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
Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
Dedicated to the Pioneers of Will County
The township of Channahon is located in tne southwest part of the county bordering on Grundy county and is known on the map of the county as town 34, range 9 east of the third principal meridian. The township is well watered, having the Desplaines and Dupage rivers passing through it. They meet a short distance east of the village and hence the town derives its name from the fact, the name meaning in the Indian language "The Meeting of the Waters," and was bestowed upon it by Judge Peek, one of the early settlers. The surface is pretty uneven and was originally well covered with timber, there being but little open prairie in it. The soil is generally good, but it is underlaid with gravel, which renders it dry and easily cultivated. There are three railroads passing through portions of the township. The Rock Island touches the western part, while the Santa Fe and the Coal City branch of the Chicago & Alton roads pass through the eastern part. The Illinois and Michigan canal also passes through the town and was formerly a great thoroughfare from Chicago to the towns west and to the Illinois river for freight traffic. But, like many other things in this transitory world, it has long since seen its best days and will doubtless soon become a relic of the past.
The first settler in the township was Joseph Shoemaker, who erected his cabin of logs at Reed's Grove, in the extreme southeastern part of the town, in the spring of 1831, or, as some have it, in 1829. He came there with his family and was a citizen of the town until about the year 1850, when he sold out there and bought a farm in the north part of the town of Wilmington. He was from Indiana and was one of the sturdy yeomanry who came to this county to provide a home for himself and family, and the venture proved an eminent success.
In 1833 Dr. Ira O. Knapp and wife and his sister came there and settled on section 8 and built the first substantial log cabin in that part of the town. His selection for a home proved a happy one, for when the canal was afterwards surveyed through the town it was located in front of his house and it was the beautiful wide water of the canal that in after years proved such an attraction and was looked upon as one of the most picturesque spots in the county. The sister of Dr. Knapp afterwards became the wife of Lyman Foster, a pioneer and for many years a most substantial citizen of Plainfield. George Tryon and his brother Russell came there the same year. They were relations of the Knapps and settled in the same neighborhood. Russell Tryon died there in 1836 and was, we think, the first death in the township. The Knapps and Tryons were from Vermont, but most of the settlers there were from New York. Dr. Knapp died January 5, 1894, and George Tryon May 30, 1896. Among these were Michael Morehouse, J. M. Fryer, Isaac Jessup, Dr. and Barant Schermerhorn, Judge Peck, Peter McCowan, Burke and Isaac Van Alstyne, Nicholas Barhuyte, Jedediah Gerry and Walter Eames.
In 1833 Seymour Treat settled on what has since been known as Treat's Island and built a saw mill upon the upper end of it. It proved a good investment and he did a good business there for many years. The logs did not cost much, but the hauling, but he got a good price for the lumber after it was sawed. Joseph McClure and Joseph Troutman settled on the east side of the river in 1833, near what has since been known as Troutman's Grove. Morehouse and Fryer came there in 1834 and built their cabins on section 17. Fryer was a stepson of Morehouse and came from the same place. Dr. Schermerhorn was a practicing physician and his son Jacob came there from Schodack, New York, in 1834. A younger son, Isaac B., came at the same time and is now living in Michigan. The doctor died some twenty years later at his home there and the son, Jacob B., died in 1861.
Isaac Jessup and his two sons, John S. and Edward H., settled there in 1834. It was quite early in the season, for they raised a good crop of corn that year. Walter Eames, Gibson Willard, John Ward, Nicholas Barhuyte and D. C. Hemphill all came the same year as the Jessups. In 1835 Judge W. B. Peck, Peter McCowan, Burke and Isaac Van Alstyne and Joseph Davis came. E. C. Fellows was also one of the newcomers there, but he did not stay long—just long enough to marry one of Judge Peck's daughters, and then they removed to the little village of Juliet and he became one of the very first lawyers there. Judge Peck died June 22, 1849. Robert Thornberg came there in 1834 and built his cabin over in the east part of the township near the Jackson town line. Michael Long came in 1837 and settled upon the bluff some two miles northeast of the town, and near the Desplaines river. He died there in 1881. Daniel Bailey built his cabin in the east part of the town in 1838 and George W. McClure and William F. Moore in 1841.
Charles C. Smith, one of the best known and most substantial men the town ever possessed, was a son of Barton Smith, long a well known resident of Joliet. The family came from Indiana in 1837. Charles followed the business of peddling for several years, but in 1845 purchased a large tract of land on the east side of the river and there built his home. He was ever the leading man in all the substantial interests of the town and was often elected to office, filling every position to which he was called with the most consummate ability, honesty and integrity. He died at his home in that town January 27, 1892.
John T. Randall, another of the reliable as well as substantial men, came there in 1854 and started a general store and also a brickyard about a mile west of the river, on the road to Dresden. He built a handsome brick residence on his farm east of town in 1857 and that was his home until his death, November 30, 1882. He was supervisor of his town for several years and held other offices of trust and confidence, discharging all duties and obligations with fidelity.
A Rev. Mr. Perry came to the town in 1836 and not only preached the first sermons heard there, but he was the first school teacher there. He did not remain, however, but about a year.
George B. Davis was among those who came to the town in 1846. He settled north of it on land adjoining that of Dr. Knapp.
Stephen Glidden was a settler there in 1848. He settled up at Treat's Island and lived there many years, but later removed to the Perry farm, east of the village, where he died January 5, 1900.
