of Minooka, Illinois
Compiled by Michele Houchens
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 Pottowatomi
tribes who lived in the area until the 1830's. 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.
Originally called Summit, because the town was the highest
point on the Rock Island Line. In the late 1920's the
railroad cut a "pass" through the village in an attempt to level
the grade that plagued engineers on the long 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 the maples.
She also named many of the streets. Mondamin means corn in
the Pottowatomi language. An old deed records the name as
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
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
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 contained two hotels, a horse racing track, a
toboggan slide, a movie theater, many factories, businesses,
social organizations and many, many wonderful citizens.
Click on any of the pictures below for a larger view.
||The EJ&E Station C1900
In 1888 the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railroad built a
branch line, which ran from Gardner to Plainfield, where
it joined the EJ & E. This railroad was used to carry
coal and freight from the coal mines south of the
Illinois River to the Steel mills in the Joliet and
Chicago area. This station stood just north of Minooka
on Wabena, just past I-80. These are the tracks that run
along side of the schools
||The Interurban Station c1955
In 1909, the Chicago, Ottawa and Peoria Electric Line,
commonly known as the Interurban, was begun between
Joliet and Depue, IL. This was a quick and cheap means
of transportation for people and for freight between the
towns on this line. Trains ran daily, stopping in each
town along the line, and sometimes in between towns of
too if requested. Extra cars were put on the trains on
Sundays, when crowds would come to Minooka to watch
horse racing at the racetrack on the south edge of the
village, where the high school is now located. In the
photo, notice the three story building in the
background, this was the Union or Hamilton House Hotel
that stood at the corner of Wabena and Wapella from 1858
until the early 1960's.
||Mondamin St. c1910
Looking west toward the corner of Mondamin and Wabena.
The original water tower was installed in 1906 and was
constructed of redwood. The grassy area where the
photographer was standing is now Veteran's Park.
||Looking north from Wapella, c1910
There is no hill by the train tracks! Minooka was and
still is the highest point in Illinois on the Rock
Island Line. Early railroad workers called Minooka
"Summit". The tracks were lowered in the 1920's so
trains could make the grade into Minooka. Before the
tracks were lowered, there were businesses on both sides
of Mondamin. In the lower left-hand corner of the
picture, a cow is grazing in the open lot.
||The Rock Island Station c1910
In 1852 the first train entered Grundy County as what
later became the Village of Minooka. The Chicago, Rock
Island and Pacific Railroad, as it was known in its
earlier days initiated Minooka's founding and growth.
This station stood by the tracks, after the tracks were
lowered, the station was moved up to the area known as
||Minooka's Toboggan Slide
During the mid 1880's A.K. Knapp built a toboggan slide
for the people of Minooka and the surrounding area.
Knapp was a prominent businessman in town, owning a
bank, the grain company and the lumberyard. Each fall
the slide was erected on Osceola St. beginning at the
top of the hill towards the elementary school driveway
and extending south along the street. The slide was
taken down in the spring and stored. The condition of
the slide deteriorated over the years and after Mr.
Knapp's death in 1904, it was not replaced.
|The Village of Minooka, Illinois
121 East McEvilly Road
Minooka, IL 60447