This week in 1831 was when the first settlers arrived in Naperville, including Joseph Naper, his brother John, their sister Amy and their families.
We don’t know the exact day, but it was around July 15. The Napers’ schooner, the Telegraph, left New York around the first of June and after nearly four weeks of sailing the Great Lakes, anchored near Fort Dearborn.
Some of the families onboard stayed in the settlement that would soon be known as Chicago, but several others hitched oxen to their wagons and walked alongside for three days until they reached the DuPage River.
The area had previously been inspected by Joseph Naper and he had contracted to have some land cleared and a cabin built before the group’s July arrival.
Naper and a friend from New York, P.F.W. Peck, intended to go into business together, trading with the local native population as well as with the growing number of homesteaders.
They brought supplies with them to stock their trading post such as calico cloth, whiskey, and other necessaries not easily obtained on what was then the western frontier. Glass beads were also popular trade items with the Potowatami and other tribes who lived in the area.
Peck and Naper’s business plan was to operate two trading posts: One at the DuPage River settlement and one at the Fort Dearborn settlement.
By the following summer, trouble was brewing between Chicago-area settlers and some of the native tribes who rallied behind the Sauk chief, Black Hawk. While the 1832 not as bloody a conflict as others in Illinois’ history, it spooked Peck enough to dissolve his partnership with Joseph Naper.
Peck remained in the larger Fort Dearborn settlement and became instrumental in building early Chicago. He amassed an impressive fortune through real estate.
During the Great Fire, Peck lost a substantial amount of property and he was injured during the conflagration, dying a few days later. But his family rallied to become wealthy pillars of the early Chicago community.
The archeological dig at Naper’s cabin in 2007 uncovered glass beads dating from the time Peck and Naper were trading post partners.
For more photos of the Naper statue that was erected last year on the original cabin site, see