Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Illinois Pioneers Traveled by Sailing Schooner as Well as by Prairie Schooner

While most local citizens are aware that Joseph Naper founded what became known as Naper's Settlement and was later incorporated as Naperville, few people are familiar with the details of Joe's journey.

We usually picture wagon trains heading west, also known as "prairie schooners." But Joe had an actual schooner. Father Robert Naper was a ship builder and Joe and several of his brothers followed the family trade, building, owning, sailing - and wrecking - many different ships.

Joe sailed a regular run in Lake Erie from Buffalo to Cleveland, housing his young family in a small town near Dunkirk, New York. His brother John, also a ship's captain, operated out of Ashtabula, Ohio, where father Robert settled when the boys were young. Friends and family from both New York and Ohio joined their settlement journey, including sister Amy Murray's family; Amy's married daughter, Sarah; Sarah's in-laws; and several others.

While the exact dates are uncertain, we know the journey started in Buffalo around May 30. They traveled to Ashtabula to pick up more settlers and then sailed across Lake Erie, navigated up the St. Clair Flats to Lake Huron, swung around Mackinac into Lake Michigan and anchored offshore near Fort Dearborn about mid-July. It took another three days by wagon to reach the DuPage River.

Not all of the families stayed at Naper's Settlement. Some moved on to Wheaton, Plainfield and Lockport while others stayed in Chicago.

Joe sold his share in the Telegraph, the schooner that transported the
settlers, but John continued as a ship's captain for several years before
becoming a full-time farmer in what would eventually become Lisle.

The month of May was designated as Heritage Month in Naperville a few years ago, with events and activities happening all month long. Event hosts include:

* City of Naperville
* DuPage Children's Museum
* Naper Settlement
* Naperville Park District
* Naperville Public Library and
* North Central College.

There's still two weeks of Heritage Month Activities if you want to check out the calendar at NaperSettlement.org.

For kids interested in learning more about the schooner journey, or for adults who like a quick read, Kate's book "Ruth by Lake and Prairie" tells the story from the point of view of Naper's twelve-year-old niece, Ruth Murray. The book has a "Little House" feel and is available from the book's website, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders, Anderson's Bookshops and Naper Settlement.

1000 Teenagers and Chicago's Mayor Daley -- How Scary is That?

On Saturday, May 15, Mayor Daley's Book Club held their Spring Conference. Kids from 7th through 12th grades have been meeting in school libraries and branches of the Chicago Public Library all year long, reading and discussing books. At the Spring Conference, teenagers by the busload arrived at DuSable High School to attend workshops and meet authors.

At the suggestion of a fellow author, Dyanne Davis, Kate submitted a proposal to teach a workshop at the Conference. She was thrilled to be accepted and was busy preparing when she got a call from the organizer inviting her to be a "special guest."

As a "special guest," Kate got to hang out in the V.I.P. green room with the other guests, among which was award-winner Allan Stratton. But she also had to sit onstage with the guest authors, with officials from Chicago Public Schools and Chicago Public Library, and with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

Don't forget this was also in front of 1,000 teenagers sitting in the audience and staring up at the stage.

Fortunately, there was no public speaking required of her during that Opening Ceremony. Nerves were conquered, all went well, and Kate went on to lead two classroom sessions on "Creative Non-Fiction: The Reality TV of Literature."

The kids were great, the discussions were interesting, and meeting a bunch of new authors is always a joy. Photos and video will be posted at Kate's website soon, but you can read more about it now at K.C. Boyd's blog.

Where History Is Happening

Links to some upcoming events:

The History of the Pickle
Norwood Park Historical Society

Wednesday, May 26
The pickle was in its heyday in Chicago in the late 1800s. Important Chicago firms including Clausen and Libbey had large farms in the area which ended with the Great Pickle Blight of 1911.Learn about this history from pickle expert, David Leider. The free event will be held at the Noble-Seymour-Crippen House and is open to the public.Pickle "treats" will be available to attendees.

I do! Chicago Ties the Knot
Chicago History Museum
Opens Saturday
May 22
The exhibition explores an array of wedding traditions through costume and tells how some of those traditions were standardized by Chicago retailers to create the wedding industry we know today.

Wedding from the Past

Kline Creek Farm
Friday through Monday May 21- 24
10am until 4pm
Learn about wedding traditions, and see the farmhouse in preparation for a wedding. Free. Registration not required.

Vintage Wedding Gown Display

Western Springs Historical Society
Opens May 29
10am until 12pm
4pm until 6pm during the French Market
The Western Springs Historical Society will feature a new exhibit of vintage wedding dresses and accessories from its collection, donated by Western Springs' residents through the years. Dresses featured cover the period between 1855 and 1945.
Volunteers researched the dresses and their wearers, as well as repaired the dresses for the show. Unique and touching stories about the brides and grooms, particularly around World War II, will be part of the exhibit.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

May Is Heritage Month in Naperville

Learning more about the founding families of Naperville is especially pleasant during these beautiful spring days as there are so many out-of-doors places to see their influences.

