THE PIONEER EPOCH
The Indians, French trappers and traders, and nineteenth-century settlers from the eastern United States and trans-Atlantic countries comprised the cultural planting of DuPage County. The earliest Americans, originally from Asia, did the seeding on which the pioneers of European origin depended and to which they added. In fact, the influence of the Indians continues today in road patterns and in a landscape created by their fire practices.
The periods of Indian habitation in the area may be summarized as follows:
Woodland-1000 B.C.-AD. 1673
The story of the Paleo period begins when that of the glacier ends. As massive quantities of water were taken up into ice form, the ocean floor between Asia and North America lay exposed, forming a landbridge over which humans moved eastward. This connection across the Bering Straits, or Beringia as it is called, existed between 28,000 and 12,000 years ago.
These migrants were big game hunters. In the shadow of the melting ice mountains they pursued mammoths like the one unearthed at Roy C. Blackwell Forest Preserve in 1978. They hunted with Clovis or Fulsom points, first identified in New Mexico and dating from 12,000 B.c. Sanford Gates, in an Illinois Archaeological Survey article, identified thirty-two Indian sites in the DuPage River drainage, one of which-at the headwaters of the West Branch-was described as Paleo.
In 8,000 B.C., when the climate began to warm considerably, the Archaic period began.
Life-style became less nomadic in river valleys to the south, and excursions into DuPage represented only temporary encampments, supporting the hunt for buffalo. As larger animals gave way to smaller game, new weapons evolved, such as spear throwers. An extensive dig on the grounds of the National Accelerator Laboratory in 1970 and 1971 revealed seventeen Archaic sites, dating from 6,500 B.C.. On the fifteenth floor of Fermilab is a public display of the finds.
The development of agriculture, pottery, and elaborate burial practices marked the change from the Archaic to the Woodland period. An archaeological excavation, which was under the auspices of Wheaton College in 1975 in Winfield Township, unearthed the most extensive site of this period. In this project, called Du-33, three burial mounds were identified, covering the period from 300 B.C. to A.D.700. Over a thousand artifacts and a variety of pottery represent this millennium of permanent settlement. Du-33 seems to have been the farthest north spillover of the Illinois River Valley civilization, which was in its most expansive stages at this time.
At the present site of Fermilab the Langford People, of the late Woodland period, resided on ten sites from the thirteenth to the early seventeenth century. Their globular-shaped pottery showed the advanced “state of the art,” and their smaller triangular projectile points were shaped for bow-and-arrow use.
In the Historic era the predominant confederation of tribes prior to the mid-eighteenth century were the Iliniwek. When the first European explorers Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet cut across the southeastern corner of the county in 1673, near the present site of St. James of the Sag Church, these were the “superior men” that they met.
It is ironic that in 1641, just a year after the French had initially heard of the Iliniwek, the first Potawatomi appeared at Sault St. Marie, the Jesuit-trader frontier outpost between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. The Potawatomi were of the Algonquian family, driven westward by the fierce Iroquois who were, in turn, yielding to the growing pressure of European settlement. The Potawatomi then moved south through Wisconsin, entered the Chicago area, and drove out the remnants of the Iliniwek.
By 1800 the Potawatomi had 6,000 people in fifty major villages, from Milwaukee around the bend of Lake Michigan to St. Joseph. In DuPage there were four major villages: one near Oak Brook on the Salt Creek, a second near Naperville on the West Branch, and others on the East Branch in the Morton Arboretum and in the Churchill Forest Preserve. The large settlement, just to the south of the Des Plaines River at the county’s southeast border, was called Ausagaunaskee, “The Prairie,” from which comes the term “The Sag.” This was also the name of the spacious hunting grounds, which extended as far west as Churchill Woods.
The first European settlers in DuPage County found the Potawatomi a cooperative people who did not heed the call to join the Sauks during the 1832 Black Hawk War. Chief Black Hawk himself bore resentments as far back as 1803 because of the Treaty of St. Louis. Later, when the Indian Boundary Treaty had been established in 1816, tensions were further heightened. The boundary was a ten-mile-wide stretch of land, dedicated to a future canal, starting from the lake shore and extending southwest through the southeast section of Downers Grove Township and part of Lisle.
When word reached Naperville in May of 1832 that Black Hawk had launched an attack, the settlers fled to Fort Dearborn. Fort Payne was built by soldiers from Ottawa as protection for the settlers who returned after a month. The fort was located on the site of today’s North Central College’s athletic area.
