Skip Navigation Links

Article About Minonk in 1954

Submitted by David Uphoff - December 10, 2017

This article was taken from the February 25, 1954 edition of the Minonk News-Dispatch.

The General Telephone Co. of Illinois News, a magazine published monthly by that company, edited by Brockett Bates, said a lot of flattering things about our city in an article introducing our Minonk and their new exchange here to the rest of the Company personnel. A condensation of Mr. Bates' article follows:

The Minonk Telephone Company, serving over 800 customers became a, part of the General Telephone Company of Illinois cm Dec. 1, 1953. This brings the number of Company exchanges to 235.

The addition of the Minonk exchange is a logical move as west of Minonk are Company operated exchanges at Washburn, Benson, La Rose, Lowpoint and Roanoke. To the north the Company serves Wenona, Dana Long Point, Rutland, Toluca and Varna. It will now be possible for some desirable changes to be made in the entire area, particularly in connection with handling of toll messages. It is expected this will relieve the toll congestion sometimes encountered now at Rutland. These changes are In the planning stage.

The present Minonk office was erected by S. C. Kipp. The building two stories high, is constructed of cement and is conveniently located near the business district. When the building was erected practically all new telephone equipment was installed. Many telephone people in this area at the time felt that Mr. Kipp had been badly oversold, but the years have proved otherwise. The Minonk business district was all in cable long before many of the larger cities, and the many extra cable pairs meant that the Minonk Telephone Company was able to keep abreast of demands that came with the war, while many other companies were unable to extend their service because of a lack of scarce materials.

For some time, under S. C. Kipp and Mrs. Mary Kipp, the telephone business was managed by L. B. Meischner who passed away this fall following a stroke suffered while visiting in the telephone office one evening. He had retired a year before from his telephone position.

Minonk the "onk" Is pronounced like "unc" In "uncle"is the only town with this name in the United States. The name is an Indian word with the commonly accepted meaning of "good place". It is said the name was given the city by David A. Neal' of Salem, Mass., who secured the location of the city. He was a former resident of Boston and he named the community after a street in that city on which he owned a residence.

All of the land covered by the city was entered in the Danville Land Office Aug. 25, 1852 by John C. Dodge who sold it to Neal. Neal in turn sold it to the Associate Land Company. This was a Connecticut corporation which was the cause for trouble with land titles after a few years. The city this year Is to celebrate its Centennial. Like a number of other Company towns its start began with the coming of the railroad.

In this case it was the Illinois Central railroad. Before this time the settlers were not interested in the vast stretches of prairie, but chose home and farm sites along streams where they had timber and transportation.

The city and the township of the same name, are located, in the northeast corner of Woodford county, which in pioneer days was devoid of timber.

The plat of the village was recorded Nov. 7, 1854. Charles Dobson and Americus Pogue opened the first store that fall and built the first residence. It was in 1856 that the first school was started, saw the first religious services (Presbyterian), and the arrival of its first physician. In 1864 Minonk became a town and in 1867 was incorporated as a city. Beginning in 1869 coal mining became the principal industry and several large slag piles remain north of the city although no mining is now done within 50 miles.

Located 113 miles southwest of Chicago, Minonk has no trading centers of any size closer than 30 or 40 miles, so even today in this time of hardroads and fast travel it remains very much of a retail trade and service city. In the area immediately around the city Is some of the best corn producing land in the country. Within 50 miles are a number of the largest hybrid seed corn producers and many local farmers largely raise hybrid seed corn and receive a premium price for their grain.

Serving the farmers are four elevators that ship by both the Illinois Central and Santa Fe railroads. The Santa Fe branch running between Streator and Pekin crosses the Illinois Central at Minonk. A mile and a half south of town a branch of the Illinois Central goes to Kankakee.

A great impetus to dairying Is the growth of the Minonk Dairy Products Co., which buys the milk from 515 farms. Started by Arthur Zivney as a small cheese factory, it now produces a million pounds of butter and two million pounds of dried milk a year. It has been making "high heat" powdered milk which is used in the baking industry. The plant has been undergoing a number of changes and in February will be producing a superior "low heat" powdered milk for the retail package trade. Less than half a dozen plants in the country are making such a product. Associated with Mr. Zivney are his two sons. The company has 30 employees including two field men who offer farmers excellent service in producing more and better milk.

