This was one of the first of the townships in the county to be settled, if not the very first. It is said that Rev. Jesse Walker, better known to the pioneers of the county as “Father Walker,” established an Indian mission upon the bank of the Dupage river, in what has since been known as Walker’s Grove, in 1826, and that he made his home there until 1831, a period of five years.
Father Walker was an itinerant Methodist preacher, whose home was always where he did his work, and as it is an established fact that he went there about that time, and remained there for the most of the time for the next five years, it may be regarded as a fact that the township was settled at that time. Father Walker was a native of Virginia and was born in that state in 1766. He first came to Illinois in 1806 in company with William McKendree, to look at the country, and, being highly pleased with it, resolved to make it his future field of labor. At the next meeting of his conference he was transferred at his own request to what was then called the Indiana conference, Illinois then being a part of Indiana. He returned from his conference to his home and commenced at once to prepare for the journey, and in twenty-four hours they were on their way to the far west. The journey had to be made on horseback, and it required four horses—one for himself, one for his wife and youngest daughter, one for an older daughter, a girl of sixteen, and the fourth one carried a stock of books, which are always a part of a Methodist preachers outfit. Father Walker had received but a very limited education, and yet he became an able and efficient preacher of Christianity in the Illinois country. He was a missionary among the Indians, and it was in that capacity that he came to Plainfield in 1826, where was then and for several years later an Indian village. In 1829 he had charge of the Desplaines mission and formed the first class at Walker’s Grove. His first claim for land was made in 1828 and his cabin was erected the spring following. He died October 5, 1835, at his home, twelve miles west of the Chicago river, on the Desplaines river, and was buried near his old home in Plainfield. James Walker, a son-in-law of Father Jesse Walker, was from Tennessee, who first located at Ottawa, but came to Walker’s Grove with his father-in-law in 1829. He brought with him a horsepower sawmill, which he set up at once and went to work with it. He was a man of ability, one of the first commissioners of the county when it was formed in 1836, and when the Sac war broke out was made commander of Fort Beggs, a rude stockade erected at the Grove. Rev. Stephen R. Beggs was another veteran Methodist preacher, and an early settler in the township. He came there in 1831 and settled on the place that was his home for more than fifty years. He was born in Rockingham county, Virginia, in 1801 and when but four years old his father removed to Kentucky, where he remained two years, and then settled in Clarke county, Indiana, on the Ohio river, seventeen miles above the falls. At an early age he entered the ministry and became an itinerant Methodist preacher, his labors for several years extending through Indiana, Missouri and Illinois, until finally he settled in Plainfield in 1831. He labored in the different townships in the county, as he was called upon to do so by the local societies, until 1836, he was appointed to the Joliet circuit and commenced the work of building the first Methodist church, also the first Methodist church in Joliet, as noticed in our history of that township. During the Sac war his house was reconstructed into a fort or stockade, and named “Fort Beggs.” It was a very good fort, but when all the people got into it and the alarms of the Indian uprising increased, it was considered unsafe and a retreat was ordered to Fort Dearborn. Captain James Walker was in command, and there being only teams enough to carry the people, all else was left to the mercy and rapacity of the natives. The war, however, was soon over, and all returned to their homes.
In the summer of 1830 Reuben Flagg, a native of Vermont, came to the township with his family. He arrived at the settlement on the 9th of July, having been two months on the road. At that time Chicago consisted of about a dozen houses, mostly those of traders and halfbreeds. From Detroit he was accompanied by Jedediah Wooley, Sr. When Mr. Flagg reached the Grove he found four families settled there. He hauled a load of lumber to Chicago from Walker’s Grove saw mill to build the first frame house there.
Timothy B. Clarke, from Trumbull county, Ohio, came to the township in 1830. He came to Illinois in 1820 and settled in Tazewell county, remaining eight years, then he went to Peoria, remaining two years, when he removed to near Ottawa, where he made a claim. This he soon after sold and came to Plainfield. There he remained four years, when he sold out and removed to near Barbers Corners, in Dupage township. He was a carpenter and builder by trade and erected the first frame house in Chicago. In that house the Indians were paid off before leaving for their new homes towards the setting sun. Mr. Clarke died at his son’s, the late Barrett B. Clarke, in Dupage township, in 1848. Mr. Barrett B. Clarke was sixteen years old when he removed with his father to Plainfield, in 1830, and remembered very distinctly the Indian troubles. He served in Captain Walker’s company in the Black Hawk war, but that company soon disbanded, and then he enlisted in Captain Sisson’s company.
Thomas Covel came there from Ohio in 1830, and made a claim near the present village of Plainfield, remaining sometime, when he sold out and went elsewhere to find a home. John Cooper, a brother-in-law of Charles, also came there in 1830 from Ohio. He remained a few years and then sold out and removed to Iowa. James Gilson, another new settler, came there the same year from Tennessee. He was a gunsmith and had a shop on his farm near the settlement, and for a while did quite a business in his line. But he was of a roving disposition and he also went to Iowa.
