History of Greenfield Illinois

Greenfield Township owes its name to Thomas L. Green of Chicago, who owned and operated in its lands to an extensive degree prior to its formation into a township. Because of the activity and popularity of Mr. Green this section was named after him by the enthusiastic men who had the matter in hand, the committee being composed of Robert Wood, Robert Finley and Milo Wilcox.

The township had at this time the following boundaries: Braceville Township on the north, Good Farm Township on the west, Round Grove, Livingston County, on the south, and Essex, Kankakee County on the east, and it had an area of six miles.

The soil is black loam, ranging from one to two feet deep and is capable of high cultivation. It rolls gently downward from the southern portion, but as the streams are all supplied with high banks, considerable drainage is necessary.

Timber and Streams

Unfortunately much of the original timber has been cleared away, although Greenfield Township was never very heavily wooded, the timber being along the Mazon Creek. One of the best known groves in the township was Currier’s Grove. The varieties of timber found embraced oak, hickory, walnut, elm, basswood, and similar species found in Illinois. The largest stream, Mazon Creek, originates at Broughton, Livingston County, running north through Greenfield Township. Cramery Creek, the next important, comes into the township from Essex Township, Kankakee County, and unites with Mazon Creek. Two other creeks, which rise in Round Grove Township, unite with Mazon Creek within the boundaries of Greenfield Township.

Earliest Pioneers

While Greenfield Township was still unorganized, belonging then to the Mazon precinct, about 1848, Dr. James Miller and Nelson LaForce became the pioneers of the township. They located on the northwest part of Section 3, where they built a house which was the first to be put up within a radius of thirty-six square miles. In it was born the son of Doctor Miller, George Miller, the first white child to be born in the township. For many years Doctor Miller ministered to the sick and suffering of his neighborhood, although crippled to such an extent that he was forced to go on two crutches. Later he went to Gardner where he owned and conducted a drug store and still later removed to Florida where he rounded out his useful life. His associate Mr. LaForce, also moved to Gardner later in life. The second house in the township was built by Taylor Bredfleld in 1849, near the northeast corner of Section 10.

Pioneers of 1849

Robert Glass came here in 1849 and under the farm he secured on Section 10, coal was discovered in the early `80s which increased the value of his property many times over. This pioneer has long passed to his last reward. Robert Finley was another of the pioneers of 1849, and the Village of Gardner now occupies a portion of his original holdings. He bought a quarter of Section 9 for $134, and later another quarter section for $175, and had the satisfaction of selling a large portion of it in town lots, receiving for a quarter of an acre much more than either of the original tracts cost him. Samuel Miller came here in 1849, hut sold his land in 1854 to go to Iowa. Mr. Fuller is numbered among the early hunters of this region, and stories of his prowess with his gun are still related. Robert Wood’s arrival was either in the latter part of 1849, or the early part of 1850. Later he sold and went to Missouri, but being convinced that Grundy County offered more advantages, came back and bought a new farm, spending the remainder of his life on the east bank of Mazon Creek.

Franklin Morgan was another pioneer of 1849, but later he went to Indiana. He is remembered for his genial spirit and love of fun. Joseph Elliott also came here in 1849, having spent a short time in DuPage County. His first winter was spent in a mere shanty, though the terrible snow storms, made it utterly impossible for him and his family to keep warm, despite the fact that they had a roaring fire all the while.

Another of the pioneers of Greenfield Township was John Kelso, who arrived here in 1849, but later went to Kansas. Milo Wilcox put up a little house on the banks of Mazon Creek in 1849, but sold it to Charles Roe, a Methodist preacher, and secured another farm. George F. Spencer developed a magnificent farm from his prairie holdings. He planted a fine orchard and became one of the leading men of Greenfield Township. Nelson Clapp came here in 1849, but soon sold to move to Grand Prairie. Benjamin Banister arrived the same year as Mr. Clapp, but his property has passed into different hands.

Other Early Settlers

On May 10, 1850, George Willis came here from Guernsey County, Ohio, building a split log cabin. With him came S.V. Hartley who developed into a wealthy farmer. His original farm was divided into town lots, to his profit.

Thomas McCartney was another of the pioneers and among those who came after 1850 may be mentioned: Alexander and Kennedy Brown, J.W. Hall and Robert Atkinson. After this, settlement was rapid, for it was recognized that the soil was fertile and farming profitable.

