The name Ashkum is from an Algonquin Indian word meaning "more and more." In 1856 the Illinois Central Railroad established station along the main line and Ashkum was one of the many. A hotel, livery stables, house and fifty-eight new farms were settled within the year. Mr. Ogeden, Mr. Dupree, and Mr. William M. Ross were instrumental in making Ashkum interesting and attractive. The Ross farm attracted notable people from Chicago to vacation and hunt in the beautiful deer park. The farm was famous for the huge round barn.
The churches in Ashkum included the methodist Episcopal Church, built in 1871, destroyed by fire in 1946, and rebuilt in 1949. In 1896 the Zion Lutheran Church was built seven miles west of Ashkum and later moved into town. In 1958 a new Zion Church was built. The Assumption Catholic Church was built in 1882 and again in 1962. The Congregational Church, built in 1871, was disbanded and the Lutherans bought the land and the church. This is where the new church and parsonage now stand.
Schools were conducted in 1857 and the school building was built in 1899. Central Unit No. 4 was formed including Ashkum, Milks Grove, Chebanse, and Clifton. The Central High School was consolidated and built north of Clifton, Illinois, in 1952, and the Junior High School added in 1963.
One of the oldest enterprises was the grain and elevator business established in 1871 by C. H. Comstock and Company. Comstock was will known as the inventor of the Comstock Double Wagon Endgate, which to this day, bears his name.
The family ran the business from 1897 until 1934 when it was sold to Fred Stout and Judge William V. Ford of Luray, Virginia. After a fire in 1935, a new elevator building was erected. Mr. Stout sold his interest in 1942 to Milton Widholm and the business remained Ford-Widholm Grain Company.
The Farmers Elevator Company, built in 1919, purchased the Widholm interest and at present is known as the Ashkum Grain Company, managed by John Rashinskas.
In 1890 the General Store was started by J. J. Ruckrigel, and J. E. Jensen, and J. A. Springet. Then, Henry Morel opened a general merchandise store in 1891, which was later Weir and Mulligan, then Mulligan Brothers, and at present is Robert Dieken's Superway Market.
Oscar Merkle and Amos Drazy, former blacksmith, had the Ford car and truck agency in 1923, which was later Ashkum Motor Company, owned by Tobe Schroeder from 1946 to 1977.
Dr. August Muehlenpfordt, pioneer doctor of Ashkum, traveled by horseback to his patients. He also operated a drug store. Former doctors were Ernest, Wright, Bemisderfer, Meister, Shammel, and Deneese. The present doctor is Harry Barnett M.D. who came in 1946.
The drug store, operated by P. L. Collette in 1913, was later sold to Roy Brinkman. The building, which still has a porch roof over the sidewalk, was turned into Uncle Roy's Tavern. It is now a restaurant, known as The Silver Dollar, owned by Ronnie and Pat Ponton.
In 1898, "Ashkum Journal" was the weekly newspaper, first published by G. C. Campbell, Mr. Wingfield, C. E. Gilpin, George Harling, and later, Orval Ryan from 1925 to 1953. It was published by George Elliott of "Gilman Star" and a page Ashkum news appears in the weekly Star at present.
The New Ashkum Hotel was built in 1910 by Nels J. Anderson, who was widely known for his balloon ascensions and parachute jumps at the County Fairs. The hotel later was owned by Herman Conrad and then sold to Kankakee Federal Savings and Loan for an office, which is currently in operation.
Among the buildings of note is the Ashkum Coliseum, which has been used for everything including basketball, church bazaars, wedding dances, receptions, craft shows, auctions, and as a shelter for stranded i-57 travelers during winter storms. 600 people were sheltered in the Coliseum during the winter of 1983-84.
Everyone in Ashkum had a well until after World War II, when the town dug a new well. The new Water tower was built in 1981.
Among the early settlers in Ashkum were Justice Wolcott and Enoch Springet, whose children married. These families still own land purchased over 100 years ago. Another family was the M. R. Meents family. Meents came from Germany in 1869 and worked for Comstock Grain Company for 21 years until he started his own business. He married Philadelphia Cloke and they became parents of twelve children. He opened the first bank, the Farmers Trust and Savings Bank. His sons also became bankers and grain managers.
Louis Lemenager, born in 1967, moved into town in 1908 and managed the furniture and undertaking business with August Muehlenpfordt. In 1910 he went into the banking business and in 1915 built the Farmers and Merchants Bank, which was managed by his sons, August, Albert, and William.
The funeral business was later taken over by W.M.Cloke and still later, by his daughter and son-in-law, Wesley Croxen. It was known as Cloke-Croxen Funeral Service. Several years ago the establishment was moved to Clifton, Illinois, and sold to Wayne Knapp.
There were two murders that occurred in the village. One happened during the Civil War era. The other murder involved brothers-in-law. The "Caliboose" stood in the city park next to the town hall and law breakers were held there until the proper authority took over.
The lovely band stand, where band concerts were held during the summer, is gone, but the beautiful park, donated by Mr. Comstock, is full of majestic trees.
After the closing of the banks in 1933 during the great depression, the Ashkum Village opened the Commercial Exchange. It was operated by Wilbur Campbell, until 1943. In 1975 the Central Bank was built west of the cemetery. Its president is Tobe Schroeder.
In 1930 Duax Honey was a bug business. It stretched from Michigan to Florida. The Peter Hansen Honey Company is currently in operation.
The town government consists of a mayor, Paul Heideman, and a board of trustees: George Kreider, Gregory Regnier, William Petir, Mary Sides, Marvin Odette, Douglas Hale; clerk, Linda Alberts; and treasurer, Edrodean Brinkman.
(This information is from the book Iroquois County History-1985 pages 42-43 transcribed by Carrol Mick)
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