Peaceful, quiet Channahon, or so he says

An 1873 plat of Channahon showing the three rivers that come together in that township, making it "aqua-centered."
An 1873 plat of Channahon showing the three rivers that come together in that township, making it "aqua-centered."

By Sandy Vasko

One of the rules of writing for a newspaper is that your readers must understand what you are trying to say, otherwise you will lose them. In Channahon in the 1860s and ‘70s, a man who was the correspondent of several local newspapers, was not acquainted with that rule. He wrote in a very old, sort of cynical way, making references to Greek gods, etc.

However, having said that, he did give us a sort of humorous way of looking at things. I don’t know who he was, only that his initials are F. B. W. Today we read the history of Channahon through his eyes:

“Channahon, Ill., June 11, ’68 – Noted as Channahon is, for its quietness, mildness, moderation and thousand-like virtues, and located in the most aqua-centered corner of Will county, it is a matter of surprise that it should be visited by a ‘blow.’ But old Boreas (god of wind) visited us last Friday evening, and came to such a manner as to cause a tremor among the weaker ones, a hurrying among the good dames to chambers and attics where windows had been raised, and a general confusion among the whole household.

“At 6 p.m. the dark clouds so obscured the sun as to prevent us from reading, and we then placed ourselves at the window and calmly observed the elements. With the wind came rain, seasoned with a few hailstones. Houses trembled, trees swayed, and near windows and doors, little ponds of water appeared. We have heard of the Irishman who desired a pig pen, veggie patch, parlor and duck pond, all in one; but our little experience is the combined duck pond and parlor, forces us to say that there are inconveniences connected with it. Mermaids would undoubtedly appreciate it better than we.

“Morning came bright, and revealed a small house, occupied by Mr. Greet, minus a portion of its roof. The only advantage to be gained by the new arrangement is a better lighted garret; good thing for the garret, but a bad joke on the carpet. A barn was also blown down, owned by the butcher of this place, and his horse was injured quite badly.

“Nothing of a peculiar exciting nature visited us after the storm, until we were suddenly informed that Dr. Chapman had discovered the great secret of the Davenports and other spiritual imposters, and would appear before us on Monday and Tuesday evenings. We went Monday evening, of course; everybody did. We were not pleased with the Doctor’s style of speaking, nor was he remarkable for his easy flow of language. but he spoke as one interested in the work he had undertaken; perhaps on account of its lucrativeness, perhaps on account of the good he may do.

“He performed some quite surprising feats (in the dark) while tied to the chair. His mouth was filled with water, the lights blown out, many funny sounds were heard; the horn was blown; lights called for; his mouth still filled with water.

“The second evening he explained all he had done the previous one, and told of many other deceptions practiced by spiritualists. Some were pleased, others not. Perhaps the same reason may be assigned for this as in the case of the magicians’ deceptions; while they are a mystery they please and fascinate, when known to us we cry ‘humbug.’

“But we fear we have made our article too lengthy. Pardon. Live you well, F. B. W.”

  1. W. B. also wrote for the Joliet Signal. Here is a story from October 7, 1873:

“Corn juice acted in rather a queer manner on two of Channahon’s noble youths last Wednesday night, causing them to commit some peculiar freaks of which they were heartily sorry on the morrow. The facts as we are able to obtain them are nearly as follows: Wednesday afternoon, Frank Feamett and Vehigh Walters honored our city with their presence, and after enjoying what they probably considered a well spent day, started on their homeward journey to Channahon. Upon arriving at what is known as ‘Charlie Smith’s bridge,’ the insane idea occurred to them of playing the role of Claude Devall, or some other great personage, and they there upon stationed themselves within the roomy precincts of the covered bridge ready to command the first unlucky individual who might approach to ‘Stand and deliver.’

“In due course of time several subjects presented themselves, upon which the daring highwaymen might test their valor. Geo. Alexander and Joseph Geary were the first ones of whom they demanded ducats, but as others approached, they were accosted in a like manner, and, the request not being acceded to, were refused passage through the dark portals of the bridge.

“Of course, considerable noise was made and the consequence was the collection of a large crowd of people living in the neighborhood of the bridge. The unruly gentlemen were taken into custody, and on trial yesterday morning, one of the duet, young Walters, was bound over to await trial.”

Our writer also wrote for the Joliet Weekly Sun: “Channahon, Jan. 18, 1876 – For the past week or two nothing worth chronicling has occurred at this point.

“A little excitement is caused by a horse that one of our citizens was unfortunate enough to lose. After its death it was removed to a place on the other side of the river called the ‘bone yard,’ as it has been made the deposit of dead animals for several years. The owner of the horse was waited upon by an irate individual from ‘over the river,’ and commanded to remove it immediately. The law was resorted to, as each anxious for satisfaction. This suit is not only likely to involve in the meshes of the law, the owner of the cause of disturbance, but the man who carried it off; and as he is the nephew of the chief agitator of this war business, the adage may be verified, that ‘curses, like chickens, still come home to roost.’

“Our church had its week of prayer in common with neighboring churches We are shocked to learn that there are seventeen families in this village and its confines that never attend church. As for the families, we are sorry for them, or their non-attendance suggest the dearth of new clothes, especially of the female members.”

Aren’t you glad that I do not write like that? Oh, wait a minute, I just did. Sorry, folks.


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