By July General Winfield Scott had brought troops to Fort Dearborn. He led one contingent through Naperville on the way to Dixon, while most of his troops followed today’s Lake Street and Army Trail Road In August Black Hawk was defeated by Zachary Taylor at Bad Axe, Wisconsin. The Treaty of Chicago, of September 16, 1833, formalized the final removal of the Indians beyond the Mississippi River. Although there were still Potawatomis at the Round Meadow Village on the west side of today’s Morton Arboretum in the 1840s, by the end of the pioneer era in 1850, virtually all of the natives were gone.
Their predecessors from time immemorial had blazed the trails which are still used today as Lake, St. Charles, Butterfield, Ogden, and Plainfield roads. The practice of setting the prairies ablaze to flush out game and improve traveling kept hardwood trees out and contributed to the soil’s enrichment. The Potawa tomi planted beans, peas, squash, and corn in the river valleys, near their domed bark, thatch, or hide-covered dwellings. They shared the fruits of their labor with the European pioneers in more than one way. That interaction will become apparent as the story of the county’s name and earliest European settlers is told.
THE FRENCH CONNECTION
The county took its name from the rivers, which were, in turn, named after a French fur trapper, DuPage. He established a trading post at the forks where the East and West Branch come together, four miles south of Naperville in today’s Will County. A 1782 map, published in Steward’s Lost Maramech & Earliest Chicago, identifies a “Lake DuPage” between the Fox River and Lake Michigan. Jean Baptiste Beaubien, who was trading in Illinois soon after the turn of the nineteenth century, recalled this old Frenchman who represented the American Fur Trading Company of St. Louis for an indefinite time and whose departure was not recorded.
Jean Baptiste Beaubien and his brother Marc were to enter DuPage history again. But in the meantime these brothers of French-Canadian ancestry, whose family had moved to Detroit from Montreal in the eighteenth century, were to make a name for themselves in Chicago.
Jean Baptiste, after first coming to the newly built Fort Dearborn at the mouth of the Chicakajo River, had at one time been married to the sister of Potawatomi Chief Shabbona. After her death and by 1825, he had become the largest property owner in the hamlet at Fort Dearborn and successfully urged his brother to come from Detroit. In 1831 Marc opened the Sauganash Hotel, named after his friend Billy Caldwell, who was half Indian. It was there that Marc would not only entertain guests by playing the fiddle “like ze debble” but also that the election took place which made Chicago a village. During the Black Hawk War Jean Baptiste captained a company which did reconnaissance of the Naper settlement.
In 1840 Marc traded property at Lake and Wells streets for the 260-acre farm and tavern of William Sweet on the Lisle-Naperville border. In 1850 he operated a toll booth on the Southwestern Plank Road which ran in front of his establishment, a favorite spot for Indian visitors because the Beaubiens spoke their language. In 1858 Jean Baptiste moved to Naperville. Beaubiens were later buried in a family cemetery, located on the hill east of Yender Road and on the north side of Ogden Avenue.
The experience of this particular family typified the rapport that long had characterized French-Indian relations. The “coureurs de bois,” as the traders/trappers were called, so assimilated with the Native Americans that, as one Quebec nun reportedly said, “It is easier for a Frenchman to learn to live like an Indian than for an Indian to live like a Frenchman.”
Such friendship as that extended by Aptakisic, known also^as Half Day, to the Yankee settlers in warning them of Black Hawk’s impending attack and leading them to the safety of Fort Dearborn was all but forgotten in the rush to remove the Indians. Sixty years after the event, however, a distinguished Waukegan attorney, Henry Blodgett, son of DuPage pioneer Israel, would remember the kindness in a letter.
About two o’clock in front of our cabin, on the morning of the 10th of May 1832, a loud shout or whoop was heard and on my father’s opening the door he was met by Aptakisic. He began to urge my father to take his family and start at once for the fort in Chicago. The whole family, of course, was aroused and with the aid of what Indian words we could muster we finally learned the cause of this solemn appearance-that there had been a council held that night at West Valley where Aurora now stands, between Black Hawk and a band of chiefs of the Potawatomi and Winnebago. They had been urged to join with Black Hawks’s tribe in a general attack upon the white settlements in northern Illinois, but refused. As soon as the council broke up, he had mounted his horse and ridden as fast as he could by way of Naper Settlement to give the alarm so we might get away before the Sauks could get there. … In the fall of 1837, Aptakisic’s band was removed to a reservation on the west side of the Missouri River near the mouth of the Platte and later were moved into what is now a portion of the state of Kansas, south of the Kansas River. I well remember the sad face of the old chief as he came to bid our family goodbye. … We all shed tears of genuine sorrow … his generous kindness to my parents has given me a higher idea of the red man’s genuine worth.
