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Edgar E. Belding and the Belding Moving Company

The Belding family came west from Pennsylvania in 1854, and Edgar Belding was born the next year in Rock Creek, Illinois (Carroll County).  He was one of the 10 children of Daniel and Harriet Blank Belding. When Edgar was 21, he married 16-year-old Caroline Holmes in 1875, and they moved to western Kansas with their two daughters in 1878.

Edgar decided that farming wasn’t something he wanted to do for the rest of his life, but he saw a need for someone who could move homesteaders’ cabins as populations in the west grew along with industry.  He started a one man, one mule moving business on the side.  Two years later, in 1880, he loaded a railroad car with wheat and came to Turner (present day West Chicago).  Edgar used the profits from the wheat sale to set up his moving business here.

Using teams of mules or horses, rope blocks, steel wheels, and railroad ties, Edgar served the residents of the Chicago area, moving houses, farm buildings, and machinery.  Here is an enlargement of his business letterhead. 

The Dr. after Belding’s name is short for draying, which means carting or hauling. The company saw great success in the western suburbs, especially in West Chicago, where many buildings needed to be moved out of the way of the growing railroad. By 1910, sons Wilbert and Harlow joined the company and it became E.E. Belding & Sons. 

Over the years the company gained a reputation for expertise moving.  Some of the unusual structures moved by Belding include the windmill at the Fabyan Forest Preserve in Geneva, and a hemp mill moved from Wayne, Illinois to Hainan, China in the 1930s.  Edgar’s sons continued the work of their father after his death in 1933. 

Probably one the company’s most remarkable moves was that of the Clarke House in Chicago.  In 1977 Belding moved Chicago’s oldest house, built in 1836, over the CTA “L” tracks.  After power was shut off, the 120-ton house was moved up and over the 27 feet high railroad tracks. 

From its earliest beginnings as a one man operation, Belding developed into an international leader in moving and installing heavy machinery.  The same year that they moved the historic landmark Clarke house, they also moved a 40-ton superconducting magnet from Argonne National Laboratory to Moscow, Russia.

Besides being a successful businessman, Edgar was an accomplished violin player and dance caller.  As this photo of the Union Tool band shows, he also played the tuba.  Like his father, Edgar had a strong singing voice, and was a member of the First Congregational Church choir.

Described as six feet one inch tall and well over 200 pounds, with a crop of bright red hair and a handlebar mustache, Edgar was a striking figure.  Apparently he wanted to be even more conspicuous.  Check out his outfit for the July 4th bicycle race in 1895.  The race was five and a half miles long and started from the corner of Main and Washington, where this photo was taken. No, Mr. Belding was not the winner of the race.  Stop by the City Museum to see the entire photograph from the historic 1895 bike race, on display as part of the “(Bi)Cycle of Life” exhibit on display through September 13, 2014.



TUESDAY, MAY 14, 2013
The 508 Caboose of "The J" Has Come to Stay
If you've been in Reed-Keppler Park since April 3, 2013, you may have noticed a red caboose with "The J" and "508" painted on the side of it sitting near the parking lot of the Turtle Splash Water Park.

Anyone growing up before technology changed communication methods on trains in the 1980s knows that almost every freight train ended with a caboose, usually manned by a railroad worker.

The "508," a gift from the Canadian National Railroad, represents an important part of West Chicago's history. It is a remnant of the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway Company —nicknamed "The J"— which takes us back to 1887, a time of rapid expansion for our village.

Optimism was in the air in 1887: President Cleveland had married his young bride in the first and only presidential White House wedding; Chicago had recovered from the disastrous fire of 1871; the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York as a gift from France; and Thomas Edison's electric lights were spreading all over the world.

Meanwhile, Turner and Junction, now commonly called Turner Junction, were becoming busy with the growth of new railroads, one of which was the proposed Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway Company. It was to form a "complete belt line, crossing every road [railroad] which reaches the great metropolis and affording ample facilities for the transfer of freight." By April the papers were reporting that the EJ&E would soon become "a tangible reality; contract calls for the completion of the seventy miles of roadbed inside of ninety days. Farmers hereabouts look upon the enterprise with no vast amount of favor."

By May 27 the railroad had reached the edge of the village. Turner's leaders worked hard to assure the best deal for their people. By the end of October the Wheaton Illinoian proclaimed, We understand the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railroad to say a Chicago Convention is a comparatively easy and inexpensive affair, to that of obtaining a right of way through her western suburb, Turner Junction.

Mixed feelings abounded as the plans were announced and pushed forward. Some landowners did not want the railroad crossing their lands, so condemnation suits were filed. Others saw the "immense advantage that will accrue to the town from the road" as employment surged and thousands of dollars poured into the towns along its path. Many buildings present on the land they purchased were moved, usually by the Belding Engineering Company which had been established in 1878, to new locations and then rented or sold.

Plans pushed forward, workers arrived, and the people of Turner said on September 30 that they "will heartily welcome all or any of them who may conclude to make this place their permanent home." As the details of the route were worked out, the Illinoian wrote in October: The Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway is driving ahead much faster than the public generally suspect. It is apparently also a corporation more formidable and able than we were aware of.... The Joliet News says: They have paid good fair prices for their land, and in every way have acted much different than corporations usually do. It surely has a soul, or has learned a better way of doing business."

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A Small Start Results in a Big Outcome
American women of every race, creed and ethnic background helped found and build our Nation in countless recorded and unrecorded ways.... As volunteers, women have provided invaluable service and leadership in American charitable, philanthropic and cultural endeavors. [Proclamation 4903 - Women's History Week, 1982]

Harriette Elizabeth Hills lived almost her entire life in a house built by her father Albert in the village of Turner, now West Chicago. Born in November of 1871, six years after the end of the Civil War, she was descended through her mother from Americans dating to before the formation of the country. Albert, however, had come to New York from Bethersdent, Kent, England with his family as a young man, part of a community of English settlers who spread from the Oneida and Herkimer Counties to DuPage and Kane Counties in Illinois. These families included Hills, Padgham, Evenden, Avard, Allison, and Booth.

Harriette was unusual in her day in that she was not only a member of many social clubs in and around our town, but also a career woman, commuting to Chicago each day. Having only a second year high school education, she was working as secretary for some architects when she was loaned to the University Club of Chicago for six months in 1912. The six months stretched to 34 years, until her retirement in 1946 at age 75.

The University Club's membership is composed of college graduates, and their purpose is to cultivate a love for literature and arts. One can imagine this environment stimulated Harriette's mind too.

Later, as the Hills women became founding members of the West Chicago Woman's Club, Harriette realized there was a need for a library, and began collecting books. Housed in orange crates in the council chamber in the City Hall (now the City Museum) in January of 1929, the collection soon grew to between 5,000 and 6,000 volumes housed in regular bookshelves. Members of the club diligently donated their time to helping the public check them out and return them.

