Monday, August 22, 2011
While it was hard to get to during the Washington Street construction, Pioneer Park is now back to welcoming visitors for biking, strolling and picnicking.
Even if you’ve only driven by and never stopped to explore, you probably noticed the stone monument commemorating the pioneer on whose land the park is situated.
Bailey Hobson did some farming in Indiana and Kendall County before he moved his young family to the banks of the DuPage River in 1830. They were the first people of European descent to settle in what would later be designated as DuPage County. The Scotts and the Hawleys arrived a little earlier, but their land lay over the border in Will County.
Hobson built a grist mill for grinding flour, which proved so popular, he also wound up running a tavern and inn out of his home. Farmers from all around would drive their oxen carts full of grain to the Hobson farm and line up for their turn to have their grain ground into flour. Waiting made an excellent social occasion as well!
Mills were housed in three story buildings to accommodate the machinery and the process. If you have never seen how a mill works, check out the old Graue Mill which dates from the same era for an in-depth look.
Bailey Hobson died in 1850 and his widow in 1884. The property was later farmed by
other families and eventually acquired by the DuPage County Forest Preserve District due to the efforts of four local chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution in Downers Grove, Glen Ellyn, Wheaton and Naperville.
In 1929 the park was “dedicated with grateful reverence to the pioneer men and women of DuPage County” with a bronze plaque mounted between Hobson’s mill stones, all that was left of his grist mill. The bronze plaque was stolen during World War II and was replaced at a rededication in 1952.
As Naperville grew, her boundaries were pushed out farther into unincorporated areas and eventually enveloped the old Hobson farm.
Now that Bailey Hobson’s land is within city limits, you could argue that he was actually the first settler of Naperville since he made his home on the DuPage River nearly a year before Joseph Naper arrived!