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

Manhattan Township. - The Township of Manhattan was known as Trenton. When Will County adopted township organization, what are known as Green Garden and Manhattan were in one, known as Trenton. In 1858, the population had increased sufficiently so that the township was separated and named Manhattan.

The first settler in Manhattan Township was Orin Stevens, but of him little can now be learned further than that he had made a settlement at Five Mile Grove. He was keeping a sort of tavern there when the next settlers came in, in 1834. The Perkinses were the next to settle after Stevens, and consisted of Ephraim Perkins and four sons, viz., Orin, Edward, Ephraim and Pliny Perkins. They were from Trenton, New York, and Edward came out in June, 1834, and bought out the man Stevens. Where Stevens was from, when he settled at Five Mile Grove or what became of him after he sold out, are items of the township history lost in the things of the past. Edward Perkins was a single man when he first came to the settlement, but returned to New York in the fall and married, and brought his young wife to the West. Jerrod Gage came about this time, and he and Perkins entered into partnership in the dairy business at Five Mile Grove. The next spring (1835), Perkins' father and brothers came out, and also Gage's father and his family. The elder Gage had been an extensive dairyman in "York State," and being an ardent admirer of Henry Clay, the "Sage of Ashland" and renowned Kentucky statesman, once made him a mammoth cheese, and presented it to him during one of his campaigns.

Hiram Harvey also settled at Five Mile Grove, about 1835 or 1836, and was from the East, but what particular state we were unable to learn, nor do we know what became of him. These few settlements around Five Mile Grove seem to have been all that were made in the township until a quite recent date, as compared to other portions of the county. As this little grove was the only timber in the town, and it required a score or two of years for the people to find out that the prairies were habitable, probably accounts for the long gap that occurred just here in the arrival of newcomers to this section, as the next we find coming in about 1847 and 1850 and which we will not notice.

John Young came from New York City in 1849, and settled in this township, where he remained until 1876, when he removed to Joliet.

Freeman Gay came from the bleak shores of the Pine Tree State, about 1847 or 1848, and settled in this neighborhood, where he remained a number of years, and finally removed into Jackson Township. From Jackson he moved to California where his descendants live now.

William Nelson, a prominent citizen of the town in the early days came here from Trenton, New York, but was an Englishman by birth. He settled in this section in 1848, and gave the town the name of Trenton, when it and Greengarden were known as one township, as noticed in the beginning of this account. He sold out, some years ago, and removed into Jackson Township. William and Charles Bissett were from Bonny Scotland, and came to the settlement in 1848. Charles died in a short time after their settlement here. William went to California during the gold excitement of 1849 and 1850, where he still lived the last known of him. A man named Borders settled here in 1849. He was from Ohio, and did not remain long in the settlement. What became of him no one knows or seems to care.

Clarke Baker came from New York, and bought land here in 1847, but did not settle on it until 1850.

This comprises a number of the first settlers of Manhattan Township up to a period when the tide of immigration poured in with a rapidity defying the power of the historian to keep pace with names and dates. When township organization went into effect, in 1850, there were but ten legal voters in the territory now comprised in Manhattan Township, and, as already stated, was not sufficient to form a township of itself, but was, with Greengarden, known as Trenton Township, and so remained until 1853, when they were separated and organized under their present names. William Nelson was the first supervisor of Trenton Township, and held the office in 1850; was succeeded by M. Bailey, who served during 1851 and 1852, when the towns were divided, and John Young elected supervisor of Manhattan for 1853. Clarke Baker was elected in 1854, and held it for two years, when Mr. Young was reelected, and held the office from 1856 to 1860, inclusive. In 1861, Clarke Baker was again elected and also in 1862, and in 1863, was succeeded by G. A. Buck, who served until 1865, when J. E. Baker was elected, serving from 1865 to 1869, inclusive. G. A. Buck was then reelected, and served 1870-72, and was succeeded by S. Robinson, in 1873-74, When Clarke Baker was again elected, and held the office for four years. Other township officers were Clarke Baker and Hiram Olney, justices of the peace; Hiram Olney, town clerk; Michael Haley, constable, and George A. Buck, school treasurer.

The first church structure ever erected in Manhattan Township was the Episcopal Church, built in 1857, under the ministerial charge of Rev. Clinton Locke, who at the time was rector of the Episcopal Church in Joliet, and now of Grace Church, Chicago, and whom we noticed as officiating in the reception of President Hayes in his visit to Chicago. The first schoolhouse was built in 1852, and in it was taught the first school in the township. For as before stated, there were but few children in the settlement for several years, and consequently not much need felt for schoolhouses. In 1872, a little more than a score of years after the second era of immigration set in, we find the town contained eight school districts and eight good, substantial schoolhouses. There were 415 pupils enrolled and 13 teachers employed; the district tax levy for the support of schools was $1,135.22, and $1,422.35 the amount paid to teachers.

Manhattan Township has prospered from the very first settlement and at this time contains many prosperous farmers who devote themselves almost exclusively to grain farming. They can do this to advantage because the soil is naturally very fertile and because it has been cultivated a shorter period of time than many other townships. In the north part of the township, dairying has been begun with success. The John Baker farm now owned by Dr. Shreffler of Joliet has perhaps the best Guernsey herd in Will County. Across the road from this farm is another large dairy farm operated by Mr. Holderman. He has a barn built within the past year which is the best dairy barn in Will County. It is the largest and best equipped building of its kind in the entire township.

The concrete road, Route 22 of the Illinois State Highway system connecting Joliet and Kankakee passes through Manhattan. A bus line is operated over this highway making four trips a day. These buses afford good connection with Joliet as well as Kankakee. Strange to say this concrete road has not detracted very much from the business of the City of Manhattan. It is a large grain center with four elevators. Two of them owned and operated by the Manhattan Farmers' Grain Company and two owned and operated by the Baker, Jones, and Company. Both firms do an extensive business throughout the year, buying grain and selling supplies to the farmers. There are four garages and like all automobile businesses all of them are prosperous. One is operated by Cunningham and Brown who handle Fords mostly. Another is operated by R. W. Cockle. Another is operated by Timm Brothers who have an extensive truck business in connection with the garage. Another is operated by Alva Weber who handles Hudson-Essex cars. The town still has a blacksmith shop owned and operated by Edward Hutchinson. Mr. Hutchinson is a real blacksmith and is prepared to do any work in his line. There are four grocery stores. Perhaps this is two too many because they are not as prosperous as they might be. There are two hardware stores - Schroeder's Cash Store and the Consumer's Hardware and Supply Company. August Tennyson maintains a modern drug store fully equipped, in every detail. There are two banks - Manhattan State Bank and The First National Bank. If banks are any index to business, Manhattan must be a successful business town because both of these banks are prosperous. There are two doctors - Dr. G. H. Brannon and Dr. Pederson. Dr. R. O. Duguid looks after their teeth.

The school is a two story brick structure with four teachers in the grades, and two in the high school. In the high school they teach the first two years leaving the third and fourth year for a larger institution. Most of the graduates of the Manhattan High School come to the Joliet Township High School to finish up their credits. The Catholics maintain a splendid church edifice which has a large number of families to its charge. The Evangelical Association maintains a small church. The Methodists have a regular pastor and the Episcopalians have services semi occasionally.

The community maintains a good spirit of cooperation. They have a public library; they maintain a coliseum for community gatherings of a recreational nature; they support a good picture show at the end of each week.

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