Of all the townships of Grundy County, Aux Sable possesses the most natural beauty, for its scenery is unsurpassed by any in this portion of the state. The prairie rolls gently and originally was fringed with fine timber along the Aux Sable Creek and the Illinois River, but, unfortunately, the greater portion of these mighty forest trees fell before the energy of the early settlers, who then appreciated but little the value of their timber, and did not understand the conservation of natural resources. On the east there is a natural watershed, as the ground rises to a considerable height, and the drainage is consequently in an easterly and westerly direction from this line. This eminence continues to the river, and from its bank a magnificent view is obtained of the surrounding country for many miles.
The soil is mixed with sand, with a clay substratum, while the swamp land had a black soil, which now that it is drained cannot be excelled for fertility. As the land is well adapted for grazing purposes, many of the agriculturalists devote their attention to stock raising, and some of the finest specimens of high grade animals are produced on Aux Sable farms.
Owing to its many advantages, Aux Sable Township was a favorite hunting ground of the Pottawatomies, who annually camped here, while white hunters did not pass this section over carelessly. For many years, before the idea of settlement was seriously considered, both white and red men pursued the wild game with profit, and one who gained considerable renown as a woodsman in this region was a man named Marquis, who lived at times at the mouth of the Mazon, and again camped during the summer at the mouth of the Aux Sable Creek.
First Permanent Settlers
Aux Sable Township found favor with the early settlers who were looking for a locality where good land carried with it the two necessary requisites of that early day, wood and water. Perhaps the first actual settler of this locality was Salmon Rutherford, who came here in May, 1833, taking up a farm on Section 26. Owing to his energy and progressive spirit, he later became a leader in township affairs. He built the first inn, naming his settlement Dresden, and from it a stage line was run, but when the railroads made the use of the stage line unnecessary, the importance of the hotel diminished. Shortly after Mr. Rutherford located here, Henry Cryder, Zach Walley and N.H. Tabler arrived from Delaware County, Ohio.
The three families wintered in a rude shack the men erected from logs they hewed themselves, but later separate cabins were built. John Beard was another settler of 1833, and he took up land in Section 30.
Another early settler was W.H. Perkins, who first came merely to view the land, later returning to Chicago, accompanied by Levi Hills, arriving there September 23, 1833. When they reached Chicago they discovered that 5,000 Indians were camped there. It might be supposed that this fact would have discouraged the would-be settlers, but it does not seem to have had any material effect upon their plans. These men, joined by James H. Collins and a Mr. Snell, later went to Kendall County, but in 1835, having married in the meanwhile, Mr. Perkins returned to Grundy County and secured a quarter section of Section 8, Aux Sable Township, on which he settled.
Rodney House arrived in the spring of 1834, locating on Section 9, and still survives and makes his home at Joliet. The year 1834 also brought three brothers by the name of McElroy, who located on Section 30, and in the same year D.M. Thomas and Leander Goss came. William Lewis and a brother arrived soon after Mr. Thomas, the former being a physician, the first to locate in the township. Another physician, Dr. I.W. Rutherford, came here in 1835, settling on Section 22. Samuel Randall was still another early settler and married after his arrival. Thomas Carroll arrived about 1836, attracted, as were many others, by the prospect of securing the rich lands along the Aux Sable and other streams.
The pioneers of Aux Sable Township found that it was easy to domesticate the wild bees which were found in countless numbers, and one of the sports of those early days was bee hunting, and dogs were trained to aid in the sport. A man who could successfully located the bee trees was supposed to possess a kind of mystic influence, and one who gained local distinction here was David Bunch. The wild honey furnished the pioneer’s table with a sweet, and the bees were afterward confined in homemade hives, and encouraged to produce honey under supervision. Honey was also used to make a fermented drink called metheglin, which was thought by many, better than cider. The pioneers of Aux Sable were, at first, forced to go to Reed’s Grove for the grinding of their grain, but in 1835 or 1836, a log mill was erected on the Desplaines River, near Channahon.
