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3/12/2012 3:29:00 PM
In the Main, Wesley's early pioneers
A LITHO SHOWS what the Chester Main farm in Wesley Township looked like.
+ click to enlarge
A LITHO SHOWS what the Chester Main farm in Wesley Township looked like.
THE 1873 PLAT map shows the location of the Main farm in Wesley Township. Chester Main and his wife Tamar lived on the farm 41 years before moving into Wilmington and leaving the farming to their children.
+ click to enlarge
THE 1873 PLAT map shows the location of the Main farm in Wesley Township. Chester Main and his wife Tamar lived on the farm 41 years before moving into Wilmington and leaving the farming to their children.

Sandy Vasko

As I have often said, I rarely write about my home township, Wesley, because those people rarely did anything outstanding, strange or even remarkable. They were just solid, hard-working farmers that went through life as best they could. However, even unremarkable people should be remembered. Today we look at an early Wesley pioneer, Chester Main.

Chester Main was born in 1819 in Palmyra, NY. We know little about his early life, but in 1845 he married Tamar Coon and soon after started for their new home in Michigan, which at that time was considered the "Far West," and the journey a long one. They traveled by canal boat on the Erie Canal to Buffalo, to Detroit by steamboat and across the country to Saginaw, MI, by stagecoach.

They lived near Saginaw about five years, then came to Chicago, and as those were pre-railroad days in Will County, traveled via canal boat to Channahon, and from there to Wilmington by wagon.

Chester and Tamar settled on acreage in the far eastern portion of Wesley Township, just south of Ballou Road, on land that was pure prairie and watered down the middle by Forked Creek.

Chester lost no time in building up his farm, and his family. By the 1870 census he had six children, and was worth $11,600 in real estate (about $197,500 today) and had personal property worth $1,680 in personal property (about $28,600 today).

His oldest son Frederick worked the farm with his dad, while his oldest daughter Helen taught school.

Schooling must have been important to Chester because he built a school house on his own property, donating it to the public school system.

It was also used as a meeting place. We read in the March 8, 1873 Wilmington Advocate, "The small pox excitement has subsided and schools are again in progress. At the Main schoolhouse in Wesley, a series of lectures have been delivered on the temperance question, by Mr. Fay Martin. He confined his remarks principally to the adulteration of liquors; and if one half the items he presented are true - and we have no reason to doubt them - those who sell or drink endure for themselves almost certain destruction."

Illinois Central Sch Buss

And in the same edition, "The farmers of Wesley Township are requested to meet at the Main schoolhouse, on Wednesday evening next, March 12th, for the purposes of organizing a Farmer's Club, and transacting other business. It is hoped that all will feel interested sufficiently to be present on that evening."

Mr. Main's love and avocation was farming, particularly raising cattle. We read in the March 22, 1873 Wilmington Advocate, "Chester Main, of Wesley, recently brought to his farm some fine blooded stock which he purchased at Lockport, in this county. One cow, a two-year-old heifer and a calf - all thorough breeds - are among his purchases, and are attracting much attention among cattle fanciers. Mr. Main has probably done more for the improvement of stock hereabouts, than any farmer of our acquaintance."

And on Dec. 29, 1876 in the Joliet Weekly Sun, "On Friday, Dec. 22, Messrs. Stagg & Berry butchered one of the best - if not the best - beeves (beef cattle) ever led to the shambles in Will county. The cow in question, Constance, is a full blooded Durham; is about 7 years old and weighs 1,740 lbs.

She was raised by Chester Main, Esq., of Wesley, and her name and pedigree figure prominently in the pages of the American Herd Book. See vol. 9, p. 535. The animal was purchased at the fancy price of $300." (About $5,400 today.)

Tamar and Chester lived a good long life. In 1905 we read in the Wilmington Advocate, "But few people are permitted to arrive at the 60th anniversary of their marriage together, and in reasonably good health and strength, as did Mr. and Mrs. Chester Main not long since.

"Owing to the recent illness of Mrs. Main no attempt was made to celebrate the occasion in the manner which such an unusual anniversary deserves, but many of their friends called in the afternoon to congratulate them and were served with ice cream and cake.

"Mr. and Mrs. Main have lived in Will Co. 55 years. Forty-one years were spent on the farm in Wesley and fourteen years in this city. (By that time they had moved into town, and left the farm to the kids.) They have four sons and two daughters, eighteen grand-children and five great grand-children living."

In 1910 when Tamar died we read in her obituary, "She leaves to feel the loss of a good mother, four sons and two daughters, Fred, of Siloam Springs, Ark., William of Elk Point, S. D., Frank of Kalamazoo, Mich, George, of Westfield, Ia., Mrs. George C. Shreffler, of Eugene, Oregon, and Mrs. Helen A. Gay, who has been with her during the past nine years."

The Mains represent the type of hardy pioneer, who is rarely spoken of, but who helped populate the "West" and formed communities that their descendants can be proud of.

Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, December 30, 2012
Article comment by: HH

Dear Sandy,
My name is Heymo Hormann and I spent some of the holiday break researching the history of our property. We have always been curious since some of the neighbors told us about a cabin that used to be here. I stumbled upon a 1873 map and found the name C Main on it. I was not able to find much more about it and finally just Google "C Main Wilmington" and your article came up. I WAS FLOORED!! The picture you have in your article has the creek, the school house in the background and the locations of the buildings match the locations where we found old foundations. Even the rows of trees are still here. We found some old belt buckles, fancy glass ware, an old pitch fork, horse shoes and hinges so we knew a farm had to have been here. I would have never imagined a picture, your article made my day. Thank you so much for keeping the Wesley Township history alive. We will definitely take you article with the picture and the artifacts and give it a special place in our home so we can pass this part of history on to future generations.
Best Regards,
Wendy & Heymo Hormann

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