History of Du Page Township, Will County, Illinois
From: History of Will County, Illinois
By: August Maue
Historical Publishing Company
Topeka-Indianapolis 1928

Du Page Township. - The winter of the "deep snow" found a family or two in Du Page Township. In Central and Northern Illinois, the deep snow is a chronological event, from which the old settlers who witnessed it date all important items in their history. There are at this date, however, very few left who witnessed that great fall of snow, which occurred in the winter of 1830-31, almost half a century ago. Occasionally we meet one who experienced the privations incident to four feet of snow for two months, which was the depth of this "great white carpet" we have so often been called upon to notice. To tell of all the sufferings and trials of the few who bore the brunt of that snowstorm in this section of the country, would be to repeat an "oft-told tale." We forbear. As stated above, there were a few families here that winter. Pierce Hawley, Stephen J. Scott and his son, Willard Scott, and Ralph Stowell came to this township in the fall of 1830 and settled in the grove of timber bordering the Du Page River. Hawley was originally from Vermont, but first settled, after coming to the country, in Sangamon County, then embracing nearly half of the state. Later, he removed to Holdeman's Grove, and in the fall of 1830, settled in this township, as noted. The Scotts came from Baltimore, the "Monumental City of the East," and settled, upon their arrival in Illinois, at Grose's Point (now Evanston), and in the fall of 1830, came to Du Page Township. The elder Scott went to California during the gold fever of 1849 and 1850, by the overland route; was seventy years of age at the time of his going, and died in the Golden State, His oldest son, Willis Scott, who came to the settlement two years later, lives in Chicago; and the other son, Willard Scott, who came with his father, is a prosperous merchant and banker in Naperville. Stowell came from Ohio here; but whether that was his native state or not, we are unable to say. He settled where Glover now lives, and afterward moved down on Fox River. He died several years ago. These were the families that waded through the deep snow of 1830-31, in this township.

In 1831, the settlement was increased by the arrival of Israel P. Blodgett, Robert Strong, John Dudley, Harry Boardman, Rev. Isaac Scarritt and Lester Peet. Blodgett came from Massachusetts, and settled where Royce now lives. He was the father of Judge Blodgett, of Chicago. The Judge is remembered in the town as a boy of rather delicate appearance, who was very studious, attended the public schools and taught by way of improvement and of defraying his own expenses. The result is his present exalted position. The father moved to Downer's Grove, where he died some years ago and where his widow now lives. Strong, Boardman and Peet were from Vermont. The former was born in 1806, and when eight years old, his father removed to Pennsylvania, and five years later, removed to New York. Upon arriving at man's estate, and having taken to himself a life partner, Mr. Strong came to Illinois, arriving in Chicago in July, 1831. He at once proceeded to Plainfield, but found the land all "claimed" in that section. He says there were then twelve families living at Plainfield, or Walker's Grove, and they told him there was "no room for any more immigrants." He left his family at the house of Timothy B. Clarke, and went out prospecting for a location. He chose the place where he still lives, and bought it from two men named Selvey and Walker, who had a claim on it. He took possession at once and settled his family on the spot, and for forty seven years they have occupied it. Selvey was an early settler, and was here during the Sac war. He was at one time very wealthy and owned a great deal of land in this section and a large number of lots in Chicago. Mr. Clarke remembers his selling lots on Lake Street, in the very heart of the city, at $50 a lot; and his father once bought from Selves the lot on which the Union Hotel now stands, corner of Canal and Madison streets, for $53. Boardman came from New York, and made the trip around the lakes, landing in Chicago in the summer of 1831. He was originally from Vermont, but like Strong, had lived for some time in New York before emigrating West. Mr. Boardman was an active man in the settlement, and favored every enterprise for the good of his town. The first reaper used in Will County was bought by him and operated on his farm, in 1846, which was the year previous, it is said, to the one used by Granger, in Homer Township, mentioned in the "Combination Atlas" of the county. It was a McCormick reaper. Boardman had known McCormick in New York, before removing to Illinois, and meeting him in Chicago one day, McCormick proposed to sell him a reaper. Mr. Boardman had a large crop of wheat, and said to McCormick, "Suppose I should buy one of your machines and it would not work, I would lose a large part of my wheat crop." Whereupon McCormick proposed to enter into a bond, agreeing to pay the damage if it did not do what he claimed for it. Said Boardman: "I don't know that your bond is any better than your word." But finally he bought a machine on those conditions, and McCormick gave a bond, guaranteeing it as above stated. It was shipped to him and he cut his crop of wheat, it fully coming up to the guarantee given by McCormick. Two of his neighbors bought reapers the same season, and thus those labor saving machines were introduced in the county. He was one of the first county commissioners, an office he filled with credit to himself and satisfaction to others. He died in May, 1877. Peet settled here in 1831, near the county line, where Swartz now lives, and died a few years after his settlement. Rev. Scarritt was a Methodist minister, and came originally from some one of the Eastern states, but his wife was a Virginia lady. He settled a little east of where Mr. Strong lives, and upon the election of his son, P. P. Scarritt, sheriff of Will County, the elder Scarritt moved to Joliet and made a home with his son, where he died, several years ago. This comprised the residents in the town at the close of the second year after the first settlement was made within its borders.

