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History of Will County

Township Histories


This township, until 1853, was included with Manhattan in what was known as Carey. Three years before the date named, the township of Trenton had been formed, and prior to that the territory of Greengarden had been in one precinct and another, as suited the convenience of its few inhabitants and the fancy of the courts that were authorized to appoint polling-places. Business now transacted within the limits of the township was done directly with the county authorities and at the county seat. By and by, the old county system became burdensome, and the business of each locality was delegated to local authorities. The mapmakers have always had a hard time of it. No sooner have they succeeded in getting a creditable article ready for the market, than a new boundary line, a new railroad or a new town would be located, and the sale of their works was thenceforth a drag. It is not only interesting and instructive to look over a map of the olden time, but, in a sense, quite amusing. If we compare a map of the eastern coast of the United States, as published by the authority of the British Government, in the year 1700, with the more modern publications of like character, we shall find features so different in the two as would1 not only be surprising to people ignorant of the history of the country subsequent to that date, but which would cause no little astonishment in the minds of the well informed. Look at a map of the Northwest during a period just prior to 1765, and you will find it marked as "French Territory." Then this same territory, from the date named until 1778, is delineated as a "British Province." After this, from 1778 until 1787, what is now the State of Illinois appears as a part of Virginia. After this, for thirteen years, it is called the "Northwest Territory." In 1800, when our grandfathers were going to-school, they were taught to call the whole of Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan by the name of "Indiana Territory," and by this title it was known until 1809, when the mapmakers again had to change, and Illinois and Wisconsin were called the "Illinois Territory." In 1818, when our fathers began to study geography, the atlases in which grandfather and grandmother studied would no longer answer the purpose, for Illinois had then become a State, with boundaries co-extensive with what we now find them. The changes which have come to the State, in its geographical features, since its admission into-the Union, are equally noticeable. The original number of counties was only fifteen. These have been divided and changed so that we now have one hundred and two, each change being a source of grief to the map publishers. Originally, the county was divided into voting precincts, then into townships, and the townships have been changed and divided to suit the wishes and convenience of the inhabitants, with not the least regard for the feelings of those whose business it was to furnish the people of the county with maps. The township of Greengarden, like many others, has worried the mapmakers. But little more than thirty years ago there was nothing here for the artist to sketch but the two little creeks and a boundless sea of grass; but since then the changes in school districts, roads, farms and buildings have been so frequent and marked, that, almost before a chart of the township was off the press, a new one was required. Probably, however, the description of the township which follows will remain the same for many years to come, as, at present, the whole of it is settled up, and no more changes are likely to be made for many years. Greengarden Township is bounded on the north by Frankfort, on the east by Monee, on the south by Peotone, and on the west by Manhattan. It is described in the Congressional survey as Town 34 north, Range 12 east of the Third Principal Meridian. It is a full Congressional town, containing thirty-six full sections, or 23,040 acres.

The land in Greengarden will not suffer in comparison with any other township in the county. Scarcely an acre, except what is taken up by the beds of Prairie and Forked Creeks, is untillable. The surface is gently undulating, none being either too rolling or too flat for successful cultivation. The soil is all that the agriculturist or the Gardener could desire, being deep and rich, and capable of producing enormous crops of corn, oats, hay and vegetables of every kind. The two creeks named both rise near the center, and afford stock-water to the adjacent farms, except in the dryest seasons, when they are sometimes dried up. The township is entirely devoid of a natural growth of timber, and this accounts for the tardiness of its settlement. When the township of Crete, in the eastern part of the county, and all of the western portion of the county had been well settled, this vicinity was just beginning to receive a few apparently unwilling squatters. They came from the heavily wooded States of Vermont and New York, or the equally densely timbered countries of the old world, and, finding the land adjacent to the little belts of timber already occupied, were loath to venture out upon the prairie, as the landsman is reluctant to venture upon the untried waves of the great ocean. The absence of timber for fuel, fencing and building purposes was certainly a great drawback. Not until 1865 was it known that within a few miles was a condensed forest of fuel that would supply all this country for ages to come. Then, too, the prairie, as a field for farming operations, was only an experiment. It looked much to them as if an absence of timber might indicate a dearth in those qualities of soil necessary to produce good crops. The subjugating of the prairie, though, in comparison with the clearing of the eastern farms, a trifle, was, in their eyes, no small matter. The little bar-share plow, with the wooden mold-board, in common use in the East, was not to be thought of to turn over the thick prairie sod, matted with grass-roots, as hard almost as hickory withes. But soon the inventive genius of the Yankee supplied an article, though somewhat rude and unwieldy, with which most of these prairies have been brought to cultivation. The original "sod-plow" is now seen no more forever, as it has long since outlived its usefulness. It consisted of a large share, cutting a furrow two feet in width, with iron bars for a mold-board. The beam of the machine was fifteen feet in length. No handles were needed, though sometimes they were attached, but were used only for the purpose of starting or throwing it out of the ground. To this immense machine were hitched from five to eight yoke of oxen. The breaking was usually done late in the Spring; and, with the turning-over of the sod was deposited seed, which produced an inferior crop of corn the first year, growing and ripening without further attention. From this crop has come the brand of a favorite drink in the Western country. Hay was cut with scythes and gathered with hand-rakes. Wheat was cut with cradles and threshed by causing horses to tread upon it. These ancient landmarks have all passed away, and but few who wielded them remain to tell us the story of these and the many other peculiar institutions of the olden times. Here and there is seen a whitening head. Here and there we behold a tottering frame. Erelong, they too will have passed from earth, and their places will be filled with the more modern style of humanity. The first to venture out on the almost unknown waste of the prairie of Greengarden Township was M. F. Sanders, from Vermont. The date of his advent was 1847, and he has consequently been a resident thirty-one years. The "'Squire," as he is familiarly called, is well off in this world's goods, having not only survived the hard times incident to pioneer life, but has something "laid by for a rainy day." He was the first Justice of the Peace, and, in that capacity, performed the first marriage ceremony in the township.

