In the Dresden Access of the Illinois Michigan Canal, as one walks down the trail, a large red barn is seen on the north side. A sign identifies this as the last remaining mule barn of the canal.
This barn was owned by Salmon Rutherford. It was built in stages beginning in the 1830’s. It was built of heavy timber, posts and beams. The foundation was limestone. It measures 65 by 26 feet. An unusual feature is that the barn is on the opposite side of the canal from the tow path. In addition to serving as a mule barn, the structure was used as a granary to store grain in sacs for later shipment on the canal.
Who is Salmon Rutherford? He appears to be the first settler of Aux Sable Township arriving there around 1833. He had a farm on Section 26 of the township. He became a leader in township affairs. In 1834, he constructed an inn on the north side of Hansel Road opposite the Dresden Barn. It was known as the Dresden Inn or Rutherford Tavern. This became a stop on a stage coach line between Chicago and Ottawa. Mr. Rutherford charged 12 and one half cents for for an overnight stay and a similar amount for care of a horse. Two years later, a second hotel was built in the area as well as a post office. In 1936, Rutherford platted the town of Dresden. It had approximately 150 residents. There was a ferry business on the Illinois River; there were clay pits that supplied material for manufacturing tiles and bricks. Workers migrated to the region during the construction of the Illinois Michigan Canal and the railroad in Minooka. The population of the town began a decline after canal construction and the railroad construction were completed. Ultimately Dresden became a ghost town.