In 1832, the year of the Black Hawk war, but few additions were made to the settlement here. Seth Westcott, John Barber and John Miller are all of whom we have any account of locating here during the year 1832. Westcott came from New York, but was originally from Vermont. He settled on the south side of the river, where his son, Seth Westcott, Jr., now lives. The elder Westcott has been dead three or four years. John Barber came also from Vermont, and settled near Barber's Corners. He had twin sons, whose names were Francis and Franklin; the latter lives now on the old homestead, a prosperous farmer, and the picture of health and vigor. The father died a few years ago, after having been confined to his bed for nearly twenty years from rheumatism, and for several years had been blind and incapable of feeding himself. John Miller, another Vermonter, settled east of Barber's Corners, and was quite a prominent man of the township. He was the first supervisor after township organization, and was the only representative that DuPage has ever sent to the State Legislature. He died in the spring of 1851, but a few weeks before his term of service as supervisor had expired. In 1833, Samuel Goodrich also from Vermont, settled a few rods west of Strong's. He removed to Minnesota a good many years ago, and died there in 1876, or about that time.

Col. William Smith settled here in 1834. He came from New York, and removed to Joliet a few years after coming to the country, where he was long known as one of the prominent men of the city, and where he died a few years ago.

In 1833, quite a little colony came to the township from Western New York, consisting of Andrew Godfrey, Shubel Swift, Peter Steward, Hiram Warren, Joseph R. Bessey, a family named Clifford, and Hannibal Ward. This colony made claims and settlements in the valley of the Du Page River, and all are now gone from the township except Hiram Warren. Shubel Swift lives at Waukegan, and Steward lives at Naperville. Sylvester Ward, a son of Hannibal Ward, lives near Barber's Corners, and is one of the prosperous and wealthy farmers of the county. Hannibal Ward, a cousin of Sylvester Ward, is operating the latter's cheese factory, in the southern part of the town. Warren still lives on the place where he originally settled. Samuel Whallen was also from New York, and came to the Du Page Settlement in 1836. He lived to be ninety four years old, and died in the township about five years ago. Thomas J. Sprague, another New Yorker, came out on a prospecting tour in 1837, and returned the next year and settled. He lives now at what is called Sprague's Corners, a wealthy farmer. This comprises most of the early settlers up to the time when the rush of immigration began. Settlements were made here as early as 1830, but, as Du Page possessed but a small scope of timbered land, there was room for but few inhabitants, until the virtues of the prairies were discovered years later. The early settlers all chose timbered localities, many believing that the prairies would never be of any value save for pasturage. Some even ventured the prophecy that their children would never live to see the prairies settled. In ten years from the time the first claim was made on the Du Page River, there was not a section left vacant in the entire township. Quite a large number of the first settlers of Du Page, perhaps a majority of them, were from Vermont, and were an intelligent class of people. The only one now living, of those who settled here previous to the Sac war, is Robert Strong, and he, as already stated is on his original claim. Willis Scott, of Chicago, and Willard Scott, of Naperville, were here at that time, but were boys or young men. Mr. Strong is the only old landmark left in the beautiful valley of Fountaindale, and is a man much respected in the neighborhood. He is the oracle, so far as regards the early history of this township, and but for him many of the particulars given in this chapter must necessarily have been left to conjecture.

