A Pictorial and Worded History of Sauk Village.
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The area that is now known as Sauk Village has been a center of activity for hundreds of years. Originally, several Native American tribes inhabited this land, which is a part of an area of high ground surrounding Lake Michigan known as the Valparaiso Moraine. The Native Americans used this high ground for transporting herd animals and trade items. Though the Potawatomi and Illinois Confederation tribes were native to the area, the Sauk, from Michigan, became the namesake of the Sauk Trail. As the westward expansion increased during the 19th century, the Sauk tribes were forced to move westward. Annually, they would travel the Sauk Trail to collect treaty money from Canada and the United States.
This area was originally opened up to American settlers back in 1838. Though the original settlers of Sauk Village moved here from the East Coast, their roots were in France, Germany, and Western Europe. The first immigrants to the area were Hiram Wood, Henry Ayen, and Rowley. After these original settlers, a second wave of families moved to the Sauk Village area, including such familiar names such as Kavelage, Reichert, Sauter, Rickenberger, Kloss, Barnes, Jung, Schaller, Schmidt, Kline, and Peters. Postmaster Charles Sauter named the settlement Strassburg, after Strassburg, France, home of many of the original settlers. Back when the area was originally being settled by Americans, land sold for a mere $1.25 an acre.
In 1847, St. Jakob’s Church was built. Father Francis Fischer was the first priest of the church, which had twenty parishioners. In 1871, this original church was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. The church was promptly rebuilt, only to be struck again in 1873. After this second lightning strike, the church was moved to the corner of Sauk Trail and the Calumet Expressway, this building was razed in 2004. The name of the church was changed from the German St. Jakob to St. James in 1917 as a result of anti-German attitudes due to World War I. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, St James Church experienced a shortage in revenues. Area residents helped by hand-digging the basement of the church in order to create a hall that could be rented out. On November 11, 1940, a tornado touched down in the area, causing extensive damage to the roof of the St. James Church. Area residents may have known the Old St. James Church as the Old Community Center. The graveyard directly behind where the Old St. James Church stood is the St. James Cemetery at Strassburg. It is the final resting place for many of Sauk Village’s original settlers. While being readied for demolition in 2004, former Trustee Richard Derosier, while cleaning the attic of the once old church stumbled over an old relic cross that once hung in the old St. James Church. The old relic cross now hangs as you enter St. James Church some 150 years later. The original bell, cast in 19th century, stand outside St. James Church today as a testament to the history and sacrifices of so many families of Sauk Village.
When the Calumet Expressway was built in the late 1950s, the Strassburg area was seen as a prime real estate development. The AMBO I Construction firm moved into the area in 1956, building homes in what is now known as the Garden Section, near the Calumet Expressway and just south of Sauk Trail. The community was incorporated on March 12, 1957 as Sauk Village, since there was a town in southern Illinois that already had the name Strassburg. Thomas J. Nichols served as the village’s first president.
Since its incorporation in 1957, Sauk Village has undergone considerable change and expansion. By 1961, a special census showed that Sauk Village had 1,258 homes and 5,774 residents. Strassburg and Cynthia Street (now known as Wagoner) Schools were built during this time to accommodate the needs of residents’ children. Though construction came to a virtual halt during the mid 1960s, by the early 1970s development was beginning again. In 1970, Rickover Junior High School opened its doors, and additions were made to the existing schools. Throughout the 1970s, developments such as the Amber Manor Apartments (now known as the Crossroads), Surreybrook Plaza, and St. James Estates were booming. Under the direction of Mayor Theisen and the Village Board, the Village Hall and Police Station moved out of a renovated residential duplex to the now Old Village Hall in 1977 on Torrence Avenue. The building at the time would cost about $250,000, considerably less than the $5 million the new Village Hall would cost in 2008.
The area continued to expand through the early 1980s with the addition of more homes to the St. James Estates area and new subdivisions such as the Carlisle Estates and Southbrook. The Community Center behind the old Village Hall first opened its doors in 1982, coinciding with the village’s 25th anniversary. In the late 1980s, construction began on the Sauk Pointe Industrial Park on Sauk Trail west of the Calumet Expressway. Pacesetter Steel became the first company to move into the park in 1988. During the same year, Sauk Plaza underwent a 1.1 million dollar renovation project, which brought several new businesses into the community.
The 1990s promised to be yet another decade of expansion for Sauk Village. In 1990, Carolina Freight opened for business, bringing numerous jobs to the area. Building began in 1993 on the Carolina Subdivision, south of Sauk Trail and east of the Calumet Expressway. This subdivision would be the first residential development in nearly a decade. The 1990 census showed Sauk Village as having a population of 9,704. The 2000 census data showed the population at about 10,411.
In 2007, bold plans were being made for the construction of a new Village Hall and Senior Citizen Center. Groundbreaking began in August, 2007 on the new Sauk Village Municipal Center and Senior Citizen Center. The groundbreaking coincided with the Village's 50th Anniversary Celebrations. On November 1, 2008, the new Village Hall was dedicated at a ceremony attended Mayor Roger Peckham and the Board of Trustees, by two former Mayors Paesel and Collins, former Village Trustees Joseph Wiszowaty, Mary Seery, V. Zeke Luther, Rita Kueny, Patricia Hasse, former Village Clerks Marjorie Tuley and Elizabeth Selvey and several other local mayors and many other distinguished guest. The New Municipal Center is an open concept contemporary design about 18,500 square feet (1,720 m2) and a cost of $5 million. Construction took 14 months and was paid for but not with property tax dollars according to Village Manager Dieterich. Because of the influx of industrial development the monies raised from impact fees funded the entire construction of the Municipal center. The current Village Hall will be taken over by the Police Department after extensive remodeling.
In 2008, Sauk Village elected it's first African-American Mayor Lewis Towers along with his running mates Enoch Benson IV, Ed Myers, and Rosie Williams, running as the Citizens for Progress Party.