A little village grew up about the inn, before mentioned, established by Salmon Rutherford. The first stage line from there was one that was operated in opposition to the established Frink & Walker’s line. Dresden flourished for a time and became important enough to be made a postoffice. However, with the building of the Illinois and Michigan Canal began the depreciation of Dresden, and the construction of the railroads completed its abandonment. A bright future, however, is in store for this one time center of activity. For many years a movement has been on foot to erect a dam at Dresden Heights, the old site of Dresden, which lies at the confluence of the Desplaines and Kankakee rivers, the beginning of the Illinois River. This dam, according to the proposed plans and specifications, is to be four miles wide, twenty-three feet deep, with a system of locks that will be sufficient to supply the channel of the deep waterway if it is erected. To provide sufficient funds to carry out this project, an amendment to the Constitution of Illinois was submitted by the General Assembly by unanimous vote in each house, to the voters of the state, on October 16, 1907, and was accepted by the people at the general election in November of the following year. This project included a waterway from the end of the present drainage canal at Lockport, Illinois, to Utica, Illinois, which is located on the Illinois River. It provided for an issue of $20,000,000 in bonds. This project was passed by the General Assembly under an act of June 10, 1911. Immediate work on the dam is rendered impossible owing to complication arising from the fact that a private corporation, known as the Economy Light and Power Company, has already done considerable construction work in throwing a dam across the stream at the point selected by the state, and the claims of this concern will have to be settled by the courts before any progress is made by the state. With the construction of this proposed dam will come added prosperity and importance to Aux Sable Township and Grundy County. During the summer of 1914, the Rivers and Lakes Commission, with Governor Dunne, made a trip over the proposed waterway, by way of the Illinois and Michigan Canal, and were favorably impressed with the possibilities of such a route.
Another early village in Aux Sable Township, Minooka, was laid out in 1852 by Ransom Gardner, for whom Gardner, in Garfield Township, is named. Mr. Gardner owned 500 acres of land, and platted part of it as the Village of Minooka, but there was but small growth until 1858, although as early as 1855, Christopher Tucker had established a general store. He left, however, in the following year, having failed in his enterprise. As the people at this time in Aux Sable had to go to Channahon for their necessaries, they were glad to join in and help Joseph Lewis when he rented the store of Tucker in 1856. In the spring of the following year Leander Smith came to Minooka and started his general store. In 1858 C.V. Hamilton built a number of business houses and a hotel, naming it for himself, but later it was called the Shiek Hotel.
In 1858, also, Gardner & Heiner built a gristmill. This much needed mill was destroyed by fire in 1866, and was replaced later on by an elevator. The first elevator, however, was built in 1868 by Knapp & Griswold, but it was burned. It was rebuilt upon a much larger scale, only to be again destroyed by fire. In 1908 a new elevator was built. Mrs. Knapp survived her husband, living to an advanced age, dying with recent years. A lumber yard was established about 1868, and in connection with it, a planing mill was built, and a hay press was also put up.
On December 14, 1869, the village was incorporated, and in the following year it suffered severely from fire, but when rebuilt, presented a much better appearance and has continued to progress in every way. In 1914 the business houses of Minooka were: The Farmers First National Bank, the only institution of its kind in the state, if not in the county, to bear this name; the Minooka Lumber & Shingle Co.; Kaffer Bros. hardware store, established many years ago by the father, Martin Kaffer; Henneberry Bros., general store and stock; J.J. Brickeroff, druggist; W.A. Clerk, general store; Dr. J.J. Cody, physician; J.A. Soergel, hardware merchant; G.A. Jacobs, proprietor of the moving picture theater, known as the Electric Theater; L.A. Ward, confectioner, and C.E. Davis, dealer in coal and wood. The population is 600. The better class of people in Minooka are very proud of the fact that in the spring election of 1914, the village went dry by a handsome majority, and the former saloons now dispense nothing but “soft” drinks. In 1906, the waterworks were built at a cost of $11,000, and an equipment for the fire department, costing about five hundred dollars, was provided. This is manned by a volunteer company of twenty men. The postmaster at Minooka is C.A. Trowbridge, and he has four rural routes from his office. While it is essentially an agricultural region, Aux Sable Township furnishes Minooka an excellent trade, and ships from it over the C. R. I. & P. Railroad, E. J. & E. Railroad and the interurban road. The farmers recognize the fact that they can have at Minooka transportation and elevator facilities that make it profitable for them to bring in their produce.
