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Coles Station: The Ever-Changing Place Name

Today, the name has been cut in half, most of the houses are gone, and modern day Coles Station is mainly on the map because Staley Grain Elevator is located there. It may take twice as much effort to research Coles Station residents.


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I grew up at Coles Station, Illinois. We all said "at" because Coles Station is not much of a town — so we never really felt like we were "in Coles Station." When I was a child, there were a dozen houses and a grain elevator. Back in 1872, when Coles Station was surveyed by the original owner, Robert Armentrout, there were only half a dozen residences. James Powers and Joseph Fleshner ran stores, and Power also ran a blacksmith shop. Even then, a history of Moultrie County noted, "There is also considerable grain shipped from this point."

Life in Coles Station has been ever-changing. Not only has the name of the town changed, but also Coles has bounced back and forth between Coles County and Moultrie County, being located at the intersection of both and with property straddling both sides of the Coles-Moultrie county line road. Of course, that makes for an interesting challenge for researchers.

From its inception until the end of 1879, Coles Station was in Moultrie County. Then it was changed to Coles County until 1991. Then from 1881 to 1883, it was back in Moultrie County before being moved back to Coles County. It is not clear at what point the name was abbreviated to "Coles," especially since even area newspapers still refer to it as Coles Station, or "Coles, formerly known as Coles Station."

Moultrie Online notes that a young schoolboy named Ben D. Hamlin attended school near Coles Station as early as 1858. The schools are long gone from that area. Elizabeth Linder died in 1868 in Coles Station. She hailed from Hardin County, Kentucky where she was born in 1796. Cala Sawyer was born in Hardin County, Kentucky, in 1814. But, she died March 16, 1905, in Coles Station which, at that time, was in Moultrie County.

John Emerson Myler was born Oct. 13, 1878, in Coles Station. He died in 1955 in Berrien County, Michigan. The 1895 Coles County directory lists several farmers with Coles Station addresses. One farmer, named Mahue, might actually be "Mayhew." He, along with J. D. Manuel, C. D. Martin, and W. T. Martin were living in Mattoon Township, with a Coles Station address. Clyde Manuel, D. J. Manuel, and Ed Martin were all listed as living in North Okaw Township, but having a Coles Station address.

Growing up, I remember a vacant house between ours and Coles Station. As recently as the 1960s, everyone called it "The Old Martin" house. It was likely one of these Martins. It was clearly on the Moultrie side of the county line road. Alonzo Herbert Bloxom was born in Coles Station on April 27, 1897. He apparently lived there for many years. His brother Joe was born in Indiana but residing in Coles Station in 1917 when he registered for the military draft. According to the Coles County records, Coles Station resident John L. Wright died Oct. 2, 1909. He was a 58-year-old grain dealer from Kentucky and was buried in Dodge Grove Cemetery in Mattoon, Illinois (Coles County). In 1911, Mildred Irene (Phillips) Gregory was born in Coles Station.

Even though he was born 20 years before I was, I agree with John E. Martin (born February 9, 1937) when he was quoted in the "Missouri Unionist," saying,

"Coles was a pretty neat place to live because it was out in the country and we had a lot of friends up and down the road. We had a couple of fishing holes not far from the house, and within a 15-20 minute bike ride (Or maybe an hour, depending on how much we 'messed around.') we had a big and deep swimming hole, which was right down the hill from our favorite 'cow pasture' ball field."

I grew up riding my bicycle down the same roads. But today, the swimming and fishing holes are swollen, or completely swallowed up, by the backwaters of Lake Shelbyville.

If you are searching for Coles Station residents today, be sure to check both Moultrie and County records. And search for both "Coles" and "Coles Station." And this is the story of just one small town with its changing name and changing boundaries. Taking a closer look at the communities of your ancestors, especially those near county or state border lines may shed light on your research or point you in a new direction.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2008.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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