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 Illinois and Pottawami tribes were native to the area, the Sauk tribe, from Michigan, became the namesake of the Sauk Trail.
As the westward expansion increased during the 1800s, 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, where it still stands. 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 now know the Old St. James Church as the Old Community Center. The graveyard directly behind Old St. James Church is the Strassburg Cemetery. It is the final resting place for many of Sauk Village's original settlers.
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 Wagoner (formerly known as Cynthia Street) 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. The Sauk Village Library District was formed in 1973 to meet the needs of area residents. In 1977, the Police Department and the village government moved into the Sauk Village Municipal Building on Torrence Avenue.
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 Senior Citizens Center 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 Library District also underwent several changes during the 1980s. First, in 1984, the library moved from its location in a home on Sauk Trail to a storefront in Surreybrook Plaza. Then, in 1986, the district changed its name to the Nancy L. McConathy Public Library in order to honor library board member and Village Clerk Nancy L. McConathy's dedication to the library and its programs.
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 is the first residential development in nearly a decade. The 1990 census showed Sauk Village as having a population of 9,704.
From its early years as a Native American trail to its current status as part of the Chicago Metropolitan area, Sauk Village has gone through a great deal of change. After all the ups and downs, it is clear any matter what, this community has always been able to bounce back from hard times to change for the better. Pride and Progress are certainly what Sauk Village is all about!
In the early 1970's, a group of avid readers in the Village of Sauk Village began a volunteer library in the basement of the Katz Corner School. The need for a library was evident by the number of people who took advantage of the many books available to them. Through the assistance of the Suburban Library System, a referendum was planned. In June of 1973, voters approved a referendum to provide library services to the residents. In 1974, the Sauk Village Library District began operation. Jack Hurwitz was the first library director. He was assisted by Mary Frances Pena.
The library moved from the basement of Katz Corner School to a house at 1909 Sauk Trail. Linda Gapsewitz became the new director. When the widening of Sauk Trail was announced, it became necessary to relocate from the house on Sauk Trail to the next location in Surreybrook Plaza. The library location once housed a Ben Franklin Dime Store. Village residents were very generous with their time and skills during the move. Richard Derosier, Jean Kous, Jean and Leonard Kiriazes, Mary Frances and Manual Pena, Lorinda and Sandra Soto, Stacey Walker, Martha Hernandez, Martha Pope, Adrianne and Ed Watrobka, Adele Werner, Marian and Ernest Bud Rauner, Edward Paesel, Monica Morales, Claudia Oski, Nancy, Heather and Tad McConathy, Sharon Marr, Joseph and Mel Lopez, Arlayne Amaro, William Rohaly, Michael and Nanette Wargo, Cookie and Bill Hansen, Shirley Traskell, Marion Sisnowski, the Village of Sauk Village Department of Public Works and many other residents, swept, painted built shelves, moved books and helped provide a new location.
In 1986, Library District Trustee and Village Clerk Nancy L. McConathy passed away. Nancy had been a volunteer when the library was housed in the basement of the Katz Corner School. Nancy had helped with the referendum to provide library services. Nancy was an avid reader and a firm believer in the importance of libraries. Nancy regularly sent cartons of books to people who did not have library services. The Sauk Village Public Library District changed its name to the Nancy L. McConathy Public Library District in her memory.