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History of Will County

Township Histories


This is one of the extreme northern townships of the county, and is bounded on the north and east by Du Page and Cook Counties, on the south by Lockport Township, on the west by Wheatland, and in 1870, had a population of 1,118 inhabitants. The Du Page River waters the northwest part of the town, the Lilly-Cache Creek, the southern part, and the Des Planes River clips off a small portion of the southeast corner. A sudden widening of the river here forms a considerable body of water, called Goose Lake. About two miles of the Chicago & Alton Railroad are in Du Page, but as there is no station, it had about as well be without a railroad altogether. Romeo Station, however, is just over the line, in Lockport Township. The old Indian boundary passes across the northwest corner, and the old Chicago and Ottawa stage-route crosses diagonally, very nearly through the center. Du Page is wholly devoid of towns and villages, and is devoted exclusively to the dairy business and to agriculture. As a civil township it is known as Town 37 north, Range 10 east, and is very fine prairie, with the exception of a few small groves along the water-courses.

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 few 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 mdnths, 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. He was of the Mormon faith, and at the time these "Latter-day Saints " concentrated their "elect" at Nauvoo, he joined them there, and when driven from that place by the gentiles, he followed the Saints to Utah. But when the corrupt organization admitted a plank into their platform allowing the "faithful" a "plurality" of wives, he threw off the Mormon faith and left Utah in disgust. He was of a kind of roving disposition, and loved wild, frontier life—was Daniel Boone-like; and when people began to get too thick around him, would pull up stakes and move on toward the West. From Utah he went to Iowa, where he died. 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 70 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. They are gone, but have left descendants behind, who recount their early trials and hardships in the opening-up of this country.

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 8 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 Selvey the lot on which the Union Hotel now stands, corner of Canal and Madison streets, for $53. But being one of those easy, confiding men, he strove to accommodate everybody, and, as a consequence, lost all his great property. He died near Aurora, quite poor, and has a son in this county who works as a farm laborer, by the month, for a living. Dudley was an acquaintance of Strong's, and never really made a settlement in the township. 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 Du Page 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. Timothy B. Clarke settled here this year, as noticed in the history of Plainfield Township; and his son, B. B. Clarke, of Lockport, still owns a portion of the land to which his father then laid claim. The elder Clarke was a soldier in the war of 1812, and also during the Black Hawk war. He was at one time offered the School Section in Chicago, which embraced the lot on which Field & Leiter's wholesale house now stands, at $18 per acre. But it was a low, swampy marsh, thickly set in willows, and during a large part of the year impassable to a horse, and Mr. Clarke had little idea that it would ever be worth the taxes. Harry and Philip Lord, two brothers, came from New York in 1833 or 1834, and made claims and settlements in this town, but of them we could learn but little. Jonathan Royce came in 1835, from New York, but was originally from New Hampshire. He died here ten or twelve years ago, and his son, Abner Royce, now lives on the place where his father located, and which is the original farm settled by Israel Blodgett. Mr. Royce was a prominent man of the settlement, and owned at one time over three thousand acres of land in this township. His wife, who survived him several years, seems to have been not only a very remarkable lady, but to have sprung from a genuine old Revolutionary family. When she died, April 25, 1875, the Will County Courier thus referred to the event: "The deceased was the relict of the late Jonathan Royce, of Du Page, and had lived in Will County for the last forty years. She moved with her husband and family into this county in 1835, and commenced life in her new home on the farm where her death occurred. She was born at Walpole, N. H., May 5, 1784. Her maiden name was Emery. Her father was a Revolutionary soldier, who enlisted at the age of 16, and was with the patriots until the close of the war. He was one of the minute-men at Concord, and participated at Lexington, and received a wound at the battle of Saratoga Springs from which he never fully recovered. He was with Washington in all his campaigns, being one of that little band of patriots who united at Valley Forge and went on that famous march into New Jersey, and the masterly retreat across the Delaware River. Mrs. Royce inherited from her father the spirit of patriotism which characterized him, and during our civil war was the warm friend of the soldier, doing all that she could to aid the cause. She was the mother of a large family of children, most of whom are living and citizens of this State. She lost her husband about ten years ago, who at his death was 86 years of age, and has been long anxious to join him. They traveled the journey of life together for sixty years, honored and respected in society, and in her death society loses one of its most reverenced and beloved members." After referring to the funeral services, which were conducted by the Rev. Mr. Porter, of Naperville, the Courier notices the fact that she was followed to the grave by about seventy blood-relations, forty-seven of whom were her descendants, and that she lived to see children of her great-grandchildren. She died at the age of 90, and retained her faculties to the very moment of her death. Thomas Williams, living in the southern part of the town, is an old resident and a prominent man. He was born in the county of Cornwall, England, and came to America in 1825, and to Illinois in 1834, stopping in Chicago until 1836, when he came out and engaged in a contract on the Illinois & Michigan Canal. He built a portion of the Portage Railroad across the Alleghany Mountains before he came to Illinois, and after quitting the Canal he built twelve miles of the Galena Division of the North-Western Railway; and, later still, with Mr. Boyer, went to California, where they took a contract to build a levee at Sacramento along the city front; also a tunnel 1,900 feet long, by which the city is supplied with water. After years of an active business life, he is on his farm, quietly resting from his labors, and enjoying the peace of his fireside.

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 94 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 were 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.

