Although the Village of Channahon will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of its incorporation next year, the history of Channahon goes back considerably further. Located where the DuPage, Des Plaines and Kankakee rivers meet to form the Illinois River, the Pottawatomi Indians called the area “Channahon,” meaning “where the waters meet.”
The Village of Channahon was formally incorporated in 1961. Voters within the two-square-mile area of Channahon voted to approve the incorporation of the village by a vote of more than two-to-one. Channahon’s population of a mere 1,100 residents has grown to a thriving community of nearly 13,000. Along with the 1961 incorporation, local officials were elected. The first mayor of the newly formed village was William A. Cook, uncle of Joe Cook, the current mayor. Elected trustees in 1961 included Ronald D. Lehamn, Vincent A. Miller, Charles Fishburn, Harold E. Randolph, Elswin (Jack) Price and John A. Matthewson. Current trustees are Sam Greco, Scott McMillin, Debbie Militello, Judie Nash, Jerry Papesh and Scott Slocum. Other elected officials at the incorporation were Village Clerk Anna Schmidt and Police Magistrate Steve Rittof, grandfather of Missy Schumacher, the current clerk. Families that have made Channahon their home for generations continue to welcome new residents to the village.
Today Channahon straddles the Will/Grundy County lines covering a 16.7 square mile region. Its mission statement is, “To strengthen and maintain the Village of Channahon as a family oriented, attractive community that provides economic diversity, high-quality schools, parks and public services for all its residents.”
Channahon boasts many amenities including affordable housing and taxes; high-quality schools with award-winning teachers; business opportunities; miles of scenic waterways; the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s new Four Rivers Environmental Education Center located on Moose Island along the I&M Canal trail; and an award-winning Park District with a nationally rated 18-hole golf course at Heritage Bluffs Public Golf Club. The Park District, formed in 1971 to save Channahon State Park, now operates several facilities including Heritage Crossing Field House, Tomahawk Aquatic Center and Arrowhead Community Center. The Park District also maintains 19 parks spanning 377 acres.
Just minutes from I-80 along I-55, Channahon’s small-town feel, scenic beauty, many amenities and location make it desirable to both residents and businesses alike. To learn more, visit the Village of Channahon website at www.channahon.org.History of Minooka
Until 1852, the site of the Village of Minooka was a grass covered prairie hill overlooking the Illinois River valley. It was supposedly a favorite hunting area for the Pottawatomi tribes who lived in the are until the 1830s. Early white settlers came to the area to stay in 1833.
The Village of Dresden, located to the south of Minooka, was begun by one of the first settlers, Salmon Rutherford, and thrived along the I&M Canal only to fail with the coming of the railroad to the north. The Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad put down tracks from Chicago to Ottawa in 1852. Ransom Gardner, a surveyor for the railroad, purchased 500 acres in the northeast corner of Grundy County and plotted the town. George Comerford, another early settler, was made the town’s first railroad agent.
Minooka was originally called Summit because the town was the highest point on the Rock Island Line. In the late 1920s, the railroad cut a “pass” through the village in an attempt to level the grade that plagues engineers on the lone freight and passenger trains. As a result, the tracks lie 13 to 15 feet below the level of Mondamin St. Until this point, the tracks were level with the street with businesses on both sides of the street. The village was given its name by Dolly Smith who was the wife of Ransom Gardner’s agent in town, Leander Smith. She spoke the Pottawatomi language and called the town Minooka. It has been said that the meaning of the word is high point, place of contentment, good Earth or place of maples.
She also named many of the streets. Mondamin means corn in the Pottawatomi language. An old deed records the name as Anoka. Minooka was granted its charter and incorporated in 1869. Leander Smith was named Village President. A.K. Knapp, William Jordan, Thomas Harris and S.B. Alsdurf were elected trustees. St. Mary’s Church was organized in 1862. There was a Catholic church in the Village of Dresden, St. Anthony’s, but members followed the businesses and public interests to Minooka. The current St. Mary’s Church was built in 1905 after a fire destroyed the church that once stood to the east of St. Mary’s Cemetery. The Minooka Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1856. The original church building was destroyed by a tornado in 1917. The current building was built soon after and has undergone much renovation and growth over the years. Minooka has retained two hotels, a horse track, a toboggan slide, a movie theater, many factories, businesses, social organizations and many, many wonderful citizens.