This township had not a white inhabitant until after the trouble with the Indians was over. There were settlements to the east over in Crete, and to the northwest up in Frankfort, but the township of Carey, as Monee and Will were then called, could not boast of a single white man until the year 1833. During that year John S. Dilly, John M. Chase, S. W. Cooper, S. W. Gaines, Nicholas Young and Aaron Bonnell came into the township from Ohio, and they constituted the pioneer settlers of the township. There was but one grove of timber in the township, and that was raccoon timber, in the southwest part of it. Thorn Grove bordered the township on the northeast, but it was all or nearly all located over the line in Crete township, hence there was not the timber attraction there that other towns possessed that became settled earlier.
These first settlers entered their claims and built their cabins in the vicinity of Thorn Grove, but over the line in Monee township, and thus became settlers there. The settlement was a notable one, for every one of the original pioneers there were excellent citizens, who had come to the township to secure for themselves and families permanent homes. S. W. Cooper was a most excellent man and citizen and served his township well and faithfully in the several offices he was called upon from time to time to fill. He was the first supervisor of the township, when it was called Carey, and was ever foremost in the development and improvement of his township. He died some twenty years ago.
S. W. Gaines was another excellent citizen and rendered material aid in the improvement of the settlement. He was thrifty and accumulated a very handsome property, which he lived to enjoy until he reached a ripe old age. John M. Chase was the first justice of the township and erected the first dwelling house there. He, however, sold out after a few years’ residence and returned to Ohio. Aaron Bonnell and sons lived there for several years and then sold out and removed to the southern part of the state.
The year following the first settlement, William H. Newton came there from New York and settled in the same neighborhood. He acquired a large property, which he left to his son, William H. Newton, Jr., to enjoy. Otis Phillips was also from New York, and came in 1835. He remained several years and then sold out and went to Wisconsin. He was the first school teacher there, a school having been established soon after his advent into the settlement. J. E. Phillips came in 1836 from his native state of New York and settled with the rest at Thorn Grove. He was a very worthy, influential citizen and proved quite a valuable addition to the settlement. William Kinney was another of the new comers that year. He was fond of hunting and spent much of his time in the sport. And perhaps the same may be said with equal truth of nearly all of the early settlers. Game was plenty and a good share of this means subsistence was obtained by the rifle. Thorn Grove and that vicinity was one of the best places for game in the whole county, and venison, wild turkey and chickens were so plentiful as to be of little or no value to the pioneers, but when they came to want tea, coffee, spices or sugar, they were hardly obtainable at any price. In fact, they were not often kept on sale at the stores, and it was only on rare occasions they could be procured at all. The same was also true regarding the better qualities of wearing apparel. Silks and broadcloths were not kept at the stores at all, and it was seldom that a pair of gloves could be obtained at any price. Their homes were also of the rudest construction. They were of but one story, seldom more than one room, built of logs, with perhaps not a nail or piece of iron in the whole structure. And yet every crevice was so daubed and plastered with mud that with a big fire in the great fireplace, that filled nearly one end of the cabin, they were quite comfortable even in the coldest weather.
It was the universal custom of the early pioneer to build his cabin in or near the timber, but when that had all been taken and occupied, they began to move out on the prairie, and it was soon learned that for almost everything, except fuel, the prairie was the best place to live. The land was better and much drier, especially in wet weather. The soil in the timber was almost invariably clay, and it retained the moisture much longer than did the light, porous soil of the prairie.
From 1837 to 1850 but few settlers came into the township. The panic, as it was called in 1837, nearly put a stop to all immigration, and many who had settled in the county sold out for what they could get and went elsewhere. But about the latter year several came to the township. Among them being John S. Holland, Stephen, Jacob and James Goodenow, George Emerson and Minot E. Baker, A. J. Smith, Eugene Lashley, August Klein and Simeon Abbott. Of these, some remained and others sold out after a few years and removed elsewhere. A. J. Smith died there in 1855. Lashley remained a few years, and then went to Douglas county, Illinois. Stephen Goodenow died June 29, 1888, in Monee Village, and the rest removed from the township.
In 1854 the Illinois Central railroad was completed through the western part of the township and a station established on section 21 of the township. Up to that time there had been neither postoffice or store there. The station, when established and laid out was named Monee. although the township was still named Carey, and it was not until 1859, when Carey was divided into two townships, and that at the north was named Monee to correspond with the name of the station.
