The “war of the races” came to a crisis in 1832. Probably no year in the history of Illinois has been more eventful than the one named. Certainly, no year has brought so much anxiety and excitement to Northern and Northwestern Illinois, as did the year 1832. Previous to this time, it is true, there was considerable unrest and fear experienced by the inhabitants from their red neighbors, the Indians. Though to all outward appearances they were on friendly terms, yet the farmers, conscious that they were encroaching on the assumed rights of the others, and knowing full well their treacherous dispositions and their sensitiveness on the subject, were all the while apprehensive of trouble. During the year named, all their forebodings and much more were realized. Black Hawk and his allies had been wrought up to such a pitch, that neither threats nor promises by the Government or the State would longer avail, and war between the two races seemed inevitable. The State and nation were prompt to deal with the belligerents, but not until a number of wholesale butcheries had been perpetrated were the Indians brought into subjection and removed from the State. In the mean time, though no actual demonstration occurred in this section, yet all were in such a state of suspense and anxiety that the county was for a time entirely deserted, some going to the nearest fortifications for protection, and others returning to the East to be out of harm’s way until the trouble might blow over. After peace and order had been restored, those who for a time had left their pioneer homes returned, bringing with them many new settlers. Among the number who emigrated to this county soon after the close of the troubles alluded to, were a number of families from Ohio. John S. Dilly, John M. Chase, S. W. Cooper, S. W. Gaines, Nicholas Young and Aaron Bonell, were the original and first settlers of Monee Township, and, like all early emigrants from the heavily timbered regions of the East, sought the neighborhood of the little groves, found here and there throughout this part of the State. All of these men, with their families, settled in the northeastern part of the township, in the vicinity of Thorn Grove. A notable feature of many pioneer settlements is the rough character of its members. Many early settlers have been people who, having been reduced in means and character in their original dwelling-places, have fled to a strange and new country, in the hope of recuperating their fortunes, and either to run away from their characters or reform their doubtful habits. Then, too, in a new country, the restraining influences of church and society, added to which may be counted that of the law, are much less felt than the older settled sections. But this settlement seems to have been a notable exception to the rule, every man of the primary settlement proving himself worthy of the name of a “good citizen.” Indeed, one of the number bore the title of Parson, and as such ministered to the people in things spiritual, while he at the same time cultivated the soil. Of these old pioneers only two still remain. The rest are all gone to other parts, or have departed to that “bourn from which no traveler returns.” S. W. Cooper still resides on the old place. He has from the first been ranked as one of the soundest men in the township, and as such has enjoyed the respect and confidence of his fellow-citizens to an unlimited degree. He was the first Supervisor of the township when the two townships now denominated Moriee and Will were a single precinct, and were known as Carey. S. W. Gaines is the other survivor. Whatever can be said of a man of good reputation also attaches to his name. He has accumulated a handsome property, and now enjoys the fruits of his hard toil and early hardships incident to a pioneer life.
John M. Chase is credited with building the first house in the township. Chase was a well-to-do farmer, and a man who enjoyed the confidence of his neighbors, as witnessed by his election to the office of Justice of the Peace and several other honors conferred upon him. However, he did not remain here long enough to merit the title of permanent resident, but sold out his improvements after a few years’ residence and returned to Ohio.
Aaron Bonell and sons continued to reside here for a number of years, and then removed to the southern part of the State. Dilly and Young are both dead. Young was the preacher alluded to. After his death, the balance of the family all removed further West.
In 1834, William Hollis Newton came from the State of New York. He is also dead. He was a good citizen, and was well liked by all who knew him. W. H. Newton, Jr., is one of the wealthiest men in the township, and enjoys the reputation of being the model farmer in this portion of the country. His residence, with the numerous houses and barns for poultry, stock, grain and tools, almost equals the number found in a respectable-sized village.
Otis Phillips was also from New York, but came a year after Newton. He lived here several years and then removed to Wisconsin, where he has since died. He is, without doubt, entitled to the honor of being the pioneer educator, as he taught the first school established in this part of the grove. J. E. Phillips, now residing near the village of Monee, came from New York the next year1836and settled at Thorn Grove. Mr. Phillips has proved to be one of the reliable citizens of this section, and has been as intimately associated with all of the events transpiring in this vicinity as any other man; and to him we are, in a great measure, indebted for whatever may be valuable in this narrative. The same year, came from Ohio, William Kinney. He was a farmer, in moderate circumstances, but spent much of his time in hunting. Indeed, we may well believe that many of the early residents were wont to obtain a subsistence from the use of the rifle.
