This township, like Sullivan, is newly settled. It was more than twenty years from the time of the first settlement in Indian Grove where the cabins of the white man began to dot the prairies of Charlotte. Being a part of Pleasant Ridge until 1864, its history and early settlement are so closely interwoven with that of the latter town as to render it somewhat difficult to separate one from the other. Charlotte lies in the eastern tier of townships, and is described as Town 27 north. Range 8 east, and is all prairie, except a few sections of timber, bordering the north branch of the Vermilion River, which flows through the township to the west.
The first settlement in what is now Charlotte Township was made by Patrick Monahan, in the Spring of 1857. He came from Old Ireland, the " Gim of the Say," and is a genuine, warm-hearted, big-souled Irishman, in the full sense of the term. His first habitation was made by planting four posts in the ground, across which poles were laid, and boards placed across the poles. As he could obtain neither wood nor coal, for the first few months his family gathered dried resin weeds, which were used as fuel. The fires for cooking were built on the open prairie. This was the very first opening or settlement made in this section. He states that he shipped the first car load of stock from Chatsworth, and brought the first load of lumber to that place. He used to go to Morris with an ox team to mill, which occupied several days, and sometimes a week. In breaking prairie, the " red roots " were carefully preserved for fuel. This was a kind of prairie shrub, somewhat similar to hazel or willow, except that it had larger roots. There was no coal then being mined in Livingston County, and it behooved the settlers to economize in every way possible the means of keeping up fires. John Monahan came with his brother, and was a single man at this time. He lived with Patrick several years before taking to himself a life partner. When the Monahans came to the settlement, one of their oxen gave out one mile west of the place chosen for their home. They came on, and left it lying by the road side, or rather, their trail, for there were no roads then, and the next morning Patrick sent his brother John back to see if the ox had sufficiently recuperated to make the remainder of the journey. He found only the bones of the poor animal, the wolves having devoured it during the night.
The same year that saw the Monahans pitch their tent upon these wild prairies brought Owen Murtagh and John Martin to the township. Murtagh came from Marshall County, and settled here soon after Monahan. After some years, he sold out and removed to Ford County, where he, at the last account of him, resided. Martin came from England, and seems to have been but poor material. He enlisted in the army during the late war, and after its close returned to the neighborhood, but finally left his wife, who still lives here, and went to Kansas. That is the last of him, so far as this town knows to the contrary. In the Fall of 1850, the settlement was augmented by the arrivals in it of L. W. Dart and a man named Loomis. These were rare specimens, from the accounts gathered of them. Dart came here from Woodford County, but was originally from the Green Mountains of Vermont. He built a sod house, in which he designed passing the winter, but in the fore part of the season it was burned. He lost everything he had except his wife and children, and besides which he had little else. He had nothing to live on, and after his house was burned stayed at Monahan's several weeks, until he could find some place to go to. He appears to have been a bad manager, as he received $5,000 with his wife when he married, but lost it all in Woodford County in attempts at wheat raising, and in speculating, so that when he came here he was well nigh penniless. He is said to have been a man of fine intelligence, but of a disposition to render him unpopular, and a character to some extent questionable. His family often suffered for the necessaries of life, sometimes living on potatoes alone, sometimes grinding corn in a coffee-mill for bread. He " lawed " the county for sixteen years for some imaginary title to land in Charlotte Township, but without profit to himself, or any one else, aside from the lawyers engaged in it. He left the town in 1876 without a dollar, and, as we are informed, without reputation, and went to the Indian Territory, where he is now, if he has not lost his scalp. His wife,however, was said to be a perfect lady, well raised and well liked by all. Loomis was from New York, and was another man of little use in the community. He lived by trapping and hunting, and as game became scarce, he added the making of axe handles to his business as a means of support. Like the last mentioned, his family often suffered for provisions, and his neighbors remember a time when he had nothing in his larder but some frozen potatoes, which they lived on for days together. When he run his course here and starved out completely, he took the advice of a noted philosopher, and went further West to grow up with the country. William Hefner and Elias Brown came here from Indiana in the Fall of 1859-60. They made settlements, but becoming dissatisfied sold out and moved away about 1870.
