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.

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