Meanwhile, in the summer of 1933, Harriette and siblings Helen and Hobert visited relatives in Oneida County, New York. One was their cousin, Mabel Hills Richard, who had quit her job as a school teacher and became the first Vernon village paid librarian in 1919. Surely they had conversations about libraries.

In 1934, West Chicago started collecting a small library maintenance tax and formed a library board. On the 10th of September of that year, the Woman's Club held a special meeting in the Hills home, and voted to give their entire library to the city. That week the West Chicago Press reported the Woman's Club action, and extolled the role of Harriette Hills: Too much credit cannot be given the Woman's club as a whole and very especially to Miss Harriette Hills for what they have given the city in this library. Miss Hills was tireless in the work of starting the project, carrying on the huge task of cataloging the books and installing a filing system.

Harriette Hills lived until January 21, 1948, and was buried in the family plot in Oakwood. Her obituary recalled her tireless devotion to the library, and included these words:

If, and when this city realizes its dream of a library building of its own, it would be fitting that it be named the "Harriette E. Hills Memorial Library", for she was, in fact, its founder.

Opening quote from

Other quotes are from the West Chicago Press.

Articles from the Rome Daily Sentinel, Rome, NY, document the visit to Vernon, and the role of Mabel Hills Richard.
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A Short History of Tree Policy
On July 1, 2012, as West Chicago was hit with a violent storm, in less than a half hour over 400 city owned parkway trees were wiped out.

Coupled with the recent attack of the ash borer, and the resulting loss of trees from their activity, parts of our tree-lined streets have suddenly been stripped. Replacing them will take years of planting and growth along with money and persistent dedication.

As responsible environmentally conscious modern citizens, we might expect to have tree-lined streets, and discover that many cities in the United States have "tree policies" of some sort. In West Chicago's Municipal Code we find not only the definition of the parkways, but also specific instructions on types of tree allowed along with their placement: trees not susceptible to disease, and those that are not prone to making large messes (like mulberry trees) as well as a variety of plantings are important. When the Dutch Elm disease hit the United States 50 years ago, many cities lost hundreds of side-by-side-planted trees that lined their streets. At one point in West Chicago's history homeowners were expected to share the cost of the tree plantings and maintenance in addition to their property tax obligation, but currently this is 100% covered.

So, how did West Chicago get such a tree policy?

In 1868 some land owners (Joseph and Mary McConnell, John Elliott, Edward Rees, Philip McGrath, Richard Murphy, Mary Lynch, Daniel Healy, Michael Cary and Mary Parkison) gave land for Arbor Avenue. As they gifted this land, they included these stipulations in the legal document:

...reserving and stipulating That all the trees standing and growing within the bounds of said described new road shall be reserved and preserved alive and growing except a space in the center of said road Two rods wide for a carriage way be cleared and graded, hereby decreeing that no person, shall have the right to cut down, dig up or wantonly mutilate said trees, but shall preserve them to ornament and beautify said Avenue.

145 years later West Chicago is still benefiting from their foresight.
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Daniel Wood
December of 1858 came to a close in Turner with the creation of Oakwood Cemetery, signed into existence on Christmas Day.

Henry Wood, West Chicago’s oldest Civil War survivor, who died just short of his 102nd birthday.


Daniel Wood was one of those signatories and served as a founding director. He was a man who had lived the majority of his life in Vermont before selling his farm to move to Illinois, joining his adult children who were already living in the area. In his youth, Daniel and his neighbors had joined together to protect the northeastern states from succumbing to the British forces in the War of 1812.

Daniel and his wife, Sybil Holbrook Wood, hailed from Swanton, Vermont, near the Canadian border on the edge of Lake Champlain. Lake Champlain stretches 125 miles from Canada south to Ticonderoga, with the city of Plattsburgh, New York, on the southwestern side. The Great Lakes region became increasingly under the domination of the Americans as the United States expanded and by 1813 the British were desperate to seize power over this lake. The lake was a strategic landmark and whoever controlled it would be able to control the area around it.

When the fighting broke out, the War of 1812 was not hugely popular for Vermonters, as they relied on continued trade with Canada, and the Embargo Act of 1807 had already cut off all legal trade. However, they did not want the British or Canadians coming in and taking over their area. Regular townspeople, including Daniel Wood, formed militia companies and marched off to protect their land and interests. Daniel's company, was headed by Captain Elijah Wood, possibly one of his uncles, and crossed Lake Champlain to help guard Plattsburgh in the State of New York against the British.

In November of 1813, their regiment received a letter from the Vermont Governor demanding that they stop protecting New York and come home. The militia was so irate when they received this proclamation that they looked on it as the Governor's attempt to incite insubordination. The men's response shows the growing nationalism as they viewed their calling to fight the British for their country higher than obeying the power of a governor.

The British did not launch their large attack that fall, though, and the militia returned to Vermont and the farmers returned to their homes. In 1814, the threat became more immediate, the militia gathered again, and this time the governor let them go. At least some of Elijah Wood's Company returned to Plattsburgh. A contemporary issue of the Vermont Burlington Gazette said this about those men:






We rejoice to find our militia are turning out with a spirit that does honour to themselves and their country. There can be but one voice on this subject. Whatever we think of the war our country is dear to us, and we hope not to flee an enemy within our borders.

The Battle of Plattsburgh was won on September 11, 1814.

Back in Swanton, Daniel farmed most of his life, and had eight children. Many of his wife Sybil's relatives had immigrated west, especially to Illinois. By the mid 1850s, Daniel had sold his farm to his brother and had joined his relatives out west, settling in Winfield Township in the area of Turner.

Even in old age and living in a new community, Daniel was not immune from war. When Daniel died in 1864, it was just a year and a half after his son Hollis had died in St. Louis from wounds suffered in the Battle of Vicksburg during the Civil War. His son, Henry Seymour Wood, also served in that war and became West Chicago's oldest Civil War survivor before dying in 1935.


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Daniel Wilson
Daniel Wilson was born in New England, a sixth generation American.
Following the early death of his father, much of his family moved to the Niagara Region of New York around 1808, and his uncle Ebeneezer became Daniel's guardian.

War with the British Empire broke out in 1812, and by 1813 the Niagara region was protected mainly with local militia troops and a few regulars as General William Harrison's troops, who had previously been protecting the area, had been transferred to the east to try to capture Montreal. Americans around Buffalo began feeling very nervous, and in response Daniel's uncle Ira Wilson formed a militia company about 40 miles to the east. Daniel, only 17 years of age, enlisted and joined the War of 1812.

As the British attacked Buffalo and Black Rock, the militia was totally routed, and towns were burned to the ground. Daniel related "…that he was through that severe and disastrous engagement doing his duty to the utmost of his ability."