Laurence Farrall and Owen Finnegan are warm-hearted sons of the " Old Sod." Farrall came from Ireland, and stopped at Chatsworth in 1857, before the village of that name had perhaps been thought of. He remained there until 1861, with the exception of one year spent in Fairbury, when he settled in this township, where he had bought land and erected a house two years before. He still resides on this place, and the house then built was the first frame dwelling put up in this township. Finnegan came from Ohio here, but was originally from Ireland. He stopped in Fairbury, where he remained two years, then removed three miles south of Chatsworth, and in 1862 came to Charlotte, where he permanently settled and where he still resides. The last two, with Patrick and John Monahan, are all of the early settlers of Charlotte Township still living among the scenes of their early trials and privations.
Patrick Monahan's first residence, and the one he occupied until he got his land paid for, is still standing, a small cabin, presenting a striking contrast to his present elegant dwelling, which is one of the finest country residences in Livingston County, and cost $5,360, exclusive of his own work, which included all the hauling of material to the ground. It is a two-story frame building, with foundation of Joliet stone laid in cement. He is enjoying now the reward of the privations endured in the middle of a great prairie, twenty years ago. Then hunger often stared him in the face, and cold, with the extreme scarcity of fuel, was sometimes unpleasantly severe. He informed us that in those early days his family once lived nearly a week on potatoes and beans, and meal was sometimes almost wholly unattainable. He heard of some meal to be had at a certain place beyond the river, and after crossing the river on the ice, breaking through and nearly drowning, as well as freezing, found the place, but the meal was all gone. At another time, Brooks, who kept a store at Chatsworth, received a barrel of flour, and had to divide it into seven parts to accommodate his almost starving patrons.
The first child born in Charlotte Township was Julia A. Monahan, a daughter of Patrick Monahan, October 8, 1859. Her father took her to Morris, with an ox team, a distance of fifty miles, to have her baptized. Having no gun. he made the trip armed with a pitchfork to defend himself against the wolves, which were so bad that he did not know whether he would get back with his charge or not. But such is the religious zeal of that devoted people, that they will brave any danger to perform the decrees of their church. However, he made the trip in perfect safety. John Monahan and a daughter of James Glennin, of Avoca Township, who were married in October, 1863, was the first marriage, though the ceremony was not solemnized in the township. The first death was a boy named Thomas Bain, drowned in the Vermilion River in the Winter of 1862-63. He was skating on the ice, when he went through, and for some time his parents did not know where to look for him. They finally found where he had broken through the ice, and after breaking it still further, found him underneath in the water. His parents had come from El Paso to this settlement, and they took him back there for interment. As he was their only help on the farm, they never came back here to reside. The next death was an old German, who worked for Patrick Monahan, and died very suddenly. It was extreme cold weather, and he was taken to Chatsworth, and in almost the first vacant spot was buried. He is mentioned in the history of Chatsworth as the first burial in the village cemetery.
The first school houses were built in Charlotte Township in 1861. In that year, the houses known as the Dart and the Monahan school houses were erected. The name of the first teacher is now forgotten, but in 1862, Miss Jane Winchell taught a school, which was the second taught in the town. The first Board of Trustees were Patrick Finegan, Owen Murtagh and Loomis; the latter's first name no one now remembers. The township has at present nine school districts, with good frame buildings in each district. The citizens of Charlotte boast of the fact that not a town in Livingston County has better school houses than those of their own town. The present Board of Trustees are Samuel Foreman, Lawrence Farrall and Jonathan Edwards. Owen Finegan is School Treasurer.
The first blacksmith, and the only resident one the town has had, was the man Dart, already alluded to. He had a few blacksmith's tools, and did a little work sometimes, when by strong persuasion he could be induced into his shop. But he usually had too many irons in the fire, metaphorically speaking, to bring himself down to good hard work.
