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The History of Troy Township and The Troy School District

Compiled by Carol Hanan
Updated December 2016 by Troy Community Consolidated School District 30-C

 

In the 1830's, it seemed as if all roads led to Illinois. The pioneers, dissatisfied with economic conditions in the east, finally realized that prairie farming was not only possible but desirable. The Erie Canal, built in 1825, provided a superior emigrant and trade route connecting the Hudson River to the Great Lakes. It pointed directly toward Chicago and was of great importance in the settlement of Chicago and Northern Illinois. Other settlers came up the Mississippi River or by land through Ohio.

Some time around 1831, settlers began moving into Troy Township. The first settler to stake a claim and settle permanently in Troy Township was Jedediah Wooley, Sr. in the year 1835. His son, Jedediah Wooley, Jr. had already built a sawmill on the DuPage River in the township a year earlier. This was the first mill in Troy Township and one of the first in the country. It furnished lumber for most of the early buildings in the area. Prior to this, most of the houses were built entirely of logs. A typical log cabin (built before the sawmill) was 16-20 feet square, and 10 feet high, sometimes divided into an upper and lower room. Floors were generally earthen. The lower room served as a kitchen, pantry, parlor, dining room, bedroom and cellar. Windows were made by saturating strong white paper with grease. This permitted filtered light without requiring curtains. The earlier settlers included:

  • Jedediah Wooley, Sr. (1835)
The first resident to own land.
  • Jedediah Wooley, Jr. (1835)
He became the County Surveyor (at this time, the area was part of Cook county), as well as the owner of the sawmill.
  • Mr. Chipman (1835)
He was also part owner of the sawmill. he had moved to Troy from Ohio, and after a short time, he moved back to Troy.
  • Alford McGill (1835)
Jedediah Wooley, Sr's son-in-law
  • Cary Thorton (1835)
A native of Pennsylvania, he lived in New york prior to moving to Troy. The first school was erected on his farm in 1836 or 1837. Many of the first teachers are unknown, but the some remembered Miss Rebecca Boardman who taught from 1840-1841.
  • William Thorton (1836)
Cary Thorton's brother, he moved New York to Troy.
  • Alexander McGregor Comstock (1837)
Moved from New York. He was the first resident physician and area preacher. Since no churches were built at the time, Mr. Comstock preached in the school houses. He later moved to Joliet and died of cholera during the cholera plague.
  • Horace Haff (1837)
Moved from New York to Troy. He named the township West Troy. It is beleived that he named the township West Troy after a city in New York. Eventually, the name was shorten to Troy.
  • Andrew and Marshall King
Natives of Kentucky, they moved to Troy from Indiana and settled in the north part of Troy township.

 

Will county was created on January 12, 1836, with Joliet named as its county seat. It was named for Conrad Will, who was a member of the Illinois General Assembly. Troy Township was one of the first townships organized in the county and was set off as a separate precinct in 1849.

Few settlements were made after the Panic of 1837. At this time, the country experienced a financial panic and depression, which slowed the western movement to a trickle. William Grinton was one of the few new settlers during this period. He built a mill on the DuPage River (behind what is now the Ski and Bike Chalet in Shorewood) in 1845. The town that sprung up around the mill was called Grinton (also Grinton's Mill or Grintonville), and contained two blacksmith shops, one wagon shop, one shoe shop and two saloons. A factory for converting wool into cards was built by the McEvoys in 1848 or1849 and did extensive business until the local people stopped sewing their own clothes (by the 1870's people could buy their clothes from the local stores). The railroad was expected to run through the town, which caused it to boom, however, when the railroad was actually built several miles to the west, the town dwindled.

Another notable town in the township was Bird's Bridge. It was located on the I & MCanal at the southern edge of the township. This area is located in Channahon School District, not Troy. It got its name from a man named Bird, who lived near the bridge. A grain warehouse and elevator were erected about 1867, which are still in use today. The town was built up around the warehouse, with a post office, supply store, lumberyard and various other shops.

