Search This Blog

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Browsing in an Old Gazeteer of Northern Illinois Counties

Recently I came across a digital copy of the 1855-56 Gazetter and Directory for the Northern Counties of Illinois.  Have you ever browsed through one of these resources?  It's a great source to find out Who's Who in history of "east pudunk", meaning those old towns and villages.  It also has advertisements of the businesses of the areas that are referenced.  It's almost like an early type of Yellow Pages.  You can find out who the local politicians were, the post office locations and postmaster identities.  Some even have maps showing the locality of government buildings, schools, and the like. Where can you find old gazetteers?  Internet Archive, Mocavo, and Google are just a few of the online sources.  Libraries that have local history reference sections should have some gazetteers and local directories.

Here's the title page of the Gazetteer that I was happy to peruse: 

Since I live in DuPage County, I wanted to find out who the "Movers and Shakers" were in this locale.

The DuPage County entry as printed:

Notice the location of  the county, that it's origins were a part of Cook County, and that it was organized in 1838.  I was not aware that the first settlers were from Ohio, thinking that they were from a little farther east, like New York or Vermont.  It does mention the German emigrants that came through Pennsylvania, which I did know.  

The description of  the land reads like a real estate advertisement.  Wood land, prairie and fertile soil...who wouldn't want to move here?  Then I stopped dead in my tracks.  The County Seat was located in Naperville????? Oh, yes, there is a nasty history about that.  The County Seat is now in Wheaton.  And, after the Civil War, there were some disputes about relocating the seat. I found the following excerpts from Wikipedia, which we all know is the honest truth (NOT!!!)  Read on...

In 1857, the Illinois state legislature authorized an election to be held to decide the question of whether the DuPage county seat should remain in Naperville or be moved to the more centrally located Wheaton, which was on the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad. Naperville won the election by a vote of 1,542 to 762. Hostility between the two towns continued for the next decade and another election was held in 1867, in which Wheaton narrowly won by a vote of 1,686 to 1,635. At a cost of $20,000, the City of Wheaton quickly built a courthouse to house a courtroom, county offices, and a county jail. The building was dedicated on July 4, 1868.[10]
However, animosity between the two towns continued, and in 1868, as records were moved from the old Naperville courthouse to the new one in Wheaton, Naperville refused to turn over the remaining county records, prompting a band of Civil War veterans from Wheaton to conduct what came to be known as the "Midnight Raid" on the Naperville courthouse. As Wheatonites fled back on Wheaton-Naperville Road, Napervillians were able to secure some of the last remaining records, which were then taken to the Cook CountyRecorder in Chicago for safekeeping. During this time, Naperville was mounting a lawsuit against Wheaton accusing election judges of leaving their posts for lunch during the vote when duplicate ballot stuffing allegedly occurred. As the courts deliberated the fate of the county seat, the records were destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Shortly thereafter, Wheaton was officially proclaimed the county seat.[11],_Ill.

I live in the eastern half of DuPage County, and I wanted to browse the text to see what information was written about this general area.  I found three entries:

        The first is a nice description of Cottage Hill, which is present day Elmhurst, Illinois.

Gee, they make it sound like a respite place from the bustling city of Chicago.  Further historical information, again from Wikipedia.....

 a native of Ohio named Gerry Bates established a community on a tract of "treeless land" in 1842.[4]
The following year, Hill Cottage Tavern opened where St. Charles Road and Cottage Hill Avenue presently intersect. In 1845, the community was officially named Cottage Hill when a post office was established. Four years later the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad was given right-of-way through Cottage Hill giving farmers easier access to Chicago.[4] The community changed its name to Elmhurst in 1869.,_Illinois

The Township of York is still alive and well here in eastern DuPage County.  Apparently it was organized and fully staffed back in 1855-56, too.  Here's the posting, although small, for York...

 It mentions the name of Gerry Bates, once again, but this time as the post-master of Babcock Grove.  Having lived in another town just west of here, I know that Lombard, IL used to be called Babcock Grove.  And, the famous Graue Mill, located in my village of Oak Brook, is mentioned with the owners name....Frederick Gray.  Members of the Graue family changed the spelling of their last name so that newcomers would not have a problem pronouncing it.  Horace Grant was the owner of a General Store in the area of Fullersburg, which is a historic area along the Salt Creek bounded by current day Hinsdale and Oak Brook. Supposedly, Mr. Grant was a cousin of General Grant.

Lastly, I found the descriptive information for Downers Grove, which is still a strong community today.

Once again, consulting Wikipedia, I find what has been contributed to this site regarding the history of Downers Grove :

Downers Grove was founded in 1832 by Pierce Downer, a religious evangelist from New York. Its other early settlers included the Blodgett, Curtiss, and Carpenter families. The original settlers were mostly migrants from the Northeastern United States and Northern Europe. The first schoolhouse was built in 1844
Wikipedia .org/wiki/Downers Grove

There were no advertisements for the businesses in these three areas. However, larger, densely populated towns like Rockford, Naperville, Wheaton, etc. had many advertisements printed in this gazetteer.  It fun to browse through those and see what kind a businesses were necessary to keep the communities functioning.  

So, when you want to find out who was running the show in some of these old towns and villages , consult an old gazetteer.  They have been around for a long time, and can still provide some bits of information that your I Phone won't give you.  Go "old school" in your research.  It's fun.

No comments:

Post a Comment