G. M. Green, or "the Deacon," as he was generally called, was also a native of Vermont, and came to the place about the same time. He was a man of good qualities and well worthy to bear the cognomen universally bestowed npon him. He removed from this place to Joliet, where he died some years ago.

Following these two families, and mainly through their influence, were a number of families from the same State. Within three or four years, Rev. James Hudson, Daniel Haradon, David McClay and Hiram Twining arrived from Vermont and settled in the same neighborhood—the northwest part of the township. These people, it seems, were mostly of one religious faith—being that denominated Christians—not the branch sometimes called Disciples or Campbellites, but the branch founded by Smith and others some seventy-five years ago, and who would under no circumstances acknowledge any other name but that of Christian. In Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and some of the Eastern States are many of this persuasion ; but in this section a church of this faith is rare. Horace Mann, one of the greatest acknowledged educators of this country, did his last work as President of Antioch College, at Yellow Springs, Ohio, the college then being one of the educational institutions of the denomination. Elder Hudson, soon after his arrival, organized the little community into a Church; and as such it was very prosperous for a few years, and drew around it a large number of enlightened and substantial people. But the good man's labors were not of long duration. His body was laid away beneath the prairie sod soon after his work in this wild field had been successfully inaugurated.

Hiram Twining still resides on the old place. His house, built before roads or partition lines Were definitely known, proclaims itself to be one of the ancient landmarks, by not "being placed due east and west," but varying from that usually accepted rule several degrees. In this house many of the early religious and other meetings were held. The first township and school elections took place here, it being nearer the center of population than others of sufficient size for the purpose.

About the same time, the Baileys and the Bemiss family arrived—the former from New York, and the latter from Michigan. Morrison and Martin Bailey were brothers. They were men of intelligence, and were counted as leaders in society and politics. Morrison Bailey was the first teacher that ever presided over a school in the township. At the first township election, held in 1853, Martin was elected Moderator, one of the four Overseers of Highways, Justice of the Peace and Supervisor. Morrison Bailey was the first Township Clerk. The Baileys removed a few years later.

The Bemiss family consisted of Simeon and three grown sons—Ephraim, James and Edwin. In the first election, this family was also honored with six offices. Simeon was elected Commissioner of Highways; James, Clerk pro tem, and Justice of the Peace; and Edwin, Road Overseer, Collector and Constable. This family also removed from the township after a short residence.

Augustine Hauser, John Young, A. A. Angell, D. G. Jaynes and William Hutchinson were also early settlers. Hauser was a native of Switzerland, and came here with a little fortune, wluch he proposed to double in a short time in the manufacture of cheese. But it seems he was a little ahead of the time; for the business, which to those embarking in a few years later was the means of realizing to them fortunes, was the means of his complete failure, and he left the township several thousand dollars poorer than when he came. The article manufactured by him was, it is said, of a superior quality; but the reputation of Western cheese was not yet made, and, on account of the prejudice of dealers and consumers for the Eastern product, Hauser's scheme proved a failure.

In the mean time, while the settlement in the northwestern part of the township was well under way, another settlement was being formed a little further east and south. The first settlement was, in every respect, a Yankee enterprise, while the other was as positively German; and, while the former had for its central point its church organization, so also had the latter.

