches of agriculture have supplanted horticulture in Champaign County.

Since the early ’50s Champaign County has strongly supported every organization and interest which tended to develop its great agricultural resources and the abilities and enterprise of its farmers and horticulturists. From the first there was a deep realization of the desirability of cooperation and education along these lines, both as a guarantee of future growth and a safeguard for continuous livelihood and prosperity. The result was that even during the early ’50s, when Prof. Jonathan B. Turner of Jacksonville and others were urging the establishment of a State university, its basic idea was recognized as the encouragement of the broad and intelligent development of agriculture, and the farmers’ clubs were solidly behind the movement. Some fifteen years afterward, when the Illinois Industrial University was incorporated and located at Urbana, that object was still uppermost. The president of the State Agricultural Society was perhaps its most influential trustee, and of its departments the agricultural was first in its publications.

 

Source: A Standard History of Champaign County, Illinois, by J. R. Stewart, published by The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago And New York, 1918.