Tannisse T. Blatchford
Late in July 1832, a contingent of General Winfield Scott’s army crossed the Wayne area, on their way to reinforce the Illinois militia which was fighting Chief Black Hawk and his Sauk braves. They camped along the West Branch of the DuPage River, about a mile and a half north of future Wayne Center. The present Army Trail Road commemorates their passage, although this road was not the actual route.
It was May 1834, when permanent white settlers arrived in Wayne Township. John Laughlin, a twenty-seven-year-old bachelor, reached here on May 8th. He was the first to establish a claim in the area. Robert Y. and Nancy Benjamin, with the first four of their eight children, together with Robert’s father Daniel and brother John, came from Warren County, Indiana They chose their land on May 12th, and built a log cabin within three days.
Both companies located in a grove of sheltering trees on a rise of ground that overlooked the newly emerging prairie grasses and flowers. The Benjamins’ homestead was located just east of the West Branch of the DuPage River in Section 26, while Laughlin’s claim lay four and a half miles to the west, in Section 19.
The following year Edmund Bartlett and Solomon Dunham emigrated from New York State and “took up land” north and south of the present junction of Dunham and Army Trail Roads. During the next quarter century there was a multiplying of new settlers including: Luther Bartlett, John Glos, Elijah L. Guild, John and Abraham Kershaw, Joseph McMillen, Peter Pratt, Theodore Schramer and John Smith. By 1861 all the land had been claimed, settled, and divided between cultivation and pasture. As DuPage County was divided into nine voting precincts in 1839, the Orange region included Wayne Township, as well as parts of present Bloomingdale and Winfield townships. When Bloomingdale Precinct was formed in 1841, the original precinct decreased in size. Three years later, the County Commissioners’ Court directed that elections be held at Joseph McMillen’s farm house, on the northwest corner of present day Route 59 and Army Trail Road.
The first settlement was the small community at Wayne Center, north of the Benjamins’ land, straddling the West Branch. Henry B. and Eunice Hemenway and her brother, Elijah Lyman Guild, were the first to stake claims in Wayne Center, about 1836. In 1837, the Reverend William Kimball, a Methodist preacher, arrived in the area with his family and held worship services in his log cabin for the few pioneer settlers. The following year he and his neighbors built a log house which served as a week day school and a Sabbath day church. Abner Guild and James Nind opened a general store in 1844, and people flocked to it in order to exchange their produce and coins for “store boughten” goods. These amenities were the first of their kind in the township.
The Township Organization Law went into effect in January 1850. It is traditionally believed that the Township was named in honor of Major General Anthony Wayne. It was he who had won the Northwest Territory for the United States by defeating a confederation of Indian tribes near Toledo, Ohio, in 1794.
A provision of the law called for the proceeds from land sales in Section 16 of each township to be used for a school fund. A direct result of this specification was the construction of several new school houses. These schools were, most probably, the Benjamin, Dunham’s Depot (Wayne), Hammond (near the junction of Smith Road and Route 64), Orangeville, Wayne Center and the Red School (corner of Smith Road and Route 59). The first annual township meeting was held April 2, 1850, at the home of Joseph McMillen, who was also serving as the first postmaster.
Before this meeting took place, high-soaring hawks along the eastern horizon could have seen movement which foretold the coming of the railroad. Slowly, but steadily, the Galena and Chicago Union’s strap rails advanced. From the sixteen-year-old city of Chicago, they made their way across the prairie grasses and bridged their way across the prairie streams and sloughs. By January 1850 “The Pioneer,” a small bell funneled engine, was pulling its log filled tender and one car over the right-of-way donated by Solomon Dunham, Edward Brewster and other farmers.
Dunham fully appreciated the potential of the railroad, and he took four actions that made him the founder of the second settlement, Wayne Station. The first step was a petition to the road commissioners of St. Charles and Wayne townships to build a road from the door yard of his red brick farmhouse to the state road (Route 59). When this was granted, he proceeded to construct an inn, a general store and a house, all just east of the tracks. He also secured appointments as the community’s first station agent and postmaster. Both offices were in the depot.
