Felix township was given the Christian name of Felix Grundy, for whom the county was named. This township lies south of the Illinois River, with Will County on the east, Braceville Township on the south, and the Mazon River and Wauponsee Township on the west. The surface of Felix Township is generally low, although in the northeastern part there is some high land along the river. Goose Lake is drained by Claypool Run into the Mazon River, and by other streams into the Kankakee River. The soil is a low, wet clay, a deposit of which near the western end of Goose Lake is suitable for pottery purposes, but the grade is of common quality. Felix Township is particularly adapted for grazing purposes, and some excellent stock is raised within its confines.
Felix Township has always been subject to floods, and some of them have been very destructive, that of 1837 having been the worst. The pioneers were ill prepared to stand the loss entailed, and much suffering ensued.
First Discoverer of Coal
Peter Lamsett was one of the men whose name is associated with the early history of this township. As early as 1820 he went through this locality on foot, and was known among his associates as “Specie” because he refused the paper money of the day. This name clung to him until his real name was forgotten, and Specie Grove, in De Kalb, County, was called after him. While he lived on the banks of the Mazon River, he did not own land, but was the first to discover coal in Grundy County, and was particularly successful in locating coal beds.
The first settler of the township was W.A. Holloway, who bought land on Section 12, in 1835, but left in 1840, as he was not satisfied with existing conditions. For years much trouble was experienced by would-be farmers, on account of the preponderance of swamp land, but now that tiling is so generally adopted, the land that once was useless, is the most valuable.
Abram Holderman bought much land in 1835, but soon turned his claim over to his son Henry, who, in turn relinquished it to another son, Barton. Finally Samuel Holderman gained possession and cultivated the large property until 1880, when he sold it to Jerry Collins. In 1838, William White, with his two sons J.L. and William, came from Marietta, Ohio, to Felix Township.
Abram White came here in 1839, and about the same time a Mr. Kelso and Martin Luther also settled in Felix. John Beard located first in Aux Sable Township, but in 1839, with his son-in-law, James McKean, settled on the Kankakee, and they put up a large sawmill.
Other early settlers were: Charles Cooke, William P. Robinson, Frederick S. Watkins, George Holt, Hiram Warner, Abe White, Lemuel Short, Orville S. Miller, Charles Noble, Cameron Brothers, Jacob Williams, Lorrin Clark, Thomas Singleton, Thomas Melbourne, Silas Lattimer, Frederick Wilneuw, Alexander Simpson, James Preston, Samuel Suffern, Joel Campbell, Henry F. Robison, Jacob Hoyer, Joseph Thomas, Robert Young, Robert S. Dudgeon, Patrick Howard, Alexander Trotter, Harvey Hunt, Nate Greene, Thomas Peart.
Mrs. Sarah Ann Miller, widow of the late Orville S. Miller, has the distinction of being the oldest resident of what is now Goose Lake Township, but was formerly a portion of Felix Township. She has lived here since she was eleven years old, and was born in 1837. The first death in Felix Township was that of the son of William Marquis. The infant was buried in Holderman’s Cemetery.
Kind Offices of Shabbona
The Indians were frequent visitors of the early settlers, and Shabbona, the Indian chief who was the friend of the white man, was welcomed in many homes in the northwest portion of the township. During 1831-3, the settlers were alarmed by reports of threatening hostilities, and Shabbona was frequently consulted with regard to their safety if they remained in the county, and he promised the settlers his protection. It was seldom that his advice was disregarded. His genuine friendship for the whites, as shown by his persistent labors in their interest, and the frequency with which he personally warned them of danger, have endeared his memory to Grundy County people. Shabbona died July 17, 1859, and is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery at Morris, where other members of his family rest.
Jugtown once existed as a settlement about the potter’s clay fields found on Goose Lake. In 1853 William White, of Chicago, established potteries to make use of this natural source of income. Had transportation facilities then been what they are today in Grundy County, the history of this industry might have been different, but as it is, the potteries have long been closed, and where they once stood, are beautiful fields of waving corn.
Kankakee City was another settlement that no longer exists. It grew out of the speculative mania relative to the building of the Illinois and Michigan Canal. Overnight, land values advanced to prohibitive prices, and they subsequently fell equally fast. The proposed city was beautifully laid out on paper, with ten public squares, parks and broad streets. Many of the lots were sold at auction in Chicago and New York City at fabulous prices, but after the panic of 1837, the days of its future were numbered, and where it once was planned, is now farm land.
An Agricultural Section
Agricultural pursuits engage the majority of the people. Much corn is grown and stock is bred and raised. The farmers here agree in the contention that high-grade stock pays the largest returns on the investment, and some of the stockraisers have won many medals at the Grundy County Agricultural Fair, and other stock shows. Dairying is also carried on considerably, and those engaged in this line of endeavor, have splendidly equipped barns and milkhouses, and their cattle stand every test now required by law.
A strictly rural community, Felix is, today, one of the most prosperous of Grundy divisions. In its early history, as mentioned before, the people suffered much from the disadvantages arising from the low lands, and during the late summers and early falls nearly all were sick from malaria, although fairly healthy during the winters. Much of the land could not be tilled, and that which was fertile, was subject to overflow. This is, of course, now changed, and Felix Township is as desirable a section as can be found in this part of the state.
The Coal Industry
After 1875, the coal industry was developed very rapidly. Mines were sunk in large numbers in the southeastern portion of the township, and villages sprung up and there are now four located in the vicinity of these mines, namely: Diamond, Eileen, Suffernville and Carbon Hill. Good schools and churches are still to be found at Suffernville and Carbon Hill. The former has united with Coal City and Felix Township in establishing a high school, which was opened in the fall of 1914. It was mainly through the largely increasing population of the southeast portion of the township that the large landowners of the northwest portion became dissatisfied because they had not the controlling vote. They circulated a petition and in September, 1897, were set off twelve sections of land.
Diamond Mine Disaster
With the terrible Diamond disaster, when the water from the top broke through and flooded the mine, causing the loss of 100 men then at work, came the practical end of Diamond as a village. In memory of this disaster and the miners who lost their lives on this occasion, a very handsome monument has been erected near the shaft.
On July 27, 1904, a very severe hailstorm visited Felix Township, demolishing all of the growing crops, and on April 21, 1912, a cyclone swept through a portion of the township, destroying buildings all along its path, and uprooting trees and tearing away fences.
Felix Township was laid out November 11, 18S55, and it was represented on the County Board of Supervisors in 1855, when Frederick S. Watkins was the first supervisor elected. From then on, the supervisors have been as follows: Frederick S. Watkins, 1856-1858; William F. Robinson, 1859-1860; Samuel Robinson, 1861-1867; Samuel Sufferin, 1868-1869; Samuel Holderman, 1870-1871; Samuel Short, 1872-1873; Samuel Sufferin, 1874; Jacob Williams, 1875-1877; Samuel Holderman, 1878; Jacob Williams, 1879; John Holderman, 1880-1885; Thomas Pattison, 1886; J.R. Collins, 1887-1888; William Phalan, 1889; John Anderson, Sr., 1890-1896; Frank Enrietto, appointed to fill vacancy occasioned by death of Mr. Anderson, 1897-1904; Anton Verondo, 1905-1909; William Lewins, 1910-1914.