There are three substantial wooden bridges spanning the Vermilion in this township. The first one was a rude wooden structure, built before any regular roads were laid out, and was, in a few years, washed away, when a substantial bridge was put up where the road running through the center of the town crosses the river, at a cost of $1,700. Patrick Monahan had the first road laid out, which is the one above alluded to. It runs north and south, by his residence, and is the principal thoroughfare of travel through the town.
Charlotte was included in Pleasant Ridge Township until 1864, when the latter township petitioned the Board of Supervisors for a separation. In accordance with the law, " made and provided " in such cases, Pleasant Ridge, being the petitioner, would have been the one to have adopted the new name, while all the town property, such as road-scrapers, etc., would of right have belonged to the other. But through some wire-pulling process, known to politicians in all ages and in all countries. Pleasant Ridge managed to retain the old name, thereby entitling her to the town property, otherwise the road-scrapers. In this, as we are informed, the man Dart again came to the front. Being a smart man and a good talker, he argued to Charlotte that it would be much grander to have a new name and a pretty one, than ''to have all the old road-scrapers in the county." His eloquence won the day, and his "oily tongue" and "smooth words" won for him the privilege of naming the new town, which he called Charlotte—the name, it is said, of a girl that he courted in Vermont in his bachelor days, and for whom he seemed to still retain a warm feeling. The first Supervisor after this became a separate township, was Thomas Cotton, who appears to not have given entire satisfaction as a representative. But good timber was scarce then, as Patrick Moriahan informed us, and Tom would, for a five cent cigar, vote any way to please the Board, which was for every appropriation except for his own township. He held the office but one year, when Frank Cole was elected and held for two years ; next in order came Justin Hall, who remained in office four years, when he was succeeded by C. G. Greenwood, who represented the town four years more, when John Monahan was elected and still holds the office. Other township officers at present are as follows: James M. Sleath and J. W. Wild, Justices of the Peace; Jesse Harry, Assessor; Charles Reiss, Collector, and Wm. Gingerich, Town Clerk.
There are no church buildings in the town, but religious meetings are held in the school houses and at the people's residences. Neither is there a store or post office in the township, but the village of Chatsworth being very near the line of Charlotte, it is almost as convenient to the people of the latter as to its own citizens, and hence most of the residents of this town go to Chatsworth to church, for their mail, and to do their "store trading." That is also their shipping point on the railroad, and at present they do most of their milling there, as there are no mills in the town.
In the early settlement of this section, milling was quite a serious task. As stated elsewhere, Pat Monahan used to go to Morris to mill with oxen. He informed us that he once gave Mrs. Dart a sack of corn, when her family was actually suffering, and she took it on a horse to Avoca Township to get it ground, and on the way, fell off the horse, with the ague, and remained on the ground until some one came along who put her and her sack of corn again on the horse. It seems that in the early days of settling up this section, everybody and everything, except the prairie wolves, had the ague and fevers, and sometimes they would "shake" an hour or two every day for a year, before they could succeed in permanently "breaking it."
She never knew how long she remained on the ground.
To render all these little inconveniences more aggravating, the prairie wolves were very plenty, and disagreeably familiar sometimes. Mr. Farrall informed us that they came very near surrounding him one day; he was on horseback, and was forced to run his horse for life. However, they were not often so vicious. Deer were also plenty, he stated, and would often come to his watering trough to drink. Mr. Monahan and his brother John saw a herd of deer on the prairie one day near the house of the former, so large they were unable to count them. In these early times, when the cold Winter had draped the broad prairies in snow, and the wolves rendered desperate with hunger, and the settlers themselves not always free from its pangs, they (the settlers) experienced something of the hardships of building up -homes in a new country. So great were their sufferings and privations, that Mrs. Monahan believes it would be but just that when they leave these "shores of dull mortality," they should march straightway into heaven.
