History of Channahon Township, Will County, Il
From: History of Will County, Illinois
By: August Maue
Historical Publishing Company
Topeka-Indianapolis 1928

Channahon Township

Channahon Township. - The history of the townships is taken most largely from a "History of Will County" published in 1878, by Wm. Le Baron, Jr., and Company. The work on the townships was compiled by W. H. Perrin and H. H. Hill. They were near enough to the first years of our history to present the facts which were obtained from people who had personal knowledge of the events. For convenience for reference, they are given here in alphabetic order.

Channahon Township borders on the Great Highway along the Des Plaines. This region was a favorite dwelling place for the Indians. Indian towns and villages were located in this vicinity for many generations before the Whites came Mounds are still found there, some of which are still undisturbed by White men. Excavations which have been made across the river from Dresden Heights have been described in a preceding chapter. In this chapter we are interested in the early settlers and give the accounts as found in the book mentioned above.

"In that beautiful portion of our county which lies between the Des Plaines and Du Page rivers, and near the meeting of the waters, now included in the Town of Channahon, some settlers came as early as 1832, while the Indian still cultivated corn on the bottom and fished along the streams. This was a favorite spot with them, and they long lingered there. Their canoes passed up and down the rivers, and in the mounds which are still distinguishable they buried their dead. Somewhere near Treat's Island an Indian was buried as late as 1835. He was placed in a sitting posture partly out of the ground, and a pen of saplings placed around him. He is supposed to have been a chief, as the Indians passing up and down always visited his grave, and left various articles upon it as tokens of respect. A little flag was also kept flying over it, which was cared for by the Treats. North of Joliet, the writer remembers to have seen the grave of an infant in the top of a tree. It consisted of two hollow slabs in which the body was placed, being fastened together and to the tree by strips of bark. Perhaps it is a misnomer to call this a grave, and why they thus disposed of an infant's body we know not, unless it was a dim reflection of the Savior's words, 'Of such is the kingdom of heaven.' Believing that the child's spirit had gone straight to the 'happy hunting fields,' they placed the body as near as possible to the sky. Among the earliest settlers in Channahon was Isaac Jessup, Wm. E. Peck, E. C. Fellows, H. D. Risley, Peter McCowan, Capt. Willard, Michael Morehouse, Jedediah, Walter and E. G. Eames, Joseph N. Fryer, Russell Tryon, George Tryon, 'Uncle Bont' Schermerhorn and his four sons - Peter, Jacob B., Cornelius and Isaac - and John Ward. These came in 1832-3-4. In 1835, Dr. Peter Schermerhorn, Joseph Lewis, Samuel Lewis and Dr. Wm. Lewis, Isaac and Burke Van Alstine, Wm. Althouse and a colored gentleman for whom we have never heard any name but 'Dick.' Several of these settlers were representatives of the old Dutch families on the Hudson, coming from Schodack and vicinity, and, like their ancestors, knew good land when they saw it, and then settled down to stay. Joseph Davis and his sons came in 1836. Isaac Jessup, long a prominent citizen, died in 1853, at the age of 66. He, too, bore the honorable title of Deacon, and was county treasurer in 1843-46. His sons still perpetuate his name. A daughter of his, Mrs. E. Jessup Eames, had considerable reputation as a poetess some years ago; and another, Sarah, who died in 1863, was not altogether unknown to local fame. H. D. Risley was from Salina, New York, and being elected sheriff of the county in 1840, he removed to the old county jail, where he remained four years. He was also a canal contractor in canal times. The Van Alstines are still extant and residents of the vicinity, and so is their `Nigger Dick,' the same old sinner he was forty odd years ago. There seems to be little change in him since the time he came up to attend a ball in 1836, when his ox-team got wedged so inexplicably betwen the old Demmond Block and the precipice in its rear, save that he has grown a little grayer. Dick has the honor of being the first, and for a long time the only, representative of his race in Will County. J. B. Schennerhorn was county commissioner in the years 1848-49, and supervisor of Channahon 1854-56. Dr. Peter Schermerhorn was for some years a practicing physician in Channahon and vicinity, and afterward removed to Ottawa, where he died. Wm. B. Peck, generally known as Judge Peck, having been a county judge where he came from in the County of Columbia, State of New York, was a prominent man, something of a politician, and county commissioner four years 1839-42. He died in the year 1849, in the seventy first year of his age. E. C. Fellows, the well known lawyer, and the earliest lawyer in the county, came to Channahon at the same time and married a daughter of Judge Peck. He came to Joliet in 1835. It is but recently that he has deceased. Of his ability as a lawyer, especially as a criminal lawyer, everybody in Will County is well aware. George Tryon was supervisor of Channahon for the years 1850-52. E. H. Jessup, one of Isaac Jessup's sons, was supervisor in 1862, and John S. Jessup, another son, represented in part our county in the Legislature in the year 1872. He was the first victim of minority representation. J. N. Fryer has been supervisor from 1866 down to date, and perhaps will be as long as lie lives. Michael Morehouse was a native of Connecticut, born in 1791, a good, honorable and intelligent man, who died in 1876.

