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Taken from the 1971 Emden Centennial Historical Book, compiled by the Emden Historical Book Committee
The area now occupied by the village of Emden originally was owned by William Scully. He acquired the parcel from the United States Government on June 28, 1851. Ob May 3, 1860, Mr. Scully sold 70 acres to William Cooper and for the most part this is the area east of the Illinois Central Railroad tracks. In 1867, William Cooper sold this land to James Okey Johnson, and the first home was erected and occupied as the farmstead of Mr. & Mrs. A.J. Snyder. Later, Mr. Johnson sold the 70a acres on May 16, 1871 to John M. Gill, this now is the east part of town. The west side also belonged to William Scully, and also on May 3, 1860, he sold the west 70 acres to Robert Watts. Two years later, in 1862, Mr. Watts sold the land to Christian Neyhemire. Mr. Neyhemire owned the land until March 9, 1869, when he sold to William Johnson, who in turn sold this west 70 acres to John Gill.
John Gill then caused the Town to be surveyed on June 15, 1871, and dedicated to June 24, 1871. The site was surveyed by Thomas Gardner and contained 30 blocks. The village was located in Orvil Township, County of Logan, and adjacent to the Peoria, Lincoln, and Decatur Railroad. Mr. Gill disposed of the village site rather rapidly by acres rather than lots, and by May 1873 he had disposed of most of his property. From this point on we do not know of his whereabouts.
In subsequent years, nine additions have been added to Emden. They carry the names of Malone, Van Buenning, Luebbers, McCormick, Rademaker, and Hildebrand acres.
The village received its name from Emden on the River Ems in northern Germany, in the area of Ostfriesland. Rather large numbers of Germans were immigrating to the United States at this time. Pekin, Illinois on the Illinois River, just 30 miles north, was experiencing a large influx of German immigrants, and it was natural for them to wish to settle in a Community bearing the same name as a city in the country they had just left; this plus the opportunity to find employment on the large land holdings being developed by William Scully.
The first store in Emden was built by B.F. Burnett and operated as a general store and post office. Burnett also served as the village’s first postmaster and Railroad Agent.
During the first month of existence, R.C. Moore of Delavan put in a set of Fairbanks scales at the S.W. corner of Lincoln & Mason streets, and employed Elias Carnahan to operate it. The first grain purchased over these scales was delivered by A.T. Cathcart, farming east of San Jose. It was then shipped by rail to Peoria, the rail line having been completed at this time to a point a mile south of Emden.
The next merchant or craftsman to arrive in town was a blacksmith named Sol Jennings. This was a very necessary trade and in the intervening years, more than a few followed this profession in Emden. The last of the old line was Joseph Creager.
Coming with the churches and general grocery store were meat markets, clothing stores, livery stables, taverns, auto agencies, restaurants, a bank, hardware store, feed stores, elevators, harness shops hatcheries, machinery repair shops, lumber yard, theater. Services were offered by doctors, barbers, dentists, carpenters, masons, undertakers, tillers, constables, draymen, printers.