History of DuPage County : DuPage Roots

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 Joe Naper, Julius Warren, Warren Wheaton. These pioneers are among the notables featured in the DuPage Heritage Gallery at the DuPage Center.


  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.



Hobson's Mill. Only the grinding stones of Bailey Hobson's mill remain in Naperville's Pioneer Park but the family home, far right, still stands.
Art by Lester Schrader
Courtesy of Naperville Heritage Society

  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 ad 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 1 839 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.


Gary's Mill.
Art by H. Gilbert Foote

  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 withsuch 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.


Babcock's Grove burial place. Forest Hill Cemetery Contains the remains of families from the early days of the Glen Ellyn-Lombard area.


Pioneers of the arboretum area. Rees' 1851 Map shows the settlements in and around today's Morton Arboretum.
Courtesy Chicago Historical Society

  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.



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


Art by Vivian Krentz

  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.


Graue Mill.
Art by H. Gilbert Foote

   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.