As already stated, this township is prairie, except a few little groves along the Vermilion River, viz.: Eagle, Burr Oak and Crab Apple Groves, all of which are small and afford very little timber. Eagle Grove was so called from the fact that eagles built their nests and reared their young there, long after people began to settle in the vicinity. So great was the veneration of the people for these birds, or superstition it may have been, that they would not under any circumstances touch a tree in which was an eagle's nest. But one night, a party cut a tree (a large burr oak), in which they had built and which contained six nests. This so incensed the people they vowed to tar and feather the man who did it, should they ever find him out. The name Burr Oak was. applied in consequence of nearly all the timber in this grove being of that species, and Crab Apple, because of these bushes being scattered through the grove of that name. The north half of this town is what was termed swamp land, except Section 14, which was railroad land. The other half belonged to speculators, and was owned mostly by W. H. Osborn, Solomon Sturges and the Buckinghams.
Charlotte has no railroads through its borders, but the projected line of the Kankakee & Southwestern Road, which will doubtless be built this year, will pass through the town. The Railroad Company ask the right of way and the grading of the road by the township, through its limits, which in all probability will be given. This will be of material benefit to this section of the country, by giving it a competing line with the Toledo, Peoria & Warsaw Road, and a more direct route to Chicago than over the latter road.
The political record of Charlotte is noted for nothing out of the usual line of township politics. The voting population is pretty well divided on the issues of the day, and neither has much to boast of in the way of majorities or victories. During the late war, this town was a part of Pleasant Ridge, where farther notice is made of its war record.
Source:The History of Livingston County, Illinois
W.E. LeBaron & Co., 1878
Charlotte Lutheran Church
From the Lutheran Church Book - 1872 to 1972
Old Pioneers of Charlotte
ALLEN, John E., b. March 16, 1839, farmer, 1878
BECKER, Christian, b. April 28, 1859 in Pontiac Twp., farmer, 1888
BENNETT, P. J., b. Jan. 25, 1838, farmer 1888
BLACKWELL, George. W., b. Jan. 2, 1833, farmer, photo of residence 1888
BRUNS, John G., b. 1833, farmer 1878
BRYDON, James, b. July 27, 1838 in Liverpool, England, farmer, 1888
CUNNINGTON, Thomas, b. 1829 in England, farmer, photo of farm, 1888
EDWARDS, Jonathan, b. Nov. 1, 1816, farmer, 1878
ENTWISTLE, William H., b. March 1852, farmer, 1888
FARRELL, Laurence, b. July 13, 1834 in Longford County, Ireland, 1878
FELLOWS, John H., b. Nov. 25, 1856, farmer, stock raiser,1888
FINEGAN, Owen, b. Feb. 2, 1840 in Ireland, farmer, 1878
GINGERICH, John W., b. Feb. 1, 1841 in Hessing, Germany, farmer, 1878
HALLAM, William, b. Jan. 18, 1838, farmer 1878
HARRY, Thomas S., b. Aug. 31, 1823, farmer, 1878
HOWE, Jerome, b. Aug. 1, 1848, farmer 1878
LAW, John, b. April 23, 1828 in Yorkshire, England, farmer, 1878
LINN, James H., b. Dec. 3, 1835, farmer, photo of farm 1888
MONAHAN, John, b. May 1, 1838 in County Meath, Ireland, farmer, photo, 1888, 1878
MONAHAN, Patrick, b. July 22, 1830 in County Meath, Ireland, farmer, stock raiser, 1878
PARSONS, H., b. March 1, 1815 in Miami Co., Ohio, farmer, 1878
SHAW, Maj. David E., b. Feb. 24, 1824 in Quincy, Mass, manufacturing Star Windmill, 1878
SPALDING, Rev. Bernard, pastor of Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1898 Business Directory photo only
WIENARD,Theodore, b. Dec. 11, 1829, store owner, farmer, photo of farm1888
Read the biography of Peter Sterrenberg
See a picture of Peter and Helen Sterrenberg
Read the biography of Owen Murtaugh
See a picture of Owen Murtaugh
See the last service congregation of The Charlotte Lutheran Church