In 1831 Ohio natives Joseph Naper and his brother, John along with their families arrived at the DuPage River. Each built a home and a sawmill. Joseph Naper’s cabin, near present day Mill and Jefferson Streets, became the nucleus of Naperville, originally known as Naper’s Settlement. The community was well located at a crossroads: one roadway led southwest to Ottawa:; the other was the Frink, Walker & Company stage route between Galena and Chicago. But the settlement’s growth would be limited until after the Black Hawk War of 1832.
After word of the attack at Indian Creed settlement in May 1832 reached Naper’s Settlement, most of the women and children left for Fort Dearborn in Chicago while the men marched to Fort Johnson, near Ottawa, to request help from Brig. Gen. Henry Atkinson. The general ordered Capt. Mortgan L aPayne and his company from Joliet to Naper’s Settlement to construct a fort, subsequently named For Payne in his honor. The fort, one hundred feet square, was built in June 1832 about half a mile east of the main settlement.
When fort Payne was completed, the families returned. The fort was never attached, but during the summer of 1832, raiders had swept through the region, causing significant damage to several emerging communities, including Naper’s Settlement. In August 1832, not long after the fort was finished, Black Hawk surrendered and the war ended
The arrival of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad in the 1850s brought prosperity to Naper’s Settlement, which incorporated as the Village of Naperville in 1837. It served as the seat of DuPage County until residents of Wheaton wrested control in 1868. Nevertheless, Naperville kept growing, incorporating as a city in 1890.
Thanks largely to mid to late twentieth century suburban development, Naperville is now the fifth largest city in Illinois. It is home to eight college and university campuses, including North Central College and satellite campuses for Northern Illinois University, DePaul University and University of Illinois.
One of Naperville’s most popular heritage sites was conceived in 1969 by the newly formed Naperville Heritage Society. Over the next few years, the group established Naper Settlement, a twelve acre outdoor history museum complex, which now contains thirty original recreated historic buildings.
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