By 1864 the business district had grown considerably. The Illinois Gazeteer for that year listed the following enterprises:
Adams, Hiram : Boot and Shoemaker
Adams, J. Q : General Store
Arndt, John : Wagonmaker
Campbell & Bros : General Store
Carswell, Robert : Carpenter
Fren, Lars : Mason
Garron, Geo : Blacksmith
Hartz, Michael : Blacksmith
Wolcott, Morgan : Carpenter
Meanwhile, Wayne Center was also thriving. The post office had been moved from the McMillen farm to Abner Guild’s store in 1851. Henry Sherman had opened a blacksmith shop. Guild’s brother, William K., was operating a broom factory on his farm,
A Congregational Church had been organized in the mid- 1840s. By 1851 its parishioners had acquired sufficient funds to buy a third of an acre on the north side of Army Trail Road, between Gerber and Fair Oaks roads, and to build their first house of worship. In 1871 five of its members withdrew to join thirteen others in becoming charter members of the new church at Wayne Station. The older congregation began to decline. Compounding its misfortune was the fact that none of the railroads opted to build through the settlement; thus it slowly ceased to exist. The one reminder of its former presence is the small cemetery on a hill to the west, which was started in the 1840s, and is still in use today.
Another pioneer graveyard is the Little Woods Cemetery, once located on Luther Pierce’s farm in the northwest corner of the township. The earliest grave marker is that of a Lucy Hammond born December 1801, died April 1838.
Mark Wentworth Dunham, Solomon’s youngest son, inherited his father’s 300 acre farm when the senior Dunham died in 1865. Ten years later he bought the Percheron horse “Success” for $3,300 and launched the Oak Lawn Farm Importing and Breeding business. By 1883 he had prospered to such an extent that a west wing was added to the farmhouse to serve as an office, and Dunham Castle was completed as the family residence. It was patterned after the Normandy chateaux he had seen while on stock buying trips in France. During this same period houses were being built along main street by retired farmers, successful merchants, and men who worked in various capacities on the Dunham farm and for the Chicago & North Western Railroad.
Three additional railroads were constructed across the township between 1873 and 1888, the Chicago & Pacific (Milwaukee), the Chicago & Great Western, and the Illinois Central. The hopeful settlements that sprang up in their wake — Ontarioville, Ingalton, Schick, Granger, and Munger – were short lived, with the exception of Ontarioville. Its station has been renamed Hanover Park. The Chicago, Aurora & Elgin Electric Railway was completed in May 1903. It furnished additional train service for the township, and provided a source of electricity for street lights.
Dr. William L. Guild came to Wayne in 1884 and served both the settlement and the township. He had been born at Wayne Center December 5, 1859, a grandson of Massachusetts pioneers Israel and Rachel Guild. William’s parents were Dr. Elias and Alice Guild, who had given sanctuary to runaway slaves prior to the Civil War. Among William’s first patients was a workman who had caught his foot in machinery. The young doctor performed an amputation by the light of a lantern held by a hired girl. When his father, who had moved to Wheaton, died in 1908, Dr. Guild took over his practice, dividing his time between Wayne and that city, until his death in 1936.
In 1910 Elwood and Louise Powis Brown, she a granddaughter of Solomon Dunham’s eldest son, Daniel, were sent to Manila by the Y. M. C. A. While there, Mrs. Brown became impressed by the beautiful embroidery done by the native women. As an experiment, she designed a nightgown and commissioned one of the Filipinos to embroider it. The result so pleased her that she sent several samples to her mother, Mrs. Julia Dunham Powis, in Wayne. Eventually, the production of this attire developed into a million dollar business, and moved its headquarters from the family home, “Grove Place,” to New York City. The mother-daughter team sold their interest in the company after Mr. Brown’s death in 1929. Some years later his widow married Owen D. Young, chairman of General Electric.
The International Harvester Company began testing and improving farm machinery on the 200 acre Daniel Dunham farm in 1916. They completed their experiments in 1921, and Wirth Dunham bought the property. He built a hemp mill and raised this crop for processing. At its peak the plant employed thirty men and produced 350,000 pounds of fiber. The mill was sold and moved to China in 1931.