July was a busy month with the Battle of Chippewa, new training, and a new commanding general, Winfield Scott, the person for whom the village of Winfield and our township is named. The men were tired, but the bloodiest, deadliest battle yet was just ahead. As Daniel was getting ready to sleep on July 24, he was put on guard duty and was not relieved until two hours after sunrise. Returning to camp, one mile away from his guard station, he was just getting ready to eat breakfast when the alarm was sounded. The militia retreated four to five miles up the mountain, avoiding the road, and running through the woods pursued by the enemy. They continued moving, covering more miles on the hot July day, losing all their provisions. By night the men had reached Schlosser, too exhausted to eat even if they had food; "...many of us found ourselves nearly melted..." That Battle of Lundy's Lane, was a draw with both sides claiming victory.

By the time Daniel returned home he was ill and his health continued to decline; he was out of his head, deprived of reason for almost two more weeks. Because of his exertions, he would never again be a healthy able-bodied man. However, by September, emaciated and enfeebled, he returned to duty at Ft. Erie, working to the best of his ability until the end of his enlistment. Today, we would realize that he had suffered severe heatstroke.

Around 1834 many of the Wilsons moved again as a group to Illinois, settling in what was then called Wheatland, in Kane County. By then Daniel had married Betsey, fathered four children, and continued to be regularly disabled. The only hope for help for a wounded veteran lay in getting Congress to pass a resolution approving a pension for a destitute veteran who had been wounded in duty and made invalid (disabled) for active military service. It was extremely difficult to get such a resolution passed and Daniel's first application was rejected. The Wilson family sprang into action to help Daniel's cause: Cousin Isaac, who had named his new settlement Batavia, used his connections from his service in the government in New York; Cousin Ira wrote an affidavit; Uncle Anson Root, the family and militia physician who had moved with them to Illinois, wrote letters; Dr. Daniel D. Waite, who later became the "mainstay" of the Chicago Medical Society, wrote letters; Dr. Thompson Mead, Jr., son of General Thomas Mead from the War of 1812, also part of the New York to Illinois migration, wrote letters; Moulton Farnham, family friend, talked to some of those still living about the incidents of those days, and wrote an affidavit.

Finally, on March 3, 1849, the pension was passed, and Daniel received $8 a month until the end of his life. Daniel died in 1863 as his sons were serving in the Civil War. His wife Betsey lived 10 more years before joining him in Oakwood Cemetery.
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James Snyder—Oakwood Cemetery's Second War of 1812 Veteran
James Snyder was already old when he arrived in Turner. Born in the Mohawk Valley of New York, he married Clarissa Downer, (an extended cousin of Avery Downer, founder of Downers Grove) in Rome, New York.
They then moved north to a farm near Sackets Harbor on Lake Ontario, just south of Canada. Sackets Harbor became one of our most important naval ship-building ports in the War of 1812.

War for these farmers meant that they could not trade with their northern neighbors, and that they had to be ready at all times to join their militia companies whenever the alarm was sounded. Enlisting officially on February 28, 1813, James' own testimony and that of others show that the official records of times only reflect a portion of their actual service.

Besides responding to many alarms and skirmishes, James served in several battles in the area, and participated in helping move heavy cannon with ox teams. After one battle, a huge ship's cable, weighing about four tons, was stranded about eight miles from the port. Men loaded as much as possible onto a wagon, attached three pair of oxen to it, and then carried the rest on their shoulders in teams of about 100 men at a time, taking several days. The cable was then able to be used in more ship-building by the American Navy. After the war the Snyder family remained in New York before heading west to Indiana, and hence to Ogle County, Illinois, by 1836 before settling more permanently in Rock Run Township of Stephenson County. The family grew and spread out, with several children and grandchildren serving in the Civil War.

In 1869, James abandoned Clarissa and left his life there. By 1871 he was living in Turner, and in 1873, after 62 years of marriage, Clarissa was granted an uncontested divorce. A son-in-law provided James with money in exchange for mortgages on his land in Stephenson. In Turner, James soon became acquainted with a widow, Sarah Heslop, who had arrived here with her husband from England about 1850. James and Sarah were married in 1874; notice of their marriage was so striking that it was published in one of the New York City newspapers.

James lived until 1886, befuddled at the end, but still clear in talking about his early war experiences. His obituary called him "one of the old line pioneers working his way into the wilderness of western New York where he made for himself a home for nearly a quarter of a century, from there he came to Michigan, Indiana, hence to the unbroken acres of Illinois, where in the near vicinity of Freeport at a time of life when a less sturdier man might look for quiet for his declining years he was to be found with ardor and elasticity of extended youth, forming anew and building afresh, a western home.

Sarah lived 10 more years before being laid to rest next to James in Oakwood Cemetery.
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Daniel Benjamin—Oldest of Oakwood Cemetery's War of 1812 Veterans
“Push Forward” was the Benjamin family motto for generations before Daniel was born around 1770, and he embodied this in his life, always pushing forward to find a better place for his family.

The home built by Daniel's son Robert Y. Benjamin on Main Street, circa 1880. This house stood where Illinois Bell Telephone Building was later built.

When very young, his family moved from New York to southeastern Pennsylvania. About 1777 their settlement was attacked by Indians. In the ensuing battle his father was scalped and killed, his maternal grandparents and aunt were burned alive in their cabin, and Daniel was taken captive along with his mother and other siblings and relatives. It was seven years before most were freed.

Most of the family gradually migrated to the newly opened lands of Ohio. Daniel and his wife Martha settled on the Scioto River near what is now Columbus. His mother and other relatives settled a little to the east.

When war was proclaimed in the summer of 1812, the United States did not have a large standing army, so Ohio militiamen were gathered and sent under General Hull to try to retake Detroit from the British. When they arrived there, Hull refused to let them fire on the British and surrendered on August 16.

At this time Daniel Benjamin was already 40-46 years old but when he and others heard what had happened to the Ohio Militia, "men of every class and condition of life" enlisted. His company worked on building roads so guns and provisions could be moved to the Detroit area. They had wanted to take advantage of hard ice on the rivers in the winter, but that year there was little or no ice. Thus, General William Henry Harrison, the new commander and later the shortest serving President of our country, encamped for the winter near Toledo, and our Daniel probably went home.

In the spring of 1813 we believe Daniel enlisted again, this time for a year. Harrison retook Detroit and pursued the British up into Canada. In the spring and summer of 1814 all of the members of his company were discharged and returned home.

By 1820 Daniel and his family had moved to the border between Indiana and Illinois. His older children were now marrying, and soon the group spread north to Warren County, Indiana. In 1827 his name is on the roll of those helping form the county.

In 1834, Daniel, four sons, two daughters, and other family members "pushed forward" to what is now the township of Wayne here in DuPage County. Daniel and Martha lived in Wayne until their deaths in January of 1863 when they were buried in Oakwood Cemetery.