The first mowing machine used in Greenfield Township was bought by Alexander and Kennedy Brown in 1852.

First Death

The first to die in Greenfield Township was George Beal, who passed away in the spring of 1856. No clergyman could be secured for the last rites, but a pious neighbor offered a heart-felt prayer. Others joined in with a hymn, and all who could followed the rude coffin to what is now Wheeler Burying Grounds.

First Marriage

In either June or July of 1851, occurred the first marriage which was celebrated between Henry Brown and a young lady whose first name was Amanda, a sister-in-law of Daniel Fuller. The following is declared to be a true transcript of the marriage service which bound them together:

“Henry, do you love Amanda?”

“Yes”

“Amanda, do you love Henry?”

“Yes”

“Then I pronounce you man and wife, by God.”

Public Movements

The first bridge was built over the Mazon Creek at Mazon’s three-mile house, during the winter of 1867-68, by John F. Peck of Gardner. It was of wood, 200 feet in length, but was later replaced by one of stone and iron. Still later, after the second one was destroyed by a cyclone, an iron bridge was constructed. Other bridges were built on Snyder’s Lane, prior to that over the Mazon, and were replaced by more substantial ones later on. The commissioners are constantly making improvements on the bridges and take pride in keeping them up to a standard in every respect.

The first town meeting of Greenfield Township was held in April, 1850. Those present at the meeting were seventeen in number, and the following were elected: Franklin Morgan, supervisor; Nelson LaForce, town clerk; Robert Glass, assessor; Taylor Bradfield, overseer of the poor; Nelson LaForce, collector; R. Finley, R. Woods and John Kelso, highway commissioners; Thomas McCartney and Jachin Banister, constables; Daniel Fuller, justice of the peace, and Taylor Bradfield, pathmaster.

An Amalgamated Population

Various countries are represented among the people of Greenfield Township. There is a large settlement of Danes, Norwegians, Scandinavians, Scotch, Irish and Germans here, while the New England states sent generously some of their best citizens to help to develop this portion of Grundy County. The descendants of the early settlers have intermarried until they are now fused in the great melting pot of Americanism, and are proud of this country and the one from which they sprung.

Greenfield Township is fortunate in not having a record of cruel Indian history, owing in large part to the friendship of the chief Shabbona. However, wolves remained to scare the pioneer. There were plenty of deer and other wild game, and so with fish from the streams, the early settlers did not have to kill their stock to secure meat.

Reclaiming of Swamp Lands

In the early 80s the people of Greenfield Township began to appreciate the value of tile draining, and after the first experiments in this method of reclaiming the swamp lands proved so satisfactory, the agriculturalists here, always progressive, undertook the drainage of thousands of acres hitherto worthless, and upon them banner crops are now being raised.

Until Garfield Township was formed from Greenfield, Gardner was within the latter township, and its first village to be incorporated, but it now belongs to the former, and is written up at length in the history of that section.

South Wilmington

The second village to be incorporated in Greenfield Towship was South Wilmington, which came into existence August 23, 1899. An election was held by the qualified voters residing within the territory, to-wit: The southwest quarter of Section 11 in Township 31, North Range 8, east of the Third P. M. in the County of Grundy. The returns which were canvassed by A.R. Jordan, county judge, resulted for incorporation. The first election for village officers was held September 19, 1899, and the first set of officers elected were: Robert McNulty, Sr., president; Mike Finn, clerk; Walter Ferguson, treasurer; Charles McLean, constable; William Walker, street commissioner; Levi Simms, police magistrate, and William Purdy, Martin Ferrero, Patrick Corrigan, Hugh Young and John Hammer, trustees.

The family of Mr. and Mrs. Gibson Simpson was the first to locate at South Wilmington, moving into a house taken there from Braidwood, that had belonged to Ed Blandey. The second family was that of Patrick Corrigan, who came to take charge of the hotel which was built by the C.W. and C. Coal Company, it being the first to be put here. In 1899 the coal company commenced to build new houses and sell them to their employees, and a great many were moved in from the surrounding towns of Braceville, Braidwood, Coal City, and Clarke City. The present population of South Wilmington is about three thousand.

