This township, one of the largest in the county, is now the smallest. From 1860 to 1875 it included in its boundaries all of Custer township, including its own. It now has but eighteen sections, or just one-half of an ordinary township. It was called Clinton at first by the county commissioners, but when the supervisors met for the first time in 1850 they changed the name to Reed, in honor of one of the early settlers.
The land is very level, smooth prairie, with very little timber, and what there is is of small, scattering growth. There are no streams of water in it of much size, but water is obtained abundantly at a depth of twenty-five to forty feet. The land is poor generally, the soil being thin and of poor quality for agricultural purposes. The poor quality of land and the scarcity of timber in the township were a serious drawback to its early settlement. The pioneer of the township, so far as the records show, was James Curnun, a native of Ireland, who came there in 1850. P. Kilgore, also a native of the Emerald Isle, came there a year or two later and settled on section 4, in the northeast corner of the township, but he soon became discouraged and sold out in 1855 to Frank and Thomas O’Reilly, Patrick and James Dwyer, William Street, Timothy Keene and Dennis Glenny—all came there in the early fifties. These were about all that settled in the township until the discovery of coal there in 1865. That was the great event that made all the land owners in the township wealthy and built up a city upon the heretofore almost valueless land of at least five thousand inhabitants. In 1864 William Henneberry, when digging a well, first discovered the coal. It was at the depth of about eighty feet and proved to be of a fine quality. A shaft was sunk in 1865 and the coal brought to the surface. Excitement then prevailed and land that had been a drug on the market at ten dollars an acre was sold readily for a hundred or more dollars an acre. Companies were formed and more shafts sunk and it was found that coal underlaid the whole township as it is now constituted.
History of the City of Braidwood Illinois
A city was laid out over the coal mines and was named Braidwood in honor of James Braidwood, a native of Scotland, who came there in 1865 and was one of the most energetic of the leading spirits in the development and building up of the coal industries there. He assisted in the sinking of the first shafts and in 1872 organized a coal company which was named the Braidwood company. As we have stated, the city was laid out over the coal mines and the buildings erected, with but one or two exceptions, were all of frame, so that the settling of the surface as the coal was mined underneath would do but little damage to them. The city continued to grow for many years as the new mines were opened until it became the leading city of the county outside of Joliet. The coal was called the “Wilmington Coal,” and as such it has a high market value in Chicago and all through the western country. The city was incorporated in 1873 and it had then a population of at least two thousand persons, nine-tenths of whom at least were foreigners.
In the meantime churches were erected in different parts of the city, school houses and stores built and prosperity everywhere prevailed. Hundreds of miners were constantly employed in the mines and the amount of coal raised each day was enormous. Accidents in the mines were frequent and many lives lost by the caving in of the earth upon the workmen. But the most appalling disaster occurred February 16, 1883, when a large body of water broke through into the Diamond mine and drowned some seventy-five of the miners.
The city is well supplied with churches, there being six of them, the Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, Episcopal, Congregational, Primitive and Colored Methodists.
The city is now on the decline and it will soon be a city of the past. The coal under the site of it has all been mined and brought to the surface and there is now nothing to sustain it. The buildings are fast going to decay or being removed to other localities and there is not now one-half as many inhabitants as there were twenty years ago.
The Masonic fraternity is well represented in the city and takes a lively interest in the work of the order. The lodge was constituted as Braidwood Lodge, No. 704, on October 8, 1873, and the following installed as the first officers: Alex Patterson, Worshipful Master; Ira R. Marsh, Senior Warden; Egbert W. Felton, Junior Warden, and the following as charter members: Robert Dunlap, Isaac and C. Zeigler, William Campbell, John B. Barrett, E. Davison, W. H. Watson, Thomas Ferguson, John and David Skinner, William Chalmers, Robert Harrap, John Broadbent and William White.
The present officers of the lodge are Nye Prentis Keys, Worshipful Master; James Barrowman, Senior Warden; John Henry Hardy, Junior Warden; James August Smith, Treasurer; James William Patterson, Secretary; Albert Henry Wheaton, Chaplain; Frank Marion Maltby, Senior Deacon; Joseph Henry Hurst, Junior Deacon; Andrew Brown, Marshal; A. D. Miller, Organist; James McArthur, Tyler.
The following is the condition of the schools in the township, including the west part of Custer township:
Number of pupils enrolled in 1906, 845 Number of school districts, 7 Number of teachers, 20 Number of graded schools, 4 Number of ungraded schools, 6 Number of pupils enrolled in 1876, 1,188 Loss in thirty years, 343.