Like the surrounding land in the county, Carol Stream was once inhabited by Indians. The farmland which lies between Shawnee Drive and North Avenue was one of several Indian camp sites in central DuPage County. St Charles Road was little more than a footpath for the Indians.
The early settlers in the north Milton, south Bloomingdale and east Wayne townships were residents from New England and New York state. Most of them had traveled along the Erie Canal via the Great Lakes to Chicago, while others had taken the overland route through Ohio and Indiana.
Among these pioneer families of the early 1830s was that of Anning S. Ransom, a veteran of the War of 1812 and a New York resident, He brought with him his bride, Melissa Bingham Ransom, an Ohio resident. They traveled by wagon with an ox team, often used to pull wagons at that time because oxen were less expensive than horses. Entitled to a tract of land in the newly acquired Indian territory due to his military service, Ransom selected a slight knoll in north Milton Township along St. Charles Road as the site for his first home, a log cabin. Like many families, the Ransoms lived in their wagon until the cabin was completed. Later, he built a larger home on the north side of St Charles Road near Pleasant Hill Road.
The Ransoms made an annual marketing expedition to Chicago to trade their produce and grain for the staples needed to operate a home on the northern Illinois prairie. The trip to the city on the lake was made over St. Charles Road, improved to a wagon road in 1836. In order to cross the Des Plaines River west of Chicago, the Ransoms would unload the bags of grain and carry them across the river on their backs to keep them from getting wet. After leading the cow and wagon across the river, they would reload the wagon and continue the journey into Chicago. The return trip would be made in much the same fashion.
In 1842 Daniel Kelley came west on a land purchase trip. Returning to his home in Danby, Vermont, he obtained enough funds to return the next year and acquire 1,400 acres of land in north Milton and Bloomingdale townships. He began construction of a home for himself and his bride-to-be, Mary Elizabeth Huls of St. Charles, a former Vermont neighbor. Today the home, known as Tall Trees, still stands on the north side of St. Charles Road at Main Place.
Kelley and several of his brothers and sisters moved to this area. A brother, David, was stationmaster and postmaster for the Village of Danby (now Glen Ellyn) in 1849. Daniel brought Merino sheep from his father’s herd in Vermont to his home in the community of Gretna. The Merino sheep, originally imported from Spain, were noted for their fine wool and for their hardiness in warding off attacks by wolves which still roamed the area in the 1850s. Kelley founded the Illinois Wool Growers Association.
Kelley was an active member of the Wheaton Community. He donated land for the original First Baptist Church of Wheaton, now the Geneva Road Baptist Church, at the northeast corner of Seminary Avenue and Main Street. His wife and daughter lived in the small house which later became the church parsonage. He also donated anew right-of-way for St. Charles Road when the original roadbed was acquired by the Chicago and Great Western Railway for its tracks. Moving slowly eastward from the Minnesota area since 1854, the railroad came to Gretna in 1885.
By that time the destiny of Milton Township had been determined by a generous land donation from Warren and Jesse Wheaton and their brother-in-law, Erastus Gary; they had offered land to the officials of the Galena and Chicago Union Railway in 1 849 if the railroad would be platted through their adjoining farmlands near Roosevelt Road rather than following a course which at the time would have taken it through Gretna.
Despite the loss of the railroad line in 1849, the community in north Milton continued as a small service area serving the farmers of the area who continued to use St. Charles Road.
The Daniel and Mary Kelley family had eight sons and three daughters, all of whom played a major role in the political and business development of the Wheaton area in the latter quarter of the 19th century and early part of the 20th century.
Another change came to the Gretna area in the late 1840s when a number of German farm families, fleeing the political oppression and famine in their homelands, arrived in north Milton and Bloomingdale townships. Frequently they took ownership of farmlands which earlier had been acquired by settlers who later continued their westward search for open space.
The Germans who settled in the Gretna area were primarily Catholics from southern Germany. At the time, there was no Catholic church in the county other than Sts. Peter and Paul in Naperville. Once a month, one of the priests from the church would gather his religious articles for the journey across the prairies to Gretna. By 1852 the bishop of Chicago had authorized construction of a wooden Catholic church and school with a churchyard cemetery. St. Stephen’s Catholic Church was dedicated the same year by Bishop James Oliver VandeVelde.
