History of Jackson Township, Will County Illinois
From: History of Will County, Illinois
By: August Maue
Historical Publishing Company
TOpeka-Indianapolis 1928

Jackson Township. - Jackson is one of the earliest settled townships in the county, the date of its first settlement being almost coincident with that of Chicago. Chicago was laid out August 4, 1830, and the first settlement was made at Reed's Grove six months later. This grove being situated at the corners of Jackson, Channahon, Wilmington and Florence Townships, has given rise to no little misunderstanding as to the location of some of the early settlers of this vicinity; and we shall not be surprised if some of our statements do not receive immediate indorsement. Several parties, or colonies, who settled in the Grove, though in the immediate neighborhood, since townships lines have been established have proved to be in different townships. This fact also makes the narration of events in one township, without at the same time bringing in the history of other townships, quite difficult; and a small amount of repetition will therefore be necessary.

Reed's Grove received its earliest white settler in 1831. At that time, Indians were plenty in this part of the State, and the Grove was one of their favorite resorts and dwelling places. The territory now embraced in these townships was occupied by the tribe or nation called Pottawatomies. The relations between these people and their early white neighbors were of the most friendly character. They hunted, visited and drank together, as peaceably as the more modern occupants of the county.

To Charles Reed belongs the credit of being the first settler, not only of Jackson Township, but of the grove which still bears his name. Reed was a man of energy and spirit. He had a family of grown up children, some of whom were already married; and, being desirous of seeing them settled in homes of their own, such as he was unable to provide for them in the older settled States, he resolved to emigrate to this place.

Accordingly, he with his two sons-in-law, Charles Koons and Eli Shoemaker, and Joseph Shoemaker (brother of Eli), set out for this place in the early Spring of 1831, and reached the grove March 2, of that year. At that time, but few families had settled in the whole section now embraced in Will County. Dwellers at a distance of twenty five miles were considered neighbors. Joseph Shoemaker, though mentioned here as a member of this settlement or colony, did not in reality settle in Jackson Township. He is usually accredited as the first settler of Wilmington Township; but this, too, seems to be an error, as his cabin was just on the north side of the line subsequently located between Wilmington and Channahon. Reed, with the balance of his family, removed from the township more than twenty five years ago, and while the country was yet indeed new. George Kirkpatrick and brother and James Hemphill lacked but a few months of being the first. They came from Ohio, and settled here in May following the advent of Reed. Of these, George Kirkpatrick still resides in the township, but the other two are dead. James Hemphill died in 1863.

During the Spring of the next year, 1832, two new companies settled in the township. Wesley Jenkins, Thomas Underwood - brother-in-law of Jenkins - and Jefferson Ragsdale were from North Carolina. Of the "Jenkins Colony," as it was called, none are left, all having removed to other parts. The Linebarger colony arrived here from Indiana in the spring with Jenkins. The company consisted of Henry, John, George and Lewis. The last named, however, settled in the town of Florence, a short distance from the others. They were Carolininas, and had left there years before and had resided for a time in Indiana, near the Wabash. Of these, Henry Linebarger lived here but four years, dying here in 1836. George Linebarger was a resident of the village of Elwood. He was a very useful citizen, a leader in the Methodist Church, and one of its most pious members.

John Linebarger as has been stated, came into the township in the spring of 1832. The Indian uprising of 1832 and 1833, caused unrest and John Linebarger, with some others, returned to Indiana where he resided until 1850. In that year, he returned to Illinois and Will County and bought a farm near Wilmington. In 1868, he moved to Elwood where he engaged in the grain business for many years. In the later years of his life he moved to a farm near Bonfield and resided there until 1886, when he passed away.

Peter Eib, with his three sons, George, Levi and Augustus, was from the State of Virginia. The elder Eib was very fond of his gun, and an excellent marksman. He found here plenty of game on which to practice his skill. It was not an uncommon thing to see from fifty to one hundred deer in a single drove. Turkeys, wolves and other game were so plenty as to make them almost a nuisance. Mr. Eib passed away years ago, but his sons remained amongst the best citizens of the community.

