What's in a town?

What's in a town?

DOWNTOWN FINKVILLE — Sarabess Fink is the matriarch of the First Family of Finkville.

Finkville is south of Fisher and north of Sangamon River Forest Preserve. To its west is a herd of cows.

In Finkville, you don't have to tangle with any government types or taxes.

Her son is mayor, and her grandson is the fire chief. And that's it for government.

David M. Fink just turned 50 and has lived there since the end of 2007.

"I'm mayor for life," he says. "I used to joke, I'd tell them we had an election and I got re-elected. You just didn't hear about the election."

At population 35, it's one of the smallest towns in Champaign County, and not really a town at all.

No post office, no records, not on a map and not recognized by the county as a municipality.

Finkville has no taxes, no services, nothing in the way of main industries, famous formers or professional sports teams.

Can Fink see a time where Finkville merges with Fisher? Would it still be the Bunnies?

"We don't have a school," he says.

Finkville is just a few Finks and some unrelated neighbors.

"But pretty much all the neighbors call me the mayor," Fink says. "A neighbor said there are so many Finks, we outnumber everybody."

The Wizard of Id cartoon series often quotes the phrase "The king is a fink!" — but that's no insult to the First Family.

Fink says he had joked about being the mayor, but then the family took him up on it.

Less than a decade ago, "my sister Trish (Keever) got me the sign for Christmas as kind of a joke," he says.

Sarabess believes it was made at a Kinko's.

"It stuck," the mayor says. "The sign was never supposed to go farther than my garage. I found a steel post, put it out for a couple weeks. It's been eight years now. When the forest preserve people bought the land south of my subdivision, everybody at Casey's said, it's right past the Finkville sign" on County Road 600.

The small group of houses has always been cohesive.

"Long before any Finkville neighborhood picnic, all my surrounding neighbors would have a neighborhood picnic," the mayor says.

But it took a disaster for Finkville's government to grow.

"We had one neighbor who used to burn (refuse) when the wind was really blowing. That caught a shed on fire and did the same thing then next week," David Fink recalls. "They moved away."

But to answer the call for public safety, a family member stepped forward to take care of emergency services.

That would be Jordan Keever, Sarabess' grandson.

"I'm the fire chief," he says. "I can't say we get many calls. Usually all it takes is a minute with a hose to put fires out."

Fires are not the major safety issue in this neck of the woods.

By far the biggest problem in Finkville?

Speeders right on County Road 600E, the town's eastern terminus.

"It's by far the most atrocious road in the county," Sarabess Fink says.

Speaking of small towns ...

Finkville isn’t the only shadow on the road with an unusual past. Some towns that are on a map don’t exist; others can’t even agree on how to spell the name.

On the map. Or not.

Many maps of Champaign County show Augerville at the intersection of Airport and Brownfield roads. It’s got the briefest and most unhelpful of Wikipedia articles. And, if you want to be super-exact, the United States Geological Survey has its coordinates: 40°08’23”N 88°10’18”W.

Problem is, there are no signs that Augerville is there anymore. Literally, not one sign.

Even the neighbors don’t know much about Augerville. Longtime resident Pat Williams said she knows of nothing Augervillish about her neighborhood.

“It’s a long time gone,” she said. “We’re in Urbana Township.”

Urbana Township Road Commissioner Jim Prather has a dim memory of the town.

“When I was a little kid, there was a sign that said Augerville,” he remembers.

The News-Gazette’s history expert, Tom Kacich, found a story he couldn’t vouch for:

In the late 1800s, he was told, Uriah P. Brown built “an unpainted country store building just far enough back of the point to allow a hitching rack (free parking) in front of his store which had a false high front above the door in the manner of the western cow-town stores.”

Neighbors who didn’t like him called him an “auger,” apparently an Old West term of derision, the story goes.

Hillery or Hillary?

To the south of Danville on Henning Road, there’s a sign for Hillery. When you enter the town, the biggest sign is on a warehouse, and it’s spelled “Hillary Mini-Storage.” And an 1881 map spells the area “Hilliary.”

Gary Henk, who owns the popular Henk’s Bait & Bite Café in town, said "Hillery" is in fact the correct spelling. Patricia Brown, enjoying her lunch there, remembers when there use to be several stores.

Hope, but no Faith or Charity

There are more windmills than people in Hope, Ill. Hope United Church of Christ is the main building left in town, which used to have a Faith and Charity near it in western Vermilion County. At least the church is growing. Pastor Frank Hoss said, “We were down to seven or eight people on a couple Sundays — lately it’s 12 or 18. So I would say our future looks a little better than it did. We were given money from an estate, and we thought that would run out, and it looks like it will go on longer.”

He said it’s hard to find a trace of sister cities Faith and Charity. When this reporter wrote about them in the 1980s, they were already lost to the cornfields.

Mira or Myra?

There’s a sign for Mira southeast of Urbana, but a headstone proves that the correct spelling is Myra — in honor of Myra Silver Love, who died in 1890. Road commissioner Jim Prather, who lives in the greater Myra metropolitan area, says there was a grain elevator there until about 1984. The Silvers owned most of the land. Prather said he’s tried repeatedly to get the road sign spelled correctly.

No Prospects?

Just west of Rantoul on U.S. 136, there’s a sign that points to Prospect. But when you get there, it’s just a scattering of houses. A resident said there used to be a grain elevator there.

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