The first preachers in this section were Rev. Isaac Scarritt and Rev. Jeremiah Porter, both of whom have often been noticed among the early divines in different portions of this county. Which one of these ministers preached the first sermon it is impossible to say now, but it is supposed to have been Scarritt, as he settled here as early as 1831. The first church society was organized in 1833, by Rev. N. C. Clark, in the schoolhouse above alluded to, and was a Presbyterian or Congregationalist, or a cross of the two. Like Du Page Post Office, it fluctuated a good deal, and was sometimes Presbyterian and sometimes Congregational. The first church edifice was built about 1854 or 1855, and was remodeled about three years ago. It is a very handsome edifice, and is known at the present day as the First Presbyterian Church of Du Page. The present Pastor is the Rev. J. G. Porter, of Naperville, who has in his charge about one hundred members. A large and flourishing Sunday school is carried on at the church, of which Robert Strong is Superintendent, a position he has occupied so long that the "mind of man runneth not to the contrary." A Methodist Church was built at Barber's Corners, some years after the erection of this, but of it we could not learn much. The society was, at one time, on the point of dissolution. Last year, the Rev. Mr. Hughes, from the town of Crete, preached to them, and, to some extent, revived the work at this place. A small Sunday school is still maintained, of which Mrs. Derby is Superintendent. The Mormon doctrine used to be promulgated throughout this township pretty extensively, by the Elders of that faith. Mr. Strong says the first Mormon sermon he ever heard was preached at Plainfield, in a little while after he came to the county. A great many prominent people embraced the faith, and some even went to the Mormon settlement at Nauvoo. This, however, was before they adopted that broad and liberal platform, allowing a man all the wives he could support; and, when this wholesale measure was adopted, many of the more sensible became disgusted and threw off the rotten yoke of Mormonism forever, while a few still clung to their idols, following the Prophet's fortunes to Salt Lake City.

The first death recorded in Du Page Township was a Mrs. Cleveland, who had just moved into the settlement and died in 1832, and was buried in the cemetery near Mr. Boardman's—the first burial made in that grave-yard, since the receptacle of many of the pioneers of this part of the country. The first birth occurred in the family of either Willard Scott or Mr. Hawley, as both Mrs. Scott and Mrs. Hawley had brand-new babes when Mr. Strong came to the settlement, in 1831, and which must have been born in the early part of that year. As to the first marriage, there is some uncertainty as to whom it belongs. One of the first remembered was a daughter of Shubel Swift to a Mr. Godfrey; but whether it was the first it is not possible to say with certainty. The first Justice of the Peace was the Rev. Isaac Scarritt, who, it seems, was commissioned to deal out justice to the offenders of the civil law as well as the divine law. The present Justices of the Peace are John Marvin and Thomas Stanners; Sylvester Ward is School Treasurer, and Thomas Williams, Supervisor. When the county adopted township organization, in 1850, John Miller was elected the first Supervisor of Du Page. Since then, the following have served in that capacity for the years given in connection with their names: A. C. Paxson, 1851-52; R. W. Smith, 1853-54; H. Boardman, 1855; E. D. Eaton, 1856; A. C. Paxson, 1857; T. H. Abbott, 1858-59; B. B. Clarke, 1860; J. P. King, 1861; Robert Strong, 1862; B. B. Clarke, 1863; E. Virgil, 1864; R. W. Smith, 1865-67; A. Godfrey, 1868; J. P. King, 1869; John Royce, from 1870 until succeeded by the present incumbent, Thomas Williams.

The dairy business receives considerable attention in this town. The quantity of milk produced is, perhaps, greater than in any other township of the county. Besides the amount consumed at the two factories, a great deal is shipped to Chicago from Romeo Station, just on the line between Lockport and Du Page, and which is said to be one of the best milk stations on the Chicago & Alton Railroad. The oldest cheese-factory in the town is the one near Barber's Corners. It was built originally at Lemont by a man named Hess, from Plainfield. A company was organized at Barber's Corners about 1870, who bought the factory and moved it from Lemont to its present location. Last Spring, it was bought by S. R. Richardson, and has cost him about $2,000. It is a frame building with a brick basement, and its arrangements for cheese-making are complete in every detail. He makes up the milk of his patrons on shares, and is, at the present time, making, upon an average, eight cheeses per day, with a constantly increasing business. The factory of Sylvester Ward was built at Sprague's Corners in the Spring of 1877, and is a large and commodious establishment. It is a substantial frame with stone basement, and cost $3,000. It is being operated by Hannibal Ward, a brother of the owner, who is said to be an experienced cheese-maker. They have hitherto been making up the milk on shares for their patrons, but have recently commenced buying milk, and also manufacturing at a certain compensation.

As stated in the introduction of this chapter, Du Page is prairie land, with the exception of a few sections of timber along the Du Page River, and a small grove in the southeast corner of the town. The prairie is of the finest and most productive. When white people first began to settle here, they found the prairie teeming with wild flowers, their beauty and fragrance surpassing all that they had ever dreamed of floral loveliness. Some of the more romantic of them say, that it seemed as if the whole earth had been converted into green grass, blue sky, blossoming flowers and glorious sunshine. This beautiful valley of the Du Page was originally called Fountaindale, from the numerous springs to be found along the margin of the Du Page River. But upon the adoption of township organization, in the process of naming the towns, Du Page was deemed an appropriate title for this, owing to the fact that the two branches of the Du Page River are united within its borders. Thus the pretty and romantic name of Fountaindale was discarded for the less euphonious one of Du Page. During the Sac war, the few whites then living in Du Page, were forced to seek safety in flight. Some of them went to "Fort Beggs," and some to the fort or blockhouse at Naperville. But when the clouds of war blew over and the olive-branch of peace was held out, they returned to their deserted homes and redoubled their efforts to open and improve their claims.

Politically, Du Page is Republican; but from the information gathered of its early history, we are of opinion that in the days of Whigs and Democrats, it gave its majorities to the latter party. Its record during the war was patriotic, and many of its citizens shouldered their muskets and marched to the front, and risked their lives for the Union they loved.

Last Update: Sunday, 22-Mar-2015 20:05:51 EDT

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Will County Coordinator: Dennis Partridge
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