In 1832 several came there from New York, among them being John and Benjamin Shurtliff and Jedediah Wooley, Sr. Wooley soon sold his claim to Rev. Beggs and improved another farm on the east side of the Grove, on which he lived several years, and then sold out and removed to Troy township.
Benjamin Richardson was a native of Bennington, Vermont. He settled there in 1834 and went to work at his trade, that of a chair maker. The following year he removed to Joliet and there was his home until his death in 1869.
Jonathan Hagar was born in the city of Quebec and when ten years of age his parents removed to Vermont, where he resided until 1829, when he came west and settled in Michigan. In 1835 he came to Plainfield. The village had been laid out by Chester Ingersoll the year previous and contained, on Mr. Hagar’s arrival, a blacksmith shop, a tailor shop, wagon shop, two taverns and one or two other houses. Mr. Hagar was one of the first merchants in the village, and was for many years one of the most active and enterprising men there. He died in Plainfield November 16, 1879.
Jason Flanders was a native of New Hampshire, and settled in the township in 1834. He was a highly respected and useful citizen and died at his home in Plainfield about thirty years ago.
Several of Plainfield’s best citizens came from New England. The following were from Vermont, who settled in the township between the years 1832 and 1836: Lorin Burdick, S. S. Pratt, Oliver Goss, Thomas Rickey, Ezra Goodhue, and Hardy Metcalf. Mr. Burdick was a man of exalted character, and a most enterprising citizen. He was a soldier in the war of 1812 and one of the heroes of the battle of Plattsburgh. He died August 3, 1878. Mr. Goodhue settled there in 1832. He entered land about a mile northeast of the village, on the Chicago road. He died in 1856. Goss came there in 1834 and entered a claim just south of the village, where he died in 1842. Metcalf came in 1835, entered a claim, but soon after sold out and went away. Mr. Pratt settled there the same year, and was a resident of the village for many years. Mr. Rickey settled in 1834 in the village and died there some ten years later.
In 1832 quite a number of new settlers came to the township from Massachusetts. Among them were William Bradford, David Chester and Enoch Smith, Chester Ingersoll, John Bill and J. E. Mathews. The Smiths did not remain there long. David died soon after coming there. Chester sold out and went to Wisconsin to live, and no one knew what became of Enoch. Chester Ingersoll lived there until after the Sac war. He laid out the south part of the village into lots, sold the lots and then entered other lands three miles northeast of the village. There he improved a large farm, but sold it and went to California in 1849.
Mr. Bill was a wagon maker, the very first of the kind in the township. He entered land a short distance outside the village, where he lived until 1875, when he removed to Maryland, where he died soon after. Mr. Mathews made a claim up the river just above the present village, and built a mill which was in use for many years. He went to Oregon several years later. John Fish was a pioneer of 1833. He was from Indiana, but did not remain in the township long. Edmund Reed was a native of Kentucky. He settled in the township in 1834 and remained there several years, but finally sold out and went to Racine, Wisconsin. W. W. Wattles came there from Chicago in 1833 and bought out Timothy B. Clark, but some years later sold out and removed up north of Chicago.
For several years after its settlement, the township was known only as Walker’s Grove. In fact, it was near the year 1836 that it began to be called Plainfield. From its earliest settlement the township was a favored place for the pioneer to locate. The soil was superior to the soil in most of the townships in the county, and the early settlers were nearly all of a superior class of people to what the immigrants were in some localities. Its fine streams of water and beautiful grove were attractions that could hardly be resisted in the selection of a home, while the excellent and well drained prairie was just the place for the agriculturist to locate his farm and make the improvements necessary for his future comfort, and that of his family. The township is well watered. The Dupage river, one of the finest streams in the state, passes through it from north to south, while the Lilli Cashe, a small stream that is formed almost wholly in the township, runs due south and empties into the Dupage on section 27. The Elgin, Joliet & Eastern railroad, from Joliet to Aurora, passes through the township, as also does the Joliet, Plainfield & Aurora electric railway, so that the township has ample provision for traffic, both freight and passenger. The old Indian boundary line, the northern one, also passes through it from northeast to southwest.
One of the first great enterprises in the county was the building of the Oswego & Northern Indiana plank road, in 1851. Plainfield was the northwestern terminus of the road, and it proved to be of great benefit to the village as well as the township. It was a thoroughfare, a great highway for the people of the village and township for transportation to Chicago, by way of canal and railroad at Joliet, and thus greatly helped the township in its development and progress.
The first white child born in the township, and perhaps in the county, was Samantha E. Flagg, the daughter of Reuben Flagg. She was born September 9, 1830. The first death was that of Albert Clarke, a son of Timothy B. Clarke, in 1831. The first marriage was that of James Turner and Miss Watkins, in 1831, Rev. Beggs being the officiating clergyman. The first physician to practice medicine in the township was Dr. E. G. Wight. He came from Massachusetts and settled in Naperville, and the township was included in the circuit of his practice. In 1847 he removed to Plainfield and died there in 1865. The first resident physician was Dr. Charles V. Dyer, who came there in 1835. He, however, only remained until the following spring, when he removed to Chicago in search for a larger field for his practice. In that city Dr. Dyer proved to be one of the greatest physicians and surgeons in the whole northwest. The first blacksmith was John Shurtliff, who opened a shop there in 1833, and did what work the settlement needed in his line. The first bridge was one over the Dupage river in the village. It was a rough wooden structure, but served its purpose for many years. We have already alluded to the first mills in the township and will not, therefore, repeat them here.
