Reed Township.—This is now the smallest township in the county, containing only the west half of the Congressional
Town 32, Range 9, east of the Third Principal Meridian. For the fifteen years ending 1875, it was the largest,
embracing within its limits all of that territory now constituting Custer. The first name given to the township,
by the Commissioners, was Clinton, which, however, was changed, at the first meeting of the Board of Supervisors,
to Reid, in honor of one of the pioneers of this section. On the first maps and in the first reports, the orthography
of the name is found as here indicated; but on the later maps and reports it is spelled as indicated at the head
of this article. For what reason this change has been made, or if made by common consent or practice—the later
method being the more natural way—we are unable to inform our readers.
The land, for the most part, is a level plain or prairie. In some portions, more especially in the southern, it
is covered with timber of a small growth. In this portion the surface is more broken, but cannot be considered
hilly. It is not crossed by any stream of water, but all of that supply is obtained from wells. Good water abounds
at a depth of from twenty to forty feet. The land is of a poor quality for agricultural purposes, the soil being
quite thin, with a species of quicksand underlying.
The surface of the township of Reed, to look upon, like the apples of Sodom, is all that is desirable; but like
that deceptive fruits to the agriculturist, it is only a source of sorrow. For a number of years after the first
settlement was made, and a compensation for his expenditure of strength and time, it was believed that this section
was a failure and numerous tracts were sold for taxes from year to year, and the epithet "land poor"
seemed to apply with propriety to its owners. But behold the wisdom of the Creator! In this region, which man so
irreverently denounced, was stored by Him, for many thousand years, an article for the use of man's extremity,
which renders this one of the most valuable tracts in the State. All hoarded up, eighty feet under the ground,
and condensed into a small space, is suddenly found the fuel with which to supply the deficiency that had always
been felt existed in the prairie country; and, all at once, the land which could have been bought "for a song"
jumps to $100 per acre, and, within the space of ten years, a city of five thousand inhabitants buds and blossoms,
as it were, by magic.
Owing to a scarcity of timber and a want of water, the township was one of the latest in the county to settle.
Twenty years before, settlements had been made along the Des Plaines and Kankakee. Not until the opening up of
the railroad could an emigrant be induced to lose sight of the belt of timber lying along the banks of the streams
of water. When that event transpired, and fuel and other commodities were transported to a distance from their
place of growth or manufacture, a life on the prairie began to appear possible, and this section began to develop.
Prior to 1854, the date of the event named, probably not more than four or five families had shown the hardihood
to venture so far from the original settlements. William Higgins, who came to this vicinity (being just a few rods
west of the township line, in Grundy County) in 1850, said that when he arrived here, James Curmea had been living
on Section 6 about six months. Curmea was a native of Ireland, had been peddling through the country, and, becoming
tired of the business, settled at the point mentioned. He entered all of the section, and, though a large land
owner as regards real estate, he was poor, the soil proving to be of a very unfruitful nature. He lived on his
land until 1865, when the discovery of coal in this section suddenly made him a rich man. His farm, which had cost
him $1.25 per acre, and which, a few weeks before, could have been bought for $10, was considered worth $100; and
shortly after, he actually sold it for the last price named. The tract now belongs to the Wilmington Company. Curmea
took his money, removed to Morris and started a bank.
William Smith was a Yankee, from the hills of Vermont. He could scarcely be called a "settler," as his
business was that of hunting, and his home was wherever his dog and gun could be found. His range was from the
head of the Kankakee to its mouth, but his headquarters were in this township. The report of his rifle years ago
ceased to be heard, and then it was known that "Smith the hunter" was gone to a "happier hunting
ground." Patrick and James Dwyer came in 1850. Wm. Sterrett and Timothy Keane were also old settlers. Dennis
Glenny was a stone cutter on the Illinois & Michigan Canal. He was another native of Erin. He came to the township
in 1856, and his descendants still reside here. Besides those already named, there were but few who could lay claim
to being permanent settlers; and neither were there any additional settlements until the discovery of coal. Even
in 1878, there were, perhaps, not more than twenty families outside of the city limits.
Though Reed Township was organized in 1850, the portion now embraced in Custer contained, until 1865, nearly all
the inhabitants; and, though Custer is but three years old in name, it, and not Reed, is the original township;
so that in reality, what is now called by the name of Reed, is a new town with the old name. The division occurred
in 1875, on the petition of citizens of the eastern portion of the township. As now constituted, the west eighteen
sections were organized April, 1875.