"South of the prairie proper, extending across the county, lies a belt of marsh or meadow land five or six miles in breadth, interspersed with islands of timber, and bordering the channel of the Kankakee River.
"This marsh region makes that river remarkable. A river is known to be there. The blue line of trees marking its course can be discerned from the prairie heights; but only occasionally, in mid winter or in a time of great drought, can one come near its water channel. The fowlers, the trappers, and the woodsmen have looked upon its sluggish waters." -- from Rev. T.H. Ball's History of Lake County, 1872.
Charles H. Bartlett also described the area in his 1904 publication "Tales of Kankakee Land" as: "More than a million acres of swaying reeds, fluttering flags [wild iris], clumps of wild rice, thick-crowding lily pads, soft beds of cool green mosses, shimmering pods of black mire and trembling bogs -- such is Kankakee Land."
Many years later some of that area became the site of the Town of Schneider in West Creek Township.
In his first "Pioneer History" column, dated Jan. 30, 1980, the Old Timer wrote about pioneer Thomas Childers, the first settler in Lake County, who staked a claim, in October 1834, north of the present Town of Schneider in an area then called "School Grove," known later as Oak Grove.
Childers took a big chance by coming in the fall, because it was much better to come in the spring to have time to put in a crop so that the family could survive the winter. Though they were hungry, the first settlers survived that terrible winter, when even the game seemed to be hidden from the hunters' guns.
Early settler Joseph A. Little wrote the following in 1884: "That this county had abounded with game is without a doubt. A paradise for hunters rivaling the mystic happy hunting grounds of the Red Man, affording an industry for first the Indians and afterward the White Man for a period of not less than two hundred years, at this writing is not entirely exhausted."
Sportsmen soon took advantage of the great hunting grounds in the area of the future Town of Schneider, as they did all along the old river. Camp Milligan was built in 1869 by Heath and Milligan of Chicago, Ill. Soon the Cumberland Lodge was built by two enterprising English gentlemen, William Parker and Captain Blake, in 1872.
The waters of the Kankakee came all the way north to the edge of the island called School Grove (later Oak Grove), and boats were kept at a boathouse there. That boathouse has been restored by the present owners, Mr. and Mrs. William Peterson, who live in their private residence near the site of the old lodge, which burned in 1946.
The Old Timer also has memories of the old river near Schneider, even before the river was dredged and straightened (finished about 1922). His family had a cottage on a bend in the stream near the present Conservation Clubhouse east of town. There was a scary, old log bridge over the ditch nearby, there was good fishing, poling with a duck boat, finding pearls in clams, as well as visits to nearby DeFries Island, later the home of the Mohawk Club.
According to old records, the village of Schneider was platted in 1902, though deeds were issued as early as Mar. 23, 1877, by J.W. Cass and his wife to the Plymouth, Kankakee and Pacific Railroad, which in turn sold the east-west right of way to the Indiana, Illinois and Iowa Railroad, known as the "3 I."
The village was named "Schneider" in 1906 in honor of Fred J. Schneider, in appreciation of the labor and material given by him when the New York Central north and south rail line was built in 1905. He was a large landowner and originally owned the land where the village stands.
In 1915 the "village" outgrew that class and was incorporated into a "town," with town officers elected, including a Board of Trustees and a Clerk-Treasurer.
In 1934 it was reported that Schneider then covered more acreage than any town in the county.
The town water works was built in 1929. The first school was moved from Lineville, but when the brick school was built, the old school was moved to Mason Street to be used as a private dwelling. The first bill for street lights was paid on Mar. 4, 1926.
Some of the early businessmen were: Frank Brown, who ran the elevator east of town; Harry Rouse, pop factory and restaurant; Guy Gord, barber next to Larson's Restaurant; Robert Martin, pool hall; John Love, grocery store; Ben Rouse, livery barn; Emil Sirois, blacksmith; Bill Hoag, grocery store; and Harry Simms, insurance agent.
The large Stratton elevator rises 180 feet over the heart of the old swamp.
For many years, "downtown" Schneider was a very busy place -- Merritt D. Metz wrote the following in the Lake County Historical Assn. publication of 1966: "Proceeding southward, old U.S. 41 turns east at a right angle about three miles south of where Ind. 2 turns west. In another mile, it made a right angle turn to pass thru Schneider. When U.S. 41 was widened, in or about 1956, these turns were eliminated and the road, which had gone thru Schneider, now overpassed the railroad west of town. This reduced the business of Schneider, which for years had been so busy that travel thru it was made with care and caution."
Recently the Old Timer parked in the quiet downtown, remembering it as it was when busses, trucks, travelers, and all kinds of U.S. 41 traffic made it a very busy and noisy area.
Among the many changes, one of the restaurant buildings is gone and another one, remembered as a 1945 Greyhound stop, is now a private home. But there are still two newer eating places, one a cafe-bar still in the downtown district, and the other further south, near a well-known welding shop.
The grocery stores are gone, with one of the buildings boarded up, as is an old garage building, a busy place in those U.S. 41 days. The downtown gas stations have been replaced by two to the south.
The new Schneider Community Building was erected on the site of the old brick school house on the hill.
Newer business ventures have taken over some of the old places: the old Stratton elevator now has a "Cargill" sign, and the Carb-Rite Co. now has its large complex at the site of the old elevator on the east side of town.
For many years there has been a sod ranch operated by the Huber family on the northern border, and the LaSalle Fish and Game Preserve is south, across the river.
Yes, the Town of Schneider is still on the map!
Return to Lowell History
Return to the "Pioneer History" A to Z Index Page