Thorn Grove, in the time of which we write, abounded with game of different kinds, and the tables of the early settlers were generously spread with meats that are now rare, and are only eaten as a luxury. And yet, while thus well supplied with venison, turkey, wild chickens and ducks, many articles of food, now common, were almost entirely dispensed with. Tea, coffee, most spices and sugar were obtainable at greater expense than many of them could afford, and home-prepared substitutes took their places. Rye coffee, sassafras tea and corn bread instead of wheaten, with mush and milk, constituted their fare. In the matter of clothing and furniture, their allowance and quality were still more primitive. Silks and broadcloths, furs and kids, were reserved for a later generation. There were no fine carpets on their puncheon floors, no expensive pictures on the walls or tapestry at the windows. Such luxuries were neither obtainable nor desired. The little marketing that was done required long journeys to the nearest stores; and goods of every kind, owing to slow and expensive transportation, were very dear.
The houses of the pioneers were not stately or imposing structures, such as have more recently taken their places. A one-story, one-roomed log cabin was about the most stylish house in the neighborhood. In the construction of the first houses, there was not used a sawed board in the whole building, and, in some, not a single piece of ironnot even a nail. Wooden hinges and latches (with the string out) for doors, puncheons for floors, clapboards for roofs, and wooden pegs, on which to hang clothing, were some of the makeshifts to which they were obliged to resort. Perhaps none but those who have experienced the events witnessed and passed through by them, are fully competent to describe them; and, certainly, none but such as have witnessed them can fully comprehend the changes which have taken place, both in the appearance of the country and the condition of its inhabitants. The people are accustomed to cry “hard times;” but if they could be placed back in time forty years, and be required to fill the places of those old pioneers, deprived of all social and commercial privileges, as were they, they Avould learn a lesson that neither essays nor speeches can teach. Even in the new settlements of the now Western country, things are very different. Now the railroad and telegraph precede emigration, and postal facilities are coincident. For these our fathers were obliged to wait twenty years.
The year 1837 was one of the worst in the financial history of the country, and especially of Illinois, that ever occurred; and for a time emigration to these parts was, in a measure, checked. Occasionally a new settler made his appearance. Guided, some by letters and others, as it were, by instinct, they dropped in from time to time, but not for several years after the earliest date mentioned did the township settle rapidly. At first, all the settlements were made in the edges of the timber, but when all of the land in the vicinity of the wooded portions had been occupied, shanties here and there on the prairie began to appear. By the year 1850, seventeen years after the first settler made his appearance, the following additional residents are noted: John S. Holland, Stephen, Jacob and James Goodenow; George, Emerson and Minet E. Baker; A. J. Smith, Eugene Lashley, August Klien and Simeon Abbott. Of these, some are dead, some have removed further west or returned to their native States, and some are still residents of the township.
The Bakers were from Ohio. They lived here a few years after the date last named, and then again took up their line of march toward the setting sun, their last resting-place being in the State of Iowa.
John S. Holland came here in 1845, made some improvements, and died a few years after. The family have all removedone son to Chicago, where he now resides.
A. J. Smith was here before 1845, and resided in the township until about 1855, at which date his death occurred. He was a native of Ohio, was a good man, and was one of the earliest Justices of the Peace.
Ebenezer Lashley, for the last fifteen years a resident of Douglas County, of this State, came to this township from Ohio. He was one of the best informed of the early residents of the county, and his removal was a source of regret to all his neighbors.
Stephen Goodenow and brothers (Jacob and James) were from the several States of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Indiana, and came to this part of the country about 1845. George and Franklin Goodenow, relatives of the above, settled in the adjoining township, the former of whom is proprietor of the town of Goodenow, on the Chicago & Eastern Illinois Railroad. Stephen Goodenow now resides in the village of Monee.
As before intimated, the first land occupied was that in the eastern portion of the township, in the vicinity of Thorn Grove. In 1854, however, the Illinois Central Railroad was completed, and a station being established in the western part, on that line of road, improvements began to be made in that neighborhood. Since that date, the west side of the township has taken the lead in population. By an act of Congress, each alternate section of land in this and other townships through which this railroad passes (excepting lands already entered, the school section and the “reservation”) was transferred to the Illinois Central Railroad Company to assist in building the road. In transferring-the land to the Company, the price of the remaining Government land was raised to $2.50 per acre, being double its former price, and at that price nearly one-third of the land was purchased by settlers. The lands occupied by settlers prior to the road was bought at $1.25 per acre, and that from the Railroad Company from $2.50 to $10.00, according to location and date of purchase. The Indian reservation, sometimes called Coon Grove, consisted of about three-fourths of Sections 28, 29, 32 and 33. This land had been deeded by treaty to a small family or tribe of Indians, and by them was held until a comparatively recent date, when it was put upon the market by their agent, Henry M. Ward, and sold to different parties who now occupy it. The ancient aborigines, to whom the land belonged, have long since removed from this part of the country.