The first mill in Du Page Township was a saw mill built in 1836 by Alden & Scott. In 1840, another saw mill was built by Ward, a little above the one just mentioned. Both were on the Du Page, and were washed away during a season of high water, and the old dams are still observable where these original mills were located. The only grist mill was a little concern by Pierce Hawley, supplied with horse power, and used to grind both corn and wheat. The "bolting" was done by hand, and we are told that it turned out a very fair quality of flour; not in quantity and quality with Norton's mill, at Lockport, but then, it satisfied the pioneers, who were often glad to get either flour or corn meal and even that of an inferior quality. Ralph Stowell kept the first tavern in the township, where Glover now lives, and also kept the stage house after stages were put on the route between Chicago and Ottawa. Shubel Swift also kept a tavern in the early times, at what was called "the Junction," being the junction of the Chicago, Plainfield and Joliet roads. Du Page has no village within its limits, nor has ever had a store really deserving the name, but a few little stands, at various times, merely for neighborhood accommodation. The first bridge was built across the Du Page where the Joliet and Naperville road crosses, about 1836 or 1837. It was built of logs, and was a rough affair. A number of good, substantial bridges span the two branches of the Du Page in the town at present. The first post office was established at the stage house already mentioned, and Mr. Stowell was the first Postmaster. The office was originally called Fountaindale, but finally changed to Du Page Post Office, by which name it is now known. As Du Page Post Office, it has traveled all over the township two or three times. Was first kept at the stage house, then at Barber's Corners, at Col. Smith's, at the Junction, again at Barber's Corners, and, indeed, it is hard to designate a place in the town where it has not been. There was, at one time, another post office in the southwest part of the township, called "Long John," and was established during the popular period of the man for whom it was named. (John Wentworth.) The man who made the effort to get the office was said to be an Abolitionist, and Long John swore that no Abolitionist should have it, but that he would get it for any good Democrat, and so A. C. Paxson was made Postmaster, and he made the Abolitionist his deputy, and thus whipped the devil around the stump. But, Long John post office has passed away, and Du Page is now the only post office in the town, of which Samuel Angleman is Postmaster.

The first school was taught in this township by Josiah Giddings, in the winter of 1832-33, in a little house built for the purpose, a few rods west from where Mr. Strong lives. The house was a rude affair, of hickory logs split open and notched down on edge with the split side in; the cracks between the logs stopped with sticks and mud, and a chimney of the same material. This early pedagogue went to Wisconsin, where he lived at the last heard from him. When the first school districts were laid off, Will then being a part of Cook County, this original schoolhouse of Du Page Township was in School District No. 1 of Cook County, and thus entered in the "book of the law and testimony." Du Page has always maintained its early reputation for schools, and spared neither pains nor expense to disseminate knowledge among its inhabitants. In 1872, it had 11 school districts; 375 pupils enrolled; 22 teachers employed, and 10 good, comfortable schoolhouses. The amount of special tax levied was $2,454.31; amount paid teachers, $2,350.62. Total expenditures of the year, $3,749.23, leaving a balance in the treasury of $435.85.

Romeo, the village of that name which is located in the southeastern corner of Du Page Township and in the northeastern corner of Lockport Township, was a companion town with "Juliet" (Romeo and Juliet). The adjacent quarries were in operation then because stone was an important building material. The canal was projected and railroads were visioned so realtors "platted" a city and sold lots. Nothing came of it. Lockport began to grow, Joliet developed rapidly and Romeo was forgotten. The change of "Juliet" to Joliet, destroyed the companionship of the two places and Romeo was no more. Present titles to property in Romeo are without regard to the first plat of the town. The change in building material from stone to concrete made "The Stone City" a misnomer. One time, two trainloads of stone a day on the Chicago Rock Island and Pacific R. R. was the regular run. The Chicago and Alton carried just as many. Now "rubble stone" are never mentioned in laying foundations, and but few craftsmen know the meaning of rubble.

