The Early History of Trenton,
The following article first appeared in a
special edition of The Trenton Sun
commemorating Zip Code Day June 22, 1993 (62293) and is reprinted
here with the permission of the author and Suns present
editor and publisher Michael L. Conley.
Tenacity Is Key To
Trentons Past... And Future
The city of Trenton can date its history back
to the very early 1800s, when settlers first came here and
established what is now Sugar Creek Township.
The town itself sprang from several different
attempts, and originated in fits and starts. To this day, Trenton
is unique for its tenacity and amazing consistency. Almost as if
it has a personality all to itself, Trenton and its people
demonstrate an elasticity which allow them to thrive even when
conditions are adverse.
The town came about in stubborn fashion. In
1836, A.W. Casad of Trenton, New Jersey laid out a town, which he
named for his hometown. Lots were sold, but never paid for, and
never built upon, so Mr. Casad abandoned the idea of a town and
returned to his native city. The town designed by Mr. Casad was
situated in what is now the northwest subdivision of Trenton. The
first house was built here about the same time. Mr. William
Lewis, who was a brother- in-law to Mr. Casad, and had settled
here in 1818, built a home on his farm, which covered a large
portion of what is now Trenton. The house was on the present Main
St., between the Trenton Bakery and Pennington Insurance Agency.
The house was razed in 1936.
In 1853, a man named Buckman established
something of a railroad depot here, where he bought and shipped
grain. He got a post office established here, and took in a
partner named Walker. Mr. Walker eventually abandoned Buckman,
forcing him to leave Trenton for Iowa. Another sputter, but still
Finally, in 1855, Trenton came to life, as Alva
Lewis laid out the present town in May of that year. William
Lewis laid out an addition in March 1856, followed quickly by
Joseph Hankes addition, and another by William Lewis. The
town was actually platted by two different concerns: William
Lewis laid out blocks north of the present Broadway; and Sanger
Kamp and Co. laid out blocks south.
Trenton received its village charter February
16, 1856, with Joseph Hanke as its first mayor. It was
incorporated as a city on September 20, 1887. Business and
industry have come and gone in Trenton, but the constancy of
farming remains. No doubt the rich, fertile soil of this region
was the reason for the first settlers staking their claims here,
and to this day, Trenton--and Clinton County--remains largely
dependent on its agrarian society.
Among some of the early business interests of
Trenton were the Paul Bassler Brewery, The Trenton Milling
Company, a Carriage Factory, a Lumber Yard, The Trenton Creamery
and two coal mines.
The mines play a significant role in
Trentons history, both socially and economically. The first
coal mining system was established in 1865 by Joseph Hanke,
William Schaeffer, and John Butcher. The mines began operating in
earnest in 1868. Mr. Hanke eventually bought out his partners and
increased the output of the mine by sinking an additional shaft
at an enormous personal cost. Mr. Hanke sold his interests in the
mine to the Consolidated Coal Company of St. Louis, and the
company opened a new mine east of the city. Under the dominion of
Consolidated Coal, Trenton became a city dependent on its mines.
The South and West mines proved rich in good quality coal, and
from 300 to 500 people--primarily residents of Trenton--were
employed by the mining company. While the mines provided an
economic boon to Trenton, they also brought tragic death and
injury to many workers, and the burning of the South mine in
February 1909 was a devastating economic blow to the city.
The oldest business still operating in Trenton
is Glanzner Furniture, which was established by Joseph Glanzner
on January 1, 1859 as John W. Glanzner & Son Furniture and
Undertaking. Webmaster's note: Glanzner Furniture was lost to
a serious fire in late 1993 and never reopened.
In 1880, a European Earl named Henry Manverse
established the first newspaper in Trenton. He dubbed his venture
The Trenton Gazette, and although no records can be found to
substantiate it, early editions of the paper also refer to it as
The Trenton Herald. Dr. A.W. Carter and Rev. Johnson, the
Presbyterian minister, published the paper for a short time, and
in 1893 Arthur Oehler became publisher and changed the name to
The Trenton Sun. Mr. Oehler sold his interest in the publication
in 1896 to Henry Mallrich.
In 1910, Newton Rule purchased the paper and
was editor for 36 years, building up the most widely read paper
in the county. One of the early features of the Sun was a German
supplement which was discontinued, for obvious reasons, during
World War I.