The first school was taught in the winter of 1833-34, in a small log school, house with a stick chimney, similar in all respects to those described in other townships. The children, however, minded but little the building they occupied. They could study their old elementary spelling book or read from their old English Reader quite as well there as in more modern structures. The schools of the townships have, of course, greatly increased and improved since that day. There are now eleven school districts in the township, and all are provided with modern, well built school buildings, and these are supplied with the best teachers the country affords. In fact, there are no better schools in the county than in Plainfield. The township was organized in 1850, under the general law for the organization of townships, and Leander Hamlin was elected the first supervisor. The population of the township at the last census was 1795, and the vote at the last general election 516.
History of the Village of Plainfield Illinois
The village is one of the most pleasantly located of any in the county. Chester Ingersoll laid out the south part and one Squire Arnold laid out the north part. James Walker built the first cabin on the site of the village before it was laid out, and Mr. Ingersoll built the first house in the village. Mr. Arnold erected the first tavern. It was on the regular stage route from Chicago to Ottawa, and half way between the two places, and it proved to be a good place for taverns. “Uncle” Fenner Aldrich of Joliet kept one there for several years. The first store was opened by Jonathan Hagar and Samuel Sargent in the second story of John Bill’s wagon shop. The year following they erected a store building which they occupied for many years.
The village was incorporated under a special act of the Legislature, February 23, 1861, but this included the north part of the village only. So, in 1869, another act was passed, which included both parts of the village, and June 30, 1877, it was incorporated under the general law of the state. The first postoffice was established in Plainfield in 1833, and it was there that the people of Joliet used to go after their mail. In 1835, however, things were changed somewhat, and a postoffice was established in Juliet and Dr. Bowen appointed postmaster.
Plainfield has often been designated as the “Village of Churches,” and for so small a place it certainly is well supplied with them. It was there that the gospel was first preached in the county, by Father Walker, and it was there, in 1829, that he formed the first religious society or class in the county, the members of which were Rev. Jesse Walker and wife, James Walker and wife, Mr. Fish and wife, Timothy B. Clarke and wife, and Mr. Weed and wife. The first place of worship built at Plainfield was that of the Methodists, and it was erected in 1836. It was rather a small, plain affair, but it answered its purpose for many years. In 1868 the society erected a fine, large stone structure at a cost of $22,000. It was dedicated by Bishop Simpson.
A Baptist society was organized there in 1834 and Rev. J. E. Ambrose was the first pastor. The original members were Leonard Moore and wife, Rebecca Curman, Thomas Rickey and wife, and Albert B. Hubbard. In the fall of 1836 the first church building was erected at a cost of $2,500. The present church edifice was erected in 1850, and was dedicated by Rev. Charles Button, Rev. A. D. Freeman being the first pastor of the new church building.
The Congregational society was organized in 1834 by Rev. N. C. Clarke. The first members were James Mathers and wife, Deacon Ezra Goodhue and wife, Andrew Carrier and wife, and Oliver Goss and wife. The first regular pastor of the church was Rev. Alfred Greenwood. The first place of worship was erected in 1850 and dedicated in June, 1851.
The Universalists built their church in 1868 at an expense of $6,000. It was dedicated by Rev. W. S. Balch of Galesburg and Rev. Mr. Howland was the first pastor. The Evangelical church was erected in 1855 at a cost of $3,000. It was dedicated by Rev. Mr. Tobias, presiding elder, and the first pastor was Rev. John Kramer. It has a fair sized congregation and a good Sunday school.
The village has had several newspapers. Some of them were published in the village and some elsewhere. The only paper published there now is the Enterprise, by Mr. Blakely.
The Masonic fraternity have a lodge in the village. It was chartered October 1, 1867, as Plainfield Lodge, No. 536, A. F. & A. M. The first set of officers of the lodge were: John Willis, W. M.; Edward McAllester, S. W.; George Niver, J. W.; C. S. Stranahan, treasurer; G. N. Chittenden, secretary; C. Hoag, S. D.; J. D. Shreffler, J. D.; and Ira Vanolinda, Tyler.
The present officers are: Charles Reeves, W. M.; R. B. Andrus, S. W.; M. L. Spangler, J. W.; P. W. Spangler, treasurer; F. R. Pilcher, J. S.; Dr. J. P. Browne, secretary; C. C. Whipple, S. D.; Henry Green, J. D.; William Cain, S. S.: R. B. Graves, Tyler.
TOWNSHIP AND VILLAGE SCHOOLS.
Number of pupils enrolled in 1906, 445 Number of school districts, 7 Number of teachers, 14 Number of graded schools, 1 Number of ungraded schools, 6 Number of pupils enrolled in 1876, 340 Gain in thirty years, 105.
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.