The Railroad and Early Settlement
Until about 1850, much of Illinois was still frontier land and sparsely populated, which the exception of Chicago and river towns such as Cairo and St. Louis in neighboring Missouri. This changed in 1850, when President Millard Fillmore signed a land grant for the construction of the Illinois Central Railroad (lobbied for by then-lawyers Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln). With the railroad expanding into Central Illinois, new opportunities for settlement by German, Dutch, Irish, Italian, Swedish, and other European immigrants opened up in Woodford County.
Roanoke was one of these settlements. On December 17, 1872, Roanoke was mapped out and lots were offered for sale. The plat of Roanoke was composed of 15 blocks and was bounded by Main, Front, Ann and Pleasant Streets. Two years later in 1874, Roanoke officially became a "Village" in the State of Illinois. Building began immediately in Roanoke and by the time the railroad was complete the population had increased to three hundred. Henry Frantz put up the first building after the village was laid out, and John Frantz and Jacob Engle also opened stores. The first doctor in the town was Dr. John, who also served several terms as coroner. Fauber and Hall first bought grain in Roanoke, although they never had an elevator. They also dealt in coal. The lumberyard was conducted by Doc Miller but soon after passed into the hands of Phillip Moore, who was one of the pioneers in business life in the vicinity. On August 15, 1874, the first election was held for the purpose of electing six trustees for the Village of Roanoke. To this day, the Village has continually filled those six positions.
The Roanoke area, like most of Illinois, is underlain by rich veins of coal. The second coal shaft in Woodford County was sunk in Roanoke in 1881. Miners went down 480 feet to discover a vein of high quality coal thirty inches thick. The longest tunnel ran about two miles east and a little north of town on a downward slope. Another shaft started in a westerly direction, but this coal was "flinty", or mixed with rock, and digging was discontinued. A room was dug out at the bottom of this shaft to stable the ponies and mules used before electric equipment was installed in 1905. The drivers treated these ponies and mules with apples and candy, who were also used for farm labor during the summer months. Blacksmith Fred Wolfe shoed the mules in the mine. Work in the mine started at 7:00am with a blast from the mine whistle, which sounded again when the men were brought back up from mining at 3:30pm. The mine whistle was also used to convey work delays due to weather or other events; in the evening, three whistle blasts meant the mine would be open the next day, and one blast indicated it would be closed the next day. The mine at its peak employed around 300 men and hoisted 500 tons of coal a day.
As was the case in most small mining towns, life in the mines could be dangerous. In the June 29th, 1906, four men fell 400 feet down the main shaft to their deaths while performing maintenance and improvements to the main shaft. The Roanoke Call newspaper headline the following day read "ROANOKE IN MOURNING". 
After the accident, the coal mine continued to operate until 1940, when it was permanently closed due to safety concerns and maintenance issues. In 1941, due to its state of disrepair, the tipple at the mine head collapsed into the shaft, leaving a crater 60 feet across and just as deep. The crater was filled in, and the remaining equipment sold as scrap.
Slate, flint, and other non-coal slag from the old mine was collected into a large mound colloquially called the "Jumbo," on the southern side of the village near where the mine was once located. Since before the mine closed, it is estimated that 800,000 tons of slag from the Jumbo has been used in various road and town improvement construction projects. Although smaller than its original size, the Jumbo still stands at present, topped with an electric star that is illuminated during the Christmas season.
After the Roanoke mine stopped operation in 1940, and with the growing popularity of using Semi-trailer trucks to move crops from farm to market, the rail line running through Roanoke (which had been purchased by the Santa Fe Railroad some time around 1900) was eventually retired in the mid 1980s, and was promptly dismantled for scrap. The original Roanoke rail station, from which many immigrants started their lives in the village, still stands as a historical building near the corner of Main Street and Mill Street.
Since the earliest days of the village to present, Roanoke has been an agricultural community. Presently, its farmers are members of the cooperative Roanoke Farmers Association. The two main crops of Roanoke, like many Illinois farm towns, are corn and soy beans.
On July 13, 2004, an F4 tornado demolished several rural houses and properties, and the Parsons Manufacturing Plant approximately west of downtown Roanoke. While over 200 people were still inside the Parsons plant at the time, the event was notable because there were no serious injuries or fatalities.
On April 17, 2013, after nearly 8 inches of rain in less than 24 hours, Roanoke experienced its worst flood in nearly 100 years. The Panther creek crested over eight feet over its normal water level, reaching parts of town not reached in previous floods of past decades. Of note:
The water rose so fast from the banks of Panther Creek that some people had to be rescued from their homes by boat. The work of the village's fire and ambulance departments undoubtedly saved lives. Trinity Lutheran church opened its doors and became a shelter for flood victims; villagers also provided dry clothes and blankets for the victims.
On Saturday April 20, 2013, a clean up day was organized to help those in need. Approximately 350 volunteers arrived with rakes, shovels, wheelbarrows, tractors and trucks to begin the overwhelming clean up project. Although much of the village has recovered from the flood damage, as of January 2014, the fate of the Legion Hall is still in question, as it received significant water damage and was still financially recuperating from previous flood damage in 2011 before the 2013 flood damaged the building again.