The Reverend Orlando S. Grinnell accepted a call to the Wayne Congregational Church in the fall of 1918. For that congregation’s fiftieth anniversary, in 1921, Grinnell composed a hymn which he entitled “The Little Home Church By the Wayside.” This was adopted as its official name in 1940.
Another event of post-war year 1921 was the founding of the Women’s Club of Wayne. While its nucleus was comprised of the wives of farmers and merchants in and close to the settlement, several women from the township-dc at-large were also members. Miss Hattie Glos was the first president. Among the club’s many accomplishments was the operation of the street lights, until 1951.
In 1926 Michael J. Bloze established the Illinois Pet Cemetery close to the eastern boundary of the township. In its grounds, located on Jefferson Street, just north of Schick Road, thousands of pets are buried It continues to be maintained by Bloze’s son and grandson.
During the same year Mark Morton of the Morton Salt Company family bought the 400 acre W. S. Lee farm and started the Morton Sand and Gravel Company. It was operated through the 1940s; then it was sold to private owners. The lake, formed by the excavating, is now an important feature of Pratts Wayne Woods, a forest preserve purchased by the county in 1965. Mark Morton’s Georgian mansion has stood vacant most of the years since his death in 1951.
About 1927 Wirth Dunham and his sister Bernice Dunham West formed a partnership and began to subdivide the nearly 2,000 acres they had inherited from their father, Mark. The partnership was dissolved after Wirth’s death in an automobile accident on July 17,1931; it was restructured as Dunham’s Incorporated. Solomon Dunham’s red brick farm house, just two years short of its hundredth birthday, was leased to a group of residents in 1934. They organized the Dunham Woods Riding Club and used the building as their headquarters. On June 30th of that year, a pageant was held celebrating the centennial of John Laughlin’s and the Benjamins’ arrival in Wayne Township. Jane Dunham, great-granddaughter of Solomon, wrote the script.
Almost from its beginning, the six mile square area designated “Wayne” has had the smallest population in the county. The census of 1850 lists 856 residents, the vast majority of whom were farmers. Eighty years later there were 1,166, a gain of only 310 people, while the other townships had doubled and tripled their numbers. Growth had been slow because it had remained predominantly agricultural, with only a small part of Ontarioville and the little settlement of Wayne serving as population clusters. There was no major industry until the 1920s, and most of it was confined to North Avenue, and to the south along Powis Road
Among the first such enterprises was a private airport. A group of aviation enthusiasts bought farmland from Colonel E. J. Baker on the south side of Route 64. They called themselves Air Associates; they had built their first hangar by 1929. George G. Ball purchased the airport in 1939. With the advent of World War II, the flying field became important to the Federal Government, which paid for the first paved runways and lent a large sum of money to have the Howard Aircraft Company plant built. After the war that building was sold; it became the Owens-Illinois Glass Works’ Plastic Division in 1947, while the airfield became DuPage Airport.
The prize-winning author Marguerite Henry came in 1940 to Wayne where most of her widely read children’s books were written. Among them were Justin Morgan Had a Horse (1945), Misty of Chincoteague (1947), and King of the Wind, (1949). She and her husband moved in 1971 to California, where they still reside.
The Wayne Community Association held its first meeting at the school on September 5, 1945. President Corwith Hamill explained that the former Wayne Carnival Committee, whose annual fund-raising event supplemented school funds, had decided to incorporate in order to serve the community more effectively.
As early as 1943 subdivisions began to appear in the township. Hugh M. Cornell developed Waynewood, just east of the angle formed by the junction of routes 64 and 59. Lakewood, to the north, was subdivided in 1946. Noting these basic changes to the landscape, the Community Association appointed a five-person Planning Committee in November 1948 to work with county zoning officials on a long-range area plan. Its purpose was to preserve and protect as much of the remaining open lands as possible.
After a century of service the Chicago & Northwestern passenger train was discontinued in the spring of 1950. The CA&E terminated its service in June, 1958.
When Wayne Township and Wayne Station’s first century rolled around, in 1950, 79-year-old Miss Hattie Glos co-authored a little booklet, “Wayne Township: A Commemorative History.” In 1953 it was revised and expanded to become the “Wayne Community and Township History,” a source which may be found in many local home and public libraries.