The Will County Poor Farm and Asylum was also located in the township. Currently, the Illinois State Boys Detention Center is housed on the land.

 

The Significance of the I & M Canal

 

Troy Township was part of the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor. The I & M Canal was so important in developing Northern Illinois, that of all man-made waterways in North America, only the Erie Canal surpassed it in importance. The canal linked Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River, through the DesPlaines and Illinois Rivers. This created a great inland waterway which stretched all the way from New York (through the Erie Canal) to New Orleans. It changed the direction of northern commerce from St. Louis to Chicago, which opened the way for Chicago to become a great national hub. The canal also promoted settlement, agriculture and manufacturing along its corridor.

The canal was a primary force in shaping Troy Township. Construction of the canal was started on July 4, 1836. After completion in 1848, settlement along the canal boomed. The boat traffic on the canal made getting goods to and from Chicago much easier. Formerly, these goods had to be hauled by wagons over rough roads, so most emigrants looking for homes located at places where obtaining goods was more convenient. Also, after the canal's completion, some of the laborers who were now unemployed (many of them contract laborers from Ireland), having saved enough money, bought land in the area.

Another impetus to the town's growth was the growth of the railroads. By 1854, the Rock Island Railroad ran all the way from Chicago through Troy Township to the Mississippi River. During this period, the railroads were growing by epidemic proportions. Illinois was perfectly suited for railroads because of its huge expanses of flat land.

 

Troy Township Schools

 

Troy Township's first school was built in 1836 or 1837 on Cary Thornton's farm. It was a subscription school, which meant that the teacher collected whatever he or she could from parents who were willing to pay cash or contribute produce, to have their children attend school. For all practical purposes, there was no public education system at this time and no more than one third of the children in Illinois attended school. There was little progress in public education until 1855. At this time a new law was enacted that allowed the state to use its taxing power to support local schools. By 1860, the township had built 6 public schools. At this time, each school was considered to be its own district and was numbered chronologically according to the order built. Because the areas population was still growing, by 1872 ten schools had been built.

The schools were unofficially given names, although some schools may have had several names during their existence. The schools were often known by the name of the person who donated the land for the building or from the locality or surrounding geography.

Original District   New District Number   Unofficial School Name
#1   #21   Red Brick School
#2   #19   Rock Run School
#3   #22   Troy Center School
#4   #26   Sing School
#5   #18   Link School
#6   #28   Van Horne School
#7   #24   Kinney School
#8   #25   *Cronin School
#9   #20    
#10   #23   Ingoldsby School

In 1901, the state legislature enacted a law requiring each county to renumber its school districts, so that no two schools in the county would have the same number. This changed our district numbers from 1-10 to 18-28.

These schools were of the ungraded, one-room variety, where one teacher would work with students from grades 1-8. They remained basically the same until the election of March 1949, when Troy Consolidated District 30-C was formed from districts 19, 21, 22, 25, and 26. The other districts had closed their doors over the years. When Troy Shorewood opened in January 1951, this put an end to the rural school system that had served our community for the previous 100 years.
 

Troy Community Consolidated School District 30-C
Dateline

 

1949 - Troy Community Consolidated School District 30-C formed
1951 - Troy Shorewood Elementary School opens
1965 - Troy Craughwell Elementary School opens
1971 - Theresa Cronin Elementary School opens 
1975 - Theresa Cronin Elementary School becomes Troy Junior High School
1996 - Troy Heritage Trail School opens
2001 - Troy Middle School opens
2001 - Troy Junior High School becomes Troy Crossroads Elementary School
2006 - William B. Orenic Intermediate School opens
2007 - Troy Hofer Elementary School opens
2018 - Troy Crossroads Elementary School to be renamed Troy Cronin Elementary School


 

*A Special History of Cronin School
 

1863 – Local farmer John Cronin donated one acre of land for the building of the Troy Township District #8 school. The land had been in the family since before the Civil War. Cronin School, a one-room schoolhouse, was built there. At 18x28 feet, the school was built on a foundation of flagstones with a water pump in the yard in front of the school and outhouses back behind the school.
 