The Blodgetts also came to symbolize those who would plant the seeds of conscience prior to the Civil War.
RIVERS AND GROVES
When Israel Blodgett arrived at the fork of the DuPage River from Amherst, Massachusetts, in the early spring of 1831, he found the Stephen Scott family already settled. The Connecticut Yankees had in the 1820s been the first settlers to land and live at Grosse Point, now Evanston. But by 1830 they had made still another home by the rivers and groves where fur trapper DuPage had sojourned south of the present Will County border; thus he lost the distinction of being the county’s first permanent European settler. That honor went to Bailey Hobson, a Quaker who set out armed only with a jackknife from Orange County, Indiana. He found shelter in the Scott settlement until he could build along what became Hobson Road in Naperville. With his Georgia-born wife Clarissa and five children he took up residence in the early spring of 1831.
By harvest of 1834 Hobson with the help of neighbors had erected on the West Branch of the DuPage River the only grist mill in northern Illinois. So long was the line of farmers waiting for their grain to be ground that Hobson’s Greek Revival-style home doubled as a tavern.
One mile to the north the Naper settlement was well under way by that time. It was named for brothers Joseph and John who had sailed from Ashtabula. Ohio, on the Telegraph, a ship delivered to a purchaser in Chicago.
Among those who came as part of the Naper “colony” in July 1831 were Lyman Butterfield and Henry T. Wilson, who were to become Milton Township’s first settlers in 1832; Robert Murray, who would later host Stephen Douglas in his 1841 home, now on display at the Naper Settlement restoration site; and William Strong, whose home on Eola and North Aurora Road would become a hideaway for runaway slaves prior to the Civil War. To the north of Strong, Frederick Stolp settled, after purportedly walking from Pultneyville, New York, to Illinois in 1834.
But it was Joseph Naper who proved to be the “Founding Father” of both his village and the county itself. He commanded the local militia, laid out the streets, and built a saw mill. Naperville was so thriving, with 180 settlers by the end of 1832, that it was the first town in Cook County to be chartered and was an even larger village than Chicago until 1836. By 1839 Naper was serving in the Illinois General Assembly, where he had formed a coalition with downstate legislators, including one Abraham Lincoln. As a result DuPage was among the counties detached from Cook, established on February 9, 1839, with Naperville as the county seat. But the northern half of Wheatland and DuPage townships remained part of Will County by one vote, for teetotalers there took offense at a voter from DuPage County who brought a bottle of whiskey to the polls.
The nearest neighbors to the Naper settlement upstream on the West Branch were the Warrens who, like the others who arrived early, claimed land in the groves where wood for building, fences, and fire was available. Father Daniel had taken possession of today’s McDowell Woods in 1833; his son Julius established the village of Warrenville itself.
In 1834 Julius built a home which remains among the oldest still standing in the county. Across Batavia Road he erected a saw mill in 1835. In 1838 he constructed a tavern at the intersection of Warrenville and Winfield roads, which served as the connecting link between the Indiana and Wisconsin borders by way of St. Charles. Abel Carpenter had claimed the quarter section to the east of Winfield Road, married Julius Warren’s sister Sarah, and eventually settled on a farm which is the site of today’s Fermilab.
Brothers Erastus and Jude Gary preceded the Warrens by a year, traveling west in the most typical way, over the Erie Canal. Opened in 1825, this waterway provided the most direct route west from the northeastern states. Natives of Pomfret, Connecticut, where a road and school are still named after their forebears, the Garys staked claims to the east of Winfield Road and on both sides of Butterfield Road. Today’s St. James Farm is situated on that homestead.
Another brother Charles, with other family members, arrived in 1837 and built a saw mill farther north on the West Branch. The vacated school, where sister Orinda had been the teacher, is all that remains of the Gary’s Mill settlement, which was to be bypassed by the railroad. But before that happened Asel Gates and Mary Warne would be married in that school building, which doubled as a Methodist church. These offspring of pioneer families became the parents of the prominent industrialist John W. Gates.
George and Mary Miller McAuley were of Irish and Scottish descent; he had been educated as a Presbyterian minister. The school named after this family remains the only one-room school still in operation in DuPage County.
Another school, which is still in service, was named for Robert Benjamin, whose 1834 homestead was toward the headwaters of the West Branch in Wayne Township. But Wayne Center, the original village on the river, would by mid-century give way to Wayne Station, where the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad laid its tracks.
