Drive east on Westville's Main Street and you will find it, the area
known in pioneer times as Brook's Point. The road dips down into what
was once a tree covered draw that ran out onto the prairie and formed
a "point" of timber in a sea of grass. Solomon Gilbert described the
1820s Vermilion County prairie as "profusion of flowers reaching to
the horizon." One of the earliest settlements of the Eastern Prairie
was located at this point of timber at the east edge of present day
Jan Stevens of Ballwin, Mo, is among several readers who have requested information about Brook's Point. Her husband's family lived here in the county's early days.
Beckwith's history records James Stevens as arriving in 1826. Benjamin Brooks came here from Indiana in the 1820s and the place where be settled become known by his name.
Brooks selected a spot of land further south when he first visited the area. After making his land, he went to Indiana and brought his family back to settle, but while he was gonethe land was homesteaded by others. It was then that Benjamin Canaday described as a "good hearted broad shouldered" member of the Friends Church made land he owned near present day Westville available to the Brooks family. The state of Illinois was in its infancy when these homesteaders felled trees for cabins, cleared land, and established a small community.
Among the several families who settled near the Brooks' homestead were the O'Neals. Hiram Beckwith records James O'Neal was born here, he credits him with being the first male child born to the settlers in Vermilion County.
A school was also established for the youngsters who were living in what many called the "new land." Appropriately enough it was named Brooks' Point School.
In 1858, Lincoln's friend Ward Hill Lamon, made news when he sold a piece of property near the Point for $7.50 per acre. In 1860, nearly a thousand people attended a political rally for Lincoln held at Brooks' Point. Abe didn't attend but many of his friends and fellow circuit riding attorneys did.
Frank Dugas recalls his father taught at Brooks' Point for several years before he became county superintendent of schools. The school he aught in was brick, it replaced an earlier frame building. The school closed in the late 1920s, a home now occupies the spot on the north side of the road where it once stood.
Mabel Kent and her sister Vic Stanis recall attending the school, their family lived across the road. One teacher taught all eight grades and carried out the janitorial duties.
In 1873, the village of Westville was born. The Danville and Southwestern Railroad were responsible for the birth. The village is named for Elizabeth A. Scott West, she came to the area as a child in 1827. Brooks' Point faded into history as the new village of Westville spread out across the landscape. The black gold which lay beneath the soil in untold tons soon made the small village the center for coal mining boom which brought miner of 37 different nationalities to the area.
But in the not so distant past, a group of hearty pioneers created a community at the edge of the virgin timber which reached into the treeless prairie, the settlement of Brooks Point.