They lived to see their family flourish here, with grandchildren and great-grandchildren carrying on the family tradition of pushing forward, some all the way to the west coast. Their name is carried on in the Benjamin School District 25, formed on land donated by son Robert. In addition, two granddaughters married into the Kline family and we can visit their former farm, Kline Creek Farm, now part of the DuPage Forest Preserve District.
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FRIDAY, JULY 27, 2012
West Chicago and the War of 1812
As our nation honors the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812, the West Chicago City Museum has launched programming showcasing the connections our community has with the historic war.
Below is an introduction to a blog series that will follow this programming written by Cheryl Waterman. Cheryl has done extensive research on the four War of 1812 veterans who are buried in West Chicago’s Oakwood Cemetery.  An exhibit based on her research is also on display at the City Museum through the end of the year.  We hope you enjoy learning about this historic time period. 

On June 18, 1812, the young United States of America, tired of constant interference in their affairs, declared war on Great Britain. Often called the “Forgotten War,” the reasons for this war have often been glossed over in the history books, but it played an important role in our developing nationalism and set the stage for further expansion of the nation.

Originally part of the Northwest Territory, the Territory of Illinois had been split from the Indiana Territory in 1809, and was sparsely settled with various tribes of Indians, French, and some American settlers. It encompassed Illinois, Wisconsin, and parts of Michigan and Minnesota. This territory played a role on the border of the conflict with Great Britain, especially with the raiding and capturing of Chicago and Detroit by the British. Gillum Ferguson of Naperville realized that the role Illinois played in the war had never been fully explored and recently published a recommended scholarly volume, Illinois in the War of 1812.

Why should we be interested in that long-ago war here in West Chicago? Our city and DuPage County did not even exist in those war years, but in later years men who served in that war moved into the area. At least four of these veterans are interred in Oakwood Cemetery: Daniel Benjamin, James Snyder, Daniel Wilson, and Daniel Wood. The stories of their lives are in They Did Their Duty, available at the City Museum or on Amazon.

This past June 30th, the Friends of the West Chicago City Museum presented a special "War of 1812 Oakwood Cemetery Walk" at the graves of these four men with interpreters and approximately 50 people present on a very hot evening. If you missed it, read the next few blog entries as we'll give you brief summaries of the lives of each veteran.
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TUESDAY, MAY 8, 2012
I'll Drink To That!
On October 14, 1897, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) dedicates a drinking fountain at the intersection of what is now Main and Washington Streets.

The WCTU fountain in its original site at the intersection of today’s Main and Washington Streets, circa 1900.  The view is looking south down Main Street.

Over 2,000 people attend the gala evening dedication—a large crowd considering the population of West Chicago is no more than 1,800 people. That little fountain is big news for West Chicago.

The WCTU, founded in 1874, is the first mass movement of American women. These ladies don't want the unavailability of clean drinking water to be a reason for men to quench their thirst with liquor.

A public waterworks is installed in 1896, yet there is "no place on the street for man or beast to find a drink of water." In a railroad town with several saloons, women speak out about the evils of liquor because they are most often the victims of its abuse. This simple drinking fountain promotes water as the drink of choice.

Horses drink from the bowl while a central raised bubbler gives relief to parched human throats.

Twelve years later construction crews lay track for the new Aurora Elgin & Chicago interurban streetcar line and find that the fountain is directly in their path. Construction stops. By late September the fountain is moved closer to the north side of Washington Street, and clear of the intersection. Track laying resumes.

In the 1930s the fountain is moved to Galena and East Washington Streets, but its plumbing is not reconnected. Painted white, it becomes a flower planter. We are told that the fountain is "borrowed" for the 1963 Community High School prom, and then returned to its place.

In 1995 it is sent to a conservator for restoration. Microscopic inspection of the paint reveals that the cast iron fountain has an original painted faux stone finish. This deep green finish is restored, and the fountain is placed in a small park at 126 Main Street. Its 100th birthday is celebrated with great ceremony in July 1997.
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FRIDAY, MARCH 23, 2012
Theophilus Dieffenbach, or Theo as he was known, was born in Pennsylvania in 1839. He moved to Illinois and worked as a railroad fireman, shoveling coal into the locomotive firebox.

Theresa Town, circa 1865, before her marriage to Theophilus Dieffenbach
In July of 1862 Theo enlisted in Company K of the Illinois 89th Regiment. The 89th was dubbed the "Railroad Regiment" because members were employees of various Chicago-based rail lines. The Regimental flag proudly bore the motto "Clear the track."

While we have no photograph of Theo, we know from documents in his National Archives Civil War file that he was five foot six, had brown hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion. He enlisted for three years and was involved in the battles of Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Ringgold and Mission Ridge.

Poor Theo suffered from dysentery to the extent that he was hospitalized for almost a year. He rejoined his regiment for operations against General Hood in northern Alabama and Georgia. The 89th was one of the first Illinois regiments to be discharged from service and Dieffenbach mustered out in June of 1865.

After the war, Theo came to Turner and married Theresa Town in March of 1869. By 1870 he was working for the Chicago & North Western as an engineer. Theo and Theresa would have two children: George who died in infancy and Luella.

In March of 1883 Theo and fireman Orrin Sargeant were killed in Rochelle when the boiler of their locomotive exploded. Boiler explosions weren't a common occurrence, and rarely killed passengers, but for the engineer and fireman riding in the cab of the engine, it was almost always fatal.

Both men were buried on a Sunday, and their funeral was conducted by the Masons. The Chicago & North Western sent a special train from Chicago for those attending the services. There were100 visiting Masons and 60 members of the Brotherhood of Railroad Engineers present. The procession of mourners numbered 500.

A year after the accident, the railroad "generously settled" with the two widows. Theresa, Theo, George and Luella are buried in Oakwood Cemetery.
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A Scouting we will go
With the recent anniversaries of Boy Scouts (102 years) and Girl Scouts (100 years) being celebrated, a look at one of West Chicago's oldest Scout groups is in order.

Parade scene of Black Partridge Troop, circa 1915.  Note the knickers, leggings and campaign hats worn resembling those of the U.S. Army; Scouts carry long wooden poles or staves.
In 1914, four years after the national organization of the Boy Scouts, Black Partridge Troop #1 was formed. The troop was named after a 19th century Potawatomi chieftain, who along with his brother Waubonsie, tried to protect the settlers at Fort Dearborn in August of 1812.

Young men, 12-18 years old, joined the troop to become "self-reliant, loyal, upright and useful citizens." About 27 scouts were under the leadership of Scoutmaster Frank H. Thrapp, assisted by Frank C. Perkins. They met twice a month and leased a cabin at 435 Arbor Avenue. Dues of a nickel were collected at each meeting, and a yearly member registration fee of a quarter supported the local headquarters.

The Boy Scouts did a good turn everyday, and were expected to salute their superior officers when meeting them in public places. Getting caught smoking (cigarettes of course) would result in a suspension; on second offense you were expelled.

In 1916 and 1917 several Scouts submitted their resignations citing lack of time and interest. It appears the Troop disbanded soon afterward. A new troop was organized in 1919 with Mr. Brousseau as Scoutmaster.

