Winfield is a small village situated between West Chicago and Wheaton in DuPage County. The village was recorded in February 1853 as the “Plat of the Town of Fredericksburg” by James P. Doe, a former New Hampshire resident. He had received a land grant in 1845, but did not have the town platted until January 25, 1853. The importance of this early settlement lay in its position on the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad, which was completed to West Chicago (Turner Junction) in November, 1849.
Reference is made to one building in the town, put up by John Hedges and used as the railroad depot. Earlier histories of Winfield spelled the name “Hodges.” Further investigation into the official document, which legalized the sale of the property from Doe, has revealed the correct name to be Hedges. He was the first stationmaster.
The name given to the station on tickets from Chicago was initially “Warren,” after neighboring landowner Colonel Julius Warren. The name of Winfield came into early use, however. The post office was established on July 12, 1852, with Hedges its first postmaster. In 1854 Winfield was the name which appeared on the railroad’s maps.
Today the station building used by Hedges is referred to locally as the “Besch House” because the Besch family was the last resident prior to the sale of the house to the Village of Winfield in 1977. The Winfield Historical Society is restoring the structure under the name of Hedges Station, in honor of its first stationmaster.
The station provided a shipping point for the residents of Naperville and surrounding farmlands. The town itself began to grow so rapidly that by 1857 it boasted three stores, several factories and a brewery. Freight tonnage from Winfield was topped only by that shipped from Wheaton, Turner Junction, and Cottage Hill (Elmhurst). A stagecoach line ran between Winfield and Naperville, operated by J. C. Vallette and H. H. Fuller. It began the spring of 1854, with records indicating that George Streubler operated it after 1858. When the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad laid its line through Naperville in 1864, the bulk of the freight business at Winfield was lost and the town’s growth stunted. Colonel Warren continued to operate a mail and passenger service to Naperville, however, well into the 1870s.
The composition of the town by resident clearly shows German immigration to have had a marked impact. While the 1850 census listed settlers from New England as the predominant land holders, the 1860 census showed half the residents to be from Germany. Many of the town’s immigrants came from southern Germany. Among other lands from which immigrants hailed were Holland (Caspar Kline) and the Alsace-Lorraine area of France (Nicholas Enders). Many of these early immigrants have descendants residing in the village today. Among these are the family names of Enders, Schmitt, Schramer, Besch, Kline, Berkes, Dieter, Mueller, and Klein.
The German immigrants who resided in the town were, for the most part, Catholics. They attended worship at the German mission church of St. Stephen at Gretna. The long traveling distance, however, and rumors that a new church would be forming in Wheaton, caused a delegation to petition the Rt. Rev. James Duggan, Bishop of Chicago, to establish a church in Winfield. His approval brought prompt action. A one-acre plot was deeded to Bishop Duggan on February 21, 1867, by Julius Warren. Payment of $1.00 was made. The deed stipulated that a church building 30′ by 50′ be built, along with a dwelling for the priest and a school house. Father Corbinian, a Benedictine priest, was delegated to serve the new mission.
By 1869 a permanent pastor, Father John Wiederhold, was assigned. He remained the pastor until his death on February 6, 1921, never serving another parish during these 52 years. The parish retained use of the German language until World War I; then it became an English language church. This trend has continued, and today the practice of the parishioners has become increasingly Americanized. There is no longer the German traditional practice of a Corpus Christi celebration. To accommodate the projected figures of an increased congregation and facing a shortage of priests in coming years, a new building was undertaken in 1982 to accommodate a thousand persons. This was dedicated on October 1, 1983, by Bishop Imesch of Joliet.
St. John’s parish school opened in 1882. Its original structure still stands as the Piekarski home, across from St. John’s. In 1940 a new classroom building was completed, and it continues to serve students from the neighboring towns of Carol Stream and Warrenville, as well as those in Winfield.
Public school had commenced in the locality in 1856. At a special meeting of the villagers in December 1869 to elect school directors, a motion was also made to employ a teacher who could speak both English and German; this action reflected the community’s ethnic change. A public school building was built in 1871 at the corner of Winfield and Beecher. With the opening of St. John’s school in 1882, most of the students left the public school, which remained a one-teacher school until 1939.
With the growth of Winfield after World War II, public school officials were hard-pressed to keep up with the expanding enrollment. The eighth grade was sent to the West Chicago Junior High School in 1946, and the seventh grade followed in 1950. Four classrooms were added in 1956; three classrooms and a gymnasium, in 1960; and five more classrooms, in 1964. The old school building was almost surrounded by that time. With the class rolls still swelling, five relocatable classrooms were added to the complex during the latter half of the sixties. The enrollment then began to decline after 1970.