North of the headwaters of the East Branch, Vermonters Lyman, Harvey, Daniel, and Silas Meacham would locate in a grove to be named after them. Their nearest neighbor to the south was Lyman Butterfield, nine miles away. By 1842 Hiram B. Patrick, who previously had worked on the Erie Canal and as a lake captain, became a closer neighbor in the southern end of Bloomingdale Township. Two years later the Rowland Rathbuns took up residence at the dividing ridge between Lake Michigan and the Fox River. The Rathbun daughter gave birth to Cornelia, who eventually became Mrs. George Meacham. Much of Meacham’s Grove is contained in today’s Medinah Country Club.
Along the East Branch of the DuPage River, between the future sites of Glen Ellyn and Lombard, brothers Ralph and Morgan Babcock staked the first claim in 1833, an extensive enough claim for kinsmen and friends from Onondaga County, New York. Ralph’s wife was a niece of Mrs. Deacon Winslow Churchill, who in turn was a sister of William Dodge. Over the next two years these other families were to make homes in Babcock’s Grove.
Churchill Woods Forest Preserve would be named after the 1834 arrivals, whose New York farm had been along the Erie Canal. The Churchills also had been neighbors of the Sheldon Pecks in Onondaga County. By 1837 the Pecks had built Lombard’s oldest standing home at Grace and Parkside.
New Hampshire was represented by Luther and J. C. Hatch, who in 1832, after Bailey Hobson, were the next to settle in Lisle Township. They were located to the south of today’s Morton Arboretum. Black Hawk War veterans Sherman King and Theron Parsons made a brief claim to those groves. After the former moved to Brush Hill and the latter to the Winfield area, these became woodlots for the incoming homesteaders.
Near the crossing of the East Branch with Hobson Road, the Goodrichs and Greenes were to live diagonally across from one another in what became Woodridge. Goodrich School continues at that intersection where Henry Goodrich had moved from Vermont in late 1832. Three years later Daniel Greene was to buy a quarter section in the Indian Boundary strip from the government. Thus, they did not have to await the validation of preemption claims as did of most pioneers in DuPage.
When Daniel’s nephew William brought his new bride Harriet from Wallingford, Vermont, in 1845, she wrote a letter describing the trip on the Erie Canal. Her letter was recorded in Greenes on the East Branch of the DuPage. Her impressions were typical of the multitude who made their way west from Albany. During the week before reaching Buffalo, she was aboard with
such a variety of characters as were assembled in the narrow limits of the boat … two grave Quaker ladies, a gouty old man, his difficult wife and daughter, two gay Frenchmen. … At Canal’s end the dark, deep water of Erie lay before us. … The steamer then stopped at Cleveland, Detroit, arched over the Mackinac Straits, with Indian settlements visible along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Toward evening, we have a sight of the far famed Chicago to the West … calculated to make a Yankee feel not exactly at home; a sandy plain … how unlike the East … twenty-six miles before us … we came to a rolling prairie … indeed pretty—saw a prairie hen, and a sandy crane. Had not the pleasure of encountering any wolves or snakes. ‘Twas near dark and were glad to find ourselves in the last wood and soon turning from the main road to see a light at Uncle Daniel’s. Met with a cordial reception, and … were glad … to indulge in the luxury of a featherbed.
William Briggs and Harriet Elizabeth Meeker Greene — among the first to live in the Woodridge area. from The Greenes on the East Branch of the DuPage.
No such luxury had awaited Sherman King in 1832 as he had returned to the site of the Potawatomi encampment to which Winfield Scott had sent him to scout, in what others of the militia would call Brush Hill. During the war King had helped evacuate the Naper settlers, including the Hobsons, to Fort Dearborn. But in the wake of the Treaty of Chicago, King established residence on the south end of Salt Creek before it veered eastward out of the county.
Soon after 1835 King collaborated with his new neighbor to the north, Nicholas Torode, in the construction of a saw mill. The latter’s homestead, west of York’s Roosevelt Road, was to be called Frenchman’s Woods, because Torode was from the French-speaking Channel Island of Guernsey. He was the first in DuPage to quarry limestone. This building material King used in the construction of a sawmill on the Salt Creek. This was also the site of the future Graue grist mill.
The Frederick Graues of Hanover, Germany, arrived in the United States in 1833. After a year in Albany, New York, they moved farther west to claim land lying in both the future York and Addison townships and comprising a sizable portion of northern Elmhurst. Their son Ludwig, whose holdings along the east side of the Salt Creek included a quarry, would later sell that property to the Hammerschmidt family, who still own and operate the Elmhurst and Chicago Stone Company.
In 1838 another son Frederick moved to Brush Hill. After a fire destroyed the saw mill in 1847, he began erecting the Graue Mill. Completed in 1852, it was flourishing by 1858 and continued operation until the 1920s. Today it is open to the public as a restored representation of that earlier era.