The Catholic Church of St. Mary’s which is very strong in numbers and influence, was organized at Dresden at an early day to accommodate the people of the surrounding district, many of whom were of Irish birth or extraction. In 1862 the church was moved to Minooka. The Comerfords, Kinsellars and George T. Smith were among the early leaders in the parish. This church is written up at length under the chapter on Catholic Churches of Grundy County.
The First Methodist Church came into being in 1856, when nineteen members organized it. Among these early members were: J.G. Smith, Henry Pendleton, S. and A.C. Worthing, Michael Ketcham and their wives. The Rev. T.L. Omsted preached to them in the store owned by a Mr. Ferguson. Later on meetings were held in the schoolhouse, until the church edifice was erected. A Sunday school was established early in the history of the church. The present pastor is H.A. Snyder, and sixty families attend service. Another Methodist Church, known as the Aux Sable Methodist Church was organized under the Rev. John Devore at the home of Henry Cryder. In 1878 a wooden church edifice was built through the action of the early members, among whom were Henry Cryder, Z. Walley and wives, John Craig and D.M. Thomas. The members of this organization now are under the ministrations of the Reverend Snyder.
There are two cemeteries in Aux Sable, in addition to early private burial grounds, namely: The Catholic Cemetery, which is treated of in another chapter, and the Aux Sable cemetery.
In 1837 the first schoolhouse was built on Section 8, through the instrumentality of Henry Cryder, with Miss Ashley as the first teacher. About ten years later, a second building was erected, and also served as a church as well. The present school has ten grades, and Miss Leone Brown is in charge.
The Masonic order was established at Minooka in 1867 when Minooka Lodge, No. 528, was organized. It receiving its charter in 1868. The charter members were: G. Dahlem, A.K. Knapp, G.C. Griswold, John T. Van Dolfson, G.S. Correll, Samuel Adams, W.H. Smith, E.W. Weese, Jacob Gedleman, J.E. McClure, C.V. Hamilton, John Colleps, Phaley Gedleman and W.A. Jordon. Other fraternal organizations are: The Modern Woodmen of America, Knights of Pythias, and Eastern Star.
No notorious crimes stain the records of Aux Sable Township, for its people are quiet, industrious and temperate, going along their way, content to earn honestly what they possess, and as nearly all are connected with one or other of the churches, their religion has taught them to subdue any evil tendencies they may have ever had with very noticeable results. The Village of Minooka is normally strongly republican in national and state matters, although the election of 1914 put democrats in office.
The men who have represented Aux Sable on the Board of Supervisors of Grundy County have been: Jas. Kinsley, 1850-1857; William Walters, 1858; Samuel Randall, 1859; James Kinsley, 1860; John Brown, 1861; Michael Kinsley, 1862-1866; Leander Smith, 1867-1868; George Collins, 1869; A.R. Knapp, 1870-1871; Michael H. Cryder, 1872; William Walters, 1873; Fletcher Dirst, 1874-1881; Peter H. Briscoe, 1882-1895; Fletcher Dirst, 1896-1901; Daniel R. Hall, 1902-1907; D.A. Henneberry, 1908-1909; H.P. Dwyer, 1910-1914.
Source: History of Grundy County, Munsell Publishing Company, 1914