In 1832, emigration to these parts, and indeed to all Northern and Western Illinois, received a very severe check. Previously, the whites and red men had been on the best of terms; and specially in this region there seemed to be no jealousies existing between the two races. Land and game were so plenty, and the white settlers were so few, that the Indians here did not feel as though their rights were being encroached upon. And then again, the tribes dwelling in this part of the State were of a more civilized character than some others. Indeed, some of the leaders or chiefs were so much so that when the proposition to build the Michigan & Illinois Canal was being agitated, they were not only willing to have the improvement made, but gave it all the encouragement they could; and it is said that among the first acts of Congress relating to the project there is a clause permitting the free use of the Canal forever to these people. However, before the completion of the work, the stealthy stroke of the Indian's paddle, propelling his canoe, had ceased. The causes which led to their removal were just beginning to take shape, when the emigrants whose names have been given, had barely completed their journey. Black Hawk, of whom mention is made in a former chapter, his followers and allies had become restless and jealous of the white people, who were in that part of the country steadily encroaching on both the real and fancied rights of their red brethren. These jealousies eventually broke out into actual conflict, and the State and national military were called out to quell the deadly trouble that seemed to be rising. Of course, great excitement prevailed everywhere, and in sparsely settled neighborhoods like this, with no commensurate means of resistance at hand, and with a people in their midst who, though professing friendship, were yet known to be of a treacherous nature, the most serious apprehensions were entertained. In this state of fear and anxiety the inhabitants of this vicinity were living when, about the latter part of May, 1832, news was brought to the neighborhood of the massacre of several families and the capture and abduction of two young ladies near Ottawa. In those days, this was considered only an adjacent neighborhood, and very naturally the alarm created in this place was intense. A meeting of all the citizens was immediately called, and it was quickly resolved that, in consideration of their utter inability to repel an attack, it was best to remove to the more thickly settled country on the Wabash, whence many of them had formerly emigrated. Accordingly, on the following night at 10 o'clock, there were found nearly twenty wagons and teams gathered at Five Mile Grove prepared to start. At about the time fixed for their departure they were joined by some parties who reported the Indians approaching. This precipitated their flight, and great confusion prevailed. One man had loaned his ox-yoke, and had sent for it, as he could not harness his cattle without it; but when the announcement was made that the enemy were near, he snatched a rail from the fence, and with a half dozen strokes of the ax fashioned it into a substitute, which in a moment more was bound on the necks of his oxen with withes of hickory, as quickly cut from the brush, and he was one of the first to start for the Wabash.

It had been intended to take the cattle and all of their household goods; but so great was their hurry that everything of the kind was left behind. The gads were applied to the hides of the oxen, and the flight was as rapid as possible. Their way lay through the townships of Manhattan, Wilton and Rockville, crossing the Kankakee at one of its fords. After traveling some miles, finding that they were not pursued, two of the men determined to return and bring forward the stock which had been left behind. However, when they came to the settlement no stock could be found, having wandered off into the woods. One of the men then bethought him of a bag of maple sugar which had but recently been manufactured from the sap of trees which grew here. Throwing this across his horse, he, with his companion, set out to overtake the main party. They had traveled but a few miles when they perceived, at a distance, two real Indians rapidly following them. They very naturally conjectured that these were only scouts of a large party of human butchers and put spurs to their horses. On looking back, they found that the Indians were pursuing them rapidly. The bag of sugar was a real burden and difficult to carry, so it was allowed to slip to the ground. Thus relieved, horses and riders dashed forward with increased rapidity. Indians are notoriously fond of sugar, and this was quite a prize, and, as they stopped to examine, taste and eat, the pursued parties left their would be captors far behind. As they came up with their friends, they were just crossing the Kankakee. As soon as the report that they were being pursued had spread to the company, confusion was worse than confounded, and the alarm vented itself in the shrieks of the women, the cries of the children and the curses of the men, mingled with the bellowing of the sharply goaded oxen. One team seemed to partake of the excitement, but instead of rushing for the other side, stood stock still, unable to move. The driver, in his desperation, believing the wagon mired, hastily unhitched the oxen from the load, and placing his wife, who was the other occupant of the wagon, on one ox, he bestrode the other, and, applying the lash with renewed vigor, they gained the other shore and soon overtook the train. The relation of such incidents, at this date, causes no little merriment, but at the time of their occurrence were very serious indeed. Even those who were participants tell the story of "Five Mile Massacre," and laugh heartily; though it is said that the hero of the bag of sugar was ever afterward quite sensitive on that point, and, although a man of piety, no man could say "sugar" to him without runing great risk of being knocked down. On the evening of the second day, having found that the last incident related was only a scare from some friendly Pottawatomies, the party halted, and it was proposed to have supper and a night's rest. But here, again, were enacted the scenes of the crossing of the Kankakee. Just as the fires had begun to blaze, preparatory to cooking the much needed meal, a horseman galloped into camp and stopped just long enough to say that the Indians were after them in earnest. Thus, their supper and sleep were dispensed with, and not until three nights and days had passed did they stop long enough to take a nap, or eat, except as they fled. After several days more of travel, during which they received no further alarms they reached Danville, whence they learned troops had been sent to take care of the savages, and all fear and anxiety were at an end. Soon after, Black Hawk and his people were removed to the other side of the Mississippi River; and, all fear of molestation having passed, most of the former residents of this neighborhood returned. They found the most of their cattle and hogs, and their crops were unmolested. The cows, however, "had gone dry", and the corn was sadly in need of cultivation. The wagon was recovered from the bed of the Kankakee, and even the greater part of the bag of sugar was restored by the hand of one of the friendly red men, who had only pursued them to inform them that there was not the least danger. In the Fall of 1832, arrived Jacob and Joseph Zumalt. The Zumalts removed to California some years ago. They were natives of Ohio.

