Library History

The Crumbaugh Story 



(Written and edited by various volunteers through the years)

    James Thomas Crumbaugh was born of German descent on January 24, 1832, in Empire Township of McLean County, Illinois. His parents were Daniel and Martha M. Robinson Crumbaugh. His father was born at Crumbaugh Chance in Maryland, which was the home place of his parents, John Conrad and Margaret Sideman Crumbaugh. James Thomas had a twin brother, Daniel T, and their boyhood days were spent on the old homestead farm in Empire Township. They acquired a fair English education in the local public school, which prepared them for their future work in the development and progress of McLean County.

    The twin brothers, James Thomas and Daniel T., formed a partnership and purchased 160 acres of prairie land, then entirely unimproved. They farmed the land and reaped good harvests. The land was divided into fields by well kept fences. In a few years, they had accumulated almost 1400 acres. They continued the partnership for nearly ten years before dividing the property. J.T. Crumbaugh located on his share and continued farming until he owned 1100 acres. In 1886, he rented his farms, moved to LeRoy, purchased property, and built his home at 313 East Center Street near downtown LeRoy.

    J.T. Crumbaugh, his brother, Leonard A. Crumbaugh, and James Bonnette established the Citizens Bank, a private banking institution, which later became known as The First National Bank formerly located at 123 East Center, LeRoy. Mr. Bonnette later sold his interest to his brothers. The bank was well managed and ranked among the best.

    On September 13, 1862, in Empire Township, James Thomas Crumbaugh was united in marriage to Elizabeth Jane Wiley, a sister of the wife of his brother, Leonard. She was born of English, Irish, and Scottish descent on November 17, 1841 and was reared and educated in McLean County. She was the daughter of James Wiley, a native of Ireland, who later came to the United States via Jamaica. In America, he became a resident of Vermillion County, Illinois, where he married Permelia Waters, a native of Virginia, and they had six children.

    J.T. & E.J. Crumbaugh (Uncle Tom and Aunt Lizzy) had only one child, a son, born July 2, 1865.  He died August 20th of the same year and was known only by the name of "Bright Eyes".

    The Crumbaughs were members of the LeRoy Universalist Church whose minister, Rev. Carney, later embraced spiritualism and was responsible for interesting the Crumbaughs in the teachings and practices of the spiritualist medium. There was no Spiritualist church in LeRoy at the time, although many people in town believed in the teachings.

    The sorrow felt after the death of their baby and their interest in spiritualism served to increase their desire for possible contact with the unseen spiritual world about the well-being of their child.  According to record, this contact was made by a spiritualist medium. The comfort received greatly inspired the Crumbaughs and thereafter they employed a medium to serve them. They were blessed with success and prosperity. The religion and philosophy of spiritualism offered them a way of life consistent with their beliefs. They believed in God and in doing good. The ideals of character and service were clearly demonstrated during
their lives.

    J.T. Crumbaugh cast his first ballot for James Buchanan in 1856, and at each election supported the men and the measures of Democracy, believing that the party principles contain the best elements of good government. He had a barn where the library and church building now stands at 405 East Center and 102 South Pearl, respectively, and another barn on the property south of the home at 109 South Pearl, LeRoy. Mr. Crumbaugh owned many fine horses and raised stock . He had a great sense of humor and Mrs. Crumbaugh, like most ladies, liked nice clothes. Even though the Crumbaughs were wealthy, they lived their daily lives with a sense of humility.

    On April 3, 1905, James Thomas Crumbaugh passed away. Mrs. Crumbaugh passed away on January 24, 1906, less than a year later.

    The Crumbaughs desired the creation of a living memorial through the building of a church and library, so according to their wills, all property and management of same would be cared for through the estate to be governed by the trustees whose manner of selection and duties of were directed in detail in the wills. After Mr. Crumbaugh's death, the heirs tried to break the will and, in the defense of the will, 300 acres of the farm land were used to pay the attorneys. The case was in litigation for five years and was finally decided to uphold the will.

    The Spiritualist Church was built adjacent to the library in accordance with the wishes of J.T. & E.J. Crumbaugh. Church services are conducted each Sunday by a guest speaker at 2:00 p.m. Potluck dinners always accompany the Sunday afternoon worship.

    The J.T. & E. J. Crumbaugh Public Library opened January 1, 1927 and continues to serve patrons of the community and surrounding area.

Also available is a souvenir booklet containing the crumbaugh story, the library's history, and pictures.  Ask about it!

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