The heart of Addison Township contained the largest of the groves in the county, over three miles in length, and nearly a mile in width. It lay along the east bank of the Salt Creek, which received its name when a Hoosier team became stalled and the driver had to dump several barrels of salt to lighten the load. Like other early settlers who preferred the river bottoms where massive prairie grass did not have to be cut, Hezekiah Dunklee and Mason Smith were to stake claims there in 1833. In 1836 Dunklee, after whom the grove was named, planted three barrels of apples and thus started the first orchard in the county.
Others from New England soon to arrive included Edward Lester, who immediately built a fourteen- by-sixteen-foot board shanty. It required two weeks to prepare the rough white oak and a day to raise the home. There were no windows, only a hole in the wall, and a roof fashioned from prairie stalks. The fire in the hearth was used for heat, light, and cooking.
It was in a log house that daughter Julia was first to teach school in the township. In 1854 son Frederick married Ebenezer Dunklee’s daughter Julia A., who had been the first white child born in the township.
German families came to predominate in Addison Township, and by 1 870 more than half of the population were foreign-born. The Fischers and Franzens both came in 1837, the former to locate in the area called Churchville at the southern end of Dunklee’s Grove. The Franzens settled farther north toward the later village of Bensenville. Henry Fischer would marry Maria Franzen. August Fischer married a daughter of the Glos’, who had moved into the eastern end of the county along St. Charles Road in 1837. By this time the river bottoms were already claimed, and the latecomers had to settle for the higher prairie.
In that year, moreover, John Deere invented the self scouring plow in his Grand Detour blacksmith shop in western Illinois. He soon patented and mass produced this tool, which broke the prairie sod without the “gumbo,” black clay soil, adhering to the blade as it did to a cast iron blade. Israel Blodgett, after moving his blacksmith’s shop to Downers Grove in 1835, had also developed a similar plow to enable farmers to begin opening up the prairie in the 1840s, but he obtained no patent.
Also in the 1840s came initial institutional development. But the delineation of economic, political, and social change must await description of settlement along the county’s early roadways.
In Peck’s Traveler’s Directory for Illinois for 1839 the earliest maps of settlements are shown. It is no accident that in DuPage these should be Brush Hill, Cass, Naperville, and Warrenville. In three of the four cases they were located where rivers and roads crossed. All the villages were along major road routes.
Cass was the only one not on a main waterway, but it was located strategically on the Potawatomi thoroughfare, the “High Prairie Road,” connecting Chicago to Ottawa. In 1831 the Cook County Board converted that Indian trail into a highway, calling it Plainfield Road: it later became U. S. Route 66.
The first stage coach operating west of Chicago, that of Dr. John L. Temple and soon purchased by Frink & Walker, made the initial run over this route in 1834. Thomas Andrus was quick to establish the Tremont Tavern at the place named Cass to serve the sixteen coaches a day. This native Vermonter had first come in 1833; he had helped to build the Tremont House in Chicago, from which he borrowed the name.
The other main route west entered DuPage near Salt Creek at Brush Hill, later Fullersburg. It followed the path which would become the Southwestern Plank Road and eventually Ogden Avenue. Naperville served as the connecting point of the routes that continue south to Oswego and north to Galena. At that juncture on the West Branch of the DuPage River stood the Pre-Emption House which, from 1834, was a renowned tavern serving up to fifty prairie schooners a night.
The Oswego road continued along the Fox River until it joined Plainfield Road east of Ottawa and on to Springfield and St. Louis. The road to the mining center of Galena was served by another stagecoach running through Warrenville just to the east of the river, where Julius Warren built his tavern.
As early as 1835 Orente and David Grant, distant relatives of Ulysses, built Castle Inn near today’s intersection of York Road and Ogden Avenue. At the height of the plank road’s activity, 500 teams of horses a day stopped to pay the toll before that tavern.
Meanwhile, in the northern part of the county, Meacham’s first benefited from the 1836 state authorization that selected it as the starting point of a new road to Galena. On July 4th of that year, its citizens hauled a large log behind a team of oxen halfway to Elgin, which had a similar project moving eastward. Where they met, the two parties enjoyed “a grand Independence Day dinner.” In the fall the Galena coach changed its run from Naperville to this route, entering the county at Grand Avenue where the Buckhorn Tavern was located at the York intersection. This “state road” would become the contemporary Lake Street (U. S. 20).