The most systematic and extensive, and at the same time one of the most important, settlements of this part of the county was made in 1834. This colony consisted of R. J. Boylan, Peter Brown and two sons - John and Ara - and Smith Johnson. These parties were from New Jersey, and came well prepared, and with a full understanding of the enterprise in in which they were embarking. Most pioneers in those days "pulled up stakes," as the saying was, and moved with but little previous knowledge of the country to which they were going. In many cases they were guided by unreliable reports, sometimes seemingly by instinct and sometimes entirely by accident. But in the case of Boylan and his company, the greatest care was taken. Maps were consulted, the most reliable reports were procured and read, and all of the information obtainable was procured and used. R. J. Boylan, a practical surveyor and a man of excellent judgment, was sent forward to select, survey and locate the land. He came to this neighborhood, and having located twenty one eighties, or 1,680 acres, notified the balance of the colony, who came on at once, and occupied the land. Hardly a finer selection could be made than this, consisting of land on, and in the vicinity of. Jackson Creek. Of the original colonists, Mr. Boylan was the last to pass away. He was a very active man, having been identified with almost every enterprise of any consequence in this section of the country. His house is the only stone dwelling in the township, and is situated on the bank of the fine little stream named in honor of the "Hero of New Orleans." Though the original Browns and Johnson have passed away, they have left behind numerous descendants and kindred, who occupy the old and original selections, as made in 1834.

Henry Watkins and sons, Henry, Jr., Benjamin and Peter, arrived from New York in 1834. None of this family now reside here, all having moved away. About the last named date, a schoolhouse was built at Reed's Grove, and Henry Watkins was employed to teach the first school therein.

Edward Kirk was also one of the oldest settlers in this part of the county. He had come to the county a year or two previous to his settling in Jackson in 1835.

As early as 1833, an organization for religious purposes was effected. This consisted of a Methodist class, of which William Thornburg was appointed First Leader. This little organization was what has since developed into the Blwood M. E. Church. From a paper prepared and read before the Elwood Church, by Rev. G. J. Kinne, we are permitted to lay before our readers a complete though brief history of this oldest Church in the township and one of the oldest in the county.

Soon after the establishing of the class alluded to, a schoolhouse was built in the vicinity, and in this services were held for a number of years. Among the old pioneer preachers who visited the place and preached to the people, are mentioned the names of Jesse Walker, John Sinclair, S. R. Beggs, S. H. Stocking. Under their preaching, the Church prospered and grew in numbers, influence and wealth until, in 1852, they found themselves able to build a house of worship. The site selected was nearly a mile west of the village and of its present location. The cost of the building was $1,800. In 1866, it was determined to remove the building to the village. It was thought that the location at the Grove, on account of the growing village at so short a distance, was not the most suitable site for an increasing membership. During the migration of the house which so many had learned to love, meetings were held in it daily.