For many former members like Willard R. Buchanan, the paramilitary preparation and leadership skills learned in Scouts was of timely value during their World War I service.
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A New York native, William Henry Brown moved with his parents to what would become Junction in the early 1840s. He entered Wheaton College and left after a year to enlist in the Illinois 105th Infantry. William was 22 and like Lucius B. Church (see the Campaign Singer post), was a member of Company B.

But for a brief respite due to dysentery, Brown served two and a half years as a private. In March of 1865 Brown was discharged from the 105th so he could serve as a lieutenant in Company E of the 101st United States Colored Infantry.

African American enlistment for the War occurred after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in January of 1863. Active recruitment was begun by the War Department in May 1863 and both freedmen and runaway slaves signed up. Infantry, cavalry and artillery units formed what was known as the United States Colored Troops.

About 186,000 black servicemen were placed in as many as 166 units of the Union Army, and many served in the Navy. Commanding officers of the all black units were white, but surgeons and chaplains were often African American. William Brown was one of two officers from Turner who led these men, who were often supplied with second-hand uniforms and shoddy equipment. Prisoners of war were treated as property by the Confederacy and made slaves.

Although black servicemen were fighting and dying on the battlefields, they were not receiving equal pay for an equal sacrifice. Paid $7 a month to white soldiers $13 a month, many black soldiers resisted this discrimination by refusing their pay. The pay inequity kept many recruits from enlistment. In June of 1864 Congress remedied this problem by granting equal pay and making it retroactive.

African American soldiers made up 10% of the Union Army and provided a much needed boost in troop numbers at a critical time in the war. Almost one third, 40,000, died from battle wounds or disease.
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Centennial Business Celebrated
William Treudt, the son of German immigrants and a journeyman printer, bought the West Chicago Press in March 1911. Besides producing this weekly community newspaper, Treudt operated a commercial printing house.

William Treudt and siblings Esther and Phillip Treudt in front of West Chicago Press office, circa 1911.
When William died in 1919, his sons Phillip and Harold took the reins. Within ten years the business prospered and in 1929 a new site was constructed at 129 Fremont, its home for the next 72 years.

West Chicago was a small town and everyone knew everyone's business, because you read about it in the Press. Phillip was known for his humorous and poignant editorials. He joked every week: "Well, the great molder of public opinion is again on the street." Phillip left in 1939 to start his own print business in Florida.

Harold continued the tradition of running a quality newspaper and print house. During World War II he ran the newspaper practically by himself, as many of his workers went off to war.

Around 1945 Harold's son, Bill, joined the company. When his dad retired in 1967, Bill became owner and publisher, and his whole family pitched in and worked at the print shop. Saturday mornings were "cracker-barrel time," with a pot of coffee brewing and visits from locals.

During the 1960s, West Chicago's population grew by about 50%. Bill Treudt and the West Chicago Press faced a growing town with more news to cover, but resources that were stretched. A big change came when George Weimer, editor for 35 years, retired in the late 1970s. After Weimer left, Bill Treudt took on the role of editor. The grind of running a seven day a week business was taking its toll. Bill sold the West Chicago Press masthead in 1979 to Wayne Woltman. Treudt's company became the West Chicago Printing Company.

In 1992, Bill Treudt stepped down and ownership of the business passed to sons Bruce and Steve. In 2001, the business needed room to grow and moved to 131 Fremont.

Our congratulations to the West Chicago Printing Company which remains a family owned and operated business, and this year was named an Illinois Centennial Business.
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Lucius B. Church, a native of New York State, settled in Turner with his wife Clara in 1857. He ran the Junction House, a hotel with restaurant next to the train depot, and would for the next five years.

Lucius B. Church, circa 1860
In 1862, Church enlisted in the 105th Illinois Infantry. At a recruitment gathering he sang "The Sword of Bunker Hill," a Revolutionary War song, with such fervor that the entire Company B of the 105th was raised that night. Due to his powerful singing voice, Lucius was known as "Toot" Church.

Church enlisted as a first lieutenant, and was placed in charge of Company B. By the time he returned home in June of 1865, he was Captain Church, Turner's highest ranking Civil War officer.

To commemorate General Sherman's 1864 march from Atlanta to Savannah, Henry Clay Work wrote the lively "Marching Through Georgia." Church was the first person to sing it the morning after its composition. He was later to sing it at the 1868 Republican National Convention, when General Grant received the presidential nomination. At veteran reunions Church's strong voice was in great demand.

Lucius was appointed by Grant to work for the Internal Revenue Department, first in Illinois, and later Montana. When the income tax was repealed in 1872, Church returned to Turner, and soon after was elected the first president of the Village of Turner. He would hold this office again in 1879 and 1881.

In the 1870s, Church worked as an agent for the Parmalee Company, which transported passengers and baggage from Chicago rail stations by horse-drawn coaches. Illness forced Church to retire from this position in 1879. By 1883 Church recovered his health and began a new business, selling lumber and coal.

Lucius Church died in 1893 from the effects of a paralytic stroke. His name and that of his wife Clara are perpetuated on the west side, in Church and Clara Streets.
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Turner Cornet Band
A town band was launched in 1870. Proceeds from a formal dance party held at the new cheese factory went toward the purchase of instruments. German-born professional musician and gifted cornetist Henry Bayer is credited with organization and management of the band. Soon the group known as the Turner Junction Cornet Band or Turner Cornet Band had its first gig at the annual ball at Voll's Hall.

Turner Cornet Band,
circa 1894 in their new uniforms.
During the Civil War brass bands had been important for recruitment and the morale of troops in the field. After the war there was an increase in community bands and 1880-1910 is known as the Golden Age of Bands. In a time before recorded music, a live band was an essential part of most entertainments.

Cornets have a lovely mellow tone useful for solos and because of their wide use many town bands were dubbed cornet bands. Initially the Turner Cornet Band was comprised exclusively of brass instruments with the exception of snare and bass drums. In later years clarinet and piccolos were added.

The band provided entertainment at concerts, dances and picnics. From 1886-1894 it appears the band was dormant. By 1894, sixteen members had sold enough ice cream and lemonade to buy new uniforms. Citizens petitioned the village board to build a band stand, but it is not known if it was built.

The Turner Cornet Band played at the 1895 DuPage County Fair, was in demand by neighboring communities and often performed at roller skating rinks here and in Wheaton.

When our town's name changed in 1896, the band became the West Chicago Cornet Band. The last known mention of the band in local newspapers was in 1899 when it was reported that it led the Memorial Day parade.
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Naperville-born Henry Elkanah Daniels worked with his physician father Hamilton Daniels. Dr. Daniels also ran a drug store and Henry gained valuable medical and pharmaceutical experience, allowing him to set up shop as a druggist in Aurora.

Henry Elkanah Daniels, circa 1910
At the age of twenty-one Henry enlisted as a private in Co. H, 124th Illinois Infantry in the fall of 1862. Early in 1863 the 124th was stationed at Barre's Landing, Louisiana, where Henry worked as the Regimental Druggist.

