History of Will County
Jedediah Woolley, Sr., was one of the earliest settlers of Plainfield, but of that township it could hardly be said that he became a permanent resident, as he removed from it before the land came into market. He, however, lived there some time, and there experienced some of the trials and privations of pioneer life incident to this country at a period prior to 1835. In the year named, he removed to Troy Township, made a claim and settled permanently. His son, Jedediah Woolley, Jr., had already made some improvement, having built a saw-mill on the Du Page, which flows through the township. The sawmill was completed and in operation by the Fall of 1834. His was the first mill enterprise in Troy, and one of the very first in the county. It was looked upon as a great addition to the industries of the community, and furnished lumber for most of the early buildings in this vicinity. The canal and railroad, though dreamed of, had not been built, and the only commercial communication with the village of Chicago was by means of wagons, and so most of the houses prior to that date were built entirely of logs. A dwelling of the character in use in those days would be almost a curiosity now; and, as compared with the fine farmhouses and almost palatial residences of Troy and vicinity, would, at least, be considered a novelty. They generally consisted of a pen, from sixteen to twenty feet square, built up of small logs, notched at each end, to admit of others lying thereon. The pen was built to the height of about ten feet, and divided into a lower and upper room by joists of small logs covered with boards split from the bodies of straight-grained trees. Sometimes the upper room was dispensed with, and the single room answered the purpose of kitchen, pantry, parlor, dining-room, bed-room and cellar. Floors were not considered indispensable, and Mother Earth herself was the floor and carpet. A bedstead has been described to us as consisting of two poles driven into holes bored into the logs which formed the wall of the building, and supported at the other ends by a stake driven into the ground. A bed-cord was made of bark stripped from the body of a hickory-tree. Windows were glazed with panes made by saturating strong white paper with grease. This made a fine substitute for both glass and curtains, for, while it admitted the light,-it also prevented the direct rays of the sun from entering, being translucent without being transparent. The roof of the dwelling was constructed of split shingles—an article scarcely known at the present—held in their places by poles laid thereon.
Jedediah Woolley, Jr., was County Surveyor when Will was a part of Cook County, and surveyed the county. Both he and his father are dead. A man named Chipman was partner with the younger Woolley in the saw-mill. Chipman was from the State of Ohio. He did not find the country all that he had anticipated, and, after a short residence, he returned to the Buckeye State.
Alford McGill, a son-in-law of the Elder Woolley, moved to the township at the same time. He is spoken of as kind-hearted, big-souled man, and well liked by all who knew him. It was such men who made the pioneer life tolerable to those whose former lives had been spent in localities where social advantages had been somewhat superior to what they found in their new homes. It was McGill who guided the Knapps and the Tryons of Channahon, to the place of their location, and recommended it as the finest soil in the country. Like many other great-hearted, social fellows, he had one fault developed by the influence and habits of pioneer life. The cup, to which he was most friendly, Was his worst and most relentless enemy, and finally overcame him entirely, dragging him down to an untimely grave. Cary Thornton was a native of Pennsylvania, but had lived in the State of New York prior to coming here, in 1835. At that date, he came West, and attended the land sale and purchased a half-section of land. The next year, 1836, he, with his brother William, moved from New York to the land purchased the year before, each occupying one-half. The location of the land was in the southern part of the township, and is now known as the Farnsworth property. Cary Thornton removed to the city of Joliet, in 1866, where he still resides, an active old gentleman of 79 years. William Thornton removed to Lake County, where he died about six years ago.
Josiah Holden, a brother of Phineas Holden, who settled in New Lenox at an early date, was in the township as early as 1836. He moved away and died many years ago. Dr. Alexander McGregor Comstock, whom, from the name we imagine, to have been a Scotchman, came here from New York, about 1837. He moved to the city of Joliet and died of cholera, during the reign of that fatal plague years ago. He was the first resident physician, and a man of much intelligence and of excellent attainments. Horace Haff was from the Black River country, of New York, and settled in this township about 1837. By him the township was named West Troy, probably from the city of the same name, near which he had formerly lived. A portion of the name was afterward dropped, leaving it as we now have it. Andrew and Marshall King came to this place from Indiana, and settled in the north part of the township. Andrew died here, October, 1849. Marshall moved to Texas, where he died several years ago. A son of Andrew King is a resident of Joliet, and is engaged in the lumber trade. The Kings were natives of Kentucky.