A meeting of the citizens was held in the fall of 1899 and donations were asked for the commencement of a school for the benefit of the few children here. School commenced that same fall, being held in an old store building which had been moved in on Third Avenue. Miss Carrie Petit was employed as the first teacher. The people responded so generously to the request for funds that by the fall of 1900, a four-room schoolhouse was ready in District 74, and in May, 1902, four rooms more were added. It now has 870 pupils enrolled, 479 boys and 441 girls. A two-room schoolhouse was built in District 68 in the spring of 1905. This latter school has 107 pupils enrolled, fifty-one boys and fifty-six girls.

The first religious services held in South Wilmington were by the Baptist Sunday School in the fall of 1900. They were conducted in what was known as the Prophet Building, which was moved here from Gardner. Rev. J. Blodgett and J.C. Wilson organized it, and F.E. Floyd was the first superintendent. The church building where the Baptists now hold services was moved from Braceville in 1901. Rev. J. Blodgett was the first pastor. The church was organized the same year, but only remained by itself a short time, becoming a mission of Gardner, until February 6, 1910, when it became once more a separate church.

A complete history of the coal industry of Grundy County will be found elsewhere in this work. Written by an expert, the conditions are fully given.

Among the leading business houses and professional and business men of South Wilmington are: Dr. C.D. Allison, physician; Arthur G. Perry, president Bank of South Wilmington; Frank Blanchetto, buffet; Felix Garda, buffet; Joe Girot, buffet; Max Goodman, general merchandise; Hector Jerbi, general merchandise; McAllister & Co., garage; William McGovern, Robert McNulty, public telephone station; Mrs. Veronica Pastore, groceries and ice cream; Peter Piagno, grocer; Albino Residori, buffet; Dominick Rolla, grocer; Ronchetti & Co., meats and general merchandise; Frank Scavardo, agent Morris Brewery; Skinner Bros., general merchandise; Testa Bros., bakery; Domenio Valerugo, buffet; Wilmington Coal Mining & Manufacturing Co.; A.C. Wilson, livery; and others interested in farm lands who have retired to this village to enjoy the fruits of their labors.

East Brooklyn

On June 15, 1903, a petition was presented to the County Court of Grundy County asking that the question of incorporation of a village to be called East Brooklyn, be submitted to the people. In accordance with the petition, an election was afterwards held. The result of this election was in favor of corporation, and thereupon the Village of East Brooklyn came into existence. Its territory is as follows: commencing at a point 943-8-10 east of the southeast corner of the southwest one-quarter of the southeast one-quarter of Section 11 in Township 31, North Range -, East of the Third P. M., and running north 683 feet, west 1,590 feet, south 683 feet, and east 1,590 feet. On July 21, 1903, an election was held and the first to hold office in East Brooklyn were as follows: Levi Green, president, and George Hackney, Joe Black, Anton Rolando, Fred Bollatto, Joe Ferrero and John Rouchetti, trustees. East Brooklyn has a population of 525, and it is growing.

A number of secret societies are represented in Greenfield Township, among them being: The Knights of Pythias, the Eagles, and the Marco Polo, Solo Resplendente, and the Minatori Di Italla, the last three being Italian societies.

Those who have served Greenfield Township on the Board of Supervisors of Grundy County have been as follows: Franklin N. Morgan, 1850-1851; Jas. Miller, 1852; Jas. Craig, 1853; Robert Wood, 1854; Joseph C. Robinson, 1855; C.A. Whitbeck, 1856; William B. Royal, 1857-1858; Charles E. Gardner, 1859-1861; Reuben H. Rose, 1862-1863; Wm. Hart, 1864; Stephen D. Underwood, 1865; Theodore Hyatt, 1866-1867; Kennedy Brown, 1868-1869; Amos Clover, 1870-1876; Isaac McClun, 1877-1878; Wm. H. McClun, 1879; Lewis Germain, 1880-1888; Henry Leach, 1889; Lewis Germain, 1890; H.E. Snyder, 1891-1892; Jerry A. Gowey, 1893-1896; H.E. Snyder, 1897-1898; Geo. W. Booth, 1899-1901; John Spiller, 1902; J.C. Wilson, 1903-1904; Alexander K. Walker, 1905-1912; A.J. Culley, 1913-1914.

 

Source: History of Grundy County, Munsell Publishing Company, 1914

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