The 124th moved on to Vicksburg, Mississippi, where Daniels was appointed Druggist for the 3rd Division Hospital. In January of 1864 he was made Steward of the hospital.

Each regiment was allowed to have one hospital steward; noncommissioned officers who received the pay and allowance of a sergeant major. Daniels received $30 monthly, a room, daily ration, and firewood and clothing allowances.

Stewards were to be between eighteen and thirty-five years of age, honest and reliable, and temperate as to the use of liquor. This was especially important as the steward was in charge of dispensing medicinal whiskey. Henry prescribed and administered all other drugs.

Literacy and intelligence were needed as stewards were responsible for accurate medical record keeping. They directed the general administration of the hospital, and with the exception of doctors, supervised all other personnel.

Assisting surgeons in operations and performing minor operations during emergencies, applying dressings, bandages and leeches, pulling teeth, and giving injections were some of the medical skills required of stewards.

While home on furlough just before his appointment as steward, Henry married Frances Goodwin of Aurora. Within the year Frances went to Vicksburg where she worked as a cook in a hospital and later a nurse. On May 1, 1865 she was discharged from her duties and returned home to have her first child; Henry returned home in August.

The Daniels came to Turner in the 1880s where Henry ran a drug store for about 20 years. Affectionately known as "Old Doc Daniels," he died in West Chicago in 1914 and Frances in 1918. Both are buried in Westside Cemetery, Aurora.
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The Cinema in West Chicago
Ever since the late 1890s when movie theatres began to pop up in towns across the U.S., people have loved the diversion of watching a story on the big screen.

World War I servicemen Cyril Dieter and Sam Gregory stand in front of The West Chicago Theatre, ca. 1918.
West Chicago's first moving picture show was the Improv Theatre or “Imp” located in the Atcherson Building on west Washington. The “Imp," showing silent films as early as 1912, vowed not to present anything that would “offend the most refined taste.” Anna Steffes Mann's fine soprano voice set the mood with songs like “The Battleship Maine,” “Mockingbird Rag,” and “Moonlight Bay” as film reels were changed.

After Chicago's disastrous Iroquois Theatre fire in 1903, safety became a prime concern. The West Chicago Theatre, built in 1912 right next to City Hall (now the Museum), was of fireproof cement blocks with front and rear exits. Unlike the “Imp,” films shown here such as the 1917 “Paradise Garden,” were more risqué in nature.

By 1923 the name changed to the Lyceum Theatre and by 1927 it was operating in the red. Perhaps it went out of business at this time as sound technology developed and silent movies became “talkies.” The building was demolished in 1931.

In 1924 Lester Norris proposed building a new theatre on Depot (Main) Street. The two story building would have two storefronts and a theatre located behind the stores. The theatre plan fell through, but three years later Harlow Belding built on the site using the original façade design. Check out the ornate terra cotta at 213-215 Main, home of the St. Vincent DePaul Society.

The lavish Roxy Theatre at 111 W. Washington opened in 1936 in a remodeled car dealer's garage. Movies were shown here until 1952 when the American Legion bought the building.

Movies took to the outdoors with drive-ins. In 1961, the Cascade opened on North Avenue showing “Mr. Roberts.” Still thriving, it is one of twelve remaining Illinois drive-ins. Experiencing a drive-in should be on everyone's bucket list!
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Here in DuPage County once the Civil War began, soldiers' aid societies were organized in every town. These groups supported the war effort by providing materials needed by soldiers on the front line and the sick and wounded in hospitals.
Harper’s Weekly, September 6, 1862 engraving showing women sewing materials for soldiers
Sewing circles made shirts, underwear, towels and bedding; socks and gloves were knit. Individual "comfort-bags" were assembled containing personal items, such as handkerchiefs, combs, soap and sewing kits.

Fresh food was critical to the health of the troops. Illinois soldiers requested vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and cabbage, and dried fruit, all vitamin C rich foods which prevented scurvy.

On a local level, assistance was extended to families who were in financial and emotional need due to the absence of family members who were in the service. And so it was that aid societies led much of the war relief effort.

Today war touches our country and relief work continues. The West Chicago City Museum has joined over 1,500 other museums to show their support of our military and their families by becoming a Blue Star Museum. Blue Star Museums offer free admission for all active duty military personnel and up to five family members now through Labor Day, September 5, 2011. This program is a partnership of the National Endowment for the Arts and Blue Star Families -- an organization which raises awareness of the challenges and strengths of military family life.

Because the West Chicago City Museum does not have an admission fee, it will present a pin with the West Chicago city logo to honor military personnel and their families who visit now until Labor Day, September 5, 2011.
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MONDAY, JULY 18, 2011
Water works comes to West Chicago
During the last week in June a familiar landmark just behind the Tastee-Freez came down. A red brick pump house that dated from 1896 and was one of the key components of Turner's first water works system bit the dust. The pump house had not been used since the City's new water treatment facility on Hawthorne Lane opened in 2005, and was in disrepair.
From left to right: Standpipe, reservoir (behind tree) and pump house, circa 1910. Steeple of the First Congregational Church can be seen at far right in the distance.
Beginning in the 1880s local newspapers called for the building of a public water works to provide fire protection. A series of fires, some ignited by sparks from trains, threatened the downtown. Bucket brigades from local water pumps often failed to get fires out quickly, if at all. Most homes and business buildings were made of wood, so the fire risk was high.

There was stiff resistance to building a water works, and in the first vote in July of 1890 it was soundly defeated. Four years later it was voted down again, despite the fact that fire insurance rates had increased by as much as 25%. The Wheaton Illinoian stated that, "It does not pay to vote against public improvements."

Finally in October of 1895-success! A water works was voted in. By the end of November a site was selected.

Chicago-based steamfitters S.I. Pope & Company began construction in 1896. Besides the building that housed the pumps, a 126 foot high iron standpipe with a 178,000 gallon capacity and a 40,000 gallon reservoir were built.

All components were completed in August and a test of the pressure at one of the forty-four hydrants shot streams of water that cleared the First Congregational Church steeple.

Five months later a fire at the Wilson home on Conde Street was the "maiden business trip" for the Fire Department. Manpower and waterpower came together to quench the blaze. The water works had proved their value.
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In the last blog entry, William Currier, Arvilla Currier Clark's father, was noted as Turner's oldest war volunteer at the time of his enlistment. Currier joined the Illinois 52nd Infantry at the age of 51.
William Currier, circa 1860
From Arvilla's diary:
Father has been to Geneva today and enlisted in the Lincoln Regiment. He is to remain at home on furlough until Friday. People will be surprised when they hear this for father has been an invalid all summer and even now only professes to "getting a little better."
  - October 4, 1861

Arvilla remarked that it was "odd indeed" to see her father in uniform, and realized that she might never see him again. William's regiment traveled from Missouri to Kentucky. Father is not very well. I wonder that he holds out at all. His regiment has been stationed at six or seven different places-never remaining more than about two weeks without moving. - February 11, 1862

When some of the regiment came to Chicago with Confederate prisoners from Fort Donelson, the Currier family was visited by William's tent mate, who told of William's slight improvement in health. But a following letter reported that William was hospitalized in St. Louis with a fever.

