New Lenox was originally home to Native Americans, oak trees, butternuts and walnuts. Wildflowers filled the woods that surrounded Hickory Creek. The first settlers who came to the community made their homes at Gougar Crossing, or what is now Gougar Road and Route 30. Settlers came from the north and east, from the Kankakee River, the Des Plaines River and then on to Hickory Creek. The first name of the community was Van Horne Point. The village was platted in 1858. The town was laid out between Cedar Road on the east and the campgrounds on the west, between Walnut [Haven] Avenue on the south and Hickory Creek on the north.
Although the name Tracy was the name listed on the original plat to honor the general superintendent of the Rock Island Railroad, Tracy requested that another name be found. Earlier the first supervisor for New Lenox Township, J. Van Duser had named the Township New Lenox from the town of Lenox, New York, which was Van Duser's home town. The Township was established in 1852 following the building of the Rock Island railroad line between Chicago and Rock Island. In 1863 the name for the new settlement officially became New Lenox after the Township.
On October 4, 1946, the State of Illinois officially certified that the village of New Lenox was legally organized and incorporated as a Village in the State of Illinois. Since that time, New Lenox has realized substantial growth and development. It is likely in the Twenty-First Century; possibly as early as 2030 the population of New Lenox Township will reach 100,000. The rich soil which drew settlers to this township is being converted from farming to housing and business properties. This process was well underway in the final decades of the Twentieth Century. Only a few vestiges of that rural life which lasted well into the mid-Twentieth Century will remain.
New Lenox Historical Society
History is the story. The New Lenox Historical Society brings the story of New Lenox to life by collecting memories and treasures from the past for future enjoyment. The New Lenox Area Historical Society has been in existence, collecting photographs, documents and other materials related to the history of New Lenox since 1986. In 1998, the Society launched a community-wide effort to save Schmuhl School, the last remaining one-room school house in the Township. The school was moved in April 2000 to its present site on the Hickory Creek Barrens property across from its original location on the southeast side of Rt. 30 and Schoolhouse Road. Schmuhl School is an officially designated landmark of Will County. After careful and ongoing restoration work, Schmuhl School once again enjoys the happy voices of children as they come to spend a day in a one-room schoolhouse.
For more information on the history of New Lenox, visit the New Lenox Area Historical Society at www.newlenoxhistory.org.
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New Lenox Chamber of Commerce
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