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History

THE GOLL-DUMMED RAILROAD

The Old C. D. & V. Now C. & E.I. Railroad
By Lillian Frances Buckingham – May, 1928
(From C.& E.I. Employees Magazine "The C. & E. I. Flyer.")

"The Goll-Dummed Railroad" can’t you visualize the pioneers of Kankakee County shaking their heads and uttering the above words, as they breathlessly watched the tracks, which would eventually carry the smoking, puffing engine, being extended to their home on the banks of the Kankakee River."

There is a story told of a William Nichols and his wife, pioneers, who drove into the thriving little village of Momence one day in 1869 and crossed the railroad tracks. As they came near the crossing, the train consisting of several antiquated coaches drawn by a wheezy wood-burning engine happened along. They were thrilled by this unusual sight and Mrs. Nichols grabbing her husband's arm pointed to the train.

"Why dad drat it, William, there’s people a ridin’ in them keers!"

This little village was an ancient hunting ground of the Pottawatomie Indians. It is not recorded what the Indians called it, and for ten years or so after the first white settlers arrived it remained nameless. When the government appointed A.S. Vail, the first postmaster, it had to have a name, and that admiring brother-in-law called it "Loraine" after his wife's sister, Loraine Beebe, the first school teacher. A little settlement about a mile from Momence where the first post office once stood, is still called "the settlement of Loraine."

Momence is an Indian name, and one record states that it was originally "Momenza" after a noted Pottawatomie chief, and it is assumed that a clerk in the office of Indian affairs at Washington wrestled in vain with the undecipherable hand writing and thus expressed it. On the other hand, A.S. Vail, who knew the Indian personally for whom the village was named say "his name was Moness." (A quite aristocratic chap we say using a hyphen.) However, records prove that "Isadore Mo-mence" and "Sawgrets", half breed son of Pierre Moran, a Frenchman, were given floating grants of land. This "Isadore Mo-mence" or "mo-ness" was a chief by reason of his marriage to "Jeneir," a daughter of a chief.

On July 4, 1837, the first celebration ever attempted in Kankakee County was held on the south side of the river, the Island being unfit for use because of the thicket of its underbrush, and about sixty were in attendance. Posters along the old Chicago-Vincennes Road advertised the affair, and the celebrants in slow-moving oxcarts made their way to this great event. A grand old-fashioned dinner brought them together as one family.

Beautiful Island Park is quite a well-known fishing resort and attracts a great number of tourists. Its numerous tall stately trees sheltering the sparkling river might claim for its name the "Island of God's Cathedral Spires."

The Island was formerly owned by the C. & E.I. and during their forty years of ownership, many excursions were run between Evansville, Danville and the Island Park for picnics. It was sold to the City of Momence after the receivership was ended, with the stipulation it was to be used for a recreation park.

The first C. & E.I. station was converted into a residence and stands about two blocks west and one block south of the present station which is the fourth

.

There are several industries at Momence which employ several hundred - The Tiffany Enamel Brick Co., The Whole Grain Wheat Co., Ericksen Textile Co., and the Beyerlein Flouring Mills.

Five churches look after their spiritual welfare - Episcopal, Methodist, Baptist, Danish Lutheran and Catholic.

The educational field comprises St. Patrick's Academy, a Catholic Kindergarten (residence formerly the home of the Swedish Count Eric Axel Wikstrom, who married one of the native daughters, Cedelia Stratton), Central High School, two grade schools, and a Public Library.

Two Banks look after the financial end.

Two newspapers, The Press Reporter, established in 1870, and The Progress, which has twenty-seven years to its credit.

Momence also boasts of the Chamber of Commerce, but their biggest boast is from one of the staunch natives "The Kankakee River is the only river in Northern Illinois that is absolutely free from pollution from manufacturing industries."

Despite the fact that the automobile has eaten into the railroad passenger traffic, estimated at fifty percent less, we take off our hats to the “Goll-Dummed Railroad” which helped us materially to build Momence.

Will the present inhabitants in the years to come stretch their necks, and as they watch the airplane loaded with C & E.I. freight on its way to the Evansville or St. Louis Terminals, will they, too, utter as Mrs. Nichols did in the years gone by, with the change only in the designation of conveyance.

"Why dad drat it, there's freight a ridin' in them flying machines!"

Sources:
Momence Graham Historic House, C.&E.I. Employees Magazine "The C. & E. I. Flyer", Momence Paper and the Internet Archives.