The Baptist Church of Elwood was built in 1859, at a cost of about $2,000. Rev. Mr. Renfrew was the first preacher. This church never flourished. It was soon closed and the membership affiliated with other denominations. The building was remodeled about 1912 and made into quarters for the Masonic Lodge of Elwood which is a flourishing institution.

In 1863, the Reformed Lutherans of this township living in the vicinity of Jackson Creek organized and built a neat little church on the southwest corner of Section 15, at a cost of $1,200. Rev. Rufus Smith, Edward Loomis, S. Bosley, Henry and Christopher Lichtenwater and Christopher Faut were amongst the leading projectors of the work. Rev. Smith was the first preacher, and for a time labored in this corner of the Lord's vineyard with good acceptance; but, by and by, his opinions in regard to the subject of religion underwent a change, and with him coincided many of his flock, and it was decided to abandon the organization. Accordingly, about five years after the house was built, the congregation assembled and a motion was made and carried that the house be "deeded to the Lord," and that He look after its interest in the future. The instrument was drawn up in due form and regularly signed, but whether delivered or recorded we are not permitted to know. Since that event, the house has been occupied irregularly by different denominations.

At this time, (1928) it is known as the Brown Church, a name which it has carried for the last forty years. It is in good condition and serves as a house of worship at frequent intervals. Until very recently, within eight years, a Sunday School was maintained quite regularly. The ladies of the Elwood Methodist Church have looked after it, the people of the neighborhood are liberal in contributing, and everyone has a kindly interest in the Brown Church. Therefore, it appears that the congregation, sixty years ago, acted better than they knew when they "deeded to the Lord". Surely He has looked after its interest well.

The United Brethren held religious services in the northeastern part of the township for over twenty five years. In 1865, they erected, on the northeast corner of Section 11, at a cost of $2,000. The building was a neat frame, 30 feet in width by 45 feet in length, and would seat one hundred and fifty to two hundred persons. Rev. Mr. Marglist was the Pastor, and Isaac Overholser was Superintendent of the Sunday School in 1878.

The church of the United Brethren, erected on the northeast corner of Section 11, was located on Providence Ridge, a name still known to the older people of that vicinity. Church services had been discontinued for some years and no use was made of it excepting for funerals. It was demolished by a cyclone in 1914 and has not been rebuilt. A small storehouse was erected to house the tools and equipment used in the cemetery.

On the northwest corner of Section 24, stands the German Methodist, or, more properly speaking, the Church of the Evangelical Association. This is also a frame building, and was erected in 1865. It is 28x36 feet in size, and cost $1,400. It was erected at the instance of William Poleman, John Gise, Isaac Moyer, William Kriemier, Jacob Wible and other prominent members of the Association. Rev. Rieman Snyder was the resident pastor and M. Moyer superintendent of the Sabbath school. Preaching and other religious services have been held here for over twenty years by this denomination.

The German Methodist Church, or the Church of the Evangelical Association, flourished for many years. About fifty years ago, dissension arose in the congregation over some question of theology or of practice in worship, and they divided into groups. The group which withdrew, built a church across the road, thus establishing two churches. For many years they were known as the "Twin Churches". In 1923, the original church built in 1865, was torn down. The other one has survived but shows signs of decay, which indicate a weakening of the congregation. The originators of the church in 1865, have passed away and their descendants have moved to other places. Only a few remain in the immediate neighborhood.

The year 1854 was eventful for numerous localities between Joliet and Bloomington, as it marks the completion of what was then called the Chicago & Mississippi Railroad, now called the Chicago & St. Louis, and the location of most of the villages and towns along the line. Before that date, a town in Jackson Township was not thought of; and, had it been, any other portion would have been as likely to be fixed upon as its present site at Elwood. As soon as the road was completed, steps were taken to establish a station at this point, and this being accomplished, the village followed as a consequence. A convenient trading point was at once provided, and the country and its products demanded tradesmen, mechanics and professional men.

