Early History of Walnut

The Great Winnebago Swamp, extending west of Amboy and including Greenville, Fairfield and Hamilton Townships inundated vast acreage north of Walnut. A bill passed in Congress in 1850 gave this swamp land to the state and in 1852 the land passed on to the counties in which it lay.

This vast tract, lying so close to Walnut, was a great handicap for years. As settlers began crowding the edges of this rich swamp soil, they realized that by drainage they could reclaim some 200 square miles for agriculture.

village of walnut

In 1891, the first mutual telephone company was organized in Bureau County and started operations at Walnut. The first switchboard was installed in a building owned by O. C. Nussle, of Walnut, a druggist.

The phone company continued to expand until they had 328 subscribers by 1898. The wires were attached from roof top to roof top over the entire community, even to the steeple of the Methodist Church.

Among the note-worthy names in the medical profession during Walnut’s early history is that of Dr. James (father of Don) who built “The Walnut House,” a hotel that stood at the site of the present “Professional Building.”

Dr. Marquis started practice in Walnut in 1878 just six years after Walnut was incorporated. Predating him by a few years was Dr. W. C. Mason, a practicing physician starting in Walnut in the year 1866. Dr. Albert Burress established

The wires were attached from roof top to roof top over the entire community, even to the steeple of the Methodist Church. Among the note-worthy names in the medical profession during Walnut’s early history is that of Dr. James (father of Don) who built “The Walnut House,” a hotel that stood at the site of the present “Professional Building.” Dr. Marquis started practice in

Walnut in 1878 just six years after Walnut was incorporated. Predating him by a few years was Dr. W. C. Mason, a practicing physician starting in Walnut in the year 1866. Dr. Albert Burress established dental office in the year 1883 and Dr. L. Georgia Mayhall Snader, Walnut’s only lady physician, started her practice in the village around 1889.

Dr. Marquis started practice in Walnut in 1878 just six years after Walnut was incorporated. Predating him by a few years was Dr. W. C. Mason, a practicing physician starting in Walnut in the year 1866. Dr. Albert Burress established dental office in the year 1883 and Dr. L. Georgia Mayhall Snader, Walnut’s only lady physician, started her practice in the village around 1889.

Predating him by a few years was Dr. W. C. Mason, a practicing physician starting in Walnut in the year 1866. Dr. Albert Burress established dental office in the year 1883 and Dr. L. Georgia Mayhall Snader, Walnut’s only lady physician, started her practice in the village around 1889.

Dr. A. P. Shearburn’s private hospital was the first institution of its kind established in Bureau County. The building, on Walnut’s Main Street, was erected in 1899 “for all cases of surgical and medical treatment, coming from Bureau, Lee, Whiteside, and LaSalle Counties and also from ‘out of state.'”

This historic landmark was torn down in March of 1972. Dr. Samuel W. Hopkins began the practice of medicine in Walnut in 1895 and Dr. Leroy Hopkins, his father, joined him in partnership in 1903.

They built a large, and well established residence and office building at the south end of Main Street where rooms for patients were provided in the rear of the building. Later used for a hotel, it was demolished in 1963 to provide the site of the new Walnut Memorial Library.

There were three barbers, one dressmaker, two milliners, two druggists, two jewelers, one laundry and one photographer to meet the vanity and personal needs of the people. Walnut had two livery barns, two lumber yards, carpenters, mason, two hardware stores, one well driller, three blacksmiths, two painters, one electrician and steam engineer, four implement dealers, two elevators, one electric plant and one poultry house to take care of the needs of the homeowners and farmers and also to give employment.

The George Legge Poultry House is said to have employed 30 chicken pluckers and the chickens were sent by rail to consumers in the East. Turkeys were dressed and sent to England for the holiday season.

A very good town band and bowling alley added to the pleasures of the people.Legal problems were handled by three attorneys. Also the village had two newspapers, six real estate men and two banks. The spiritual needs were filled by three churches, Methodist, Baptist and Christian.Contrary to the plight of small towns today, the health of Walnut citizens was amply cared for in 1903 by five doctors, Hopkins, Shearburn,

Contrary to the plight of small towns today, the health of Walnut citizens was amply cared for in 1903 by five doctors, Hopkins, Shearburn, Snader, Mason and Marquis; two hospitals, one osteopath, Dr. Craig, and one dentist, Dr. Buress. Two combination furniture and embalming businesses provided the final care needs.

This concludes a summary of the oldest businesses of the Village of Walnut. In 1968, according to the book, “Big Bureau and Bright Praries,” Walnut had 102 businesses which included the four industries, G. B. H. Way Homes, Walnut Cheese Co., Avanti Pizza Factory and Peerless Tool and Die Co.