On December 17, 1872, Roanoke was mapped out and lots were offered for sale. The plat of Roanoke was composed of 15 blocks and was bounded by Main, Front, Ann and Pleasant Streets. Two years later, (in 1874), Roanoke officially became a “Village” in the State of Illinois. Building began immediately in Roanoke and by the time the railroad was complete the population had increased to three hundred. Henry Frantz put up the first building after the village was laid out, and John Frantz and Jacob Engle also opened stores. The first doctor in the town was Dr. John, who also served several terms as coroner. Fauber and Hall first bought grain in Roanoke, although they never had an elevator. They also dealt in coal. The lumberyard was conducted by Doc Miller but soon after passed into the hands of Phillip Moore, who was one of the pioneers in business life in the vicinity. On August 15, 1874, the first election was held for the purpose of electing six trustees for the Village of Roanoke. To this day, the Village has continually filled those six positions.
The Roanoke area, like most of Illinois, is underlain by rich veins of coal. The second coal shaft in Woodford County was sunk here in Roanoke in 1881. Miners went down 480 feet to discover a vein of high quality coal thirty inches thick. The longest tunnel ran about two miles east and a little north of town on a downward slope. Another shaft started in a westerly direction, but this coal was “flinty”, or mixed with rock, and digging was discontinued. A room was dug out at the bottom of this shaft to stable the ponies and mules used before the electric equipment was installed in 1905. The drivers babied these ponies and mules with apples and candy. They were brought up and “farmed out” during the summer. Fred Wolfe, a blacksmith, used to go down and shoe the mules in the mine. Work started at 7:00am with a blast from the mine whistle. It sounded again when the men were brought up at the end of the day, 3:30pm. In the evening three blasts meant, “work the next day,” and one meant “no work.” The mine at its peak employed around 300 men and hoisted 500 tons a day. As was the case in most small mining towns, life in the mines could be dangerous. In the June 30th, 1906 edition of the Roanoke Call newspaper the headline read, “ROANOKE IN MOURNING” as four men fell 400 feet to their deaths.
Schools in Roanoke
In 1855 the first recorded school was located near the Christian Gish farm, one-mile north and some east of Roanoke. The school was also used for a church. Over the last 150+ years, Roanoke has been home to several schools including:
Bunch School, located 1-mile north and some east of Roanoke
Foerter School, located one mile and a half west of Route 116
Zion School, located two miles north, one mile east of Roanoke
Roanoke Township District School #76
Pleasant Valley School
Schirer School, located two miles north, one mile west of Roanoke
Roanoke Public School, located at Ann and Franklin Street (1879)
New Roanoke School, located at Broad and Ann Street (1910)
Roanoke-Benson High School, located on High Street
Sowers Elementary School, located on High Street
Rural mail delivery was duly inaugurated on April 1, 1902. Two carriers, H.D. Upton and J.R. Brown both left the office shortly after 9:30 a.m. in their brand new mail wagons.
Roanoke’s first newspaper was published in 1884 and was called The Era. The Era was established at the time of the county seat contest in 1883 and, when the election failed to remove the county seat from Metamora to Roanoke, it was abandoned. It did not continue over one year. There is one issue of The Era in existence today.
The Era was first published in the basement of the Audi building which once housed Lorene’s Dress Shop.
In 1891 the first issue of The Roanoke Call was printed on the second floor of the old wood structure which stood where the present Review office is today.
In 1913 the name changed to The Roanoke Post and was published in Washington.
In 1916, The Roanoke Post took over the subscription. This paper was published in a building on the corner of Main and Ann streets, just north of the old town hall.
In 1944 the name changed to The Roanoke Review and publishing was done at the office of the Metamora Herald.
In 1952 the paper sold to the office of the Woodford County Journal in Eureka.
In 1955 the Review was purchased by the Journal, and the office was opened in Roanoke. Mary Garber was the local reporter and Elsie Ferrero acted as business agent.
Today, The Roanoke Review is still being published.
Dirt and slag from the mines in Roanoke were dropped into a large pile now known affectionately by the residents of Roanoke as the “Jumbo,” or Mt. Jumbo. Please note that climbing up the Jumbo is now prohibited due to safety concerns.