History of St. Joseph

The Village of St. Joseph was originally established about 1.5 miles south of the current location. Around 1849 Cyrus Strong from Ohio settled on section 23, east of the Salt Fork River in the St. Joseph Township. He kept the first tavern stand ever in existence in the St. Joseph Township. This was a house built of logs and containing about four rooms. It accommodated quite an amount of travel, standing as it did on the old stare road, which in those days was largely traveled by emigrants seeking homes farther west. Cyrus Strong sold his improvements to Joseph Kelly (also spelled Kelley). From this time on the river crossing here became known as Kelly’s ford, and the tavern operated at the location as Kelly’s Tavern. The tavern became one of the best-known landmarks in Champaign County and was a favorite stopping place for such illustrious guests as Abraham Lincoln, Judge David Davis, Henry Clay Whitney, and other Circuit riders between Urbana and Danville. Under Joseph Kelly’s ownership the tavern also became the first post office of the township, with Mr. Kelly its first postmaster. The post office was called St. Joseph after Joseph Kelly, and when the town of St. Joseph was established at this location around 1856, it took its name from the post office. Old residents related the establishment and naming of the post office as follows:

 …at one time, a stranger came along and stopped with Joseph Kelly, the landlord, and the two became quite agreeable friends, and for several days had a jovial time together. When the stranger departed, Kelly, out of consideration for the good time that the had had in company, refused to charge him anything, whereupon the mysterious stranger told the landlord that he would “do something for him” for his kindness. Soon afterward, the stranger, who it seems, was some politician of more than ordinary influence, and in some way connected with the administration at Washington, secured the establishment of a post office, the need of which, during his stay at Kelly’s he had perhaps learned; Kelly was appointed postmaster, and in his honor it was call “St. Joseph”, from Kelly’s first name.

 The village of St. Joseph was established in or around 1856 after a Paul Blaker had built a house and store at the location. Soon other stores opened, and two blacksmith shops were also established. The original Village of St. Joseph lasted only a little longer than a decade. The routing of the Danville-Urbana-Bloomington-Pekin Railroad in 1867 about 1.5 miles north of town and for the village to take advantage of the benefits offered by the railroad, the entire village was moved to its present location along the railroad in 1870. (Currently the Kickapoo Rail Trail opened in 2017).

 On February 25th, 1881, a vote was taken in the Clerk’s office of the village to determine whether the village should organize or not. The vote was Fifty-Five in favor and six opposed. The Village of St. Joseph was officially an organized village of the St. Joseph Township.

 The village was originally established for transportation purposes along the Salt Fork, eventually a Railroad and today we have the opportunity to continue bringing people to our community on the repurposed railroad as the Kickapoo Rail Trail. Soon this recreational biking and hiking trail will connect Urbana to Danville. (A 23 mile Scenic Trail). St. Joseph is also conveniently located next to US 150 and Interstate 74 highways.

For more information on the history of St. Joseph:

See pdf attachment