Today’s St. Charles Road was laid out in the same year. By 1837 Moses Stacy built his first hostelry, which in 1846 gave way to the tavern still standing in Glen Ellyn at Five Corners. Fifty cents a night would provide supper, lodging, breakfast, and hay for two horses. On that same road in Elmhurst, Gerry Bates and his brother-in-law J. L. Hovey would build in 1843 the Hill Cottage Tavern, which would later serve several DuPage notables as a home.
North of Cottage Hill, as Elmhurst was first called, the Western Plank Road was built following the route of Irving Park Road. This construction of three-inch boards laid across a sixteen-foot-wide bed, with tolls every five miles, beginning with a 2½-cent fare for a single rider, was a phenomenon in DuPage County in the early 1850s. Like the stagecoach, plank roads were rendered obsolete within a decade by the railroads.
The career of tavern owner and railroad promoter Gerry Bates was not as typical as that of farmer John Glos, his neighbor to the east. The 1840 census showed 973 persons in agriculture, with only 105 in other occupations.
The manner by which the John Glos family located their acreage also followed a common pattern-one scouting the prospects before others were to follow. John, Jr., made the exploratory expedition. Leaving Bavaria in southern Germany in 1832, he first surveyed rocky New England before hearing of the stone-free Illinois country. The entire family arrived in Chicago in 1837. The older son, speaking English by this time, took his father and his brother Adam to the land office in Chicago. He asked to be shown farm sites, explaining that they had $600 with which to begin their enterprise. The land agent showed them property just west of the Chicago River, where the Northwestern Station now stands. It was swampy, and they declared it unfit for farming. “Let the frogs keep it,” John, Sr. muttered. Then on horses furnished by the land agent, they rode west. It was not until they had forded the Des Plaines River and then found the elevation rising markedly, some 100 feet, that they were satisfied. They located on Section 12 in York Township.
According to the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, townships were divided into thirty-six sections, beginning at the northeast corner, they were numbered six across, one down and back, through the sixth row down. So Section 12 placed the Glosses at the county line, in the first small farmhouse north of St. Charles Road where Sandburg Junior High now stands.
The homestead of Caspar Kline, who first broke ground in 1835 in Winfield Township, has come into the possession of the forest preserve district, which operates it as a typical nineteenth-century farm. The original crops were wheat, barley, and oats. Corn became predominant later in the century as the center of wheat production moved farther west.
But agriculture was not limited to field crops. Daniel Kelly at the Bloomingdale/Milton border community of Gretna undertook the raising of Merino sheep. By 1870 Luther Bartlett, an 1842 pioneer at the DuPage/Cook County border in Wayne, was to pasture a flock of a thousand sheep. His attempt at growing pear trees, however, met an ill-fated end at the hands of northern Illinois winters.
Richmond and Vallette in the earliest of county histories (1857) described the wolf hunts that were held annually in Downers Grove Township to rid the farmers of these predators on their livestock. The farmers stationed themselves in a circle several miles in circumference. Upon a prearranged signal, they began their movement toward the center; thus they cornered the beasts for a kill of up to sixty a day. By 1846 wolves were extinct in the county.
Other enterprises during the pioneer period showed that DuPage was not as exclusively rural as other newly opened lands. Even the early prevalence of clapboard homes over log cabins reflected a less primitive circumstance.
Representing still another kind of economic interest was George Martin, originally a shipping merchant of Edinburgh, Scotland. He came to DuPage in 1832 with his wife Elizabeth and six-year-old son. Martin was soon followed by his brother-in-law John Christie. Martin’s 1833 home of oak and walnut construction stood in Naperville until destroyed by fire in 1958. By 1883 George Martin II had erected the Victorian “Pine Craig” home which now houses the Martin-Mitchell Museum. In the meantime the family established the quarry where Centennial Beach is now located that supplied foundation material for the area.
On the site of Fort Payne, another Naperville notable, Lewis Ellsworth, organized the DuPage County Nurseries in 1849. The fifty acres embraced the most extensive assortment of fruit and ornamental trees, shrubs, and plants in northern Illinois. Thirty thousand evergreens and plants were imported from Europe in a single season. The transition from survival agriculture to refined horticulture had occurred within the first twenty years of European settlement.
At the other end of the county John Henry Franzen had the first linseed mill in Illinois in operation in 1847. By 1870 the mill was closed and flax crops along with wheat gave way to corn.
To the southeast of Franzens at Grant Avenue and the county line, Henry F. Fischer (no relation to the Fischers of Churchville) had by 1850 built the first windmill in the state. Five stories high, its capacity was forty barrels of grain a day. In 1925 the mill became the property of Mt. Emblem Cemetery, where it is still visible from the Tri-State Tollway.
