History of DuPage County : DuPage Roots

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CHAPTER 2 The Planting

                    THE PIONEER EPOCH

                    To 1850

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:

Paleo-10,000-8000 B.C.
Archaic-8000-1000 B.C.
Woodland-1000 B.C.-AD. 1673
Historic-AD. 1673-1850

  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. t0 AD. 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.


Archaic Indian Scene. Art by Lori Schory
Courtesy Forest Preserve District of DuPage County


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.




Artifacts spanning 8,200 years of Indian life - on display at Fermilab.
Courtesy of Fermi National Accelerator Lab

French fur trader. DuPage (the Anglicised form of DuPahze) traded at the forks of the two rivers subsequently named for him.
Art from DuPage County Guide

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 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."


Half Day's farewell. Potawatomi chief led early settlers to the safety of Fort Dearborn upon the outbreak of the Black Hawk War.
Art by Lester Schrader
Courtesy Naperville Heritage Society

Fort Payne - replica of the original, at the Naper Settlement restoration.
Courtesy Naperville Heritage Society


Beau Bien Tavern. Located by a toll gate on the Southwestern Plank Road.

Art by Lester Schrader
Courtesy Naperville Heritage Society


Art by Mark Ravanesi

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.