Getting to Grand Prairie

Photo credit: Larry Kanfer

Getting to Grand Prairie: One Hundred Londoners and Their Quest for Land in Frontier Illinois is now available on

This book follows the lives of several English families—the Joneses, Bentleys, Churches, Houghs, Clipsons, Dickinsons, Puzeys, Tarrants and Lloyds, many of whom were friends in London—as they immigrated to southern Vermilion County in the late 1840s and 1850s. Other English families— Swannells, Kays, Vandersteens, and Onleys, landed in the same place at the same time. The area was then known as part of the Grand Prairie, because its official names were not yet established.

They settled in what became Catlin, Illinois, the small farming community in which my husband and I both grew up. Getting to Grand Prairie tells the story of these families in England and the consequences of their settlement in Catlin. They sought the status, wealth, comfort and influence they could not attain in England. And mostly they succeeded.

They bought land. Their children married one another, rejecting their American neighbors. In the 1860s, some of the sons went to war. Afterwards the English immigrants became American citizens and ran the town. They blended in with the American-born population. Then their story was mostly forgotten.

I have been in contact with many of the descendants of the original immigrant settlers. What I’ve learned has helped me put together an immigrant story. But this book is the beginning of a much fuller tale. I hope that as descendants read this book, they will amplify the story I’ve unearthed. Perhaps there is more to the story of these brave, adventuresome people that can be told.

I am creating a link to each family with the information I have. Please feel free to contact me with your stories.

Barker Family

Bentley Family

Church Family

Clipson Family

Vandersteen Family


Leave a Reply