Gridley was first laid out in 1856 on land purchased by G.W. Kent and Thomas Carlisle. Mr. Kent insisted on naming the town in honor of his employer, Asahel Gridley. General Gridley—a general in the Black Hawk war—was a wealthy businessman in Bloomington and friend of Abraham Lincoln. General Gridley donated land for the Gridley cemetery, the four local churches, and the Third Street City Park.
Gridley was first incorporated on April 1, 1869 under a special charter. On October 2, 1905, in a special election, it was reorganized as a Village under the state law of Illinois.
Gridley is an agricultural community that has produced notable business entrepreneurs, national and military leaders. Throughout its 160+ years, Gridley has been home to a harness shop, furniture stores, hardware stores, drug stores, a jewelry store, clothing stores, grocery stores, saloons, hotels, and offices for business and medical professionals.
The Great Gridley Fire of 1901 exemplifies the resilience of the community. On May 3, 1901, a fire started in an alley that ultimately destroyed the business district and six family homes. All residents—women and children included—joined in the fight against the blaze. Thankfully, there was no loss of life. The October 16, 1901 issue of the Bloomington Pantagraph stated, “A village that can erect over $100,000 worth of new buildings within six months certainly affords a commendable example. And this is just what Gridley has done . . . Not only has the burned district been rebuilt, but residences, stores, a hotel and an elevator, all new, show the belief of the citizens in the future of their town.”
More than a century later, Gridley citizens continue to work together and believe in the future of their town.