The town was surveyed and platted and lots offered for sale in 1854 and 1855, by Messrs. Spencer, Gardner and Myers, gentlemen interested in the road. The first house built in the town was erected by William Turner, formerly of New York. In this building he displayed the first stock of goods ever offered for sale in the township. Turner was also appointed Postmaster, and kept the office in his store. Joseph Partee, who had also been living in the neighborhood, built the first dwelling, and James Barrett built the second. George Blair built the first blacksmith shop. To these were added stores, shops and dwellings, and the town grew quite rapidly, so that, in 1869, it was found advisable to incorporate the same. Only a few scraps of the original records and lists escaped the fire of 1874, so that no complete list of its officers or narration of its public acts can now be given. It is, however, remembered with certainty that William Muhlig was first President, and It. Spafford, John Linebarger, William Eversoll and T. A. Mapps were members of the Board of Trustees. W. F. Keith was first, Police Magistrate. In 1873, the town was re-organized under the general law of the State. The officers were: John H. Bridge, President; John Linebarger, C. D. Wickes, Bateman Lloyd, John Pinneo and J. J. Lichtenwalter, Trustees; W. H. Kinne, Clerk; and W. W. Gifford, Treasurer.

On the night of the 28th of May, 1874, a fire swept over the business part of the town, which, for destructiveness, taking into account the size of the place, exceeded that of Chicago of two years before. The fire broke out in the store of William Nicholson, which stood near the center of the business portion, and in a few hours every store but one and the hotel had given way before the fiery element. This was a serious blow to the little town. Prior to this, it had been, though slowly, yet steadily increasing. The loss of property was estimated at $30,000, of which not more than $1,000 was insured. Though some of the burned district has been rebuilt and business is carried on as before, some of the proprietors were so much crippled as not to be able to start again, and the village still feels the loss sustained. The present population is about four hundred.

Jackson Township is one of the prosperous townships of the county. It contains some of the best farms to be had in the county. Some timber still remains along Jackson Creek but all of this is used as pasture land so that there is no underbrush to provide new growth when the old trees are removed. As a consequence the trees are bound to disappear because when one is cut down there is none to take its place.

Elwood which originated in 1854 when the Chicago and Alton Railroad was built became a flourishing village and continued so for about one half a century. The development of automobiles and the building of good roads made it easy to travel. Farmers naturally journeyed to the larger cities at Joliet, Wilmington and even some as far as Chicago. This took the business away from the stores in Elwood. Hardware stores were abandoned entirely. Blacksmiths found no work and closed their shops to follow other occupations or to move elsewhere for their regular work. The general stores changed hands at short intervals for a period of about fifteen years. In 1918-19 the nature of the business changed somewhat and these stores became places where refreshments might be bought and staple groceries could be procured. At this time (1928) they seem to be fairly prosperous. One business is noticeable here, that is, a successful bakery has been started. This seems to prosper because housewives seem to dislike to do their own baking and because tourists buy some bakery goods. Thus it is that times change conditions.

The concrete road passes along the east edge of the village on the east side of the railroad track. This has made it possible to operate a garage and service oil station, all of which do a good business.

Elwood always maintained good schools even though for some years the school building was practically unfit for use. A new building was built in 1916 with three rooms, modern at that time These rooms are somewhat out of date at the present but are still sufficiently good to make a good school possible. Two rooms are maintained for the grades and one is devoted to a two year high school. Miss Fanny Bruce teaches the upper grades and Miss Peterson teaches the lower grades; W. P. Flaherty is principal and teaches the high school. The increase in the school was brought about by the consolidation of three districts, two in Jackson Township and one, formerly District 15, in Channahon Township, are consolidated into one district. Pupils from the rural part of the district are transported in modern school buses. This change to a consolidated school has proven satisfactory to all concerned.

Two churches are maintained in the village, one Methodist and the other a Presbyterian. The Methodist Church building burned about twelve years ago and was immediately replaced by a new building which includes an auditorium, parsonage, and community hall. This church is prosperous. The Presbyterian Church finds some trouble in maintaining services because the congregation is small.

Elwood undoubtedly will improve and grow from now on because many people live in Elwood and work in Joliet. The concrete road over which a good bus service is maintained makes this feasible at all times of the year.

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