Briefly from Around the State

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Naperville 180 Years Ago This Week


While an exact date is not recorded, Joseph Naper most likely arrived at the banks of the DuPage River with his family and friends within a few days of July 15 in the year 1831.

It was a Friday with the new moon approaching its first quarter. Spring had been late, wet and cold, much like this past spring. If you were to walk out onto a bit of prairie right now, you’d see the same kind of flowers blooming that Naper’s settlers saw.

Ice on the Great Lakes that year had broken up later than normal which delayed sailing for several weeks. Naper’s schooner, the Telegraph, didn’t set out from New York until the end of May and didn’t arrive at Fort Dearborn until July.

The previous winter, Joseph and his brother John had contracted to have 10 acres cleared and a log house built so the small band of families, oxen and wagons did have a specific destination as they trekked for three days from the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Naper brought with him the iron works for a sawmill so the community could build proper clapboard houses, but that first house was a more primitive log construction.

Some contemporary sources say it was a double cabin, perhaps the family home attached to a public trading post with a roofed porch shared between them. The Homestead Park now being built on the site will outline the foundations of both the trading post and the original log house.

The park will also show where Naper built his New England-style clapboard house in 1833. That home was torn down fifty years later when his son Mark built a third home on the site, reusing the timbers from the 1833 construction. The foundation of Mark’s house will also be outlined.

The new park will serve as an interpretive center now as well as protection for tomorrow’s archeological treasures. The Heritage Society chose to leave much of the site undisturbed for future Napervillians to explore.

Naperville 150 Years Ago

The longest list of Naperville men who died during military service comes from the Civil War, the 150th anniversary of which we are commemorating this year. While the war was certainly a bloody conflict, many deaths were actually the result of disease, infection and starvation, rather than the battlefield.

Although DuPage County was represented in several companies, the 105th Illinois Volunteers included a large number of local men. That regiment lost 236 men overall, 187 of which died of disease.

The roll call of those who died during the war was read on Memorial Day just before the parade. Naperville residents may have recognized many of the names that are part of our history.

Lieutenant William Porter died in Georgia. Sergeant Samuel Kellogg and DeWitt Stevens were both killed at the battle of Chickasaw Bayou.

Also a casualty of that battle was 2nd Lt. George Naper, the son on Joseph and Almeda Naper. George arrived with original settlers of Naperville in 1831 as a small child. He was a thirty-five year old husband who had already buried a child when he answered the call to serve.

Other local men did return from the War to become pillars of our community, including Adelbert Van Oven, Eli Ditzler, Alex Riddler, Levi Shaeffer, William Fry, Willard Scott, Jr. and Merritt Hobson.

David Givler, who enlisted as “a musician,” returned to start The Clarion newspaper. His brother Solomon, however, died in Kentucky.

John Nelson Naper, George’s twenty-two year old cousin, was discharged with injuries, but he did return to Naperville to marry and father children who gave us the Naper descendents we know today.

Where History Is Happening

Settlement Sundays at Naper Settlement
Summer Sundays
through August
1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Each Sunday, admission to the museum not only includes free sundaes with do-it-yourself toppings and root beer floats, but also a variety of hands-on activities, games, stories, presentations, entertainment and guest presentations. Play old-fashioned games, tour the historic Victorian mansion, see the "Brushstrokes of the Past" exhibit and visit the hands-on activity center, the History Connection.
Free sundaes and root beer floats are served from 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm.

Heritage Garden Days at Midway Village

July 30, 2011 - July 31, 2011
Saturday and Sunday, 11:00 am to 4:00 pm
Due to the success of our 2010 Heritage Garden Day event, this event has been expanded to two days for 2011. Enjoy our different Heritage Gardens and Prairies while in full bloom at Midway Village Museum. Join us for two days of tours, presentations, recipes, crafts and plant sales, all centered on historic gardens and landscapes. Make-and-take garden crafts, learn how grandmother made rhubarb wine and get tips on starting your own heirloom garden or prairie...and much more. Activites will be led by local University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners, Midway Village Museum education staff and other area garden experts.
Cost is $8 for adults and $5 for children (3 to 17). Midway Village Museum members are always free.

Antique Tool Show and Sale at Garfield Farm

Sunday, August 7, 2011
9:00 am - 1:00 pm.
Antique Tool Show & Sale
Members of the Midwest Tool Collectors Association and the Early American Industries Association display, trade and sell antique and collectable tools.
$6/$2.