Du Page Township remains entirely agricultural today as it was fifty years ago but vastly improved. The first feature to note is the excellence of the highways in this township. All of the public highways of the township have gravel surfaces, kept in good condition all of the time and passable in all kinds of weather. Route 4A of the State Highway system comes into the township from the south along the old stage route from Joliet to Chicago. It comes into the township along this road until it reaches the east side of section 27 when it turns north to the old Chicago Road which it follows in an easterly direction towards Chicago. This route carries heavy traffic at all times On Sundays and Holidays it is almost a continual stream of automobiles.

The good roads leading up to the concrete highway make it possible to transport on heavy trucks. Very much of the produce is carried on these trucks. Cattle for feeding are brought in by the same means and when ready for the market are taken backs from Chicago in the same way. The township was given over very largely to feeding cattle for beef until four years ago. Since that time dairy business has come in rapidly. This is due in part to the high price of feeders but mostly to the fact that trucks gather the milk from many stations throughout the township. Thus the farmers are able to market their product without difficulty in transporting which hindered them in former years. The Chicago market takes all of this product that they can produce.

In former years the southeast portion of this township, especially that corner which lies east of the river had extensive quarries. Building stones were in demand to supply the builders in Chicago. The coming of concrete construction has closed practically all of the quarries. Crushed stone is still produced in large quantities but the stones which are crushed are no longer taken from the ground. They are easily obtained from the immense ridges of stone which were excavated to make the Chicago Drainage Canal.

The Illinois and Michigan Canal is abandoned. It is an empty ditch not much more than a scratch upon the surface when one compares it with the Chicago Drainage Canal. The completion of the Drainage Canal rendered the old canal useless as far as Joliet because boats could travel upon the larger canal with ease since mules were no longer the propelling power.

The Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal was constructed by the Chicago Trainage Commission with the primary purpose of making an outlet for the sewage of that city. The State as well as the Nation insisted that it become a ship canal so that it might be used in the future as occasion required. This Channel was completed in 1893 and served its purpose for drainage for the great city without detriment for the cities along the Illinois Valley.

The Deep Waterway for which actual construction work was commenced on November 6, 1920, is being pushed forward rapidly at this time. Contracts were awarded in 1926 for the construction of a lock and dam at Starved Rock; gates and valves for Lockport and Marseilles, and for locks and dam at the lower edge of the city of Joliet. Right of way has been obtained throughout and contracts have been let for all of the work which is being pushed forward rapidly. The lock and dam at the Brandon Road is well under way at this writing. Plans are complete for five bridges over the waterway in Joliet. This Deep Waterway will increase the value of real estate in the southeast portion of Du Page township because it will make factory sites available outside of the congested area of Chicago. Thus one improvement brings another and the development of one industry reflects upon another to further the interests of all.


Return to [ Illinois History ] [ History at Rays Place ] [ Rays Place ] [ Illinois Biographies ]


Illinois Counties at this web site - Adams - Carroll - Champaign - Cook - De Kalb - Du Page - Edgar - Kane - LaSalle - Lee - Logan - Macoupin - Madison - Mason - McHenry - McLean - Stark - Stephenson - Vermilion - Will

Also see the local histories for [ CT ] [ IA ] [ IL ] [ IN ] [ KS ] [ ME ] [ MO ] [ MI ] [ NE ] [ NJ ] [ NY ] [ PA ] [ OH ] [ PA ] [ WI ]


All pages copyright 2003-2013. All items on this site are copyrighted by their author(s). These pages may be linked to but not used on another web site. Anyone may copy and use the information provided here freely for personal use only. Privacy Policy