In 1955 an immense Spanish-style structure began to rise on the northwest corner of Routes 59 and 64. It was Christ the King Seminary. The land purchased for this endeavor was once part of Theodore Schramer’s farm. He had been born in Prussia in 1839, and immigrated to the United States in 1857. He farmed near Wheaton for a number of years. Then Schramer married Mary Lies in 1863, and in the early 1870s bought the land that encompassed the four corners of this intersection. With the single exception of this sale, the remainder of the farm continued to be owned by the family until the early 1970s. The fourth generation of Schramers still farms in the township. Approximately twenty years after purchasing the property, the Franciscan Fathers sold it to a private partnership which converted the building into a convalescent center.
Two years after the seminary had been completed, the Wayne Community Association became alarmed by the expansion of subdivisions. A committee was appointed to study the advisability of incorporating as a village. This option was opposed by those residents who believed it would drastically change the character of the community. A referendum was held on September 1 and the proposal passed by the narrow margin of 95 to 87. The first village board was sworn into office that November. Among the earliest measures voted by the board were the adoption of subdivision regulations and a zoning ordinance.
The Community Association continued to serve as the financial unit by collecting voluntary dues of $60 a year from each family. This money supplied funds for street lighting and, in the beginning, a one-man police department.
In the early 1960s William and Theresa Heinz Warner razed their 120-year-old farm house built by Joseph McMillen, the township’s first postmaster. A few years later they sold the western ten acres of their farm to the Diocese of Joliet. A new parish, Resurrection Catholic Church, was organized and the first mass was celebrated in their new building on October 4, 1968. In the same year Dunham’s Incorporated sold the 1,100 acres which comprised the North and South Farms, on either side of Army Trail Road west of the village, to the Oliver Hoffmann Corporation.
The Pheasant Run resort complex was opened on February 15, 1963. Located just west of DuPage Airport, it was described by The St Charles Chronicle and “The million dollar development of the late Colonel E. J. Baker’s 175-acre Airport Farm.” In 1979 a fifteen-story tower, the tallest in the township, was completed for offices and other functions.
The Little Home Church by the Wayside celebrated its 100th Anniversary in February 1971. Former parishioners from as far away as California and Oregon returned for the special service and luncheon in June. Descendants of four charter members were present as were the fourth and fifth generations of John Laughlin’s family. The planning committee wrote a booklet entitled The Plow and The Cross, which traced the church’s service to village and township through the years.
The Forest Preserve District’s first acquisition in the township was Wayne Grove, purchased in 1923. It was the only local preserve until 1956, when Mallard Lake was acquired. The district’s first purchase for what became Pratt’s Wayne Woods took place in 1965. George R Pratt was the guiding hand behind this achievement. In 1974 Pratt elected to sell his Maple Spring Farm, which had been owned by his family for four generations, to the Forest Preserve District, rather than to a developer.
The year 1974 was also when the DuPage Airport was purchased and placed under the management of a Fox Valley Community Airport Authority. The referendum passed by a vote of 4,217 to 1,737 with the communities of Batavia, Geneva, St Charles, Wayne and West Chicago participating.
Money need, a recurring problem for the Village of Wayne, became acute in 1977. The voluntary dues had been gradually raised to $225 a year. For the first time the concept of taxes was no longer considered an anathema.
The annual township meeting was held on April 5, 1977. There were eight Republican and eight Democratic candidates on the ballots. The Republicans won, as they had in every election since the party was formed in 1854.
Another important event occurred in 1978. A committee was formed in the Village of Wayne to investigate the possibility of its attaining historic district status. The purpose was to protect and preserve the community’s 19th-century quality. Founding members were Jesse Burt, Burd Hikes, Nancy Jackson, Isabella Lindsay, Ann Miller and John Walter. The Wayne Village Historic District application was approved and received its official designation as such on December 19, 1978.
In 1984 Wayne celebrated the 150th year of the arrival of John Laughlin and the Robert Benjamins. A gala parade proceeded from the school to the pole barn at Dunham Woods Riding Club, its participants wore period costumes. Appropriately, the site was within half a mile of the Laughlin claim, where the township’s history had begun.
Tannisse Twyman Blatchford is the author of An Honorable Heritage: A Biography of Wayne Township, Illinois, 1834-1984.