Yellowhead Twp., a part of Kankakee County, Ill., lies just west of West Creek Township at the Indiana state line, It was named after Chief Yellowhead, leader of the Potawatomi tribe whose village was near the west point of the grove of the south side of the old village of Yellowhead, near Sherburnville, Ill. The Chief's burial ground was nearby on the property of Jonathan P. Stratton.
Sherburnville pioneer John Smith, circa 1835, had this to say many years ago: "I was quite young when I came here in 1835. I can well remember seeing the Indians, who were very friendly towards the white people. They occupied no particular section of the country, but would spend part of their time on the Kankakee River in the vicinity of the present city of Momence. A few years before we came here, Old Chief Yellowhead was killed by a young chief in or near the Stratton Grove and was buried there."
The southern portion of the township was once covered with an extensive growth of timber, but by the turn of the century was cleared off and provided soil for a fine quality of wheat. Water for the crops was furnished by three streams, the Bull, Pike and Trim Creeks, and their branches. The very productive soil is dark loam, with a clay sub soil.
Pioneer Madison Collins is said to have been the first white man to settle in the township. He located at the east end of the grove, where the village of Sherburnville now stands, in 1833.
In 1834 came the following settlers: James Dickey, Dewitt Slaughter, and John and William Hayhurst (from Attica, Ind.). In 1835 Ansel and Daniel Britton, John and William Smith, Peter Deerson, and John Wilson arrived. Also in 1835 came Wm. Richardson, Elijah Andrews, Wm. and Joseph Kirkpatrick, Egbert Ostrander, Con Squires, Luther Dalin, and Adam Hamilton.
Reason Kile came in 1837. The following came in 1838: Paul Hathaway, Walter and Wooster Cleaver, John Hobbs, John and Archibald Morrison. In 1840 Leslie Hatton, Rev. N.L. Coffinberry, Jacob Dutcher, A.E. Dutton, Nathaniel Drayer, Andrew Hayden, James Bissett, and Albert Waldrum arrived. Daniel Stanley, Russel Seager, Zachariah and H. Hurley arrived in 1842; Chauncey Campbell in 1843; Jonathan Stratton in 1844; Henry Kile in 1845; Solon and Chesley Bailey in 1846; Samuel Willey in 1850; and Andrew Wheeler in 1853.
The early arrivals settled in the timber, with Chicago as their nearest market. John Stratton, the first postmaster, established his office at Yellowhead Grove in 1853. The Sherburnville post office was established in 1857, with Henry Dodge as the first postmaster.
Prior ro 1835 few crops were harvested in the whole township of Yellowhead, and not ten acres of land were broken in the vicinity of the village of Sherburnville.
It was a poor year for growing, and what corn was planted was quickly devoured by hordes of blackbirds. THe settlement ran out of provisions, and a committee was appointed to return to a supply base on the Wabash River.
The group traveled there with a covered wagon and four yoke of oxen, enduring many hardships during the journey. But the entire party returned in fair condition with much needed food that was quickly given to the starving families. Those who stayed behind saved themselvs by pounding corn in sacks and then grinding it in their coffee mills.
The first school in the township was in a log cabin, 10-by-12 feet, during the winter of 1837-38, with A.M. French as teacher. Another early teacher was Eliza (Hurley) Jessup, and some later schools were taught in a granary and in a bedroom in the residence of Paul Hathaway. The first school house was built in 1847 of split logs, with the cost only $2.80 for glass and sash, since all labor and other materials were donated. Rev. N.L. Coffinberry, who later was active in Lake County, was the first teacher there. Dr. Mazzun was the first physician in the area.
The village of Sherburnville was the first settlement in the eastern part of the township which was then a part of Cook County, and business transactions meant a trip to the county seat in Chicago.
Jacob Dutcher is said to have been the first storekeeper in the village, followed soon by his competitor, A.E. Dutton. Then came a blacksmith shop, churches and schools. Sherburnville prospered from the first, and considerable business was transacted there up to the time of the construction of the Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad in 1871 in Grant Park, to the west.
Located about one mile from the Indiana line, the Sherburnville Christian Church Cemetery is situated near the church at the main intersection in the village. In 1836 pioneer A.G. Britton deeded the land for the church and the burial ground.
The church building was begun in 1860, but was interrupted by the Civil War (1861-65). The building was finally completed in 1886.
The 1847 log school house mentioned before also served the early pioneers as a meeting house. In 1901 more land was acquired for the burial ground, and sometime after 1948, additional land was purchased.
Yellowhead Township had a population of 1,607 in 1880, 1,545 in 1890, and 1,605 in 1900, with a total population in Kankakee County in 1900 of 37,154.
During a recent visit to the pioneer village of Sherburnville, the Old Timer noticed the well-kept homesteads, large estates and newer homes all nestled in the shady groves.
The general stores and other central business places have been gone for years, but newer business ventures have been established in the surrounding countryside. The old church, with a bell tower in use for over 100 years, still stands proudly near the old cemetery.
As he walked throught he burial ground, the Old Timer saw many pioneer names on the gravestones, many of them the same family name as pioneers of Lake County across the state line.
Many of the stones bear the name Hayden, descendents of West Creek pioneer Nehemiah Hayden, whose homestead was just a few miles to the east on State Rd. 2, marked by a stone near the highway.
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