On or around July 15, 1831, Joseph Naper and a bunch of other folks started a little community on the banks of the DuPage River. I always take a moment to stand outside and imagine what it might have been like.
Was it hot, especially with long dresses and woolen trousers? What if there were thunderstorms like we had the other day? From what we can tell, there was one log house here, but most folks must have slept under their wagons or simply under the stars.
I look at the restored prairies, like the one at the College of DuPage, to get an idea of what it must have looked like when they arrived. What flowers were blooming? How tall were the wild grasses? Were there any fruits ripe enough to enjoy?
Joe's group always intended to build a community. They brought their families, their livestock and the iron works to build proper houses -- not log cabins -- from the very beginning. And this land wasn't exactly wilderness. There were several homesteaders in the general vicinity as well as the native people who regularly moved through the area.
They were probably excited and a little nervous. Happy to be on land after nearly a month of sailing on the Great Lakes. Apprehensive to be so far from the comparative civilization of Chicago. Sentimental, perhaps, over the homes they left behind in Ohio and New York. Worried about being ready for the coming winter.
But they pulled together and made it happen. And Naperville folks have been doing the same every since. I believe Joe was more of a whiskey kind of guy, but we're toasting with a cold beer because the Naperville Ale Fest happens to be this weekend. Happy Anniversary, Joe! Here's to many more!