The Buzz

Preserves We Love: Messenger Woods, for making history

A person standing on a bridge over a creek in the woods.
(Photo by Glenn P. Knoblock)

About this series: The Will County forest preserves mean many things to many people, including Forest Preserve District staff. Some of us enjoy the peace and tranquility of a particular preserve, while others among us enjoy the bustling feel of some of our more well-traveled trails. For some, the work we've done in the preserves is meaningful and fulfilling. "Preserves We Love" allows Forest Preserve staff to expound on their favorite preserve and why it's special to them. In this edition, real estate record specialist Megan Raimbault tells us why she loves Messenger Woods Nature Preserve. 

TLDR: Miss Messy is an oldie and definitely a goodie.

If you’ve been, then Messenger Woods Nature Preserve pretty much speaks for itself. On every visit, I forget that I’m only a 45-minute drive to the heart of Chicago. When most people think of the suburbs, they would not imagine land like this. And to me, that’s what makes Messenger Woods so wonderful; the land envelops you into a serene space, free of the sounds of human activity. It’s a place I go to simply exist and nothing more.

And that lush, historic vibe is genuine. Messenger Woods never underwent clearing for agriculture or development, and there haven’t been any significant disturbances. Messenger Woods is a natural remnant, which means the ecosystem has remained largely undisturbed from human activity since the end of the Wisconsin glaciation period some 12,000 years ago. The trees (and more) have been around long enough that you wish they could talk. 

The straightforward recent history of the land also plays a role in making Messenger Woods what it is today. Since settlement, Messenger Woods has been in the hands of the Messenger-White family and then the Forest Preserve. 

Horace and Fannie (Shedd) Messenger of New York were among Homer Township’s first settlers, arriving in the area in June 1835. They claimed the first documented ownership of several sizable tracts of land, some of which is now Messenger Woods. (Some fun bonus trivia: The Messengers were also the first owners of our most recent acquisition at Hadley Valley.) 

Ownership of the land switched hands to two of their five children, Mary J. and Horace I. Messenger. Mary J. married Benjamin White and had two daughters, Fannie and Flora. The property was officially signed over to the Forest Preserve by Fannie and Flora White on July 20, 1932, with the stipulation that the property be named “Messenger Woodland.” 

I’m all about celebrating firsts, and Messenger Woods is our first preserve! Being number one is something to celebrate, and the preserve makes a fantastic first. It’s a remnant, a state nature preserve and just an all-around great preserve to set foot into. 

The Forest Preserve and Messenger Woods are going on 100 years old pretty soon. I’m very hopeful we can do something to celebrate Miss Messy’s 100th year of official greatness. 

The Messenger Woods preserve boundaries outlined in blue, overlaid on the 1873 Will County plat map. Though difficult to see, the name “H. Messenger” is written across the southern portion of Messenger Woods.

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