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Past and Present of Will County, Illinois

By W. W. Stevens
President of the Will County Pioneers Association
Assisted by an Advisory Board,
consisting of Hon. James G. Elwood, James H. Ferriss,
William Grinton, Mrs. Kate Henderson and A. C. Clement
Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
Dedicated to the Pioneers of Will County


This township is in the extreme northern part of the county, and was organized as a township in 1850, under the law of 1849, relating to the organization of townships. Originally with Wheatland it formed the Dupage precinct when the county was formed in 1836, and was one of the precincts of Cook County, previous to the formation of this county. The township is well watered, having the Dupage river in the western part, the Lille Cache creek in the southern, and the Des plaines river and the canal in the eastern part. There is a widening of the river in this township, called Goose Lake, which forms quite a body of water. The Alton Railroad runs through the eastern part, and has a small station, also the Chicago & Joliet Electric railway is located there, while the Santa Fe Road runs along the west bank of the canal between that and the drainage channel, and has a station called Romeo. There is a post-office located at the station, and that is the only one in the township. There is not a village in the township, except at the station, and that is but a small one. The township is pretty much all prairie, except along the bluffs where there is some timber of a second growth.

Dupage was one of the first settled towns in the county, and was the first precinct formed in what is now Will county, when Cook County was organized in 1831.

The winter of the deep snow, 1830-31, is the time when the old settlers start to date all subsequent events. They were wont to say that such or such a thing occurred one, two, five or ten years after the deep snow, according to the time. There are now few, but very few, who can remember seeing the deep snow, but it was a very important event in the early history of the county, and hence all subsequent events date from that one. There were a few families who came to the township the fall previous, 1830, Pierce Hawley, Stephen J. Scott, and his son, Willard, and Ralph Stowell came there that fall, and settled in a grove of timber, bordering on the Dupage river. Hawley was a Vermonter who came to the state several years previous, and settled in Sangamon county, but in the fall of 1830 came to Dupage. He remained there until 1842, when he went to Nauvoo and joined the Mormons, and when they were driven by the Gentiles from that place a few years later, he went with them to Salt Lake Valley, but when the Saints adopted a creed allowing a plurality of wives, he left them in disgust, and returned East to Iowa where he died many years ago.

The Scotts were from Baltimore and settled on the Dupage at the same time Hawley did. The elder Scott, although a man of seventy years, went to the gold fields in California, by the overland route in 1849, and died there a few years later. Willard Scott some years after his father left for the gold fields, went to Naperville and started a bank where he prospered for many years. Stowell came from Ohio. He remained in Dupage a few years, and then removed over on the Fox river where he died some forty years ago.

The above with their families, are those of that township who waded through the deep snow of 1830-31.

In 1831, Israel P. Blodgett, Robert Strong, John Dudley, Rev. Isaac Scarrett, Harry Boardman and Lester Peet, came into the township. Mr. Blodgett was from Massachusetts, and settled on what is now known as the Royce farm. The late Judge Blodgett of Chicago, was a son of his. Strong, Boardman and Peet, were from Vermont. Mr. Strong arrived in Chicago in July, 1831. He at once went to Walkers Grove, now Plainfield, where he found twelve families living. He wanted to buy land there but they told him there was no land there for sale, and further that no more immigrants were wanted there. He then went over into the Dupage District, and bought the claim of Selvey & Walker. He took possession at once and that was his home until his death, December 30th, 1885. A. M. Strong of that township is a son of the pioneer, Robert Strong. Harry Boardman was a native of Vermont, but lived in New York for several years before coming to Illinois. He was one of the most active go-ahead men in the settlement, and favored every improvement to be made in the township. He bought the first reaper seen in the county, and operated it on his farm in 1846. The reaper was a McCormick, and for that day was looked on as a most wonderful machine. It did the work so well that two of Boardman's neighbors bought reapers the same season, and thus were those labor saving machines brought into the county. He was one of the first county commissioners, and filled the office with much satisfaction to the entire county. He died May 10th, 1877.

Rev. Scarrett was a Methodist minister and came from New England. He settled not far from the Strong homestead, and when his son, P. P. Scarrett was elected sheriff of the county, and removed to Joliet, the elder Scarrett came with him, and made his home with him until his death some forty years ago.

In 1832 was the year of the Black Hawk War, and but few additions were made to those already located in the township. The only ones that we have any account of are John Barber, Seth Westcott and John Miller. Barber and Westcott were both natives of Vermont, but had lived in New York before removing to this county. Mr. Westcott died at his home in Dupage in 1874.

Mr. Barber settled at what has since been known as Barbers Corners in the northwest part of the township. There he died December 19th, 1876. His son, Royal E. Barber, who was for so many years a prominent citizen of Joliet, died here, Nov. 11, 1905.

Mr. Miller, another native of the Green Mountain state, settled east of Barber's Corners, and was for years one of the most prominent men in the township. He was the first supervisor of the township, and the only representative that the town ever had in the state legislature. He died in the spring of 1851, but a few weeks before his term of office as representative, expired.

Col. William Smith, and his son Reuben W., came to the township in 1834. The elder Smith lived there a few years, and then removed to Joliet, where he was one of the most prominent citizens. He was president of the old Merchants' & Drovers' Bank, a member of the Board of Directors of the Alton road, when it first started, and one of the chief promoters of the old plank roads of fifty or more years ago. He died May 24, 1870. His son, Reuben W., died at the old homestead in Dupage, January 2d, 1869.

