Frankfort Township, the early years

A photo of mad stones. They are found in the stomachs of cud shewing animals, especially deer. They are composed of hair the has been calcified into a stone-like substance. They were used to draw out the poison in a bite or wound into the 20th century.
A photo of mad stones. They are found in the stomachs of cud shewing animals, especially deer. They are composed of hair the has been calcified into a stone-like substance. They were used to draw out the poison in a bite or wound into the 20th century.

By Sandy Vasko

Will County is known across the state as the “Stairstep” County. Making up one of these stairs is Frankfort Township. It was settled very early on in our history. As early as 1828, white men were coming through, although permanent settlers waited until 1830 to build. What sort of people settled there? Let’s take a look:

We know from reading George Woodruff’s account of the settlement of the township, that there was a large population of Germans and abolitionists. In 1856, Cal Zarley, a staunch Democrat and proponent of slavery, wrote in his Joliet Signal newspaper: “The Democracy of Frankfort are arousing and the vain boast of the Abolitionists that they are going to carry that town by one hundred majority has little now to sustain it.

“On Tuesday 9th inst., meeting were held at Frankfort and Mokena in that town which were addressed by E. C. Fellows, Esq & S. W. Bowen, Esq., of this city, in English, and by Michael Sebastian, of this city, Dr. Folky, of Wallingford, and Dr. Committi of Chicago, in German.

“We learn that there were between three and four hundred present at each of these meetings, and that the right sort of feeling prevailed. The speakers were enthusiastically applauded. Frankfort is Democratic and will give a democratic majority. The Abolitionists of that town are a shrewd set of fellows, but they ain’t sharp enough to catch the Democrats with their nigger bait.”

I am not sure what the statistics were in the 1856 election, but I do know that Lincoln carried Frankfort Township by a margin of 2 to 1 over his opponent Douglas, in the 1860 election.

Frankfort also was known for its no nonsense approach to crime. We read on July 17, 1874: “The town hall in the village of Frankfort, Will Co., was filled to overflowing by the bone and sinew of the surrounding inhabitants, for the purpose of forming a Horse Thief Detective Association and Vigilance Committee. The meeting being called to order, the following were nominated and elected as officers for the ensuing year: N. Volek – President, John Baumgartner – Vice-President; H. R. Wood, Secretary; Jacob Baumgartner – Captain and Treasurer; J. R. Letts – Lieutenant.

“Enrolling of members being next in order, the goodly number of 102 were soon booked, and each paid their $1.00 ($27.50 today) as initiation fee. It was then moved that each member be appointed as a committee of one to receive and enlist members residing in the townships of Frankfort, New Lenox and Green Garden, and report to the Captain and Treasurer.

“In addition to the constitution and by-laws, it was further moved ‘That any three members of this society while in pursuit of a horse thief and in capturing the same, may have the right, if so disposed, to hang the culprit on the most convenient limb; and we pledge our honors and fortunes to stand by and maintain every member in the execution of such a deed.’

“This amendment to the constitution was received with a unanimous consent and greeted by a vociferous outburst of enthusiasm.”

In 1875, a movement for “improving” the overall appearance of the town of Frankfort was in full swing. “Considerable improvements have been made in the village during the last two months, which require special notice. On Minnesota Avenue Mr. Dennis Has made an addition to his house. Mr. L. Claus has greatly improved the appearance of his recently purchased residence, which he now occupies on Minnesota avenue. Mr. Levi Doty has built an addition to the rear of his house. Mr. Sternes, alive to the spirit of progress and improvement, has been replacing some of the windows of his house for larger ones, and plastering some of his supper rooms.

“Messrs. Mettler & Osman have built some splendid wagons lately, and appear to have plenty customers. Mr. Rix is now at work in his new shoe shop. Mr. Barker has been adding to and otherwise improving his cottage on the corner of Nebraska St. On Kansas Street Mr. Baumgartner has greatly enlarged his store. Mr. A. Lee Hollopeter, of Auburn, Ind., contractor for the elevator, is now here with nine carpenters, and expects to complete the building in four weeks.”

The social and educational aspects of the community were not forgotten. “The amateur debating society had a lively time of it last Friday night, on the question. Resolved, ‘That a boy ought to be taught only those things which he is likely to need in practical life when he becomes a man.’ The discussion produced more amusement than that of the week previous.

“Professor Harding, of Mokena, has offered his services as a music teacher, to conduct a class in Frankfort on very reasonable terms. We hope there will be a large class, as it is well known that he is an excellent teacher.”

However, we know that life in the 1870s was not all “skittles and beer.” We read in December of 1875: “A mad dog passed through the town of Green Garden about three weeks ago, which afterwards visited the village of Frankfort, being seen and heard fighting with the dogs of the neighborhood.

“In Green Garden the dog bit three boys belonging to Mr. John Lippel, farmer. Mr. Lutherland’s dog was the first dog here which showed symptoms of hydrophobia, and it was killed last Friday, since then several dogs, supposed to have been bit, have been killed.”

Mr. J. McDonald, grain merchant, had a narrow escape this morning from his own dog, which attacked him and bit him through the boots, fortunately doing him no particular injury. He tied it up as he though securely on Sunday morning, but it had succeeded in twisting off the chain with which it was fastened, and making its escape, Mr. McDonald held the rabid animal down with his boot till Charlie Southwell dispatched him with a hatchet.

“Several dogs have been bitten by this one, and our neighbors must therefore be on the alert for more, unless all the dogs be tied up or housed for the next two or three weeks. Mrs. Stoffenberg, of Green Garden, and her two children, were bit by their own dog which went mad on Sunday last.

“They have gone to see Mr. Charles Santer, of Bloom, Cook Co., Ill., who has in his possession a mad stone which has cured hundreds of cases. This remarkable stone is considered a sure remedy for the bite of a mad dog when it can be applied before the first symptoms of hydrophobia ensues.”

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