The Busey Family: Contributions Made to the Development of the City of Champaign Urbana

Patricia Plaut

Summer Fellowship 2009


Abstract: When you go to a new community, what in the community tells you about its history?  Students will be looking at a city of Champaign-Urbana and determine who might be some of the influential people in its past. Students will look at the Busey family in particular and their contributions to the Champaign-Urbana area. They will analyze primary sources, secondary sources, and link some of these sites to national events. Students will get a richer understanding of their community by looking at many of the buildings, wooded area, cemetery, and street names.  Locating names of some of the Busey descendents in the family tree will be part of a scavenger hunt.



Essential Questions/Enduring Understanding:


·        Where does one look to find information about the history of one’s community?

·        How are people remembered in their community decades or even centuries later?

·        What are the differences between primary and secondary sources?

·        It is hoped that after the completion of the unit all students will realize the vast amount of information available that could be used for further exploration of the history of their city.



Assessments: Class contributions to discussions and readings are a large part of this unit’s assessment. Worksheets will help guide the students to understanding.  A final summary questionnaire will be handed out to each student where his or her thoughts and memories will be assessed.



Setting the Purpose: The purpose of the set of lessons is two fold. The first purpose is to get a better sense of their community through one family, the Busey family. Secondly, it is hoped that students will get an understanding that there is a fair amount of information to be uncovered about their community and that these are within their reach.  This unit is intended to reach 4-8 grade students.



Duration:  The entire unit will take 10-13 days. Many parts within a lesson could be deleted to shorten.





Lesson 1:

Students will look at a Champaign-Urbana map and focus on the street names of a portion of Urbana. They will be asked to think why streets get named as they do. They will then look at a census noting the top 20 most used names for streets in the US.


Lesson 2:

Students will look at current photos of a city street sign, a cemetery statue, business marquees, school marquee, university dormitory marquee, a cemetery, a golf course, and a preservation wooded area. They will discuss what might be a common thread with all these locations.


Lesson 3:

Primary and secondary sources a discussion, Busey Bank founders, and the Busey family tree are the topics in this lesson. 


Lesson 4:

Students will read and understand the reasons why Busey Woods has remained a wooded preservation park in Urbana. Who were Elizabeth and Catherine Jane who donated the land?


Lesson 5:

Memorial Stadium, Charles Bowen Busey are linked.  Students will learn the reason for the University of Illinois Memorial Stadium through part of a video. The book, The Story of Stadium lists Charles Bowen Busey as one of the killed veterans. His son, Charles Bowen Busey Jr. was only three years old at the time. The Busey family tree will be expanded.


Lesson 6:

The Busey family contributed Urbana Country Club and Woodlawn Cemetery land. The Busey family plot is located at Woodlawn Cemetery.


Lesson 7:

A wrap up: another look at the map and photographs viewed in lesson 2 and discussion on what they have learned so far. They will write down their thoughts on a worksheet.



Further investigations, optional: Additional sources are provided if the students and teacher feel they would like to continue with more locations that are some how related to the Busey family. Included are: Carrie Busey School, Urbana population statistics from 1860- 1950 and Busey Bank capital and deposits from 1868-1961, the first court case in Champaign County, Busey mansion on 502 Main, Urbana, and the Urbana Free Library.



List of Materials and Resources: Materials and resources, including annotations, are listed at the end of the lessons



Areas yet to be explored/optional


At this point students will have realized how much the Busey family has contributed to the Champaign Urbana community. They should also realize that much more about them and their contributions could be researched. Students may not realize that Mr. Fox, of Fox Dr. named after him and builder of the industrial park on Fox Dr., may be considered today what the Busey family was in the past. The Robeson’s came after the Busey’s and before Mr. Fox.


People like Carrie Busey, named for an elementary school, may have a direct tie to the Busey lineage.


The Busey mansions, mostly built in Urbana between Lincoln and Race streets, on Green and Main streets, are an interesting topic. A blue print of a Busey mansion still exists at the Early American Museum and the architecture of that time could make for an interesting topic to research.


Urbana Free library is situated on what was Busey land.


Busey Hall is an all women’s dormitory on the University of Illinois campus.


A side topic, but quite interesting, is the growth of the city of Urbana and with it a comparison to the growth of Busey bank. As more people flow into a community, there are more people wanting to save and invest their money.


A courthouse and a jail are buildings needed to regulate law and order in a community.


If genealogy is something the students are very interested in then students can look at the genealogy of the Busey’s as far back as the mid 1700’s





Groups could do the following topics separately where each group would present their findings to the class. Conversely, this could be done whole class.


·        Hand out the newspaper article on the naming of Carrie Busey School Busey School Article

·        Ask: Have other schools been named after important community people? Take a look at the names of Champaign and Urbana schools in the phone book or locate them on the map found in the phone book /city map and allow the students to research the names of some of these schools.


·        Hand out articles on Busey Mantions: Busey Mansion Article 1 and Busey Mansion Article 2 Busey Mansion Article 2

·        What mansions remain today? How many Busey mansions existed at the say 1900, or 1950?

·        Looking at the floor plan of the Bowen Busey mansion (see Early American Museum for the floor plans) how are houses today and a century ago different, the same? What were the past and current needs that determine floor plans?


·        Hand out articles Urbana Growth and 93 Years of Growth.

·        How have the growth of Urbana and the growth of Busey Bank in the past 90 years correlated? Make a prediction on the future of the city growth. Can the bank continue growing as the population continues growing? What factors must be looked at to make this determination?


·        Hand out First Log Cabin Built in Sadorus in 1824.

·        Where would one go to continue the exploration of the history courthouse for Champaign County? The current courthouse is located on Main St. in Urbana. Has it always been there? What questions would one ask in order to direct the research of this topic?


·        Urbana Free Library is located on Busey land.

·        How can we find out how the Library became situated in this lot?


·        Busey Hall also known as Busey-Evans (renamed after the addition) has what connection with the Busey family?


·        To look at the past generations of Busey’s in the US from 1700s on look at Busey Generations, or each of the four pages individually BuseyGenerations_0001, BuseyGenerations_0002, BuseyGenerations_0003, BuseyGenerations_0004.

·        Have students build a much bigger and comprehensive genealogy given the data they worked on in lessons 3 and 5.