We have already alluded to the first school taught in the township. From that small beginning schools have been established all over the whole township, and good schools built for the accommodation of the many pupils. The school in the village is a graded one, with a very fine school building, and is supplied with as good teachers as in any part of the county. The population of the township in 1900 was 1,215 and the vote 298.
History of the Village of Monee
The village was laid out in 1853, though but little building was done there until the year following, when the railroad was completed and timber brought there from Chicago. Then the village took on a boom that soon made it by far the most populous part of the whole township. August Herbert came there in 1849 and located the land on which the village was platted, and Henry M. Ward laid out the village for Mr. Herbert. He had been a soldier in the Mexican war, and when he was discharged he was given a land warrant for one hundred and sixty acres of land, to be located by him on any government land not already taken. He located his warrant on the southeast quarter of that section, and when the railroad was built it went along beside his land, so that he could plat a part of it for village purposes. The principal part of the village is on the land platted for him. He built the first house in the village, and about that time he was elected a justice of the peace of his township, and built an office opposite the rail road station, which he occupied for several years. He also built in partnership with others the first grain warehouse in the village and also a store building, in which he opened a general store, the first one in the township. Among other early settlers of the village were Adam Vatter, Bronson Wehrli, and Theodore Wernig. Vatter was the first carpenter, Wehrli the first blacksmith, and Wernig the first physician. Laban Easterbrooks, a native of Rhode Island, was among the early settlers of the village. He was a carpenter by trade, but his natural shrewdness and ability soon brought him to the front rank among the villagers and he was elected a justice of the peace, and when the village was incorporated, in 1874, he was elected the first police magistrate, and was continued in the office until his death, August 11, 1896.
A post office was established in the village in the fall of 1853, and O. B. Dutton was the postmaster. The first school was built in the village in 1854, and Margaret Wilson was engaged as the first teacher.
Several warehouses have been erected in the village for the storage of grain. Among them one by August Shifter in 1865. One by Miller and Herbert in 1867, and one by F. Leuhrs in 1872.
Among other leading men not above mentioned who came to the village at an early date were Simon Miller, John and William Kohlsted, Christopher Schoenstedt, Charles Plagge, William F. Hutchinson, C. Koepke, Edo R. Freese, Adam Sachs, Philip Vollmar and August Kettering.
Simon Miller was for many years a leading merchant and business man of the village, and was for several terms the president of the board of trustees. He died July 3, 1902. John Kohlsted was the supervisor from his township for sixteen years, and served it with credit and ability. He is still a business man of the village, and highly respected citizen. Mr. Schoenstedt has retired from active business, having accumulated sufficient property to keep himself and family from all want for many years. Mr. Plagge has also retired and left the business to his sons, who now occupy the old stand. Mr. Hutchinson was for many years a business man of the village, and for several terms he was principal of the village school. Some fifteen years ago he removed to Joliet, where he had been appointed assistant county clerk under H. H. Stassen, and eight years ago he was elected county clerk, holding the office four years, and was then elected probate clerk, from which office he was recently retired, and is now enjoying a long needed rest as a citizen of the city. Mr. Koepke is now living a retired life in the village, with an income that will save him from future want. Mr. Freese has been the supervisor of his township for several terms and is still the incumbent of that office. He is one of the active business men of the village, and one of its leading and most respected citizens.
There are several churches in the village, the leading one being the Lutheran. It was organized there in 1857 by Rev. William
, and a very fine house of worship erected in 1858. The congregation now consists of over one hundred families. The Congregational church is located in the north part of the village, and was erected in 1866. A Methodist church building was erected in 1868 in the west part of the village. The membership is small, still it is in a fairly flourishing condition. The German Catholic church was organized in 1866, and a house of worship erected two years later. It is occupied for service but a portion of the time.
The Schools of Monee Township
- Number of pupils enrolled in 1906, 199
- Number of school districts, 7
- Number of teachers, 11
- Number of graded schools, 1
- Number of ungraded schools, 6
- Number of pupils enrolled in 1876, 324
- Loss in thirty years, 125
Source: Past and Present of Will County, Illinois, by W. W. Stevens, President of the Will County Pioneers Association; assisted by an Advisory Board, consisting of Hon. James G. Elwood, James H. Ferriss, William Grinton, Mrs. Kate Henderson and A. C. Clement; Illustrated; Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1907. Dedicated to the Pioneers of Will County.