Vienna Township is west of Mazon Township, and the history of the two is closely connected, many of the earliest settlers of both taking up claims in one and then the other. The surface of Vienna Township is level and is drained by Hog and Bill’s runs, the Waupecan and Thunder creeks, a portion of Johnnie Run and some other streams to which no definite name is given. The soil is rich, black prairie loam, which before tiling was introduced, was very wet, but now is exceedingly fertile, and owing to the close proximity of markets, the land is very valuable for farming purposes, selling from $200 to $250 per acre. Very little of the timber that skirted Hog Run and the Waupecan, is left.
There was no royal road to fortune for those who settled here in the early days. What they accomplished came about through hard work, thrift and a never dying faith in the future of this locality. Those who followed the brave pioneers, found plenty left for them to do, and their children are still kept busy in furthering the advancement of the township, and maintaining the high standards raised by those who were not willing to barter any independence.
The first settlers of Vienna Township were Edwin Shaw and Shelton Bartholomew, who came here in 1833. Soon afterwards an English family named Green, took up a claim on Section 4, at Hog Point. The claim of the latter was bought in 1836, by Jonah C. Newport. About 1884 George W. Armstrong settled on Section 5, and built a cabin, which he later replaced with a fine modern residence. About the same time Charles Parer came here, but suffered from a loss by fire. The next to locate here was John Dewey, who arrived in 1841, renting from Jonah Newport. John B. Moor came in 1841, and was one of the first grand jurors in the county, being chosen that same year. He moved away in 1865. In 1845 Henry Hysop came to Vienna Township, and his prairie cabin was the first to be built away from the timber region. The Wilks, W.H. and E.K. Curtis, as well as the Parants and Antis families, came soon afterward.
Came by Way of the Illinois and Michigan Canal
Other early settlers of this locality were Justin Rennie, with his wife and six children, who migrated from Greene County, N. Y., coming by the way of the Great Lakes to Chicago, thence to Morris, Grundy County, on one of the first packet boats that were run on the Illinois and Michigan Canal, arriving at Morris, June 7, 1848. Mrs. Rennie died in 1874, but her husband lived until 1901, when he died at the age of ninety-one years, lacking about four mouths. Four of their children are still living, Ferdinand, George, Isabelle and Douglas, the last named having been a resident of Vienna Township since 1845. George and Jerome Rennie rallied to the call of President Lincoln in 1860 and 1861, to protect our national emblem, the Stars and Stripes. Jerome Rennie survived until 1884, but died from the effects of ills contracted through exposure during the Civil War. The family underwent hardships incident to the early settlers, but in spite of these the goal they were working for was reached. Justin Rennie was the first supervisor of Vienna under township organization.
Jeremiah Aker and family were early settlers of Vienna Township, coming from New York State in 1850. James and Alexander of the Aker family, survive, the latter owning the homestead, and the former lives on another farm in Vienna Township. James Granby and family came from New York State and settled in Vienna about 1852, and the old home is still in the son’s possession. Theodore and George Granby rallied to their country’s call in 1861, and the latter was killed by a bullet from the enemy while carrying the starry flag in battle. Patrick Hanley and family came about 1846, then moved away, but later a return was made and Vienna Township chosen as a permanent home. A son of Patrick, Edward Hanley, still lives here. Other names worthy of mention are: Anthony Mallaney, Michael Cashen, Michael Wright, Peter McCollough, James Rennie, Abraham Hollenbeck, Richard Curk, Patrick, John, Michael, James and Owen Weis, William Hinchman, William, Dave and Robert Lindsay, Acy Porter, M. Cambridge, William Thomson, James and Robert Glenn, W.J. and George Fellingham, O.W. Strong, Patrick Walsh, Amos Barber, Aaron Harford, Chauncey Harford, John Allison, R.K. Slosson, E. Slosson, T.A. Walsh, William Peterson, C. Crozier, A. Kinley, J. Weldon, T.S. Coleman, Joe Hutchins, C.A. Hill, H. Gorham, J. Greer, M. Esgar, Mat Hagmond, J. Reardon, Allen, Isaac and Lucius Tilden, W. Cooper, J. and G. Stoner, J. Sheardain, E. and P. Donahue, C. Whittemore, G.D. Smith, Martin Finch, A.H. Bruce, R. Siflett, James Lemark, William Ransley, S. Cockram, George Finch, M.M. Dix, and Charles Knibbs. Nearly all of the above mentioned early settlers have descendants in Vienna Township, the majority of whom are farmers and model husbandmen.
Mrs. Dewey taught the first school, which was a boarding school, held in her own cabin. The first log schoolhouse was built near Hog Run, and the school was taught by A. Warnock.
The Methodists were the first to hold religious services in Vienna Township. The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1876, and in 1877 a church was built at Verona. Among the early members were: I.C. Tilden, M.M. Dix and J. Kendall. At present this church has a large membership.
The first regular church organization was that erected by the Baptists in 1850. W.J. Fellingham was a minister who served the little society known by the name of Ebenezer, until 1862, the schoolhouse being used as a meeting place. In that year a neat church edifice was erected, and until death claimed the good pastor, in 1867, the society was in a prosperous condition. Members began to leave, some died, and with the influence of the founder removed, there were not enough members left to keep up the organization, and the church was sold.