Overall, enrollment had increased from 80 to 520 between 1955 and 1966. After this trend reversed itself, the figure stood at 350 in January 1984. The many classrooms built to accommodate an increased student load are now being leased to a Day Care Center, a Montessori School, and the Western Regional offices of SASED, a special educational service unit. The five relocatables have been removed. The middle school, built in 1972 to accommodate grades 6-8, is being utilized by grades 4-8. The superintendent since July 1977 has been Robert T. Cobb.
A change in the town was also evident in the first church for Protestant families; this had its beginning in 1925 when Albert Hopkins, Willard Allanson and Ralph Brumbaugh started the Winfield Community Church. The cornerstone for the first church building was laid in 1939, at the southeast corner of Beecher and Summit streets. On January 1, 1959, the Winfield Community Church became a member of the Illinois Conference of Evangelical United Brethren Church, with 165 members listed. A new building was erected on Jefferson Street, south of Sunnyside, in 1964. The denomination merged with the Methodists in 1968, and the congregation is now known as the Winfield Community United Methodist church. Since 1960 pastors have included Rev. Lew Albee, Pastor Paul Beghard, Rev. James Cox, Rev. George Woosnam, Jr. and Rev. Edward Heyer.
It was not until the 1960s that interest became apparent in another Protestant congregation in Winfield. By the end of 1970 the community had three new churches — Winfield Christian Reformed, Winfield Lutheran, and Faith Baptist. Both the Lutheran and Faith Baptist congregations used the facilities of the first Winfield Community church building on Beecher Street prior to the construction of new churches. The current resident of the old corner church is the Shrine of the Tridentine Latin Mass.
Since the publication of Winfield’s Good Old Days: a History in 1978, other changes have taken place, which reflect the rapid growth of the town. The census of 1954 recorded a population of 862. The 1984 figure stands at 4,442.
The diversity of residents has given Winfield a cosmopolitan flavor in recent years. Descendants of many nationalities now call Winfield home. These and other new inhabitants live in such developments as Winfield Heights, Winfield Knolls and, most recently, the Hemphill Development. Condominiums, townhouses and single family homes appear in the last mentioned housing cluster.
The progress of modern health facilities is documented in Winfield’s history. On the site of Jessie P. Forsythe’s 1897 rest home, which became the Chicago-Winfield Tuberculosis Sanitarium in 1909, Central DuPage Hospital now stands. Since 1962 Central DuPage Hospital has drawn skilled physicians and technologists into the area. As of January 1984, CDH had 373 beds and a medical staff of 213 physicians, with an additional 36 consulting physicians. Dr. Richard Dominguez is president of the medical staff, and the administrative head is George G. Holzhauer. The hospital is noted for several specialties, notably eye surgery and orthopedics.
During the past few years the town has acquired two modern fire houses, the second established in 1979. The Winfield Library Association which originated in 1964, saw its efforts fulfilled during the summer of 1981, when the library moved into its own building on the corner of Sunnyside and Winfield Road. Meeting rooms in the basement area provide the town with space for group meetings, such as 4-H, Ladybugs, the Winfield Historical Society, and the Lions. The current librarian is Rosemary Kelly.
The village offices were remodeled in 1983, and re-opened in February 1984. The current mayor of the town is James L. Collins. Patricia Stuart is the village clerk, and Michael Allison, the village manager.
The local newspapers, which provide news to Winfield residents, are the Winfield Examiner and the Winfield Press. Randall Petrik is the editor and publisher of the former and Wayne Woltman serves in those capacities for the latter.
Another recent development highlights the connection between the old and the new in Winfield; this pertains to the moving of the Besch House. After the village had announced intention to demolish the house and to put a parking lot in its place, evidence was uncovered that the structure was the original station, the oldest building on the town plat of Fredericksburg, as filed by James Doe. A group of interested citizens met at the home of Martha Ingram to determine how the structure might be saved. As a result of this meeting, the Winfield Historical Society was organized and received its charter from the state in July 1978. The primary objective of the society was to lobby for the preservation of the building on its original site, and to gain recognition for it as an historic landmark.
These efforts, however, did not dissuade village officials. They gave the society the option of purchasing the building at a nominal fee and moving it, or seeing it demolished. Thereupon the WHS began a program of fundraising, and sought interested parties in the town to provide a new location. An agreement was reached between the Winfield Park District and the society to lease one-third of an acre of the district property for $1.00 per year for a period of 99 years. The building was moved to the site at 555 Winfield Road in August 1981, at a cost of over $24,000. The members of the society are convinced that this preservation effort will well serve Winfield’s future.
Adrienne Rose has served as the president of the Winfield Historical Society.