Above / Independent business such as Naper Auto Works on Mill Street celebrate Irish heritage. Note other local businesses with roots in Ireland such as Casey’s Foods, Quigley’s Irish Pub and Sullivan’s Steakhouse, to name just a few. Sláinte!

According to Jennifer Bridge, Curator of Exhibits and Interpretation at Naper Settlement, Irish-born people or people with Irish parents were a relatively small portion of Naperville’s population during the significant years of Irish immigration in the 19th century (the famine in Ireland and canal building in U.S. years), especially compared to those of German ancestry.

For example, in 1860 (on the eve of the Civil War), one researcher estimates that 57 percent of Naperville’s population were of German-speaking ancestry. At that time, there were about 70 people who were of Irish birth living in Naperville (according to the federal census), including John Murray (father of Judge Robert N. Murray and husband of Joseph Naper’s sister Amy), who had been born in Ireland before immigrating to the U.S.

Today folks can visit the Murray House, a.k.a. the Murray Building, at Naper Settlement where docents at the history museum interpret the relocated structure as law offices.

That Irish population number stayed pretty low through the 19th century. In 1880, there were about 99 people either born in Ireland or with a parent born in Ireland (as reported in the census), out of a total population of 2,073 — less than 5 percent of the population of Naperville, consistent with larger trends.

Irish immigrants to the U.S. tended to stay in urban areas, and Naperville was primarily a farming area through the mid-20th century.

FYI: Since 1993, when a group of Irish-Americans in Naperville organized to celebrate their heritage with a St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the West Suburban Irish have been welcoming everybody to be Irish during an array of special events and trivia Quiz Nights throughout the year.