On Monday, September 8 at 7PM at the Historical Museum, 3S530 Second Street, the Historical Society will hold its Annual Meeting and invites the public to attend a quick business meeting to hear about the programs of the Society followed by a presentation on the history of St. James Farm by Kevin Davis.
What is known today as St. James farm was an area that played an important role in the early settlement of DuPage County. Please enjoy this except from Leone Schmidt’s The Life and Times of Warrenville about the first settlers in DuPage County and the troubles they faced in their first years in the area.
“Spring 1832 saw the west branch of the DuPage Rive dotted with settlements extending north as far as what we know now as Winfield Township of DuPage County.
“The first settler in present-day DuPage County, Bailey Hobson, came from Indiana on horseback in May 1830..the next settlement on the DuPage was ‘Napiersville.’ After having made an exploratory trip in February, Joseph Napier captained his ship the Telegraph from Ashtabula, Ohio on May 31, 1831, landing in Chicago July 15. With him was his brother John, and Lyman Butterfield, Harry Wilson, John Murray, and their families. They went at once to the site previously selected, on the DuPage River about four miles north of Bailey Hobson…
“The honor of ‘first’ within the boundaries later established for Winfield Township goes to Erastus Gary-grandson of Josiah Gary and son of William Gary, both ex-Revolutionary soldiers. William, a school teacher and farmer, had died at the age of 51 when Erastus, the third of seven children, was only eleven. After a few years of eking out a meager existence from the 13 acres of rocky soil that had been his allotment from the family estate, at the age of 25 he sold his share to his elder brother Charles and left Connecticut in 1831. He traveled by horse or carriage as far as St. Joseph, Michigan and then crossed the lake in a canoe to Chicago and continued 28 miles further west (probably on foot) where he staked out 640 acres-the present location of McCormick’s St. James Farm. Too late in the season for breaking sod, he returned to St. Joseph to teach school during the winter. In the spring he paddled back in a homemade dug-out with three fellow travelers.
“Hardly had Erastus turned over an acre of new rich soil when the Sauk’s war whoop pierced the air. Black Hawk was openly repudiating the treaty that had been signed by Keokuk and other chiefs of the Sacs and Foxes agreeing to vacate their Illinois lands lying between the Rock River and the Mississippi. On April 6 he crossed the Mississippi into Illinois and led a march northeast along the Rock River…”
Many of the settlers fled to Fort Dearborn, in Chicago, for protection from the fighting. Women and children spent the entire summer confined in the Fort, while the men protected their recent claims and attempted to plant and care for their fields.
“The war was short-lived, and after the surrender of Black Hawk at Bad Axe, Wisconsin August 3, Captain Naper’s company was mustered out on August 15 and the settlers went back to their claims to start over again.”
Five years later the Garys established a settlement in present day West Chicago near Route 59 and Roosevelt Road. Erastus Gary became an influential man in DuPage County and worked with the Wheaton brothers to shape the town of Wheaton’s development and growth. Erastus’s son, Elbert Gary, became a leading steel man, creating the town of Gary, Indiana, for the sole purpose of making steel.