Timothy B. Clarke first settled in Walkers Grove, but in 1834, sold out and removed with his family to Dupage township. He was a soldier in the Black Hawk War, and performed good service. Barrett B. Clarke, his son, lived in the township many years, but finely removed to Lockport where he engaged in trade as a merchant.

Jonathan Royce was a native of New Hampshire. He came to the township in 1835, and bought the farm located by Israel Blodgett in 1831. He was quite a prominent man in the township, and at one time owned over three thousand acres of land in that township. He died in 1865. His widow survived him ten years, dying on the 25th of April, 1875. She was also a native of New Hampshire, and was born in Walpole, May 5th, 1784. Her father was a Revolutionary soldier.

Thomas Williams was born in Cornwall, England, but came to America in 1825, and to Illinois in 1834. He remained two years in Chicago, then took a contract on the Illinois & Michigan canal, and also had several contracts building railroads. About 1850, he went to California with C. E. Boyer of Lockport, where he took a contract to build a levee at Sacramento, along the city front, and also to excavate a tunnel 1900 feet long, by which the city was to be supplied with water. He died August 24th, 1880.

Quite a colony came into the township in 1833 from western New York. They were Austin Godfrey, Shubel Swift, Peter Stewart, Hiram Warren, Joseph R. Bessey and Hanibal Ward. None of them stayed in the township very long, except Hiram Warren. He remained there until his death.

Thomas J. Sprague, another of the pioneers of the township, came there from New York in 1837, prospecting for a place to settle, and selected a fine piece of land that had a large spring upon it. There he built his cabin, and prospered for many years. He removed to Joliet some twenty years ago, and resided on Herkimer street until his death, October 22, 1898.

Among others of the pioneers who settled there were Henry Ingalls who came in 1837, Amos C. Paxson, in 1838, James Robbins and Robert Candy in 1843.

The first mill of any kind to be erected in the township was a sawmill over on the Dupage river, by Alden & Scott, in 1836. In 1840 another was erected higher up the river, by a Mr. Ward. Both of the mills were washed away several years later in time of a flood, but their location is still to be seen.

The only grist mill the township could ever boast of was a small one run by horse power. It would grind both corn and wheat, but the bolting or sifting had to be done by hand. It is said that it did good work, at least it satisfied the farmers there who were glad to get anything in the shape of flour or meal in those days. The first tavern to be kept there was that one built of logs up on the old Chicago Stage road, and kept by Ralph Stowell for several years. Shubal Swift also "kept Tavern" at what was called the "Junction," it being the junction of the Joliet, Plainfield and Chicago roads.

In 1836, the first bridge was built over the Dupage, on the line of the Joliet & Naperville trail. It was of logs and answered a good purpose, especially in case of high water. The first postoffice was that established at the Stowell Tavern, soon after its completion. It was named Fountaindale at first, but later was changed to Dupage. It was abolished when the free rural delivery system was inaugurated in the township.

There was another postoffice established in the southwest part of the township, Feb. 22, 1848, and was named "Long John," in honor of Long John Wentworth of Chicago, who was then the member of Congress for this district. A. C. Paxson was the postmaster while the office lasted, but that was but a short time. The first school taught in the township was by Josiah Giddings, in the winter of 1832-33, in a small building built for the purpose near the Strong place.

The school house was a very cheap affair, even for those days. The logs were split and set up on edge, with the split side in, and then mud and sticks were used to fill up the spaces between. The whole township was constituted as a school district. When the school districts were afterwards laid off in Cook County, as Will was then a part of Cook, the Dupage school was district No. 1 of Cook county. The township has always been in the front rank in maintaining schools, and hence the inhabitants are among the best educated in the county. It has now eleven school districts, and each district has a good substantial school house. Rev. Isaac Scarrett is supposed to have preached the first sermon ever delivered in the township, and that was in the little school house above alluded to. Rev. Jeremiah Porter, also preached at quite an early date. There was a Presbyterian society organized in the little school house by the Rev. N. C. Clark, in 1833. A very handsome church edifice was erected by the society in 1855, which was remodeled. There is also a small Methodist church at Barber's Corners, with but a few members. There is no regular minister, we learn, but it is supplied from other churches as the occasion requires.

The first death recorded in town was that of a Mrs. Cleveland, who died soon after coming there in 1832. The first births were children of Willard Scott and Mr. Hawley both having been born in the spring of 1831. The first marriage is said to be that of Mr. Godfrey to a daughter of Shubal Swift. That was in the fall of 1832, and the license of course came from Cook county. The dairy business has always been a prominent feature among the Dupage farmers, and it has proved to be very profitable. The milk is taken to Romeo and Lemont, and shipped from there to Chicago. The township is largely prairie, and that too of the very best quality. It is well watered for besides its rivers and small streams, small springs are to be found all along the bluff, and on the Dupage river.

The population of the township at the last census was 1125, and the highest vote cast at any election was 268.


Number of pupils enrolled in 1906, 177
Number of school districts, 9
Number of teachers, 11
Number of ungraded schools, 9
Number of pupils enrolled in 1876, 314
Loss in thirty years, 137

Last Update: Sunday, 22-Mar-2015 20:07:20 EDT

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Will County Coordinator: Dennis Partridge
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