After the settlements already mentioned, but few additional were made for some years. The panic of 1837, continuing for several years, put a check upon immigration, and not until the completion of the Canal, which passes through the southeast corner, did the township again grow in population. In several ways, the Canal contributed to the rapid development of this part of the State. The works were pronounced complete in 1848, and boats began to ply along the line. Formerly, grain and produce of all kinds had to be hauled by wagon over bad roads, to the nearest market, which was Chicago, and supplies of groceries and other necessities had to be obtained there by the same means, and, consequently, emigrants looking for homes, located at points where commercial advantages were more convenient. When the Canal was completed, bringing these facilities to this portion of the State, immediately a new impetus was given to the settlement of Troy Township. Again, a number of the laborers on the works being now out of employment, and having saved some of their earnings, located on the adjacent lands. Quite a number of our Irish citizens date their arrival in the township, with the completion of the Canal.
The subject of education has received its share of attention by the Trojans. The first school was taught in a litte log structure, erected for that purpose, on Mr. Thornton's place. This was about the year 1836 or 1837, but who was the pioneer educator is not now remembered. The first teacher whose name can be recalled with sufficient distinctness to fix dates, was Miss Rebecca Boardman, who taught here in 1840-41. From this small beginning has developed, in proportion to the development of the country, a system of education in this township, that compares favorably with any township in the county. As indicating the progress in this direction, it may be mentioned that ten years after the completion of the Canal there were in the township six organized schools, with three hundred and two persons of proper age to receive their benefits, of which number two hundred and thirty were in attendance. A few additional items extracted from an old report to the School Commissioner, at the date indicated, 1858, will prove interesting:
Number of schools - 6
Number of months taught - 42
Number of children in schools - 230
Number of persons under 21 - 406
Number of persons between 6 and 21 - 302
Average salaries paid teachers per month - $ 24 00
Whole amount paid for support of schools - 1,308 00
In 1872, the school population had reached its maximum, as had, also, the number of schoolhouses; and, as other statistics for that year do not vary greatly from the present, some of the most essential are appended:
Number of schools - 10
Number of teachers employed - 13
Number of months schools sustained - 72
Number of children enrolled - 375
Number of persons under 21 - 460
Number of persons between 6 and 21 - 627
Whole amount expended for school purposes - $2,216 00
In each of the districts is a comfortable schoolhouse, nearly all of which are furnished with the improved desks, maps and the simpler pieces of school apparatus.
Though the Gospel was preached at an early date in this township, owing to its proximity to Joliet, and other points where churches and all the means of affording, religious advantages abound, no church-buildings are to be found here. Preaching in the schoolhouses is had occasionally, and Sunday schools are sustained. Dr. Comstock, before mentioned, was also a preacher, and, as such, not only offered to his patients, sick with the infirmities of the body, remedies for their corporeal diseases, but pointed the people to the Great Physician who heals both body and spirit. The following anecdote is told of him in the "Forty Years Ago:" "Dr. Comstock will be remembered as one of our most respected citizens and physicians. He was somewhat eccentric, and many anecdotes could be told of him. He was a man of strong mind and of considerable culture, both literary and professional. He could repeat the standard poets by the yard, and was at home with Virgil in the original. Ho was not remarkable for his style, either in dress or equipage. He was also a local preacher of the Methodist Church, and often supplied acceptably the pulpit of his own and other churches, in the absence of the regular preacher. He had a brother living in Michigan who often came to visit him, and who was in some respects very much like him, while in others he was very unlike. He had held the position of Chaplain to Congress at one time, and was always very sleek and well dressed, and carried a gold-headed cane. He was also a physician, and also a preacher, but of the Baptist faith, although not of the 'hard-shell' variety. I used to think of Dickens' Cheeryble Brothers whenever I saw them together. They were very much attached to each other; and our Methodist Doctor always marked with a white stone the day when his brother came to visit him. On one occasion as our Methodist Doctor was in front of his house, about getting into his old wagon for a professional tour—house, horse and wagon very much alike in their general make-up, the Baptist Doctor drove up in a splendid new 'sulky,' one of those unsocial vehicles which will hold but one. The Methodist Doctor saw him coming, took in at a glance the whole rig in such marked contrast to his own; and although longing to rush up and take his-brother by the hand, he coolly folded his arms, surveys for an instant the Baptist and his 'turn-out,' and with a merry twinkle of the eye exclaims: 'Close communion, carriage and all!'"
