Urbana, Illinois is a beautiful city that is situated at the southwestern tip of the Big Grove, Range 9, Town 19, on high rolling lands that are almost completely surrounded by the Grove’s stately trees. The Salt Fork furnishes plenty of water for industrial purposes while at the same time providing beauty to the area. At the northeast and northern parts of the city there is a variety of beautiful parks.
The first home erected in Urbana was in 1822 by a man name Tompkins. The home was very close to the location of the current Union Mills. Charles Busey was the manager of the first hotel which was located in a small frame house. Today, the John Geer brick storehouse occupies that original hotel location. Asahel Bruer operated the second hotel which is now occupied by the Pennsylvania House.
The first mill in Urbana was a sawmill that was constructed by Col. Busey. It was located on a creek just northwest of the courthouse. Unfortunately, the mill was swept away by a flood. In 1838, Heptenstall built the first flouring mill which was a watermill but it too also disappeared. William Park then tried his luck by building the second flouring mill which was steam operated. He also constructed a sawmill and today we still see both of these mills as viable businesses in the community.
In 1833, the county established the an act of the Commissioners Court by appointing commissioners to locate the future site for the county seat. Just north of town, in a Grove called the Salt Fork, a tract of land was selected. One of the original settlers, Col. M. W. Busey donated 40 acres which later became the permanently established county seat. Soon after the name of Urbana was born.
The very first variety store was run by T. R. Webber. It was opened in 1834 but closed soon afterwards in 1838. It was a small store that is now the current location of Alex Spence’s store. The first wagon maker and blacksmith was Joe Mills. He arrived in 1838. The first doctor was from Indiana and his name was Doctor J. S. Saddler.
The first Minister who came into the area was from the M. E. Capital church. He arrived in 1840 and his name was A. Bradshaw. The first church was actually built by this minister and today it is being used as a livery stable.