Richard A. Thompson has been a DuPage County resident since 1964, during which time he has served as pastor of the Southminster Presbyterian Church, Glen Ellyn. He also developed and taught the course in county history at the College of DuPage; wrote a chapter for the county’s bicentennial volume DuPage Discovery 1776-1976; and authored Around the Arboretum for the DuPage County Historical Society.
The fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the DuPage Historical Society — the first board of directors was selected in 1935 — provides the occasion for this updated history of the county. Beyond marking this event, however, there is a need for a systematic survey which summarizes the early days and especially highlights the post World War II era, when 75 percent of DuPage development has occurred. The last thorough treatment of this subject was DuPage County Guide, prepared through the Federal Writers’ Project in the 1930s as part of the American Guides Series and published in 1948. This valuable volume, however, not only is out of print, but predates the major change.
DuPage Discovery 1776-1976, published by the county’s bicentennial commission in 1977, did contain coverage of recent events. But at the time it was in preparation, a number of localities were sponsoring bicentennial research projects and publications which have been awaiting incorporation into a unified presentation.
DuPage Roots has been written to meet this need. The first part of the book presents a consecutive narrative in order to give the reader an overview of the past. The second part consists of local highlights, with contributions from twenty-six communities which have historical societies and which are located mostly in DuPage. Their cooperation in this project has made for a unique, unified effort, which serves both historical and community-building interests.
After editing the material presented by each of the contributors to coordinate both form and substance, I am appreciative of the time and care volunteered for this common enterprise. I am also grateful for their having gathered pictorial material from their areas, thus augmenting the graphic value of the volume.
The original art for the cover and chapter headings of Part One is the result of David S. Burnside’s willingness to give of his professional expertise. From his mural studio in Bensenville, this county resident brought forth images to share with posterity out of a devotion to the DuPage heritage. Likewise, the drafting skills of Mark Ravanesi were made freely available in the series of four maps in the first chapters as well as in the motor tour map of the county. That visual aid supplements my written identification of the places that can be visited in a day’s time, in order to give the history a concrete form.
The broad base of support, which has made this undertaking even more of a joint venture, includes Marilyn Claus, a native of Downers Grove, who has served as research assistant in many varied ways. Louise Spanke, of the DuPage Historical Museum staff, has most graciously read through the whole of the manuscript to offer suggestions, as has Joanne Dutcher Maxwell. To George Ware of the Morton Arboretum, Terry Allen and Frank Bellinger of the College of DuPage for their critique of different chapters in Part One I am grateful. Others who have provided commentary on the local highlights include Wayne Benson, Lee Hestermann, Joe McHaley, Leonne Schmidt, Virginia Stewart, Genevieve Towsley, Leon Werch, Rita Martin, and Becki Wilhelmi. Ann Dirks, Howard Lytle, Bernice Pond, and Jean Rathje have kindly proofread various parts of the text.
The full staff of the county museum, under Pat Wallace, has been most cooperative, as have those of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County and the DuPage County Development Department. Without the financial underwriting of the DuPage Historical Society and the guidance of Joyce Usher in the publishing technicalities, this publication would not have been possible. Typist Dolores Kiesel has also provided indispensable service.
A final word is in order about the sources. The author trusts that this work will be useful in the classroom. Thus I have attempted to compile as comprehensive a bibliography as possible in a section which also includes audiovisual and oral materials. The listing of museums/societies is, likewise, intended to lead the inquirer to other materials.
Yet DuPage Roots is meant also for the general reader. My references and those of the contributors are contained in the sources section rather than through footnotes, thus facilitating narrative flow. Moreover, duplication has been avoided by listing primary sources only once, under the heading of general bibliography. Works by Richmond and Vallette, Blanchard, Bateman and Selby, Knoblauch, Maas and Weber have been used repeatedly in Part One and by most contributors in Part Two. Only the material used exclusively in a particular chapter or contribution is cited in connection with that portion of the book.
This volume comes to you with the hope that the citizens of each DuPage community may have a greater sense of the whole; that those outside the area may have a keener appreciation of the county’s uniqueness; that present and future generations may have a keener understanding of their roots in the past.
Richard A. Thompson