Father is dead. He died in the Pacific Hospital May 14th the day after the letter was written informing us that he was sick. - June 3, 1862

We heard of father's death on Thursday, May 22nd. The next morning Mr. Clark [Arvilla's husband] started for St. Louis to bring home the body..He found father decently buried, had the remains disinterred, put into a case filled with charcoal. On Monday at half past eleven his remains arrived. Mother could not bear the idea of going to the depot, so my sisters and myself went without her- a large crowd was present. When the procession passed our home, mother joined us. - June 8, 1862

William Currier, like many Civil War soldiers, was a victim of dysentery. His advanced age and already dicey health undoubtedly prevented his recovery from this bacterial disease.
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MONDAY, JUNE 13, 2011
High Lake, a streetcar suburb
In 1902 an electric interurban railway was built from Chicago to the western suburbs. By 1909 a branch line came through West Chicago. The Geneva Branch of what would become the Chicago & Aurora Elgin Railroad extended from just northwest of Wheaton to Geneva. This new transportation mode created "streetcar suburbs," facilitating population growth away from Chicago.
A lakeside clubhouse provided a social center for the community.  It entered a period of neglect in the 1930s, and was abandoned; in 1955 it was destroyed by fire.
Edmund A. Cummings, a Chicago realtor, bought 210 acres of land east of West Chicago for just such a "streetcar suburb" in 1910. It had been the site of the David Ward and John Steffes farms. Part of the area was known as Ward's lake and grove, and was a popular site for community picnics.

The spring fed lake covered almost five acres and was about seven feet deep. In the winter ice blocks were cut, and in the summer, the lake was the place to take a cooling swim. Because of its 250-300 feet elevation above Lake Michigan, Cummings christened the lake and its surrounding subdivision, "High Lake." High Lake is bounded on the north by Geneva Road, on the west by Prince Crossing Road, on the south by High Lake Road and on the east by the Winfield Mounds Forest Preserve.

High Lake became an early commuter suburb, where residents could travel to Chicago's loop in under an hour by train, enjoying country living with city conveniences.

What happened to the lake? Development in the Woodland subdivision south of High Lake and the drilling of a well there lowered the water table in the 1920s. Eventually the lake lost almost all of its water, and the shoreline became overgrown with vegetation. In 1956, residents cleared the brush, and pumped thousands of gallons of water in an unsuccessful attempt to fill the lake. Today the lake which is privately owned has a higher level of water.

As it did in years past, suburban living "among the wooded hills of the highlands near West Chicago" continues to attract homeowners to this sylvan area.
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MONDAY, MAY 30, 2011
Since no local newspapers survive from the time of the Civil War, there is a lack of information about what the local response to the war was. The West Chicago City Museum does have a transcript of the 1861-1863 diary of Arvilla Currier Clark, which provides some details of wartime life in Turner. From time to time an excerpt from Arvilla's diary will be presented in this blog.
Arvilla Currier Clark, circa 1860
Arvilla was a young married woman who wrote almost daily of the events of the War. Born in New Hampshire in 1833, she had come west to Illinois with her family about 1850. They lived in the stately home on the hill at 241 E. Washington.

As a young adult, Arvilla worked as a schoolteacher in Turner's first school and at Gary's Mill School. In 1859 she married Charles M. Clark, a local businessman. As was the custom, after her marriage, Arvilla stopped teaching. She and Charles moved to 249 E. Washington, next door to her family. To earn some money, Arvilla tutored the 17 children of a neighbor, and made candles and brooms.

The Clarks would have a son, Charles D. Clark, who would become a successful attorney and DuPage County judge.

Arvilla's family was touched very personally by the War when her father William Currier enlisted. William was in his early 50s and at the time was Turner's oldest volunteer for service.

At the young age of 32, Arvilla died in 1865. She is buried in Oakwood Cemetery alongside her parents and siblings.
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MONDAY, MAY 16, 2011
Homes on Main Street
As you drive down Main Street, do you realize that 100 years ago, amongst the stores that housed bakeries, tailor shops, saloons, drugstores, meat markets, groceries, shoemakers and furniture, there were homes? Sometimes these housed businesses too, and the residence was in the back or on an upper floor.
Barfield/Creager Home circa 1900
From left are John H. Creager (Thomas Barfield's son-in-law), Ruth Creager, Lydia Barfield, Esther Barfield Creager, and Arvilla Creager.
At least nine homes stood in the 100-200 block of Main, many of them built back in the 1860s-1870s. This commercial-residential mix was neither odd nor prohibited. There was no zoning to govern what types of structures could be built where.

An example of a Main Street dwelling was the Thomas and Lydia Barfield home at 210 Main Street. From the 1860s-1880s Thomas operated a tailor shop and Lydia created fashionable ladies' hats. After Thomas's death in 1887, Lydia remained in the house, living with her stepdaughter's family. By the early 1920s only the northern most segment of the house remained. The lot would soon be home to an A&P grocery store.

Five houses were in place on Main as late as the 1920s; and guess what--one of the homes (which is no longer a home) remains: 116 Main!
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TUESDAY, MAY 3, 2011
Although we don't have photographs of town from this era, we can get a "snapshot" of Turner in 1860, a year before the War begins. The 1860 census counted 722 people in the Turner postal area; about 200 living on outlying farms.
Map of Junction, circa 1860; east-west highway is Washington Street.

The Galena & Chicago Union Railroad had been coming through town for eleven years, and not surprisingly, Turner was home to the largest number of railroad workers in DuPage County; this was a busy rail center with about forty daily trains. The Junction House was an early hotel that accommodated rail travelers.

Most of the homes in town had been built in the previous ten years, and there are indications that some log homes were still present. Eleven carpenters in town were undoubtedly building new homes for the growing community.

A couple of general stores, a butcher and a grocer fed the populace. Ann Wheeler, a single mother supporting her eight children, ran one of the four saloons. Three shoemakers, a tailor and a seamstress were available for clothing needs, and four washerwomen did laundry.

The following businesses reflected the fact that it was a horse and buggy world: livery stable, wagon maker, eight blacksmiths and a harness maker. Three doctors attended to the town's medical needs and any railroad accidents. A constable saw that law and order was observed.