R. Granert & Sons, Inc., is the largest business and employs over 100 people. They manufacture and retail through their own outlets men's and women's suits, and men's, coats and slacks. They occupy what was a war time hemp mill a short distance to the northwest of the city. Here they do their manufacturing and have one of their sales rooms. Near Chicago on Route 20; and on U. S. Route 66 they have super highway clothing stores. They are pioneers with the mobile clothing mart, and many Company people saw their unit at the Springfield State Fair last fall. Operated the year around, this unit is now at Waukegan.

In addition to the factory buildings, the Granert firm has their own flying field which is used by many of their customers. Each year they hold a FlyIn Breakfast for their friends and for the event they have had in one day 536 planes fly in and have served breakfast to 1,800 people.

A third important local employer is the Sanitary Bakery. From their large bakery they distribute their "Sally Ann" bread and other products as far away as Decatur. The Princess Sweet shop makes its own candy including hand dipped chocolates, and since 1915 has built up such a reputation that many come from a considerable distance to buy its superior candies.

In addition to the elevators, farmers in Minonk have practically every kind of service establishment they may need including three farm implement firms, two blacksmiths and welders, feed mill, produce houses and a veterinarian.

Among other businesses are two bakeries, men's clothing store, two dress shops, four hardware stores, hatchery, two drugstores, two florists, two funeral homes, furniture store, jewelry store, two hotel's, laundry, photographer, dry cleaner, shoe shop, theatre and bank. The bank in its last report had deposits of $4,179,000. Among the professional people are three attorneys, three dentists, three physicians and a chiropractor. Electric service is furnished by the Public Service Company of Northern Illinois which also provides electricity for the farm area.

Many say the quality of a community is reflected in its newspaper. This certainly is true of Minonk, as the Minonk News-Dispatch is outstanding for a town of this size. Publisher C. R. Denson, a former president of the Illinois Press Association, has been at the helm for over half a century. The paper has double the average circulation of other weekly papers in this area in towns the size of Minonk.

Minonk has never been a boom town and this, in part, may account for its unusually fine appearance. The wide streets are all paved, a large portion in brick, and lined with large and beautiful trees. The homes generally are set well back in their nicely landscaped yards and show more than ordinary good taste in their architecture. The city doesn't have any of that feeling of "trying to outdo the Joneses" which is found so often in many ; smaller Illinois cities where retired farmers vied with one another as they built their overgrown "gingerbread" houses. Since the war over 100 new homes have been built.

The good taste in architecture is found in the newly remodeled City Hall, the Filger Library, the schools and the six churches. One church, St. Patrick Roman Catholic, is an architectural gem in its lines and 165 foot graceful spire. Dedicated in 1893, this is undoubtedly the most beautiful church in the county. The band stand in the city park, given by the women of the community in honor of those serving in World War I, is very good architecturally.

The varied community interests are found in the city's numerous organizations. Rob Morris Lodge of Masons is one of the "ancient" lodges in the state, being organized in 1857. Other fraternal orders are the Odd Fellows and the Woodmen. The American Legion has built a fine hall in the business district and this building gets a great deal of use as a "community building". The Veterans of Foreign Wars hall is there, too, and each of these organizations has an active auxiliary.

There is an active Chamber of Commerce and Junior Chamber of Commerce. Among the events sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce are free weekly movies in the Minonk theatre, the Halloween party and parade and the 4th of July Community Picnic. The picnic is an unique affair at which the public largely entertains itself. The day is entirely uncommercial with no carnival or money making gadgets, and all business houses are closed.

In the morning there is a parade and at noon the picnic lunch. The churches cooperate in providing food for those who do not bring picnic lunches. The afternoon is given over to games and contests, and the evening to music followed by a fire works display provided by the city. The affair is regularly attended by between 5,000 and 6,000 people.

The Minonk spirit is shown in the way the people cooperate in getting things done. The city needed new street signs, the hat was passed and the needed funds immediately collected. The volunteer fire department lacked sufficient equipment and money was donated for a second modern truck and now nearly enough money has been raised to provide the fire department with a radio communication system. Most of the money has been donated for placing vapor lights in the business district. The newly lighted athletic field is the result of both public donations and school money.