Considered to be the oldest community in Will County, Plainfield started out as Walker’s Grove, a small settlement established by James Walker and his family in 1828. Walker built a cabin, a sawmill, and a gristmill at the site of an old Potawatomi village on the Du Page River. The mills served early settlements throughout the region, including the fledgling town of Chicago. In fact, Plainfield regularly provided Chicago with supplies and services of various kinds, leading it to be referred to later as the Mother of Chicago.
During the Black Hawk War of 1832 the home of Walker’s Grove minister Rev. Stephen R. Begs was temporarily used as a defensive fort for some 125 area settlers. Beggs’s fences, shed and barn were dismantled to build a breastworks around the main house. For Beggs was never attached, but work of the massacre on Indian Creek in May sent the inhabitants fleeing to Chicago’s Fort Dearborn. The fort a t Beggs’s place was later torn down. A marker wa placed at the site in 1936.
As Walker’s Grove flourished, other small settlements sprang up nearby. Plainfield, originally spelled Planefield, was platted nest to Walkers Grove in 1834. Eventually Plainfield merged with Walker’s Grove and other adjacent settlements, incorporating as Plainfield in 1869.
One of the earliest building in the Plainfield settlement was a stage stop, tavern, and post office called Arnold’s Tavern, erected in 1834. A few years later, the tavern was sold to Dr Erastus Wright, who expanded it into a full service in called Plainfield House, also know as Wright Tavern or Wight House. For all its different names, however, the place was best known as Halfway House since it was halfway between Chicago and Ottawa on the stage trail. Halfway House was a focal point of the community for many years. During the Civil War, part of the building was used as headquarters for the private home of Wight’s descendants until the 1950’s. A marker was erected in front of the house, officially called Plainfield halfway House, in 1969, and it was listed on the NRHP in 1980.
For decades, Plainfield’s economy was based on agriculture. Beginning in the 1920;s and accelerating throughout the twentieth century, however, new highways opened the village to travellers as well as commuters. After World War II, much farmland was sold to developers for housing subdivisions and commercial enterprises. For a time, both the Lincoln Highway and US Route 66 passed through Plainfield. One remnant of that era is the Standard Oil Gas Station, built in 1928. The station operated until 1984; the building was placed on the NRHP the same year. It has been renovated and is now used for offices.
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