Harvesting the River
Harvest Transport History

Home > History > Settlement> Liverpool, Illinois

Liverpool, 1908. Showing Warren's boathouse on the right;
the Teddy Ellsworth house is in the center and
Bill Harris's converted cabin boat is on the left.

Photograph courtesy Dickson Mounds Museum, Lewistown, Illinois.
Zoom in on Liverpool

The township of Liverpool is larger in area than average and contains timberland, swampy areas, and bottom lands that were once covered by a chain of lakes prior to drainage for agriculture.

The first settlers in 1826 were the Joseph and Elizabeth Wilcoxen Allens families of Kentucky and North Carolina, the John Farrises of Kentucky, the Joseph Smiths, and the Seth Hilton family. Settlers usually arrived by boat; one passenger brought a cholera epidemic that swept through the area in 1848, killing thirteen people.

Early Liverpool businesses included: Mrs. Hilton, the itinerant cobbler, a grist mill (1833), and a saw mill (1835). A Baptist church was established in 1930.

In 1850, interested merchants from Liverpool and Canton organized to subscribe to the construction of a plank road between the towns. Go to image of a map of
plank roads Although the Illinois law of 1847 forbade the construction of tollhouses and tolls, the builders erected three tollhouses along the route. The road was short-lived because of the construction of the railroad and of a toll-free road to Copperas Creek Landing in Banner, which rerouted much of the trade away from Liverpool.

By 1860, two storage warehouses were in operation, as well as beef- and pork-packing plants, coopering, grain markets (corn, rye, and wheat), a wood market, a coal market, and flat boat and steamboat companies. Commodities included pecans, furs, and eggs.

By the turn of the century, Liverpool had thirty years of prosperity based on harvesting the river. The town was on the Eagle Packet Company's line. At this time fishing was the main industry, with reports of one-day hauls of up to 125,000 pounds of fish that were processed, packed in ice, and sent to St. David (ten miles north on the railroad) for shipment. Fishing remained important until shortly after 1915, when the Thompson Lake Drainage and Levee District was formed to drain many of the backwater lakes to create more farmland and build levees for flood protection, moving and killing millions of fish.

Also begining at the end of the nineteenth century, hunters came to Liverpool for the waterfowl seasons. There were four hotels and fifty guides that brought in about $70,000 a month during the season. When the lakes were drained, the habitat and food source of the waterfowl disappeared, causing a great reduction in hunting.

Today the population of Liverpool is about 150. Landmarks include the Warren Boathouse and the site of another boathouse sided the exterior with decorative patterns of mussel shells embedded in mortar. Go to image of the
Shell House

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