Before mid-century two other events occurred that represented the economic wave of the future. The first took place in 1848 when the long awaited Illinois-Michigan Canal commenced service five miles south of Brush Hill. The influx of laborers, particularly from Ireland, temporarily kept Cass a viable community after the end of the stagecoach era. The 1834 Tremont post office, second oldest in the county, was finally discontinued in 1885.
The Irish also contributed to the second and even more significant development-the building of the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad in 1849. The “Sons of Erin” were involved not only in laying the track but in the trains’ operations as well. Daniel Shehan at Babcock’s Grove fired the first engine. The first permanent landmark of the Catholic church in the area is St. Mary’s Cemetery on Finley Road, north of Butterfield. Here immigrants& from Ireland were being buried as early as the 1840s. But before these wheels of progress are followed into the next era, other institutional growth must be noted.
The political development was represented in the person of Lyman Butterfield whose holdings in the vicinity of the present Arrowhead Golf Course were adjacent to neighbor Tullus, whose preemption was being challenged by “jumper” Harmond. When the latter pulled a gun, Butterfield and a Quaker friend placed themselves in front of the muzzle, challenging the interloper to kill “two birds with one stone,” if he were to enforce his trespass. After a tense ten minutes Harmond left.
Likewise, Pierce Downer in 1832 had to confront Wells and Cooley who sought to “squat” on the land he had staked out. When he found them building a cabin there upon his return from a Chicago shopping expedition, his wrath simmered “like a pent sea over a burning volcano.” The two not only withdrew, but Wells also left the area altogether, leaving a legitimately staked claim to Israel Blodgett. With neighbor Samuel Curtiss, Blodgett in 1838 cleared Maple Avenue with six oxen hitched to logs.
It was such pioneer cooperation that accounted for the emergence of claim-protecting societies which secured ownership until official surveys could be made by the federal government in 1842 and land patents issued. The first to be formed was that of Big Woods in 1836, a settlement along Eola Road east of the massive grove that extended from Batavia to Aurora.
This and the other societies corresponded to the precincts which were to define the county’s subdivisions after its detachment from Cook. The others included Naperville, Webster, Deerfield, Washington, Orange, and DuPage. In the first election, held in 1839, the underdog Whigs’ win surprised the opposition Democrats because in the Jacksonian era most on the frontier identified themselves with the latter party.
The governmental service first sought and received in every community was postal. Besides the post offices established along the main road routes already mentioned, such as Paw Paw station in Naperville (the oldest, established in 1834), there was Route 4311, which stopped at Samuel Curtiss’s home on the new road, along which he and Blodgett had planted a row of sugar maple trees. Route 4312 from Cottage Hill west through Langdon (David Kelley’s post office at Gretna) continued to the West DuPage Tavern of Giles Billings. Route 4325 ran on Butterfield Road, stopped at Jacob Fuller’s place where Utopia and York Center communities later arose; continued on to Samuel Davies’s house in the old Bonaparte community; and passed Julius Warren’s house on the way to Big Woods and Aurora. Route 4313 extended through Addison and Bloomingdale until it was shifted to Itasca in 1873 because of the railroad’s routing.
Although schools were not a governmental responsibility until 1856, there were already eighteen private subscription schools established by 1840. Lester Peet of Naperville was the earliest schoolmaster. In neighboring Lisle Thomas Jellies built the first frame school house in 1835.
In that same year the Benjamin Fullers moved to Brush Hill. This family came with the Atwaters, Austins, Eldridges, Knapps, Reeds, and Thurstons from Broome County, New York. Their settlement in the Oak Brook area was but the last stage of migration for most of this group because they had previously moved together to Broome from Washington County, New York. Atwater sisters, Olive, Anna, and Rachel were married to Benjamin Fuller, Robert Reed, and Edward Eldridge respectively. Fuller located on the Mayslake site, next to the remnants of an Indian village, where he taught the Indians how to shoe horses. Within twenty years he had purchased 800 acres, so that it was natural to call the community Fullersburg by the time he platted it in 1851.
In the meantime, his sister Mary was the first teacher in what became Salt Creek District 48. The schoolhouse was a cabin at the southwest corner of York and Roosevelt roads.
Sharing the educational function were the early churches, which brought the settlers not only the Good News but also the news on issues such as Abolition and Prohibition from outside the area. The earliest religious organizations divided less along Protestant and Catholic lines than they did between American and German church groups. Congregationalist, Methodist, and Baptists characterized the former; Evangelicals, Lutherans, and Roman Catholics the latter.