Dr. Knapp and George Tryon came together from Vermont, and were the first settlers in the part of the town where they located, now on the beautiful 'wide water' made by the canal, and the favorite resort of Fourth of July picnics. The Indians were dwelling on the bottom of the. Des Plaines, and at a spot across the river, a little lower down, known then as the 'sugar bush,' in considerable numbers. They were under the supervision of one of old Bourbonnie's sons, a half breed. Seymour Treat and son had settled at the island still known by his name, in 1833. The Treats were great friends of the Indians, never refusing them food or shelter, though their supplies were not very abundant. The Indians held the family in high regard, and when they received their last annuity, they gave him $1,000 as a remembrance, which furnished him the means to go on with the mill which he was building. He had a son and daughter. The son was known as Dr. Treat. The mill was built at the lower end of the island. The Indians were friendly to the early settlers, and never troublesome unless they had drunk too much firewater. They called this liquid good-na-toshclearly a misnomer. As the settlers were not familiar with the Indian language, they had to resort largely to the natural language of signs, at which the Indians are as expert as the deaf mutes. Dr. Knapp tells an amusing story as to how an Indian tried to make him understand what he meant when he wanted to sell him some 'ho-mo-sis-paw-quet - that is, bee sugar or honey. This is a story that can't be told except in pantomime, and nobody can do it justice but the doctor. If you ever see him, get him to tell it. It is the best specimen of pantomime we ever saw."

"The village of Channahon was laid out by the Canal Trustees by whom it was named Snifton after one of their number. Through the influence of Judge Pack it was changed to Channahon - an Indian word, which means, the meeting of the waters - a beautiful and appropriate name." - From Forty Years Ago.

The early history of Channahon Township as well as that of all other townships in the county is taken most largely from the history which was written in 1878. The two men who wrote it, W. H. Perrin and H. H. Hill, were good students and careful writers. They had first hand information from the early settlers who were alive at that time. No better record could be found then there. The later history contains less of vital interest because pioneers always have the adventure which adds so much to history.

The present site of the village of Channahon was the site of an Indian town of some considerable size (1,000) for many years. The excavations which have been recorded in an earlier chapter indicates that the Aborigines had residence there for a long time. It was perfectly natural that the white people should settle there when they came. The opening of the canal brought transportation without which no community can prosper very long. For many years preceding 1918, the village of Channahon was decadent. But the building of the concrete road, Route 7, brought quick and easy travel through the town and revived it to a great extent. It had become decadent because the Rock Island Railroad did not go through the town and because the coming of the railroads made the canal of little value. Perhaps the Deep Waterway may add to its growth. More of the timber remains about Channahon than any other one section of the county. The rough land was not of very much use for agriculture and therefore the timber was allowed to remain. During the past year, timber wolves have been seen in the vicinity. This variety seems to come from the timbered region of Wisconsin in the severe weather of winter. For several years a few specimens have been taken each year. Other wild animals of any size do not remain. Cotton tails, woodchucks, oppossum, are still found to some extent.

Much of the land is too shallow for farming. Several sections have no value excepting for pasture and it is not of much use unless the season is wet. All of the tillable land has been drained and is cultivated successfully. Modern machinery including tractors, gang plows, disc harrows, combines which cut the grain, thresh it, and deliver it into the wagon ready for the bin, and at the same time scatter the straw ready for the plow, are coming into use. Truck farms are found in the bottom land near the canal and the river. Wonderful crops are taken from these farms by the industrious people who operate them. During the last three or four years this line of farming has passed almost entirely into the hands of Greeks and Italians. They are successful farmers because they know the work and are industrious, usually having a family of children to assist in the work. These farms have been made possible by the concrete road which make it easy for them to take their produce to the Chicago market in motor trucks in a few hours. Much of the produce of these farms is sold along the highway to the people who pass in automobiles.

Millsdale is a freight station on the Santa Fe Railroad and is of importance because it is a feeding station for sheep and cattle bound for the Chicago market. Mr. Arthur Mills who owns the large farm surrounding this station operates this feeding station at a good profit. He raises alfalfa upon his land and sells it to the people who unload their stock to be fed at his station. Sheep are frequently held here to await a better market at the Union Stockyards at Chicago. They can be rushed to the market on short notice when word comes that the prices are right.

Channahon, thirty and forty years ago, was noted for its good school. It maintained what would be called a high school, as early as forty five years ago. The school building was a two story structure of the usual type built in those times. Two floors and two rooms with a narrow stairway for entrance and exit. This building was destroyed by fire in 1922. It was replaced by a four room building built on the ground floor plan with an assembly hall between two pairs of rooms in either end. It is of brick construction, fire proof throughout, modern in every way. There are four teachers under the supervision of W. G. Smith. Mr. Smith teaches a two year high school which accommodates the boys and girls of the neighborhood who can not afford to travel to the larger schools farther away. After they have finished two years here most of them are able to complete the four year course in the Joliet Township School. There are three teachers in the grades doing excellent work. Channahon schools are as good as any of the schools in Will County.

Channahon had a Methodist Church which was built years ago and maintained with more or less success through all the year. This building was destroyed by fire which was started by lightning in 1925. It was replaced by a new building of brick, a pleasing edifice which will seat 350 people. The services are maintained in this regularly by the Methodists.

The entire township is served with telephones and rural delivery bringing all of these comforts to the farmers as well as the people in the Township. These together with the radios which are found in almost every home bring them in immediate touch with the affairs of the outside world. The farmers are no longer secluded. The influence with this contact with the outer world is shown in the homes of the people which contain modern conveniences throughout.


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