Warrenville Women’s History Wednesday: Sarah “Sally” Louise Warren

The Historical Society began 2016 telling the story of Colonel Warren’s seven sisters. Julius Warren, our town’s founder, was the only son in his family and had the important job of helping his parents, Nancy and Daniel Warren, find seven suitable husbands for his seven sisters. The Warren sisters were successfully married to seven well-established men who helped to shape northern Illinois. Please enjoy reading a little bit about one of the seven sisters featured in our January program The Seven Sisters of Colonel Warren. You can also learn more about the sisters in our museum exhibit that will be on display at the Historical Museum & Art Gallery through 2016.

Sarah Warren

Sarah Warren


Sarah Louise Warren, often referred to as Sally, was born in 1813, the third Warren daughter. Although it was uncommon for women to have much of a career in those days, Sarah tried her hardest. She originally left the family’s New York home in 1827 to go to work as a teacher at a school that was 10 miles away. She lived and taught at the school for the entire school year before the school’s administration realized she was only 13 years old-clearly mature and responsible for her age, but young for the profession. Some of her students were even older than she was! Despite her young age, she returned to the school the next fall and taught for 6 more months before receiving training at the Fredonia Academy where her brother, Julius, was also enrolled. At the end of her studies she taught in neighboring communities until the family headed west.

It was during her teaching however that she was attracted to the Christian religion, an institution that would form the basis for much of her life’s work. A group of Methodists held a meeting in her school house and following their stirring words, she decided to be baptized a Christian. We know that her mother Nancy, and oldest sister, Philinda, attended church prior to Sarah’s baptism, but religion was not a strong focus of the Warren family while the children were growing up. Religion remained important to Sarah and saw her through some dark days later in her life.

When the family first got to Illinois, Sarah wanted to continue her teaching, so she chose to teach as an assistant teacher from 1834 until 1836 in one of the first schools opened in Chicago. Sarah quit teaching when she married Abel Carpenter, as married women were not allowed to be teachers. Abel was however not Sarah’s first love in her new Illinois home. Shortly after she began teaching, she became engaged to be married to a Dr. Vanderbogart, the principal of the school where she was teaching. Dr. Vanderbogart however was taken ill with typhoid fever. Once he felt himself recovered, he headed to the Warren home in McDowell Grove, but the journey proved too much for his fragile health. He was taken ill again and died at the Warren home, a terrible tragedy for any bride to be. Sarah’s heart would heal well enough though for her to marry into a prominent northern Illinois family, the Carpenters.

Philo Carpenter

Philo Carpenter

The Carpenters were originally from the Berkshire Hills in western Massachusetts. They were widely known for their unswerving dedication to their religious and moral convictions. After moving west in the early 1830s, they exerted tremendous influence in Chicago and Warrenville. Philo, Abel’s older brother, was the first to come to Chicago. He arrived to the still developing city right at the time of the Black Hawk War of 1832. A druggist by trade, he was in immediate demand to aid the cholera victims suffering from the raging epidemic. Philo quickly established a successful business and became involved with the establishment of the First Presbyterian Church. Philo also purchased large land tracts, including a tract of land that extended from downtown Chicago to the Fox River. In 1833, Abel followed his brother to Chicago and helped him work his business and manage his landholdings. Religion was also close to Abel’s mind as he settled in the new community and began work to form the First Baptist Church of Chicago. In order to raise money for the new church, he undertook a brave solo journey back to Massachusetts on horseback to solicit funds for the erection of a meetinghouse with only a bible in his pocket to protect him. After Abel’s religious tasks in Chicago were complete, he headed west onto his brother’s land and settled in an area just east of Colonel Warren’s mill. Realizing the community was in need of a general store, he opened the first one in 1835, just east of First Street on Big Woods Road, todays Winfield and Warrenville Roads. We aren’t sure if Sarah Warren and Abel Carpenter met in Chicago or Warrenville, but there is no doubt that within the relatively small communities the two quickly became acquainted. The couple was married on June 26, 1836, in the sitting room of the Warren family home. The newlyweds settled on Abel’s 160 acres of land on the southeast side of town with three Carpenter sisters and their husbands.

Abel was very involved in the growth and early prominence of the Warrenville community. He served on the Big Woods Claim Protection Society, the first organization of its kind in the area, which sought to limit land pirating and settle land disputes. Abel was one of five appointed to a court of law to help negotiate quarrels over land stakes. Abel also served on the first Cemetery board starting in 1845, and was a leader in the temperance and abolitionist movements, both very important to the local community.

Hiram E. Leonard

Hiram E. Leonard

Abel Carpenter should also hold a special place in all of our hearts, because it was at his urging that our beloved Hiram Leonard came to Warrenville and made his home here. We know Hiram best through his detailed diaries of his 35 years of life here in town. Even though they often track more about his loneliness, sickness and life troubles, the vital information contained in Hiram’s diaries have allowed much local history to be saved.

Sarah Warren Carpenter gave birth to six children, but sadly two died in infancy. These were just two of the tragedies she would face in her motherhood and there is no doubt that her fervent ties to religion that she established as a teen teaching in New York helped her through the hard times.

Sarah and Abel were charter members of the Warrenville Baptist Church in 1836 and remained immovable pillars for 40 years. They counseled fallen-away brethren and sisters, led prayer meetings, resolved disputes, negotiated for resident preachers-even providing living quarters in their home, and collected funds. Abel represented Warrenville at the annual Baptist Association meetings throughout the area. Their children also served unselfishly and untiringly whenever called upon.

Warrenville's original Baptist Church.

Warrenville’s original Baptist Church

In the late 1850s, the Carpenters left their farm on the east part of town and moved to the western part of Winfield Township. They weren’t far from town though and visited Warrenville often for personal and church matters. Today their farm is home to the Fermilab buffalos.

During the 1850s the Carpenters activities around their abolitionist beliefs increased. As the country moved towards Civil War, abolitionists held meetings throughout northern Illinois, with some important gatherings happening right here in Warrenville. Philo, Abel’s brother, also turned his west-side Chicago home into an asylum for fugitive slaves, and worked with their brother-in-law Thomas Bridges to help escaped slaves across state lines in the underground railroad.

Ashley Carpenter, Warrenville’s first Civil War casualty

Ashley Carpenter, Warrenville’s first Civil War casualty

Sarah faced one of her biggest life challenges when war did finally break out. In 1862, a year after fighting had begun, their son Ashley answered the call and volunteered to fight for the Union Army with other Warrenville boys. Sadly, after just three months in harsh conditions, Ashley succumbed to the hard marching and exposure as many other soldiers did. Abel traveled to Kentucky and brought their son’s body back along with his personal effects, which included an eloquent journal detailing his short service on behalf of his beliefs in the Union cause. Sarah, however, never recovered from the loss of Ashley and wore his likeness around her neck for the rest of her life. Her only solace was in watching her three remaining children marry and prosper. After Abel died following a stroke in 1882, Sarah lived out her last 15 years with her daughter and her family on the Walker homestead in Aurora.


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