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

Wesley Township. - Before the Black Hawk troubles, probably, no white man had ever considered the part of the county now called Wesley Township his home, no traces of white men's cabins, or other improvements being detected two years later. John Williams, who still resides in the township, says that, when he first visited the place, in the Fall of 1833, there were no indications that it had ever before been inhabited except by Indians, and that his little cabin, erected at that time, was the first domicile of that nature ever erected here. Williams was from the Old Dominion, formerly, but had come to the vicinity of Danville in 1831, and was living there when the war broke out. In 1833, he came to Joliet, and from there out to this place, to select some land, split rails and build a cabin, preparatory to making a permanent settlement the next Spring. In May of the next year, 1834, he moved to the place, occupied his land and began making other improvements.

Though Williams was the first to make an improvement in Wesley Township, he was preceded two weeks in its occupation. When Williams came to occupy his new home, he found George M. Beckwith, Andrew Pettijohn and Absalom Heyworth already here, and learned that they had left Indiana about a month before, and had arrived here after a journey of twelve days. Beckwith's brother, Daniel W., had been employed by the Government to survey this portion of the State, and from him he had learned of the character of the country, and had moved out. George M. Beckwith was a lawyer, or at least practiced a little in the lower courts, and before Justice of the Peace. He was also a good farmer. He died in 1845, of what is sometimes termed "milk sickness."

A few weeks after Williams settled in his new home, John and Alexander Frazier and James W. & Joseph Kelley, from the same neighborhood in Virginia made their appearance in the community. These were men whose coming would be a source of congratulation to any neighborhood, and at any time; but at the time of which we write were they especially welcome. John Frazier was a man of education, and proved to be one of the most useful and influential citizens of the township. He was the first Supervisor of Wilmington Township, when Wesley constituted a portion of it; and, upon the division, he was elected to the same office from this precinct. There was hardly a position of responsibility and trust but that he has filled, and that with credit to himself and satisfaction to his constituents. Arthur Potts and Robert Watkins, from Virginia, and Hamilton Keeney, from the same State, emigrated to this place a little later, arriving in the Fall of 1834. Watkins was a man of good judgment and some education. He was one of the early Justices of the Peace, being elected to the office before the township was organized. Hamilton Keeney was also a leading man.

During the year 1835, quite a number of new settlers made claims and occupied land, among whom are remembered J. T. Davis, George Gay, T. McCarty, Wesley Carter and Griffy Davis. J. T. Davis was an old veteran of the Revolutionary war; was in Washington's army, and in the important capture of the Hessians at Trenton.

William Forbes, William Goodwin, John Strunk, Henry Moore, Joseph Hadsel, Daniel McGilvery, John G. Putnam and Elias Freer came in during the two years ending 1837. Forbes was a soldier of the war of 1812, and, like Davis, was fond of entertaining his friends with incidents of his soldier life. He was a millwright, and in this trade he is said to have excelled.

By the year 1845, many more had joined the settlement, prominent among whom were James Gould, John Kilpatrick, Anson Packard, David Willard, B. F. Morgan, Richard Binney, Robert Kelly and William Killy. Their names are given as nearly in the order of their coming as can now be remembered. James Gould was one of the most solid men of the township. He grew quite wealthy, and when he died, left a large estate, all of which was accumulated here. John Kilpatrick was also a good citizen, and left to the world a legacy of value - a good family. Hon. David Willard is a native of New York. When he first came to the county, he was employed as a laborer by Peter Stewart. He is a man of high standing, politically and socially. He has served the county eight years as County Judge, and in the discharge of his duties gave the most eminent satisfaction. B. F. Morgan is also of New York. He has gained the enviable reputation of being a good citizen. Richard Binney was a native of New York. He was a man of worth and a successful farmer. William Killy was from the Isle of Man. All that can be said of a good citizen can be truthfully said of him.

What is now Wesley Township was the favorite territory for the Red Man who found here timber, water, and abundant game together with the fish which were in the stream. The villages were maintained for many generations before the White Man knew of this region.

Settlers came into the township as early as 1834. They were attracted by the same things which attracted the Indians and also by the soil which was easily cultivated, and while it was virgin yieaded good crops. Much of the land is light soil better suited to small grain than to corn. Winter wheat has always been raised in large quantities. Spring wheat is still a favorite crop because the soil can be cultivated early in the season. The farmers are progressive and prosperous. Some of the most modern farm machinery is in use in this township this year. The "Combine" which delivers the grain ready for market is used to good advantage. Tractors with all of the appliances which go with them are numerous throughout the township.

The village of Ritchey has been going backward for some time. Transportation facilities are not as good here as in other parts of the county. The coming of the concrete road from Kankakee to Wilmington will aid this village and the surrounding territory. "Wesley on the Kankakee" has become quite a resort for people who seek to get away from the city during the summer months. It is a beautiful place on wooded ground which slopes down to the Kankakee River. Many cottages are found here together with hotel facilities for transients.

Some twenty years ago the Wabash Railroad moved their tracks to the west to straighten out a bad curve. This left the old village of Ritchey without a railroad. Very little has been developed along the new line. A grain elevator has been maintained which affords a market for the farmers. A post office is still maintained at the village of Ritchey together with a church which is open at intervals under the Methodist denomination. A one room school house is the same which was in use sixty years ago.


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