It continued to serve the vast German Catholic parish of central DuPage County from Roosevelt Road north to the county line near Schaumburg. In 1867 St John the Baptist Catholic Church was opened in Winfield to serve that growing area. The bishop ordered St. Stephen’s closed, except for special services, with families transferred to St. John’s for worship. When St. Michael’s Catholic Church and School opened in Wheaton in 1872, the parishioners from St. Stephen’s were transferred to that church, along with their records. The cemetery at St. Stephen’s continued to be used until 1911. Today, only the old cemetery remains as a reminder that once a major Catholic church was located at Gretna. Six area churches all trace their roots to the original St. Stephen’s Mission Church at Gretna.
The vast farming area around Gretna and in Bloomingdale and Wayne townships continued in use as rich agricultural land in the county until after World War II. The family names remained the same, it was merely the generations that changed. Included among these area farmers were the Kramers, Kuhns, Dieters, Nagels, Hahns, Klocks, Paulings, Starks, Neddermeyers, Barnes, Lies and Kammes. Very few of the young men were called upon to serve in military service since they were already involved in a vital wartime industry — that of providing food for the armed forces abroad and for the people on the home front.
Following World War II, a few changes were made as the older farmers retired in order to give their offspring a chance at a place to live and work. The slow but steady migration of city dwellers into the suburban countryside was underway. However, for central DuPage County it would be another few years before the cornfields would come alive with new homes almost overnight. It was in this same period that another miracle of communication found a spot in the rich farmlands of DuPage County.
In the spring of 1953, the Illinois Department of Agriculture began a search for a farm and a farm family who would become the stars of a new television show on the National Broadcasting Company. One of the thirty-five farms on the itinerary was the Harbecke Farm on Gary Avenue, rural Cloverdale in Bloomingdale Township, operated by Harbecke’s daughter and son-in-law, Bertha and Wilbert Landmeier. Tracing their roots to pioneer German farm families, the young couple had moved to the Harbecke Farm to operate a dairy farm. They had recently installed dairy equipment which carried the milk in refrigerated tubes from the milking machine to cooling tanks on the milk truck, which transported the commodity to an Addison dairy. The farm also had a hay drier which was another piece of modern machinery not found on every farm in 1953. These advantages, plus the fact that the location was considered one of the best between Chicago and the Fox River for beaming the television waves, made the selection of the Harbecke-Landmeier Farm ideal for the show. Thus, “Out on the Farm” began the first of a two-year run from the Harbecke-Landmeier Farm in the summer of 1953.
During the second season the first outdoor network colorcast originating from Chicago was the pickup from the Landmeier Farm. At the end of the 1954 season, the show was over, as Cloverdale and all of DuPage County were due for rapid change. The emphasis would shift within another year from the fine agricultural county of the past 124 years to a prestigious area of new homes for veterans of both World War II and the Korean War.
It was about this time that Jay Stream of Durable Construction Company, and a longtime Wheaton resident and businessman, began looking for a place to create his own town, one in which industry and residence could exist side by side. Returning to his home town after service in the armed forces during World War II, he turned to the home construction business. One of his business partners was Gordon Oury, whose family had an interest in the Imperial Service Company of Melrose Park. They began their new home venture by constructing three homes along Geneva Road.
Durable continued its construction of new homes on scattered sites in Wheaton during the first years of its organization. Then Stream acquired two major tracts for conversion to new homes. These included the old Greene Valley Golf Course, south of Roosevelt Road between Main Street and Naperville Road, and the Hawthorne area, which lies east of Main Street and north of Hawthorne Avenue.
But there was one continuing problem for the families to whom Stream sold homes — high taxes. Many of the homeowners sought advice from the developer. The only answer Stream could offer was that the community had to obtain a broader base for the collection of real estate taxes, which escalated as the need for public services increased. He felt the simplest way to help defray the cost of public services in the City of Wheaton would be to have business or industry help share the tax burden. However, city officials did not want to rezone for light industry.
