Snapshots of Mokena, 1870s

Mokena's Town Square in 1870
Mokena's Town Square in 1870

By Sandy Vasko

Once again, we are going to look at the small bits that made up a town’s everyday life, if not its history; in this case, Mokena. In most cases, all we know is the small bit that we read, which makes us wonder.
We start on March 3, 1875, with a bit from the Wilmington Advocate: “Frank Farnsworth, of Joliet, was almost beaten to death on the 22nd, by Dr. J. G. Shaw, of Mokena, and his brother.”
One can only hope that some of this is written “tongue in cheek.” From Nov. 4, 1875, in Joliet Weekly Sun: “Mokena was roused the other night by the alarm of fire and in a very short space of time all of its inhabitants had congregated to witness the total destruction of a wooden dwelling house, the property of Mr. John Schiek. The fire originated in the upper portion of the building, and as the house was unoccupied, it was undoubtedly the work of an incendiary.
“Notwithstanding that the fire engines were brought to the rescue, and that at least two pails of water was showered on the building, no headway could be made against the flames, and I think I may say we all (considering the limited supply of water) coolly watched its destruction. I have heard it stated that the kerosene with which the fire bug did his business could be smelt at least two blocks off. I was within two feet of the flames within two minutes after they were seen, and did not smell anything.”
From Nov. 25, 1875: “The people of Mokena do not seem to display any great aptitude for those social festivities which are practiced in the neighboring towns. Will not some of our leading citizens devise some means by which our social life may be amended, and suggest some mode of recreation and amusement which will be congenial to all? Men and women are by nature gregarious, and the ministers who aid in establishing innocent and elevating amusement, will do more for Christianity and morality than perhaps they can accomplish in any other way.”
From Dec. 9, 1875, Joliet Weekly Sun: “A preliminary meeting was held by the business men of this place on Saturday evening. The following resolution will explain its object: “We, the undersigned business men of the village of Mokena, hereby notify the public in general that, owing to the hard times, we will from and after Wednesday, Dec. 15, 1875, sell goods of any description only and strictly for cash or its equivalent.”
From Jan. 6, 1876, “A number of mad dogs are roaming about in the vicinity. Their owners seem to be perfectly regardless of the bad results which might arise from persons getting bitten by them.”
The following week, “The spirit of emulation is strong in the people of Mokena. If a good deed has been done in another place, then do the people of Mokena, with that spirit of generosity for which they are so justly celebrated, throw in their chips and do likewise.
“If Frankfort has a donation party, then does Mokena also, and see them 100 per cent better in point of receipts. If Frankfort is justly proud of four saloons, then is Mokena ahead with seven. If Chicago and St. Louis have crooked whisky excitements, Mokena follows in their footsteps. In fact, at present crooked whisky is the all exciting topic of conversation, which is strange, considering the strong temperance proclivities of our people.”
“But to be in sober earnest, the sheriff of the county sent a number of pressing invitations to a number of our most promising young men to attend a convention, which was held in the court house at Joliet. The convention consisted of the aforesaid promising young men, the county attorney and the grand jury of Will County. The result of the convention I have not learned, but the Mokena delegation were anxiously interviewed by seven of the most substantial inhabitants of the place on their return.
And, “Let those who think the American women are deteriorating take notice of this: Miss Clara Coon husked 30 bushels of corn on the 3rd inst., and yet some men are so base as to say that an American woman cannot work. Will young men say that good wives are scarce now?”
From March 2, 1876, “Mokena has been dormant for the past week. Crooked whisky has not been attended with any very disastrous results. A saloon keeper was thrown over his bar but with the exception of broken bottles the loss was not alarming. Mud has been prominent for the past few days, consequently the click of the billiard ball and the intricacies of 66 (a German card game) has engrossed the attention of not a few of our youths.”
May 13, 1876, “Dr. A. C. Lindeman, a German Physician who located here a few weeks ago, absconded last night with books instruments, etc., which he had borrowed of other physicians in town. He left accounts unpaid, pawned a borrowed watch and several other articles.”
From May 29, 1877 in the Joliet Signal, a sad note: “The Mokena Advertiser appeared last week in mourning for its late editor and proprietor, Charles H. Jones, aged nearly 21 years, who died at the residence of his father in Mokena, Sunday, May 20th, of consumption. The deceased, though a young man, was an active worker and through perseverance and industry had built up in Mokena a neat weekly paper, that was a credit to the village.”
Next week, we will take a stroll down the streets of Mokena, window shopping and, of course, gossiping.

Mokena’s Schiek Saloon in the 1870s



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