Certainly there is the Naper Settlement living history museum, but that's not the only place to view history. Just down the street from the Settlement is Naperville Cemetery where you will see headstones bearing the same names as many of our streets.

The cemetery used to be north of downtown, so some of the earliest settlers were moved along with the cemetery in the mid-1800's. The oldest markers can be found on the south end nearest Washington Street, but do explore further for other interesting remembrances like the pyramid, the elephant and the stone cowboy hat.

Much of the downtown area has been rebuilt over the years, but you can still see glimpses of the past, carefully preserved. One way to learn about the town's landmarks is to take a walking tour. You can pick up complimentary tour brochures at the Pre-Emption House or download them from the Settlement's website.

Naperville is unique in that it was "colonized." That is, a group of families chose to settle together with the intent of creating a town rather than individual homesteaders eventually banding together.

Joseph Naper drew the plat for the town and gave it his name, but the settlement also included the families of his brother John, his sister Amy and a few others. Some families settled down along the DuPage River. Others fanned out into Wheaton, Lockport and Chicago.

Some families already homesteading in the area, like the Hobsons and the Paines, also became part of the Settlement, while new families arrived on a regular basis, pushing the western frontier ever farther.

Although the earliest settlers were New Englanders, mainly from Scotland and Ireland, a large population of German immigrants arrived soon after. At one time, Naperville was well-known for its beer-brewing! Underground tunnels were constructed that kept the beer barrels cool and later served as mushroom-farming rooms.

The cultural make-up of the city continues to change today. For instance, the Park District now runs a Cricket league for the enjoyment of the many Naperville residents from India.

When Joe Naper and his neighbors relocated, it took them over a month to sail from Ashtabula, Ohio to Chicago. They would be mighty surprised to hear how little time it takes to fly from India!

President Abraham Lincoln Buried 145 Years Ago Today on the Fourth of May

In the last edition of this newsletter we mentioned that 145 years ago to the day, Abraham Lincoln was lying in state in Washington, DC. Today, May 4, was the day he was finally laid to rest in the temporary tomb in Springfield, Illinois. For the two weeks between those dates, Lincoln's funeral train traveled 1,700 miles across the country so thousands of citizens could pay their respects.

USAToday has an interesting animated map that shows the train's route and shows how many people were in attendance at each stop along the way.

On a side note, Keene State College in New Hampshire recently held a screening for the sole surviving copy of an early Lincoln film -- that is, a film about Lincoln not a film of Lincoln!

The 30-minute movie, called "When Lincoln Paid," starred Francis Ford, the older brother of John Ford who directed "The Quiet Man." The 97-year old motion picture was found when a contractor was clearing out an old barn.

To read more about the film and view clips of "When Lincoln Paid," visit Keene College's website.

Where History Is Happening

Links to some upcoming events:

Heritage Month in Naperville
Throughout the month
In celebration of Heritage Month, various activities for folks of all ages will be available sponsored by the City, the Park District, Naper Settlement, the DuPage Children's Museum and North Central College. See their website for a list of the events.

Civil War Days at Naper Settlement
Saturday and Sunday
May 14 and 15
10am until 4pm
More than 300 Civil War re-enactors camp on site, providing a living view of the past. When the bugle sounds each day at 2:30 p.m, troops from the North and the South charge into battle with cannons booming. Afterward, see the work of the Civil War surgeons as they demonstrate 19th century medical techniques.
$12 adults, $11 seniors, $8 youth (4-17)

Elmhurst Museum Day
Sunday, May 16,
11am until 5pm
Enjoy free activities, admission to Elmhurst's four Museums and a trolley ride to each museum in celebration of the important role museums play in the community. All ages welcome.
At the Elmhurst Historical Museum, tour the exhibit, "Dwellings: a Study in Residential Architecture", and see a magic-themed video presentation. Enjoy a family craft activity and complimentary refreshments.
At the Theatre Historical Society of America, children are invited to complete a crossword puzzle highlighting famous theatres to win a prize. Adults may view a new exhibit featuring vintage usher uniforms.

Chicago Speakeasy Tour
Wednesday, May 12
6pm until 8pm
Join Preservation Chicago for "Drinking in Your History," with author Sean Parnell at the Green Door Tavern. Tickets are $25 and available only in advance.
Ticket price includes 2 drink tickets, light appetizers, a copy of Parnell's new book, "Historic Bars of Chicago," AND a one-year membership to Preservation Chicago.
The building housing the Green Door Tavern, one of the most historic in Chicago, was built in 1872, one of the first constructed after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, and one of the last wood-frame buildings allowed to be built within such proximity to the Loop.