ILGW logo

will banner

USGW logo

Past and Present of Will County, Illinois

By W. W. Stevens
President of the Will County Pioneers Association
Assisted by an Advisory Board,
consisting of Hon. James G. Elwood, James H. Ferriss,
William Grinton, Mrs. Kate Henderson and A. C. Clement
Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
Dedicated to the Pioneers of Will County


When Will county adopted township organization in 1850 there were not enough inhabitants in the township to make a voting precinct, for it took twenty-five voters for a precinct, and so the township was added to Green Garden and they were called Trenton. That state of affairs continued until 1853, when, having acquired a sufficient number of voters, they were separated and the name of Manhattan given it. John Young was the first supervisor and he proposed to the board that the name Manhattan be given the township, and his suggestion was adopted and the township so named.

From the earliest settlement it had been known as "Five-Mile Grove" and that name clung to it long after the present name was given it. The little grove was all the timber there was in the township. There was an old Indian trail that went in a direct line from the Desplaines timber to Five-Mile Grove and thence to Twelve-Mile Grove and thence south to the Kankakee river. The trail became the highway in that direction and such it is to the present day. The Five-Mile Grove road was a much traveled thoroughfare long before other roads were laid out in that direction.

Manhattan is one of the finest farming townships in the county. It has a deep, rich soil, which is well drained and produces abundant crops of corn, hay and oats and will continue to do so for many years to come.

It is claimed that the first settler at Five-Mile Grove was Orrin Stevens, who built his cabin in the grove about the year 1834. He kept a sort of tavern there for the accommodation of travelers and early settlers, and as it was on the regular traveled trail in that direction he did quite a business for a time, but when the Perkinses came there, in the summer of that year, he sold out to them and went away—no one ever knew where. There were four of the Perkins brothers, all from Trenton, N. Y. They were Orrin, Edward, Ephraim and Pliny Perkins. After buying Stevens out, Edward returned to his home in New York, where he married and then brought his wife to the county with him. They located in Joliet at first, and Mr. Perkins was interested with Dr. Bowen in his addition to the village. A few years later he died in that township and was buried in the old Stevens burial place at Ridgewood. Orrin went to California in the time of the gold excitement and died there some years afterward.

Jerrod Gage, a native of New York, came there in 1835. He had been in the dairy business in his native state and engaged in it at the Grove with very good success. He was a great admirer of Henry Clay, and when that statesman was a candidate for the presidency in 1836 Mr. Gage made a large cheese and sent it to Mr. Clay as a present.

Hiram Harvey, an eastern man, settled at the Grove in 1836, and as the Grove was then all taken or claimed no more settlers were attracted there, as the time had not yet arrived for the pioneers to risk lives and fortunes out on the open prairie. Hence there was a gap of some ten years after Mr. Harvey settled there before we can learn of any new settlements being made in the township.

Clark Baker came to the township in 1847 and bought land, but did not bring his family to the Grove until about 1850. He was a native of New York, a man of energy and ability, and one who took an active part in organizing and improvement of his town. He was elected a justice of the peace soon after settling there, an office he held from that time until his death, January 20, 1893. He was the supervisor for twenty-five years and was one of the most prominent as well as reliable members of the board. John Young came to the township from New York City in 1849 and settled at the center of the township. He was the first supervisor when the township was organized, in 1853, and gave the town its name. He removed to Joliet in 1876 and this city was his home until his death, December 22, 1884. Samuel Bowen and two sons came also in 1849, but they were from the Keystone state. Bryan Gorivan was from Ireland, as also was Martin Bergan, both coming there in 1848. Mr. Bergan was a prominent man in the township. He was the school treasurer for many years. He died February 3, 1892.

Freeman Gay was from Maine and settled near the Grove, where he remained a few years, when he removed to the town of Jackson and settled at the head of Jackson Grove.

William Nelson was of English birth, but had lived for many years in Trenton, N. Y., before removing to Manhattan in 1848, and it was him who gave the township the name of Trenton. He sold out there some years later and removed to Jackson township, where he died, October 5, 1905. George A. Buck came to the township in 1857 from Massachusetts and settled on section 17, just south of the Grove. He was supervisor of the township for several terms and he made a good one. He sold his farm some twenty-five years ago and removed to Joliet, where he now resides. Jirah E. Baker came there from New York in the early fifties and settled on the south bank of Mud creek. He sold out several years later and removed to Arkansas, dying at Loanoke, in that state, July 12, 1873.

The first death in the township was that of Charles Bissett, who came to the township in 1848 and died a year or two later. The first birth was that of a child of Stephen Bowen, which was born in the spring of 1850. The first justice of the peace was William Bissett, who was elected in 1849, but he did not hold the office long, as he sold out the following year and went to California.

Up to the time of the building of the Wabash railroad through the township there was neither store nor postoffice there, but the road established a station near the center of the township and around it a very flourishing village has sprung up, which has now become one of the most enterprising of any in the county. There are two hotels, a large grain warehouse, several well filled and well patronized stores, three fine churches, a bank, and a large number of comfortable dwellings. Previous to the building of the Wabash road through the township, Joliet was the post-office for the township and all trade and business came to that city. A church had been erected at the center of the township, one mile east of the present village, by the Episcopal society which was supplied by the rector from Joliet for most of the time, although the Rev. A. W. Glass had charge of it for several years. Some ten years ago the church building was removed from the former site to the village, and it is now in a very flourishing condition, with a good membership, which supports a large Sunday school. The Methodists have also a fine church building with a local minister, and it enjoys a very liberal patronage.

The first school house was built at the center in 1852, but now there are good school houses in each of the eight school districts, that in the village being a fine building, well supplied with modern appliances for teaching a common school in all grades.

There are two streams in the township, Jackson and Mud creeks, so that it may be considered as fairly well watered.

There are two railroads in the township, the Wabash, before alluded to, and the Illinois, Iowa & Minnesota Railway Company, which affords to the inhabitants excellent transportation facilities both north and south and east and west. The township is purely agricultural, with no manufactories or other business, and yet the township is prosperous and the farmers wealthy.

The population in the census of 1900 was 1,135 and the vote 316.


Number of pupils enrolled in 1906, 257
Number of school districts, 8
Number of teachers, 10
Number of graded schools, 1
Number of ungraded schools, 7
Number of pupils enrolled in 1876, 380
Loss in thirty years, 123

Last Update: Sunday, 22-Mar-2015 20:06:42 EDT

ILGW logo   USGW logo

Will County Coordinator: Dennis Partridge
© 2007- ILGenWeb Project. All Rights Reserved.
Copyright of submitted items belongs to those responsible for their authorship or creation unless otherwise assigned.