The Dierks family and the Strassens, though not the earliest German settlers, came about 1851, bringing with them a preacher of their own faith, and immediately set about the organization of a society, and subsequently of erecting a house of worship. Probably, the very first German in the township was John T. Luehrs, now of Monee, who had come to this vicinity three years before. Following him, in 1849, was his brother, F. Luehrs. The Dierkses were cousins to Luehrs, and came over at the instance of their relatives who had preceded them. The Dierks family consisted of Simon, Fred and G. A. Dierks, who have since all removed to Nebraska. On the recommendation of Luehrs, amongst numerous other families scattered all over this part of the State, came to the township in 1850, O. H. Remmers, B. B. Henry, A. and G. G. Beiken. Peter and William Young, from the same country, but who had been living in Ohio, also came in 1850. The Youngs were not satisfied here, and sold out, William returning to Ohio and Peter moving further south. Fred Hassenjager and Peter Bowlander, the latter now a resident of Monee, were also among the earliest Germans. Hassenjager is an example of what industry and economy may accomplish in the face of deprivations and hardships incident to a pioneer life. When he came here, he was as poor as the poorest, now he is among the wealthiest citizens of this part of the county.

One of the most important public acts of the township occurred about the close of the period of the two settlements named, and was the separation of the two portions of Trenton Township, now designated as Manhattan and Greengarden. It seems to have been the understanding from the first that, when both sections should have attained to a population sufficiently strong for separate organization, such division should take place, though it was hardly expected that it would take place so soon. However, owing to the rapid filling-up of each, it was found not only feasible, in 1853, but there were many reasons adduced for separate organization, and thus a "peaceable secession" was accomplished.

Petitions were, therefore, presented to the proper authorities, and, by them, a division was made, accompanied with an order to hold elections. The election was accordingly held in this township, the first meeting taking place at Hiram Twining's house, on the 5th day of April, 1853. Martin Bailey was chosen Moderator and J. N. Bemiss, Clerk, pro tem. The result of the ballot was the election of Martin Bailey, as Supervisor; Morrison Bailey, Clerk; Edwin Bemiss, Collector; George M. Green, Assessor; A. A. Angell, Overseer of the Poor; Martin Bailey and J. N. Bemis, Justices of the Peace; Edwin P. Bemiss and A. A. Angell, Constables, and John Young, Simeon Bemiss and D. G. Jaynes, Commissioners of Highways. Of these, Martin Bailey had been Justice before, during the union of the two townships, and administered the oath to the judges and clerk on this occasion.

The present officers of the township are: H. H. Strassen, Supervisor; Andrew Murdie, Clerk; August Voigt, Assessor; Peter Kenepper, Collector; Jacob Froehner, Martin Sippel and Henry Hoppe, Commissioners of Highways; Henry Strassen and John Bobzine, Justices of the Peace, and George Jacobs, Constable.

At the first election, there were twenty-seven voters present; at the last, 204. It will be noticed that most of the present officers are German, while the first corps of officers were as decidedly Yankee. During the first few years, the settlement was marked by a preponderance of Americans; but of later years, the German element has not only increased more rapidly, but, in reality, most of the Yankee population has disappeared, having sold out their farms to the Germans.

In 1851, a post office was established in the Yankee settlement, with Rev. James Hudson as Postmaster. The office was called Greengarden, and has been in existence ever since, though for the last two or three years its location has been within the bounds of Manhattan Township. These country post offices, like some orphan children, have a kind of vagrant existence, with no certain home, but travel from place to place at the pleasure or forbearance of their keepers. Greengarden Post Office has been no exception, as it has had many homes. Sometimes it has been sought, and at other times it has not had where to take up even a temporary abode.

Due attention has been given to the intellectual and moral wants of the people and to the youth, and schoolhouses and churches abound.

In the Winter of 1850-51, Morrison Bailey taught the first school, which consisted of fifteen or twenty scholars. Eight years later, from a report made to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, we learn that three schools had been organized, and in two of them schoolhouses were built. In the same year, 102 scholars were attending, out of 262 entitled to school privileges, that is, between 6 and 21 years of age.

The present condition of the public school system in Greengarden Township may be gathered from the following items extracted from the books of Township Treasurer F. Luehrs:

Whole number of schools - 9
Number of persons between 6 and 21 - 576
Number of persons under 21 - 790
Number of months taught during the year - 58
Highest wages paid to any teacher - $45 00
Amount paid out to teachers - 1,752 30
Total paid for support of schools - 2,438 20

Besides the instruction given in these schools, two private schools within the limits of the township, and another just in the border of an adjoining township, afford school accommodations for quite a number of children.

