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The History of Wheaton, Illinois

 
 
Excerpts from the book "From Tower to Tower - A History Of Wheaton, Illinois," by Jean Moore, copyright Gary-Wheaton Bank, 1974, used with permission of the bank.


The Arrival of the Wheaton Brothers

        The first settlers of Winfield Township were  Erastus Gary and his brother, Charles Wesley Gary,  in 1831.  "The Garys made several trips to and from their home in Pomfret, Connecticut before they brought their families, including their mother and had enticed their friends, the Wheaton brothers, to join them in their new homes in Northern Illinois.

        "The Wheatons, Warren and Jesse, were sons of James Wheaton, a soldier in the War of 1812.  Warren, a school teacher, had taught five years since Erastus Gary had first come west and had saved for his trip to the new lands.

        "Jesse, two years younger than Warren had been apprenticed and had learned the carpenter's trade.  He waS working in Worcester, Mass. and could not leave for the west on the same sailing ship as did his brother and the Garys.

        "In later years, Warren and Jesse Wheaton each recalled their memories of coming west to settle on lands near their Pomfret friends the Garys." (Copies of these stories were loaned to Project Wheaton History by Mrs. Ruth Inman Steele, great-grandaughter of Jesse C. and Orinda Gary Wheaton).  See Portrait of Jesse Wheaton.

        "In discussing his trip to the DuPage area, still two years before the county was organized, Warren Wheaton said, 'I left Connecticut for the far west about May 1, 1837.  I went by stage to Boston, by boat to New York, thence up the Hudson (River) to Albany.  Here, on what was the only railroad in the nation, I took the train to Schenectady and from the new steamboat Madison to break her way through the ice and into Buffalo harbor.  She started for Chicago with 1500 passengers.  In seven days, she landed near the mouth of the Chicago River which then was at the foot of what is now Madison Street.

        "  'Chicago was then a village claiming a population of 3000 but no honest individual believed it.  I left my trunk and went on foot to Warrenville where lived Jude and Erastus Gary and their sister, Orinda.

        " 'They were living on their own prairie farm.  Erastus Gary and myself each swung a cradle for 30 working days cutting nearly 160 acres of small grain lodged level with the ground.'

        "When the summer work was over, Warren Wheaton set out on an exploratory expedition of the new state to which he had so recently come.

        " 'I started about Sept. 1, first going to Geneva, a town on the Fox River and (followed) the river to its mouth (near Ottawa), visiting friends who had sent their children to my school in Putnam, Conn.

        " 'From there I went on foot to Quincy (Ill.) where I was welcomed by a former student.  Then on to St. Louis, Mo. and up the Mississippi River to Galena, Ill. later the home of Gen. (and President) Grant.  I was carried across the Galena River in a canoe following from that point on an Indian trail (basically along the same route as U. R. Rte. 20 today-1974).

        " 'I made my way back on foot.  The Rock River presented an obstacle, there being no way to cross without going upstream several miles.  The same foot path which would lead me to Elgin was on the other side (of the river). What to do?  It was 30 rods (almost 500 feet) across and nowhere over four feet deep.

        " 'Hastily, I pulled off my clothes, bundled them over my shoulders and head and started.  The crossing was made with no difficulty, and as far as I know, with no observers.  Continuing my journey over the Indian trail, I walked on and on, expecting to find a cabin where lived a white man and his Indian wife.

        " 'But night, darkness and fatigue came on and the prairie ground gave me sleep and rest.  The next morning, a mile distant, I reached the cabin where the Indian wife served me a good breakfast.  Following the trail to Elgin, I was soon once more with my good friends, the Garys, whose cabin at Warrenville was my first Illinois home.' "

        Warren Wheaton suffered from a serious illness upon his return to the Gary's.  While he was still quite ill, there was a fire in the Gary's home in which Wheaton lost most of his money and all his textbooks which he had used as a teacher in Connecticut.

        " "I recovered so I was able to work in the spring of 1838, working for Lyman Butterfield, Erastus Gary and myself.  In June, 1838, I made my claim for the land where I now live and farm (the northeast corner of Naperville and Roosevelt Roads).  This was two years before the government surveys were made.

        " 'This I did by plowing a furrow around some six or seven hundred  acres of prairie and calling it my own.  At that time there were only two smokes in sight- Lyman Butterfield's two and a half miles southeast and William Woodward's, two and  half miles northwest.' "

        " 'On Nov. 26, 1838, I started for my home in Connecticut.  Reaching Chicago, I found the last boat of the season had gone.  I made my way to Detroit, Mich. only to find that the last boat there had left for Buffalo, New York and from there by foot to Albany and across by land to Hartford, Conn.  finally arriving in my hometown of Pomfret, Conn. on Jan. 5, 1839.' "

        "In the spring of 1839, Warren Wheaton kept a diary of his travels.  With the exception of an occasional lift, the entire trip east was made on foot with total expenses for the journey being $39.40.  One of the expense items was '25 cents riding 50 miles with a Dutchman.' "




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