On July 13, 1833, the First Presbyterian Church of DuPage was organized near the forks of the East and West Branches under the leadership of the Rev. Jeremiah Porter. By August, 1834 the group was meeting in the Naper settlement; there it changed its name to the First Congregational Church of DuPage, since most of its members had been of that tradition. The move to Naperville was also motivated by what the Rev. Edwin R Davis described at the church’s fiftieth anniversary: “The place [Naperville] in the early days was notorious for its wickedness. Intemperance, profanity, Sabbath breaking and infidelity abounded in it. … Brother Clark desired to save the people from the calamity of becoming barbarians.” Morris Sleight donated land upon which a building was erected in 1845.
By that date three other Congregationalist societies had been founded in the county: Downers Grove in 1837, Lisle in 1842, and Big Woods in 1844. The last of these reflected the rising Abolitionist sentiments, since it was led by Thomson Paxton, the Scotch Irishman who had left Tennessee because of his opposition to slavery. He became disaffected with the Presbyterian church of Batavia, which he and other neighbors had helped form, because the national Presbyterian church had failed to take a strong stand on this issue in 1842. They withdrew to organize the Big Woods Congregational Church, whose building still stands on Eola Road.
By 1837 the Methodists were conducting class meetings in Cass, Gary’s Mill, Stacy Corners, Orangeville (Wayne Center), Copenhagen (on Route 59 at the southern border of the county), and Big Woods. The mother church for Methodist churches in the southern end of the county was Cass, where Stephen R. Beggs rode the circuit in the 1830s. A 200 pound, six-foot-tall son of a Revolutionary War veteran, Beggs had such a voice that one pioneer averred that he could be heard a quarter of a mile away. To settlements as far flung as twelve miles south of Ottawa he traveled with stops at Downers Grove and Naperville in between. Blodgett relatives, the Horace Dodges and Eliphalet Strongs, hosted him at Strong’s Hill on today’s Hidden Lake Forest Preserve. He also wrote the book Pages from the Early History of the West and Northwest.
Gary’s Mill was the focal point for other Methodist activity. It was in Gary’s Mill School that Jesse Wheaton and Orinda Gary exchanged their wedding vows, concluding a romance which Rufus Blanchard describes in his 1882 History of DuPage County, Illinois:”Cupid is more unerring in his darts in new countries. … These two Pomfret, Connecticut, families were also to be joined again as Warren Wheaton was to marry Harriet Rickard, daughter of a Gary sister. These were 1837 charter members of the church founded at the home of Charles Gary, who, in addition to operating the sawmill, serving as a county postmaster and justice of the peace, became an ordained lay preacher.”
The Wheaton brothers moved east to the 600-acre preemption and plowed a furrow around it, and they took their Methodist convictions with them. In 1840 Jesse Wheaton voted for James G. Birney, the Abolitionist candidate for president. In 1 843 the brothers were active in forming the Wesleyan Methodist church, which was organized in opposition to slavery, liquor, and Freemasonry.
The Baptists were also identified with the growing Abolitionist sentiment. The Baptist church in Warrenville was host to the Northwestern Baptist Anti-Slavery Convention in 1845. Among those attending were Baptist members from Bloomingdale, where services were first held in 1840, and where an 1849 building still serves as headquarters for the community’s park district.
The German churches prior to 1850 were mostly Protestant. The earliest, Zion Evangelical in Naperville, whose 1840 building remains the oldest church structure in the county and serves as headquarters for the Naperville Heritage Society, began in 1837. The fifteen charter members were from Pennsylvania and were of the Evangelical and United Brethren denomination.
A year later a church composed of Lutheran and Reformed believers was organized at the southern end of Dunklee’s Grove. Its extensive influence will be noted in the next chapter.
The Irish Roman Catholics were meeting at St. Patrick’s in Cass in 1846. In that same year twenty-five German-speaking families from Alsace-Lorraine constructed St. Raphael’s in Naperville, which by 1864, when it was named SS. Peter and Paul, had become the largest church in the county. Among these was Joseph Wherli, who also became the church’s financial angel in 1848, when he assumed the indebtedness which threatened to put the building up for auction. One of Wherli’s daughters, Mary, married Joseph F. Drendel whose grandfather had run a hotel in Chicago, where the federal building now stands, before buying 300 acres in Lisle Township.
From these Alsatian families, including Alois Schwartz, Xavier Reidy, and Joseph Yackley, came young men who joined hundreds from DuPage as Forty-Niners in the Gold Rush. Sheldon Peck’s son Charles painted an eighteen-foot by nine-foot canvas Panorama of California which toured the nation. By the time some of these adventurers had returned home, they found that DuPage had passed beyond the pioneer era.