Monee Township is bounded on the north by Cook County, on the east by Crete, on the south by Will and on the west by Greengarden. About one-fourth formerly consisted of timbered land; but the supply of fuel and building material in former times demanded the sacrifice of a considerable portion, and the amount of woodland is now much smaller. In 1850, the township was included with Will in a single precinct, though not that Will added anything to the voting population, for at that date Will had not within its bounds a single inhabitant. So, in reality, considering the population, Carey Township was what is now called Monee. The township of Carey was organized, with all others of the original townships named in the first division of the territory, in 1850, on the 2d day of April of the year named. From a few miscellaneous papers still in existence in the Clerk’s office, we find that C. W. Cooper was first Supervisor; J. E. Phillips, Assessor, and W. H. Newton, Clerk. The records of Carey Township have been lost, and we are, therefore, unable to make any further definite statements in regard to the first organization. In 1859, that portion of Carey now known as Will was struck off, in accordance with the wishes of its inhabitants; and, the village of Monee having been established and so named, the old name of Carey was dropped and the name to correspond with the village was adopted. The organization of the township, as at present constituted, is: John Kolstedt, Supervisor; E. R. Freese, Clerk; Fred. Rave, Assessor; Jacob H. Barlage, Collector; Adam Gorman, Henry Deters and George Kolstedt, Commissioners of Highways; John A. Heins and Henry Conrad, Justices of the Peace; Peter Bischman and Gustav Kettering, Constables, and August Ehrhardt, School Treasurer.
As before intimated, the first school was taught at the “Grove” by Otis Phillips. Like the township records, the school records of the township have been lost, and nothing positive can be stated in regard to this school except that it was in a little cabin owned by Mr. Phillips, the teacher. The date was, no doubt, about 1836. All schools in the State of Illinois at that date were supported by private means, and of course this was a subscription school. It is further remembered that Mr. Phillips was not only a good teacher, but a good man and well worthy of the title of “pioneer schoolmaster.”
In 1855, a system of reports from Township School Treasurers was adopted, and from an old report, dated 1858, from the Treasurer of this township, we are able to give some interesting statistics, indicating the condition of schools at that time. It is therein stated that there were in the township:
Districts, in each of which were schoolhouses – 4 Male teachers – 2 Female teachers – 7 Persons between the ages of 6 and 21 years – 328 Persons under 21 – 472 Months of school taught – 34 Average monthly wages paid male teachers – $ 34 00 Average montly wages paid female teachers – 17 5O Whole amount paid teachers – 876 00 Whole amount paid for support of schools – 1,238 59
Some corresponding figures, indicating the present condition of schools, give additional interest:
Number of schools – 7 Number of persons between 6 and 21 – 668 Number of persons under 21 – 938 Number of months taught – 73 Highest wages paid any teacher per month – $ 75 00 Whole amount paid for teaching – 2,913 00 Whole amount paid for support of schools – 3,405 00 Estimated value of school property – 5,500 00
Formerly, churches were organized at the Grove; but since the towns of Crete and Monee have been established and movements made toward organizing church societies there, these organizations have either been abandoned or removed to the villages.
The war record of this township is bright with many honored names. A large number of the best and strongest men, when the call for troops to suppress the rebellion was made, entered the army and followed the old flag even to the mouth of the cannon, and some into the very jaws of death. John Clark, Isaiah Cook, Charles Bergen, C. J. Garret, T. J. Kemp, G. A. Baker and A. F. Clark were among the number who lost their lives to save the life of the Union. Henry Carstons was reported missing, and, as supposed, was killed. There were, doubtless, others, but we are unable to learn their names. Surely, these were a large and costly sacrifice, and worthy of the cause in which they fell.
Village of Monee
The year 1853 was an eventful one for this section of the State, which had, prior to that time, been without commercial privileges, except as carried on, by means of wagons, with Chicago. The enterprise of building a railroad through this part of the State had long been talked of, and some legislation had resulted therefrom; though but few realized the importance of the scheme until the road was completed. In a few years, towns sprang up all along the line, and lands heretofore unoccupied were taken up in a short time. In a very few years, this w hole region was almost as thickly settled as it is to-day. The western part of the township soon became the most densely populated, and the town of Monee has sprung up from what was, prior to that event, an open plain.
