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Secor to mark its 150th birthday
A bird’s-eye view from the south of Secor from 1904 shows the downtown business district. (For the Pantagraph)

SECOR - The village of 400 people is planning a celebration this weekend (June 8-9) to wish itself a 150th birthday with a parade, carnival, karaoke contest and more.

When Secor was established in 1857, it already had a post office and bustling economy based on a railroad junction created the year before. The economy continued to boom until, in recent decades, businesses have closed and the village is primarily a bedroom community.

"It was a lot busier back when I was a kid," said Ann Armstrong. "The whole Main Street block was solid stores."

At 67, Armstrong works at the post office as one of the few people who both live and work in Secor. She has also served as village treasurer and is the current township clerk.

"A small community cannot be beat. This town has always had heart," said Armstrong. "I'm proud of my town. It might not be the fanciest, but I look at the people."

Armstrong said the centennial celebration in 1957 brought up to 10,000 visitors to the village for events including a parade, festival and pageant.

Secor's history

Despite the common belief that the town is named based on an acronym of South-East Corner Of Roanoke, Secor existed before Roanoke.

The village is named after Charles A. Secor, a member of Cruger, Secor and Co., which was awarded the contract to construct the extension of the Peoria and Oquawka Railroad.

Even before the railroad junction's construction in 1866, early settlers had moved to the area surrounding the village. Records show the Armstrong, Van Scyoc and Baringer families settling nearby in the 1830s.

By the mid 1800s, Secor was a major residential and commerce center in Central Illinois leading Isaac Underhill to construct a three-story brick hotel at the cost of almost $50,000.

The village was officially established by a special act of the state legislature on Feb. 28, 1867.

Into the future

Bob Meginnes, moved to Secor in 1971, but had spent a lot of his childhood in the village with his grandparents, who operated Doc's Tap.

Out-of-town jobs likely started the economic decline of the village, said Meginnes.

"I think, in a nutshell, it was easy transportation," said Meginnes.

At one time, the village held a grocery store, meat market, auto repair, drug store, Laundromat, restaurants and three taverns. While Secor Saloon still does a bustling food business, most all other businesses have closed.

"When you have a job out of town and shop out of town, it makes it hard for businesses," said Meginnes.

Both Meginnes and Armstrong agree businesses probably won't be flocking to Secor again. However, the future as a bedroom residential community is still bright.

"The Secor address is still growing. We have 10- to 15 new houses that have been built in the past five years," said Armstrong of new homes in the rural area. "I just want there to always be a Secor."

Secor quick facts

• One historic village resident was awarded the Emblem of the Blue Jade from the Chinese government. Missionary Minnie Vautrin aided young women in Nanking, China, during the 1937 Japanese invasion.

• A famous movie escapee allegedly could be found nearby. In the 1993 film "The Fugitive," protagonist Richard Kimball's fictional coordinates, when plotted on a map, put him just outside Secor.

• The 2000 census recorded a population of 379 people from 109 families in 144 households including many young families. The largest demographic was aged 25-44 at 26.9 percent, followed by under age 18 at 26.6 percent.

• The Peoria and Oquawka Railroad, which originally constructed the Secor junction, still operates today as the Peoria, Toledo and Western Railroad.

Secor Sesquicentennial

Friday (June 8)

Events begin late afternoon and are located along Cruger Street, Secor Park, Bestor Street, music tent, community building:

Carnival; bucket brigade; music; barbershop quartet; greased pig contest; dunk tank; medicine show; memorabilia exhibit; beer tent.

Saturday (June 9)

Events begin mid morning and are located along Cruger Street, Secor Park, Bestor Street, music tent, community building and Jones Field:

Flea market; carnival; parade (starts at noon); water fights; bucket brigade; dunk tank; karaoke contest; music; medicine show; softball tournament; petting zoo; memorabilia exhibit.

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