In 1946 one of Trentons prodigal sons,
John L. Glanzner returned home to publish the local newspaper. He
would become publisher of The Sun for the longest running tenure
to date. In 1954 Paul Strake became partner to Mr. Glanzner and
the pair operated the weekly until the present ownership of
Michael and Sybil Conley began on June 1, 1990.
Under Glanzners stewardship, The Cracker
Barrel was established, and quickly became the papers most
popular feature. The column still exists, albeit not nearly as
skillfully written as it was by Mr. Glanzner.
Other innovations of Mr. Glanzners
included a column called Stanislaus On The Loose, later Hog River
Writings, and finally The Big i, in which Mr.
Glanzner made entertaining the everyday banalities of life.
Glanzners stamp is indelibly etched on the Trenton Sun, and
his contributions to Trenton are equally important. He remains
our resident curmudgeon, full of acerbic wit and a grounded
Part of every towns heritage must be the
characters who have inhabited it, and Trenton is no different in
that respect. Although every old-timer in Trenton has stories to
tell, some of them not necessarily fit for publication, here are
sketches of four of Trentons characters:
Emma Schroeder was Trentons telephone
operator for a long period of time, and as such lived at the
telephone office, which was above the present Jims Men
& Boys Shop. Emma was known to listen in to a phone call or
two, and even to break in when she felt she had a cogent comment
to make. As lore has it, Emma was quite a linguist and was known
to curse a bit. In her day, if a fourth was needed for a game of
cards, Emma was called, and she rang about town until she found a
Ed Dressel was one of the most entertaining
members ever of the Trenton House coffee klatch. Dressels
occupations ranged from that of auctioneer to preacher. A man of
legendary stamina, Dressel was the eternal optimist, buying a new
car at the spry age of 92.
Erwin Brunners span as Trentons
most colorful character lasted until the early 1980s. Brunner
lived across from the railroad tracks, and served the community
as its paper delivery person for a number of years. Once, when
Brunner was working as clean up man at the Trenton House
Restaurant, he dragged the then-Governor from his meal at the
establishment and took the opportunity to lobby him about an
environmental law which caused a large pile of trash to be piled
up at the eatery rather than burned.
John H. Glaser was Mr. Everything at the
Trenton schools. Glaser was the janitor, superintendent, and a
full-time teacher with no secretarial help. Glaser was known as a
strict disciplinarian, but he wouldnt really have any
choice, would he? He didnt have time for anything else.
Disagreements abound as to what course the city
of Trenton should take for its future, and I suspect it has
always been so. The common theme among these skirmishes is that
all of the involved parties have the communitys best
interests at stake.
Arguments about Trenton and what is best for it
are inextricably bound as fights among family, for family is
really what we are. We know each other, and have concern for one
another, and are genuinely moved by hardships endured by one
family or another. Many of the old families of Trenton are either
gone, or dwindled to precious few survivors. But the pioneering
spirit, ethic for hard work and its rewards, thriftiness, and
pride are evident everywhere you look.
Prejudice may creep in here, but Trenton
remains one of the most beautiful small towns in Illinois.
Residents here keep their lawns manicured, their homes and cars
clean, and scandalous behavior is frowned upon. We are proud of
our community, and we are proud of ourselves.
Life in Trenton means a quiet, peaceful
existence. Most of our people do not long for the bright lights
and attendant excitement of large cities, nor is monetary or
commercial success our first priority. What we want, what we
really want, is to be able to take long walks on warm summer
evenings, perhaps dropping in on a baseball game, or stopping to
have a chat with a neighbor or friend; to take our children to a
clean, attractive park; to provide a quality education for them;
to be able to be dependent only on ourselves to provide whatever
creature comforts we may desire. Life is good here in Trenton,
and the hard work and civic concern of our citizens help us to
strive far an even better quality.
Thats why our Zip Code Day
celebration tomorrow is so important. Not because of the unique
confluence of date and zip code, but because we need to be drawn
together even more tightly. We need to have our organizations
work together to create the kind of community of which we can
continue to be proud. We need more activism, more volunteerism,
more advocacy. We need to spread the word far and wide about what
a great place Trenton is, and we need to welcome those who choose
to make it their home.
We need less apathy, less acrimony, less
disinterest in what we are as a community. As glorious as
Trentons past is, its future can be even brighter if we
involve all of the talent and intelligence and concern of which
we have such vast reserves. Our people are our most valuable
resource, and their utilization can bring marvelous things.
Much of the factual information contained in this article was
compiled from the Trenton Centennial Book, published in 1955.
Other information was obtained through interviews.