By this time three faith communities had formed: Catholic, Congregationalist and Methodist. Children attended the public school on Fulton Street, which was deemed the "best public school house in DuPage County." Oakwood Cemetery opened in 1858: in a short time it would be the resting place of many Civil War soldiers.
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Royalty in West Chicago?
Prince Crossing station, originally called East Ingalton on the Aurora Elgin & Chicago (AE&C) Railroad was built in 1903 and still stands on the west side of Prince Crossing Road north of Wheaton Academy. It was a power substation and depot for this streetcar line. The crossing refers to the AE&C crossing beneath the tracks of the Chicago Great Western, northwest of the station.
This undated map (click on the image for a larger and more complete version) shows the Country Home for Convalescent Crippled Children's grounds. The farm was located immediately to the west in what is now the Forest Trails subdivision

OK. So why Prince Crossing? Dr. Isaac Prince (1834-1911) was the first Superintendent of the Home for Destitute Crippled Children in Chicago in the 1890s. At that time, the word crippled was used to describe children with bone, muscle or joint deformities which were congenital, or due to disease or accident.

In the early 1900s, the Home for Destitute Crippled Children was looking for an additional location to care for these children. Many had bone problems due to tuberculosis and treatment consisted of fresh air, physical therapy, and good food coupled with corrective surgery.

West Chicago provided a restorative rural setting when in 1911, on land purchased by Richard W. Sears, the Country Home for Convalescent Crippled Children was built with money raised by Chicago philanthropists, Mr. and Mrs. William Chalmers. The road to the east of the new facility was named in honor of Dr. Prince, hence Prince Crossing.

The Country Home, farmland and woods were sold to the University of Chicago Clinic in 1938. They in turn sold the Home and 26 acres in 1945 to Wheaton College Academy, now Wheaton Academy, which currently uses some of the Country Home's original structures.

The 165 acre Country Home Farm supplied dairy products and vegetables for its residents. This land was sold to Campbell Soup in 1945, primarily for mushroom production and operated as Prince Crossing Farm.

The Civil War has gone by many names: the War Between the States, the Brothers' War, The War of the North and South, and depending on which side you were on, The War Against Slavery, The War of the Rebellion, The War for Southern Independence, The War to Suppress Yankee Arrogance, and Mr. Lincoln's War. Whatever you call it, it is a war that still separates us, and one that has left lasting legacies and wounds.

In 1860 Abraham Lincoln's Presidential election led to the secession of seven southern states, which formed the Confederate States of America.

At Charleston, South Carolina's Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, the War's first shot was fired, leading to a four year long conflict and the deaths of 600,000 Americans.

DuPage County would respond to the call for volunteers by supplying 10% of its population to serve in the War, about 1500 men. It is difficult to put a number on how many men served from Turner* as many did not enlist from this area and many who did later moved from town. Most served in the infantry, some in the cavalry and only one in the navy.

* West Chicago's previous name
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MONDAY, MARCH 14, 2011
A First Class Hotel in Every Respect
William Ripley built a feed and flour mill on what is now Main Street around 1875. The mill was powered by a windmill. Constructed next to the two story mill in 1878 was the Ripley House Hotel, run by William Ripley and his wife Jane. The three story building still stands at 200-202 Main Street.
Ripley Hotel at left, mill building at right, circa 1890. Note elevated wooden sidewalks, telephone pole, dirt street, large cistern on hotel roof and windmill.
As early as 1879 it was called "one of the best kept hotels in DuPage County." Turner was an active rail point, and the hotel accommodated both train travelers for short stays and railroad workers who resided there. In 1895 it cost $1.50 a day to stay there.

The Ripley was a first class hotel with steam heat, noted for its good food, cleanliness and comfort. It touted a dining room on the mill building's first floor, 24 rooms on the hotel's second and third floors, and a third floor dance hall and meeting room. It was here that the Village of Turner met until Town Hall was built in 1884.

The hotel was the center of a busy social whirl: suppers, fairs, meetings, with dances and music being the predominant entertainment. In business for nearly 40 years, the Ripley closed in 1915.

In the 1920s the upper floors were converted into several apartments. Over the next 30 years the ground floor held Haffron's Barber Shop and later a billiards parlor. For a time, Evelyn's Beauty Shop shared space with the barber shop.

After 1950 various short-lived businesses occupied the first floor, and the upper floors were rented.

In December 2005 the City opened 200 Main as the new home of Gallery 200, an art outlet for local artists to display and sell their works. Gallery 200 also hosts opening receptions for featured artists, and art classes and workshops.
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Welcome to A Sense of Place, the West Chicago City Museum's new blog! Through brief capsules of local history we're here to prove that history is not dry and dusty, but alive and entertaining. And starting in April, this blog will contain additional essays to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
Seal from Village of Turner Minute book, 1873

At the first Village of Turner Board meeting in 1873, it was decided that the village seal would feature a locomotive engine. Now in its third edition, the city seal still uses a locomotive prominently in its design.
Let's start at the beginning. Knowing our name provides a sense of place.

What's in a Name?
West Chicago- You're smack dab in the middle of the first Illinois community shaped by the new technology of railroads. Back in 1849 the tracks of the Galena & Chicago Union (G&CU) Railroad reached this area, and a town began to take shape. By 1850 three railroads met here, forming the first railroad junction in the state, and giving the town its first name-Junction.

In 1857 two plats of town existed. One, the aforementioned Junction, the other named Turner in honor of John B. Turner, one of the G&CU's early presidents, a benevolent local landowner, although never a resident. The town became known informally as Turner Junction. In 1873 it incorporated as a village and took the formal name of Village of Turner.

Soon after Chicago's successful Columbian Exposition, local businessman Charles E. Bolles thought we should tie our fortunes to Chicago by changing our name to Village of West Chicago in 1896. It would attract business, grow the town and locate us in the state. Unfortunately we lost a unique name that told of our railroad roots.

In 1906 the village changed to a mayor-aldermanic government and became the City of West Chicago.
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A Sense of Place is a blog written by the West Chicago City Museum staff to spotlight our local history.

Let us know what West Chicago history topics you would like to see explored. Contact the Museum at or at (630) 231-3376.


The Museum is located at
132 Main Street in West Chicago
and is open:

January - February
Wednesday - Friday
Noon to 4:00 p.m.

March - December
Wednesday - Saturday
Noon to 4:00 p.m.

Staff is available Monday - Friday
Noon to 4:00 p.m


A Small Start Results in a Big Outcome

A Short History of Tree Policy

Daniel Wood

Daniel Wilson

James Snyder - Oakwood Cemetery's Second War of 1812 Veteran

Daniel Benjamin — Oldest of Oakwood Cemetery's War of 1812 Veterans

West Chicago and the War of 1812

I'll Drink to That!

The Railroad Regiment

A Scouting we will go

United States Colored Troops

Centennial Business Celebrated

The Campaign Singer

Turner Cornet Band

The whiskey is strickly medicinal

The Cinema in West Chicago

War Relief Work

Not too old to volunteer

High Lake, a streetcar suburb

Wartime Diarist

Homes on Main Street

What was Turner like at the time of the Civil War?

Royalty in West Chicago?

A First Class Hotel in Every Respect


Gallery 200

The West Chicago City Museum