Troy Township is described in the Congressional survey as Town 35 north, Range 9 east of the Third Principal Meridian, and is bounded on the north, east and south by the townships of Plainfield, Joliet and Channahon, and on the west by Kendall County. It is divided into two almost equal parts by the Du Page River, which flows through it from north to south; and this stream, together with Buck Run and their branches and the Canal, constitute the water privileges in the township. The Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad passes through the southern part, and the new railroad known as the Joliet & Mendota, now being warmly agitated, will pass through by way of Grintonville, and will, probably, soon be running. The land is about three-fourths prairie; the balance, known in other States as "barrens," is covered with timber, some of which is of good quality, though the land embraced in the timber tract is not of as good a quality for corn raising as the adjoining prairie. There are some as fine farms in Troy as are to be found in Will County. D. C. Searles, Myron Spencer, James Paul, the McEvoys, W. A. Dix, Brady and others are among the model farmers of the county, and have large and well-improved farms. This is thoroughly an agricultural region, and the large amount of grain and stock produced find a ready market by means of the Illinois & Michigan Canal and by the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad, which pass through it.
Bird's Eye Bridge is on the Illinois & Michigan Canal, about five miles south of Joliet. It received its name from a man of the name of Bird, who formerly lived near the bridge, a hundred yards below the place. A grain warehouse and elevator were erected here by H. S. Carpenter, of Joliet, about the year 1867. In 1870, M. Truby purchased the establishment and remodeled it throughout, putting grain-dumps and all the modern improvements in the elevator. He conducts a general grain business under the firm name of M. Truby & Son. The elevator will store about twenty thousand bushels of grain, and the cribbing capacity is about as much more. They handle annually about two hundred thousand bushels, which they ship by canal. Recently, however, they have put in a side-track on the Rock Island Railroad, which passes within a few rods of the place, which will enable them to take advantage of the Winter markets and will necessitate much less storage. A post office was established here in 1870, and called Bird's Eye Post Office, with M. Truby as Postmaster. They get the mail over the Rock Island line, the mail-bags being thrown off daily at the side-track. Mr. Truby has erected for himself at this point a very handsome residence, costing about $3,500. The firm keep a kind of supply store for the benefit of their customers; also a pretty extensive lumber-yard. There are also shops of various kinds common to a country village.
Grintonville, or Grinton's Mill, is another little hamlet on the Du Page River, five miles from Joliet. It was regularly laid out by William Grinton and called after his name. Mr. Grinton was an early settler, and built a mill here about the year 1845. It is a three-story building, with three runs of buhrs, and is owned at present by J. I. Mather, who is doing a good business in the way of milling. It is on the Du Page River, and is run by power obtained from its waters. In addition to this, there are in the place two blacksmith-shops, one wagon-shop, one shoe-shop and two saloons. There are no stores here, but there is a fine opening for one, and it seems strange lhat the want has not been supplied long ere this. A post office was obtained for this point, but the appointee to the office of Postmaster being found ineligible—not having been naturalized—the project for a post office failed and the place is still without one.
In the early times, when much of the clothing was made at home, and the cloth from which it was cut was spun and woven there, woolen-factories or carding machines were common all over the country. Sheep were raised principally for their wool, and nearly all the product was consumed in the neighborhood. Now, a mill for the purpose of making rolls, is a novelty. The wool-picking, the carding, the spinning, the weaving, are all of the past; and even the making of the clothing, though there is a sewing machine in almost every house, is largely done by manufacturers. A factory for the purpose of converting wool into cards preparatory to spinning, was built here by the McEvoys; but for many years it has stood idle, though at one time it did an extensive business. The factory was built about 1848 or 1849. It is now owned by some of the McEvoys.
The Will County Poor Farm and Asylum is located in Troy Township. The institution is at present under the supervision of C. W. Cropsey, whose able management is highly approved by the people and the Board of Supervisors who visited it at their last session. At present, there are accommodated at the Farm forty-two paupers and nineteen insane persons. A few of these unfortunate people do a small amount of manual labor, most of them, however, being too feeble either in body or mind to be of any service. To the establishment are attached eighty acres of land. The buildings are large and comfortable, and well adapted to the purpose for which they are designed. The whole concern speaks loudly in honor of the county and its immediate management.
The township was one of the first organized in the county, being set off as a separate precinct by the Commissioners in 1849. On the 2d day of April, 1850, the first election was held. The first Supervisor was J. H. Robinson. His successors have been as follows: John McEvoy, 1852; John T. Randall, 1853; P. Rowan, 1855; G. Kinsilla, 1856; J. Dillon, 1859; N. Hull, 1861; H. W. Searles, 1863; J. Dempsey, 1865; D. C. Searles, 1868; Wm.. McEvoy, 1869; D. Murphy, 1872; D. C. Searles, 1875.
Troy Township is Democratic in politics, as it has been since the advent of the Irish, and has scarcely ever failed to give a good round majority for the candidates whose names appeared on that ticket.
As will be seen by the war history of Will County, the record of this township in that regard compares well with other sections.