Wauponsee Township is located almost in the center of Grundy County along the southern bank of the Illinois River. It embraces much of Township 33, Range 7, as lies south of the Illinois River, with all that part of Township 33, Range 8, lying west of the Mazon River. It was named in honor of a Pottawatomie war chief, “Wauponsie,” which means “a little light in the sky.” This old chief’s home and principal corn land was at a little grove called Wauponsee Grove. He lived there till October, 1835, when he went West with his tribe and was killed by his runaway horse throwing him against a tree in Kansas, in 1868.
Wauponsee Township is broken in the northwestern part, but otherwise is a rolling prairie, sloping gradually towards the northwest. The Mazon River and Waupecan Creek afford a good natural drainage, although in the bottom lands, where the soil is a rich alluvial, there is often an overflow during the spring floods. Higher, the soft is loamy, owing to the sand deposits, and the highest land is a clay suitable for grass and corn. The natural timber is oak, black and white, walnut, blue ash, backberry and maple.
The principal wild game in early days were hogs, some deer, squirrels, woodchucks and prairie chickens, and wolves were in the timber tracts.
Small fruits and vegetables are grown in great abundance, as the soil is well adapted for such products. The soil is so fertile that almost any kind of farming can be carried on with profit, but corn is the staple crop. Many of the agriculturists successfully devote themselves to stock raising and dairying.
The first settler in what is now Wauponsee Township was William Marquis, who came here as early as 1828, from the country in the neighborhood of the Wabash River, making the trip by wagon. Settling on a portion of Section 2, he built a cabin, but only cultivated enough land to feed his family, apparently devoting the greater part of his attention to trading. However, owing to a suspected tendency to take advantage of others, he was not popular and in time dwelt isolated. In 1835 he sold his land to A. Holderman, and went to Aux Sable Township, buying land and living there until 1850, when he went to Texas.
The next settler was Colonel Sayers, who came here in 1833, settling on a portion of Section 14. He did not live here, however, but sold his claim to W.A. Holloway, and the latter sold, in 1835, to S. Crook, a merchant of New York. Mr. Crook had hoped to establish himself as a merchant, bringing along a small stock of goods, but never opened a store, although he did some trading during the year he lived in the township. In 1836, he left, and became a merchant at Ottawa. Jacob Claypool located on Section 20, and went back to Ohio for his family, bringing them here in the fall of 1835. With the Claypools came James Robb and his family; William Brown and family, and John Snowhill and William Eubanks. In 1835, Richard Griggs built a cabin on his claim on Section 33. Perry A. Claypool married and put up a cabin in 1835, on Section 28.
First Saw Mill and Store
George W. Armstrong located here in 1836, on Section 18, and soon thereafter built a saw mill on Waupecan Creek. He also opened a general store, the first in the township and perhaps in the county, but he did not remain long in this locality, moving to another county several years later. The mill passed through several hands, and was finally destroyed, there remaining not the slightest trace to show where it stood. Ezekiel Warren came from La Salle County, in 1839, and bought the Armstrong cabin, but within a couple of years, moved on Section 17.
James Thompson, an Irishman, came here about 1841. In the same year, James Berry, a fellow countryman, also arrived, both being led to this section because of the building of the canal. That enterprise attracted many young men to this part of Illinois and a large number married and established permanent homes, developing into valuable and substantial citizens. The pioneers of Wauponsee Township had to depend upon Ottawa for their mail, while the only grist-mill for many years was that owned by a Mr. Green, at Dayton.
One of the dangers with which the pioneers of this locality had to cope was prairie fires. Many of the more thrifty protected their cabins and stock by plowing a furrow wide enough to check the flames should the dry grass catch on fire, but many neglected this, and saw their little homes swept away while they stood by helpless.
The first death in the township was that of the twelve-year-old son of William Marquis in the winter of 1834-5.
Wauponsee Township has always been a much traveled section, although no towns or cities have sprung up in its midst, owing largely to the lack of railroad facilities, and the proximity of the county seat. The old hotel on the Mazon River, was a tavern noted for its entertainment in olden days, although not much frequented now.
While traveling preachers held services from 1834 on, as they happened to pass through the township, the first regular church was established in 1837 or 1838, at Wauponsee Grove, by the Reverend Mr. Roger, of the South Ottawa Circuit. Rev. Harvey Hadley officiated in 1839, and Rev. John F. Devore held a great revival in 1842 or 1843. Wauponsee Township was the scene of considerable work on the part of the Mormons, who held regular services until 1844. The Methodists built a little church in 1872-3, but it was later abandoned. There have been other religious movements. The Union Sunday School, at the Thumb Schoolhouse, was organized in 1896 and continues to the present, with preaching every Sunday all the year.
The first school was opened in 1843 by Amanda Pickering on Section 20, and had the distinction of being one of the first in the county. The Slatterly schoolhouse on Section 15, was built about 1848, and was also used as a town hall and church, but was later torn down to give place for a more modern structure.
The present schoolhouses are five in number: The Gay and Conely, in the west part; the Stine School in the north part; the Thumb School in the southeastern part, and the Hume School in the southwestern part of the township, all of them being standard schools.
The men who have represented Wauponsee Township on the County Board of Supervisors from 1850 to 1912 have been as follows: Jacob Claypool, 1850-1851; L.W. Claypool, 1852-1859; John Hannah, 1860; Wm. T. Hopkins, 1861; Joseph Wicks, 1862; L.W. Claypool, 1863-1864; Joseph Opdyke, 1865; J.R. Opdyke, 1866-1867; L.H. Raymond, 1868; Benjamin Sample, 1869-1870; J.H. Pattison, 1871-1873; L.W. Claypool, 1874; James Stine, 1875-1878; John Claypool, 1878-1879; H.C. Claypool, 1880-1881; John Claypool, 1882-1885; J.H. Pattison, 1886-1890; Amos Dingmon, 1891-1892; James Stine, 1893-1898; E.G. Carsley, 1899-1902; H.H. Severns, 1903-1908; Charles Moon, 1909-1912; Chas. Elyea, 1913.