The Presbyterians organized on February 27, 1855, under Rev. S.H. Loss, with fourteen members. Like the Baptists they used the schoolhouse, but in 1870, built a nice church edifice which they moved to Verona in 1877. For a number of years following, they kept up their organization, but the building was finally sold to the Roman Catholic Church, which has a large and growing membership.
The Universalists once had an organization at Verona, but abandoned their property, and the building is now owned by the Eastern Star order, and used for a banquet hall.
Corn is King
Corn, oats and hay are raised extensively, the first named predominating. The farms of Vienna Township are excellent, and the agriculturists know how to operate them, and are justly proud of the fact that they belong to the class that is developing this important division of Grundy County. They are becoming affluent and enjoy much in the way of comfort as well as many luxuries. The majority own automobiles, and their premises are fitted with modern appliances. It is from the corn that the farmers of Vienna Township gain most of their wealth, for it grows more luxuriantly, and to the stockman this grain equals in value that of all other farm crops combined. Oats comes next to corn and on good, improved soil, yields from sixty to ninety bushels per acre. Hay comes third, yielding as heavily as from one to two tons per acre when cultivated. The value of live stock on every farm is something every farmer should realize. It has been shown time and again to the agriculturists that fertility of the soil lessens and the crop output decreases. That this is becoming acknowledged, the present output of stock shows. Some of the farmers specialize on high grade horses such as the heavy draught horses and others handle the White Face cattle. Finch Bros., of Verona, and Finch & Dix, are two firms of Vienna Township whose names are associated with high grade stock.
Until 1854 fruit was cultivated largely, but the fine peach orchards were destroyed that winter and after that the farmers preferred not to risk losing valuable trees.
In 1836 there came into existence upon paper, and in the hearts of the visionary projectors, a city, which bore the name of Illinois City. It was founded and laid out by a Mr. Bullock, but had no actual existence.
Verona, the one village of Vienna Township, is situated on the A. T. & S. F. Railroad, and was laid out and platted in February, 1877, by Martin Finch and Ambrose Kinley. It was named by G.D. Smith after his birthplace, Verona, N.Y. At present it has about three hundred population. The following business men and houses are located within its confines: Verona Exchange Bank; Beal & Renne; Dr. J.C. Bucher, physician and surgeon; J.F. Cody, proprietor of the Star Hotel and dealer in meats and groceries; John Gard, dealer in ice cream, ice cold drinks, cigars and tobacco; Hough Bros., dealers in hardware and implements; Charles Leach, barber; McCormick Bros., dry goods, groceries, crockery, glassware, notions, etc.; Overley Bros., meat market; J.C. Petery, The Motto Grocer; Small and Son, blacksmith and repair shop; John F. Stitt, postmaster, dealer in school books, stationery, periodicals, patent medicines, and toilet articles; C.H. Van Deusen, manufacturer of wagon dump bolsters and elevators; W.S. Walsh, dealer in grain, lumber and coal; and Whittemore Bros., undertakers and dealers in furniture and boots and shoes.
The postoffice at Verona belongs to the fourth class and has two rural mail carriers. The concrete sidewalks have been laid since the village was incorporated, and the more progressive spirits are working to have the streets paved in the same manner. At present the fire department is a bucket brigade, and the willing members of it have proven their bravery and efficiency upon several occasions when departments with a regular equipment might well have faltered. The Masonic fraternity is represented at Verona, the order owning its own hall. There are also lodges of the orders of the Eastern Star, Modern Woodmen and Royal Neighbors.
Those who have served Vienna Township as members of the Board of Supervisors of Grundy County have been as follows: Justin Rennie, 1850; A. McMillan, 1851-1852; Justin Rennie, 1853-1855; R.K. Slosson, 1856-1857; Jobn Weldon, 1858; R.K. Slosson, 1859-1860; John Weldon, 1861; R.K. Slosson, 1862-1865; E. Wormley, 1866-1868; John Weldon, 1869; A.F. Porter, 1870; Michael B. Waley, 1871-1876; R.K. Slosson, 1877-1878; Joseph Wilson, 1879; Henry Hyslop, 1880; Thos. S. Colman, 1881; Henry Hyslop, 1882; T.B. Granby, 1883; D.S. Rennie, 1884-1887; A. Hollenbeck, 1888-1889; D.S. Rennie, 1890-1893; James Mulvanie, 1894-1895; F.E. Curtis, 1896-1897; M.G. Haymond, 1898-1899; T.B. Granby, 1900-1905; E.O. Fellingham, 1906-1913; Dennis Welsh, 1914.
Township Officials, 1912-1913: Supervisor, E.O. Fellingham; Town Clerk, H.H. McCormick; Assessor, F.S. Ransley; Collector, G.S. Beal; Highway Commissioners, Reuben Hollenbeck, James Mulvanie, C.A. Finch; Justice of the Peace, C.H. Van Deusen; Constable, S.O. Whittemore; School Trustees, J.P. Harford, S.G. Marlett, Fred Troxel; School Treasurer, D.S. Beal.