The first of the sad occurrences in the town was the death of Jedediah Eames, who was killed by lightning in the summer of 1836.
The first post-office established there was in 1836 and Judge Peck was the first postmaster.
The first school house was built in 1837 on section 8. It was a frame building, one of the very first erected there.
The first road laid out through the town passed through the southwest corner of the town and the first bridge was over the Dupage, on section 18. It was of logs and was rather a rough affair.
The township was first organized in 1850 and George Tryon was the first supervisor.
VILLAGE OF CHANNAHON.
The village was one of the canal towns and was laid out by Mirvin Benjamin in 1845 and was then called Dupage. The village is beautifully located, between high bluffs and on level ground. It stands on the north bank of the Dupage river, the Illinois and Michigan canal, which passes through the village, crosses the river there. It was formerly quite a large village, but the disadvantage of railroad communication injured it greatly and it has gradually dwindled to about one-half of its former size. Soon after the village was laid out Mr. Benjamin built a substantial dwelling house, which was used for several years as a hotel. In 1852 Henry Henderson came there and erected quite a large hotel below the road that crosses the Dupage river in the village, but the river got on a rampage in the spring of 1857, broke through the road and started Henderson's hotel for the Desplaines river and thence down the Illinois, and there has been no hotel in the village since that time. About the same time that Henderson built his hotel there was great activity in the village for building. Joseph Lewis built a large warehouse upon the bank of the canal, several stores and the only church in the village were erected about that time. It was a Methodist church and has served the society as a place for religious services since that time.
Mr. Lewis also erected a small grist mill between the canal and river that did a thriving business for many years. Three or four stores and quite a number of dwellings were erected in the early fifties, but many of them have now gone to decay.
After the village was laid out the name was changed to Channahon and such it has ever since been called. The first school house built, in 1837, was replaced by the village in 1858 by a large and substantial edifice, erected on the same ground, but it was destroyed by fire in 1868, when the present handsome edifice was erected. The building is built in modern style and is well supplied with every appliance for teaching. The school taught there is a graded, with a high school department and is one of the best conducted schools, in the county.
The Masonic fraternity has one of the best managed and well conducted lodges in the state. A dispensation was granted the brethren there to open a lodge in the village in the spring of 1858 and on October 6th of that year a charter was issued by the grand lodge to it as Channahon Lodge No. 262 and soon after the lodge was constituted and the following officers elected: Isaac B. Schermerhorn, Worshipful Master; Thomas E. Willard, Senior Warden; John T. Randall, Junior Warden; Edward H. Jessup, Treasurer; John S. Jessup, Secretary; Jacob B. Schermerhorn, Senior Deacon; Elijah E. Bates, Junior Deacon, and Samuel Adams, Tyler. The above constituted the entire membership of the lodge at the time it was chartered, but the ensuing year the following became members: Caleb Fowler, Joseph N. Fryer, Charles C. Smith, Nelson Bedford, Chauncy Bradford, and Robert H. Walker. Soon after the lodge was started money was raised and a substantial building was erected for the use of the lodge. Some years later the building was destroyed by fire and then a larger building was erected to take the place of the one destroyed. The lodge is now in a flourishing condition, with a well filled treasury and a large membership for so small a village. The past year particularly has been one of unprecedented prosperity. The retiring Worshipful Master, George J. W. Eib having conferred the degrees upon no less than fifteen candidates during the year. The present officers of the lodge are: B. T. Harley, Worshipful Master; Frederick MeClintock, Senior Warden; Sinclair L. Cavender, Junior Warden; Albert T. Randall, Treasurer, and C. R. Hubert, Secretary.
Before closing this history of the village we must allude briefly to some of the well known citizens of the place of some fifty years ago.
Elijah E. Bates was a blacksmith who came there in 1856 and the village was his home until his death, April 1, 1889.
Captain Nelson Bedford was another of the good men of the village. Some years later he removed to a farm on the south side of the river, where he died August 15, 1882.
Caleb Fowler and wife were well known, worthy citizens of the village. Mr. Fowler died February 13, 1896, and Mrs. Fowler August 26, 1891.
Joseph N. Fryer was another well known resident whose home was on the bluff northeast of the village. He was supervisor of his town from the year 1866 to the time of his death, February 19, 1889.
Chauncy Bradford was then a well known resident of the village and a clerk in the store of Joseph Lewis, whose daughter he afterwards married. They are now among the worthy citizens of Joliet.
Allen P. Carpenter, whose farm lies on the east bank of the canal at the upper end of the wide water, still has his home there, although stopping in Chicago for the present.
Ephraim West, George Hutchins and Stephen O. Bedford, then but boys there, are now staid, worthy citizens of the village and it is hoped that a good Providence will continue their sojourn there for long years to come.
Albert T. Randall is a son of the late John T. Randall of Channahon, and came to the county with his parents from the state of New York in 1849. They first settled in Troy township and lived there five years, when they removed to Channahon, which was his home until the breaking out of the Civil war, when he and two of his brothers, Oscar T. and Joseph R., enlisted in the service of their country and served with much distinction through the war. Mr. Randall is now a merchant of Channahon, a highly respected and worthy citizen.
THE SCHOOLS OF CHANNAHON.
Number of pupils enrolled in 1906, 213
Number of school districts, 5
Number of teachers, 7
Number of graded schools, 1
Number of ungraded schools, 4
Number of pupils enrolled in 1876, 395
Loss in thirty years, 182