Thus, by the summer of 1956 Stream and his staff were looking in the Wheaton vicinity for land which could be used to develop a new community, one in which industry would be a built-in part. One of his requirements was that there should be sufficient land for his planned community to expand in years to come. After a number of air flights over the central DuPage area, Durable officials felt they had located the ideal spot for their future town. The land lay generally to the northwest of Geneva Road and Main Street in Wheaton. There was plenty of it, and the views from the air indicated that the sites were adequately drained.
In the summer of 1957, Stream and his crews were completing work on the Hawthorne Shopping Center on North Main Street. This would be a service center for his new community in its early years because it was less than two and a half miles away. Land acquisition began with three farms belonging to the Nagel and Mittmann families as well as the Giesers. This was raw land which had to be cleared, graded, and sectioned off into units. New streets were cut through and sewer and water lines installed. Then a developer could begin to lay foundations for the new homes. Stream reasoned that the homes had to come first since industry would not be attracted to an area which did not offer a work force.
While the basic engineering and work were under way in the new community, a personal tragedy struck the Stream family. Daughter Carol, age fourteen, was visiting at the family summer home in southern Wisconsin when she and her friends were involved in an automobile accident. One person was killed, the others had lesser injuries, but Carol was critically injured and lay in a coma for days.
Meanwhile work on the new village continued. When time came to file plats of subdivision with the county, the engineer asked Stream what name should be given to the small stream which ran through the southern section of the original units. He mumbled the name “Carol” and thus the name was penciled on the plat. However, when it was filed at the county offices, the name “Carol Stream” was applied not only to the small stream but to the entire new subdivision.
In his next visit with his young daughter who was still in a coma, Stream told her the new town had been named for her. As he recalled later, the motionless youngster opened her eyes for the first time since the accident months before. Her rehabilitation continues to this day.
By November 1, 1958, Roy and Jeanne Blum, with their infant son, Roy Jr., had moved into the first home to be occupied in the village. Within weeks there were more than 100 inhabitants residing in the new community. Under state law at the time, this was a sufficient number of residents to hold a referendum to incorporate the community as a village. Stream felt this was the only way to make certain that he would be able to carry out his dreams for a well-planned community. Six trustees, a village president and village clerk were elected in a special election held January 31, 1959.
The village was the ninth in the State of Illinois to pass a 5% utility tax during the first months of incorporation. The tax continues in effect today with no village property taxes levied, except for library purposes, sewer and water bond issues.
By 1960 Durable had provided the community with a private swimming pool club. When the company fell victim to the financial recession of 1962, the private swim club was operated by a small group of interested individuals. By 1964 a drowning of an eighth grader, and the problems inherent in maintenance of such a facility led to formation of the Carol Stream Park District.
Today the park district oversees more than 150 acres of parklands, a community center, a museum, and enclosed year-fround swimming pool, and a system of waterways for the village.
In 1961 and 1962, the office and industrial parks began to develop in Carol Stream. Today sixteen religious businesses call Carol Stream home as do more than 140 industries, ranging from the large Container Corporation complex to smaller industries which may employ as few as six or eight individuals. The dream of the developer that business and industry could live side by side with good homes, sharing the costs of a well-planned community has come true.
As the community has grown to the southeast and northwest, it has found itself involved with school districts other than the original one in the village. Students in the southern sector of the village attend schools in the Wheaton-Warrenville Unit District 200. Students in the southwestern sector attend schools in Carol Stream and West Chicago High School districts, while those in the northwestern sector of the village find themselves attending classes in the Elgin-U-46 schools of Kane County. Glenbard North High School, which opened in 1968, is located in Carol Stream. The elementary district has grown from one school in 1958 to four elementary schools and a junior high school.
The village is served by a network of major highways, most of them four lanes wide. In addition, the industrial park is served by two railroads, the Illinois Central-Gulf on the north side of North Avenue, the Chicago and North Western Railway on the south side, successor to the Chicago and Great Western Railway. The village is located eight miles from the DuPage Airport.
While it is a community with only a quarter century of life, its roots go deep into the early history of DuPage County; thus it had a stability which lends itself to future growth patterns for the Village of Carol Stream.
Jean Moore is president of Carol Stream Historical Society, and was chairman of the village’s bicentennial commission. She also serves on the board of governors of the DuPage Heritage Gallery, and was president of the DuPage County Press Association.