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Local History, MCHS, 301 S. Wabena Street, Minooka, Illinois 60447, (815) 467-2140 x260.
The early pioneers of Grundy County came from southern Ohio, Pennsylvania, other eastern states, and a number of southern states. Most had been pioneers in older settlements in the states from which they came or had been members of frontier colonies founded by their fathers.
These early settlers came on foot, using a schooner-shaped wagon to haul provisions and possessions over parts of the National Road, the Wilderness Road or used many of the old Indian traces, which stretched out over the Illinois prairie. Others used a combination of water routes that were available throughout the old Northwest Territory including the Ohio River, the Des Plaines River, and the Great Lakes.
Most of these early pioneers settled in the timber ridge that skirted the margin of the rivers, creeks, and ravines in the area. This timber ridge provided a comfortable buffer zone between the banks of rivers and the sea of prairie grass and flowers, which had yet to be conquered and controlled.
Soon after the pioneers selected their sites, built their cabins and established their early settlements that were scattered throughout the area, the forces' economic and social progress changed the landscape of Grundy County. Soon communities were founded, markets were formed, roads were graded and businesses were established. In time, religious congregations formed, churches were built and schools were started.
Aux Sable Township is located in the northeast corner of Grundy County and has always been known for its natural, scenic beauty. The earliest Aux Sable settlers arrived from the east in the early 1830s and settled along Aux Sable Creek. The first schoolhouse was built about 1837, on section eight, in the northwestern part of the township. The school stood in a pasture on the west side of Brown Road, less than a mile south of Minooka Road. Henry Cryder is given credit for helping to establish this first school. The first session was taught by a daughter of Rev. Ashley from Plainfield. In the late 1840s, a second schoolhouse was constructed on land belonging to Israel Cryder. This schoolhouse was a log building and also served as a meetinghouse for the small community.
Ransom Gardner, a surveyor for the railroad, purchased 500 acres in the northeast corner (section one) of Aux Sable Township. In 1852, Gardner plotted the village of Minooka and worked to secure the location of the rail line near his property. The same year, the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad laid tracks throughout the southeast corner of the township. At the time, railroads preferred to have a town every ten miles along the line, and with Minooka in the middle, one could travel ten miles to the east to Joliet and ten miles to the west to Morris. Originally called Summit, because the town was the highest point on the Rock Island line, the name was changed to Minooka, a Pottawatomi word, by Dolly Smith.
Shortly after the village was settled, it is believed that the first schoolhouse in Minooka was erected on Mondamon Street. This school served the early needs of the residents until a new building was constructed in 1871 on the northwest corner of Massasoit and Church Streets. On the morning of September 15, 1879, this building was destroyed by fire. By August 31, 1880, a new two-story school was constructed on the same site, and years later, a one-room section was added to the east side of the building to accommodate a growing enrollment. By 1900, the building also served the needs of students as a three-year high school. This school building served the village until 1925, when a new brick schoolhouse was built just north of the old school building. Once completed, the old two-story schoolhouse was razed in 1925. The one-room east edition was saved and moved to St. Mary's Street and served as a private residence until the early 1990s.
Open in 1925, the new brick schoolhouse housed both grade school and high school classes, until 1951, when a new addition was added to the south of the building to accommodate high school classes. In 1962, a new grade school building was constructed one block north on the corner of Massasoit Street and Coady Drive. The 1925 brick schoolhouse continued to function as both a junior high and high school, until 1970, when a new high school was built south of town on the corner of Wabena Street and McEvilly Road.
Completed in 1970, the new $2 million high school was built for a capacity of 650 students and helped to alleviate the crowded conditions in the old brick building. The grade school district purchased the old brick structure and converted it into a junior building. A major addition was added to the campus building in 1975, and two years later, a Performance Center was erected. In 1994, classroom additions were added to the north and south wings of the building, allowing for an additional 40,000 square feet of space. In 2001, a new fire arts/fitness addition was built on the west side of the school, and a new cafetorium was added to the east, bringing the physical plant up to 250,000 square feet.
In the fall of 2004, two temporary classroom units were placed on the high school campus to help District 111 address the need for additional classrooms, which resulted from a continued, rapid growth in student population at the school.
Beginning with the 2008-09 school year, Minooka Community High School Central Campus transitioned to a junior-senior facility and continues to house most extracurricular and athletic activities, while a new facility for freshmen and sophomores in Channahon opened.
In 1832 early pioneers, led by George Tyron, arrived and purchased farmland. In 1836, construction on the I & M Canal began, and when completed twelve years later, Channahon became the site of three locks along the ninety-eight mile long canal.
During canal construction, the canal trustees called the area Swifton, after the canal board president. The village was plotted in 1845 by Myrvin Benjamin and, for a time, was called DuPage, after the river that flowed through the area. In time, the name was changed to Channahon.
Shortly after canal construction began, the first schoolhouse in the Channahon area was built. With the opening of the Illinois and Michigan Canal in 1848, the population grew, and a new school was built in 1854. In 1869, an elegant and substantial two-story white-framed building was erected on the southeast corner of Tyron Street and W. Eames Street (Route 6). The school offered a primary and secondary school education. The two-story building burned in 1922, and was replaced in 1923 by a modest brick structure on the same corner. Channahon High School classes were discontinued in the building in 1947, when they were consolidated into Minooka Community High School. Today, Pioneer Path School operates from the old building and serves the educational needs of students in preschool, kindergarten and first grade.
In 2008, Minooka Community High School opened a new $54.4 million freshman-sophomore high school facility on Route 6 in Channahon. The current facility represents the first of two planned phases and sits on a total of 67 acres of land (34 of which were developed for phase one). The facility consists of 88 teaching stations including specialized classrooms and has two gymnasiums (one full-size competition gymnasium and one auxiliary gymnasium). The new Minooka Community High School South Campus is a 283,145 square foot facility and has a capacity of 2,000 students.