There are four church buildings, three of which have organizations. The Christian Church, already alluded to, is the oldest, being organized in 1847, and a building erected in 1861. The original members of the Church were: Rev. James Hudson, Samuel Bowen, Abel Perkins, Sr. and Jr., and Daniel Haradon, with their wives. In 1861, when the building was erected, the membership embraced about forty persons. The house was raised on the 4th day of July of the year named, and dedicated soon after by Rev. Noah Johnson, under whose pastorate it had existed for some time, and who was mainly instrumental in having the building erected. This, it will be remembered, was the beginning of the rebellion, and most of the strong men of this neighborhood fought as they professed, and enlisted in the army. Therefore, during the balance of the struggle, the Church was weak. After the war was over, quite a number who had been spared to return removed further west; and, one drawback after another following, the organization continued to weaken until it was finally abandoned, and the building has not been occupied for two or three years.

The German Baptist society was organized by Rev. H. Jacobs, who had emigrated from Germany with some of the founders of the Church. The date of the organization, though we are not able to state precisely, was about 1855, and the building was erected about six years later. The cost of the building was $1,400, and of the parsonage, $800. The church was erected during the pastorate of Rev. Mr. Janzen. It is a neat little frame, and stands on the southeast corner of Section 14, in an inclosure in which are deposited the remains, of many of its early supporters and members. This church has also decreased in numbers, many of them having removed further west. The present Pastor is Rev. S. Kornier.

St. Peter's German Evangelical Lutheran Church, situated two miles further morth, was erected in 1867, at a cost of $2,000. Previous to this, for four years, services and school had been conducted in the parsonage, which had been built in 1863. The Church was organized at the last date named, by Rev. William Schaefer, with about twelve families. Four years ago, a new church-building was determined upon, and a fine edifice was erected at a cost of $3,000, and the old building has since been used as a schoolhouse. Rev. S. Lang is the present Pastor and teacher. The congregation numbers about forty-three families. School is sustained six months in each year. In 1871, the German Methodists erected a neat little church and parsonage near the middle of the northern portion of the township, at a cost of $1,200. The first Pastor was Rev. Carl Stelner. The present Pastor is Rev. Oust Peter, and the membership of the Church consists of about twenty-five families. School is kept open about six months each year. German, the common branches of education, and the religion of the denomination are tanght.

Throughout Will County, Greengarden is noted for its societies and mutual organizations, important among which is the Greengarden Farmers' Mutual Insurance Company, protecting against losses by fire and lightning. This Company is composed of about one thousand two hundred members. It was organized in 1867, under the then existing township insurance law, and received its charter in 1869. The officers of the Company are composed of a president and vice president, secretary and treasurer, who are and must be residents of the township of Greengarden, and of a director from each township aside from itself where said township shall have acquired a membership of thirty members. Its first local officers were: President, Henry Stassen; Vice President, Frederick Buchholz; Secretary, Henry Vischoever, and Treasurer, H. H. Stassen. Its first officers outside the township, which then consisted of its directors and solicitors, were: Henry Suhl, H. H. Stassen, Sr., Henry Engleman and Peter Conrad. Its present local officers are: President, Henry Eisenbrandt; Vice President, Christian Buck; Treasurer, H. H. Stassen, and Secretary, August Voigt. Its present officials in and outside the township, which consist of its directors and solicitors, are: William Beutien, Nikol Eyrich, John Schoops, Andrew Holl, Henry Engleman, Diedrich Thiesfeld, August Stoekig, Hasch Siemsen, Charles E. Holstein, Henry Vischoever and John Stassen. The first application was made April 11, 1867, by Rev. Frederick Boeber, of Greengarden Township, policy $1,000. This is the cheapest insurance company in the State. Its motto is a union of many for the protection of the individual member, minus a profit to a third party. It insures farm property only, and charges a one-half-per-cent cash premium, besides a premium note of 3 per cent on the one hundred dollars' worth of property insured by its members. Out of the one-half-per-cent cash premium charged, this Company has defrayed all expenditures, such as salary to officers, incidentals, etc., accompanying the organization of a company, and all losses incurred up to the present date, 1878, and has yet a cash balance on hand large enough to warrant the assertion that it will not make an assessment for a number of years to come. This Company is chartered for fifty years, at the expiration of which time, according to stipulations in contracts, its renewal can be obtained.

Den Werth einer Sache weis man am besten zu schatzen, wenn man ea nicht hat.

For a new township, and thinly settled as was this in 1861, Greengarden did a noble part in the late war; and its record compares well with that of other portions of the county and State. Quite a number lost their lives in the service of their country, amongst whom are called to mind John Depuy, Stephen C. Kenny, George W. Holmes, Matthew Bush, Ellery B. Mitchell, E. J. White, Albert E. Devereaux, J. D. Blanchard, Albert Haradon and Erastus Rudd. "Requiem eternam dona eis Domine."

Last Update: Sunday, 22-Mar-2015 20:05:55 EDT

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Will County Coordinator: Dennis Partridge
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