The village of Monee was laid out by Henry M. Ward, for August Herbert, in 1853. August Herbert was in the Mexican war, and, being honorably discharged at the close, he was given a warrant entitling him to 160 acres of the unoccupied Government land, wherever he might choose to locate. So, in 1849, he found his way to this township, and located the southeast quarter of Section 21. When the railroad was located, though it did not run through Herbert’s land, it ran so close that his land became available as a part of the town site. He therefore sold to the railroad company forty acres; and this, together with what Herbert laid out, embraces the principal part of the village. In 1853, Herbert built the first house in the village. He also built, in partnership with others, a warehouse; built a storehouse and opened a general store, in which he continued until about two years ago, when he removed to Grant Park, where he now resides. Though Herbert erected the first building (now a portion, of Kettering’s Hotel), a house had been brought by Simeon Abbott, from the south part of the township, which was used by the employes of the railroad company as a lodging-house. This house is still standing and occupies one of the most prominent corners in the village, and is used by Messrs. Sonneborn & Son for a tailoring establishment. Mr. Abbott lived in the house for a time, and then removed to Iowa, where he still resides. The first store building was erected in 1853, by O. B. Dutton, the same now being in use by August Schiffer. Among the other early residents of the village were Adam Vatter, Bronson Wiley and Theodore Wernigk. Of these, Vatter was a carpenter, who gave most of his attention to the erection of churches; and nearly all of the German churches in this, Greengarden, Peotone and Crete Townships are works of his. He still resides here.
Wiley was the first blacksmith, and Wernigk was the first physician. Laban Easterbrooks is also one of the oldest residents, having resided in the village for twenty-one years. “‘Squire Brooks,” as he is familiarly called, is a native of Rhode Island, and has always enjoyed the friendship and business relations of Gen. Burnside, of that State. Mr. Easterbrooks was a carpenter, and Burnside was Cashier of the Land Department of the Illinois Central Railroad; and, through that relation, came to possess large tracts of land in the township of Greengarden. The General, having been acquainted with the ‘Squire, and wishing some improvements made on his land, employed him to look after his estatehave it fenced and build houses on the same.
The post office was established here in 1853, with O. B. Dutton as Postmaster.
The schoolhouse was built in 1854, and Margaret Wilson was installed as first teacher. Five years ago, an addition of one room was made to the original building, and three teachers, of whom F. Stofflet is Principal, are now employed. In 1856, Joseph Koenig and Oscar Kohler built a steam grist-mill; but the enterprise did not prove a great success and it has not been in use for several years.
In 1865, August Schiffer built a warehouse and began handling grain. Two years later, Messrs. Tatge, Miller & Herbert erected their building for handling grain; and following them, in 1872, F. Luehrs, of Greengarden Township, also erected a warehouse.
In 1865, G. A. McGilvery built a hay-press, which is still in use, being operated by J. I. Rice, of Peotone.
An attempt to establish an academy for a higher and special course of instruction was made in 1872. The building, called the Monee Academy, was erected in that year, named by Messrs. Janzen & Stassen. Prof. Janzen was put in charge of the institution, and hopes were entertained that this would develop into one of the leading institutions of the country. But after a short time, it was found that the encouragement received was not sufficient to warrant its continuance, and was abandoned.
The leading church of the village is the Lutheran. The German element is largely in the majority, and nearly all adhere to that faith. The Church was established in 1857, by Rev. William Schaefer, and a house of worship erected in 1858. The cost of the house was $1,500. It stands in the midst of the burial ground, where lie the remains of Christian Schurz and wife, father and mother of Carl Schurz, now a member of President Hayes’ Cabinet. The congregation consists of about eighty families, of which Rev. C. F. Hafheing is Pastor.
The Congregational Church, which stands in the north part of the village, was the second built, and the society was the second organized. The house was built at an outlay of $2,100, in 1866, the society having been formed five years earlier by Rev. W. B. Atkinson. Rev. George Dunlap officiates as minister.
The M. E. Church was organized by Rev. Mr. Ross, and the building erected in 1868, at an expenditure of $1,500. The building stands in the west part of town, and is occupied part of the time only, by Rev. W. H. Crawford. This society has not been in as flourishing a condition as formerly, and, for a time, the house was closed.
Rev. Charles Steisaberger organized the German Catholic society of this place in 1866, and two years later they built their house of worship. The building cost $1,500, and stands in the eastern part of the village near the Congregational Church. This society has never been strong here, and services are now held only occasionally.
Some years ago, perhaps about 1860 or 1861, a newspaper called the Monee Eagle, was started here by J. G. Scott. The Eagle soared high for a while. It continued its flight for about three years, when it drooped, folded its wings and died. The village of Monee was incorporated in 1874, by the election of officers on the 9th of November of that year. The first Board consisted of Edward Wernigk, President; Henry Hoffman, Charles Plagge, Philip Vollmar, Christopher Schoenstedt and August SchifFer, as Trustees; William T. Hutchinson was Clerk, and B. Hayen, Treasurer. The present officers are Simeon Miller, President; John A. Heins, Charles Mertz, Christopher Schoenstedt, Gustav Jordans and William Kohlstedt, Trustees; Charles Pragst, Clerk; John Kohlstedt, Treasurer, and Laban Easterbrooks, Police Magistrate.
Source: LeBaron, William, Jr. History of Will County, Illinois. Chicago: William LeBaron, Jr. & Co. 1878.