It was the teacher’s job to arrive early enough each morning to light coal or corn cobs in the potbelly stove to warm the school up before the students arrived. Coal or cobs were retrieved the afternoon before from the cob and coal house beside the school and placed inside the stove for the next morning.
 
Like many schools in the day, Cronin School also had a piano. Cloakrooms were located along the south wall of the building. In 1915, an entryway was added to the front of the building where students could hang their coats. Boys and girls hung their coats on opposite sides and always entered the school house from their particular side.
 
Outhouses were separate buildings in back - one for the boys and one for the girls. Travelers would often stop for a break there, using the outhouses and getting fresh drinking water from the school’s pumps.
 
During school days, the teacher would rotate through the room, teaching her students in 10-minute, grade-level intervals.
 
During World War I, the school was also used as a place where war bonds were sold. School elections would also take place there.
 
Nellie Cronin – Granddaughter of land donor John Cronin. She taught at Cronin School 1915-1920, driving to school each morning in her horse and buggy or riding in a bob sled driven by her brother John. Female teachers were allowed to teach only until they were married. When Nellie married and became Nellie Cronin Lamping, she resigned from her position. 
 
In 1945, during WWII, Nellie Cronin Lamping returned to teach at the school. This time, she drove a car there. She had nine students in her class.
 
The two big events at Cronin School in the 1940s were the Christmas program and the end of year picnic. Nellie Cronin Lamping's nephew, John Cronin, who attended the school in 2nd and 3rd grade and rode there with his Aunt Lamping, currently volunteers as a tour guide at the relocated Cronin School on Joliet Junior College property
 
Marie Ghilain – Taught at Cronin School in the late 1920s. Her son, Russ Ghilain, currently volunteers as a tour guide at the relocated Cronin School on Joliet Junior College property.

1949 - The Troy Community Consolidated School District was formed, taking in all of the Troy Township schools, including Cronin.

1950 - Cronin School was closed, and the building was turned into a home for rent, owned by the Larkin family.
 
1971 - Teresa Cronin School, a larger K-5 elementary school was built on property previously owned by the John J. Crumby family, just west of the original Cronin School. A plaque commemorating the dedication remains on the west side of the building.
 
1975 - Theresa Cronin Elementary School became Troy Junior High School.
 
2001 - When the larger Troy Middle School was built in 2001, Troy Junior High School once again became a grade school, and the school board changed its name to Troy Crossroads Elementary School.
 
1987: The Larkin family donated the original Cronin School building to Joliet Junior College so it could be turned into a living history museum. Hundreds of elementary school children visit it each week at the college’s main campus on Houbolt Road.
 
May 7, 2013: The Joliet City Council declared the Cronin Schoolhouse a local landmark.
 
November 2016: The Troy Community Consolidated School District 30-C school board approved returning the name of the school to Troy Cronin Elementary School, effective the 2017/2018 school year.
 
 

Bibliography Books

Clemensen, A. Berle - Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor. Illinois: Historical Inventory, History, and Significance. Denver: Denver Service Center, 1985

Howard, Robert P. - Illinois: A History of the Prairie State. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1972

The History of Will County Illinois 1878. Joliet: Peterson Printing Craftsman, 1973

The Reader's Digest Association Series: The United States: Our Nations Geography, History, and People. Pleasantville: The Reader's Digest Association, 1968

Sutton, Robert M. The Heartland Pages from Illinois History. Lake Forest: Deerpath Publishing Company, 1982

 

Typescripts
 

"Joliet Junior College Living Educational History Museum." Joliet: Joliet Junior College.

"This is a documentary of the Troy Township Schools." Joliet: Joliet Junior College.