Wady Petra

Sour Grapes and Saddle Sores

George Hirst

Wady Petra (Stone Valley) March 25, 2005

A quarter section of section 31 in Valley Township was deeded by the U.S government, January 1, 1818 to Daniel Palmer. Palmer was a veteran of the war of 1812. The U.S. Congress had established a "military tract" in Illinois between the Mississippi and the Illinois Rivers as far north as the county lines of Bureau and Henry County. Veterans were offered quarter sections of "prairie land" in payment for their services in the war (1)

Palmer then deeded the land to William James on February 1, 1818. Philander Chase, Jr. and his wife Anna K purchased a portion of Section 31 in November of 1852. It is of interest to us to note that he also owned land in Peoria County, portions of Section 5, Township 10, the location of Jubilee College. (That is another story.) On August 1, 1873, Anna K. Chase, widow, had the 20 acres in the southeast corner of Section 31 platted. She named the proposed village Wady Petra (Stone Valley). (2)

J. Knox Hall in his History of Stark County writes of Wady Petra, "This little town with the oriental name was platted on June 2, 1873, by Edwin Butler, then surveyor of Stark County, for Mrs. Anna K. Chase. It is located on the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, in section 31, Valley Township, about one mile east of the village of Stark. Front Street runs parallel to the railroad and a square farther east is Chase Street. The north and south cross streets are Main and Hamilton. The original plat shows fifty-five lots."

Wady Petra was a typical little railroad station, with the usual businesses. In 1910 the population was given as forty-five. Mail was delivered by rural carrier from the post office of Stark. (3)

At the time of the original survey, an Osage orange hedge formed the northern and southern boundaries and in 1886, the Methodist Protestant Church of Valley was organized. (4)

On April 3, 1931, it all came to an end. Charles L Knott, Horace E Chamberlain, and Ervin Stephens, residents of Wada Petra (note spelling difference) who were the sole owners of all the lots, blocks and parcels, had the town of Wada Petra dissolved. (5)

The twenty-acre site formerly occupied by Wady Petra is now occupied by three families. Edward J and Mary C Seiwell, who own the house which was part of the town and its post office, purchased the property June 1, 1965. They were living there when the last train, a Rock Island Rocket traveling from Rock Island to Peoria passed through in the summer of 1965. Mac and Clara Conway and their son Todd live in the house called the "gallon" house (In pre-prohibition days, liquor by the barrel was delivered by rail to that house). and Scott Libby lives in a house built after the town was vacated.

When we moved to Wyoming in 1971, Lyman Cox asked me if I knew where Wady Petra was. I hadn't even heard of the place. In the years that have passed, I came to realize that the town is part of the history of Valley Township. It is a mile south across the fields from Stark. It came into existence before Stark. Both were railroad towns and both had post offices. How did that all happen and why? There are stories that presume to know the reasons. Philander Chase, Jr. and his family play a big part in all of this. The stories have kept Wady Petra alive in the conversations about Valley township and its development. The Rock Island Railroad played an important part in all of this from 1867 to 1931. Bishop Philander Chase, Sr. and his youngest son contributed. They were active in religious and educational circles. Chase Sr. developed Jubilee college in Peoria County in 1835. Chase Jr. served St Luke's Episcopal Church, Wyoming, and farmed in Valley township.

I found the information in Leeson's and Hall's histories. It took some digging. I found enough to tell me why Wady (or Wada) Petra has continued to be a presence in that part of the county.

The site of old Wady Petry is found by going south on 91 highway to township road 75 a mile south of the Stark Speer road, turn left, cross the Rock Island trail and you will see the three houses that are t on the old townsite.

(1) M.A. Leesson's History of Stark County p 69
(2) Abstract of Title, Township 12, Section 31, dated January 1, 1818
(3) J. Knox Hall, A History of Stark County p.33
(4) Leeson, Ibid. p647
(5)Abstract of Title

I thank Mary and Ed Seiwell for their help.

I would remind you all that planting time is arriving in and among our farms. Please take care when you encounter farming equipment as it moves from field to field on the highways.

More Sour Grapes and Saddle Sores

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Note: In 2011, George's kids began gathering some of his Sour Grapes and Saddle Sores newspaper columns together for the Wasteflake Project. Wady Petra was a name familiar to all of us kids who went to school in Wyoming, Illinois, but it was simply a strangely-named curiosity. After I (K. Kris) began studying archaeology and saw the spelling in dad's column, I realized that it had to be a reference to Petra, an ancient city in Jordan that was carved into the walls of a deep wadi (river bed). You might recognize the location because it was used in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. At the time we thought, hmm, perhaps one of the founders made a trip to the Holy Land.

Philander Chase Jr. was the son of the Philander Chase (1799–1852), a critical figure in the Episcopalian church in the Americas and the first Episcopal bishop of Illinois, who moved there in 1835. Chase founded Jubilee College, a private and long-defunct institution near Brimfield Illinois, where he is buried. Why Philander Chase Jr.'s widow named Wady Petra after Petra is anybody's guess, but Petra had an important role in the early Christian church.

Created by KKris. Last Modification: Thursday 04 of February, 2021 15:28:02 EST by KKris.