Above / Since 2013, Captain Joseph Naper and his family’s homestead have been depicted at the southeast corner of Jefferson Avenue and Mill Street, a tribute sanctioned by the Naperville Heritage Society. Featured on the Century Walk tour, the 9.5 ft. Joe Naper sculpture was designed as a small maquette by cartoonist/artist Dick Locher and created bigger than life by sculptor Jeff Adams. (PN File Photo)
It’s 2023. Let’s get back to work. Let’s be a well-managed city. Let’s recognize how our community credits Captain Joseph Naper with founding this city along the DuPage River in 1831, six years before Chicago was incorporated in 1837.
Noting the “Naper” connection found in Naperville, we once wondered if Chicago had been named after somebody. Then we discovered Chicago had been built on a smelly swamp and the name “Chicago” is a derivative from the Native American word “shikaakwa,” known to botanists as Allium tricoccum, a.k.a. wild onion or garlic.
Also called “chicagoua,” the stinky invasive plants grew in the forests in the region near Lake Michigan. Foodies and chefs now call them “ramps.” And they are a highly-prized ingredient in the springtime.
According to early Chicago history that connects to Naperville (stories first learned at Naper Settlement back during an 18-month stint when I worked in the PR department beginning in May 1993), Chicago’s first permanent non-indigenous resident was Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, a free Black pioneer trader from Haiti, and founder of the settlement that later became the City of Chicago. His father was a French sailor and his mother was an African slave. DuSable settled in “Chicagoua” during the 1770s, arriving via the Mississippi from New Orleans with his Potawatomi wife.
In May of 1800, DuSable sold all of his property in Chicago, later moved to Peoria, and retired in St. Charles, Mississippi, where he died on Aug. 28, 1818.
Naperville had become an important stop at the crossroads of two main stage routes that ran from Chicago to Galena and to Ottawa. By 1832, 180 residents had built sawmills, gristmills and stores near the DuPage River. The Pre-Emption House hotel was built where Sullivan’s Steakhouse now stands on Main Street.
Chicago soon took advantage of the trading opportunities created by the nation’s westward expansion. And there was Naperville about 30 miles west of the Loop.
Details about those early Chicago connections require more time and words than this space permits.
Yet, thoughts of early settlers and Naperville establishments that helped create a bustling downtown in the heart of the city also provide a chance to promote shops and smells of success! Unlike sweet pungent odors of onions, consider pizza, popcorn, caramel corn, fresh coffee and chocolate. And get a taste for many treats that await you throughout downtown Naperville.
Take a deep whiff!
Breathe through your nose. Be mindful of the health benefits of breathing through your nose to help your lungs be more efficient in absorbing oxygen—and that’s advice our 5-year-old granddaughter recently taught us.
Naperville since 1993
Thirty years ago this month, I arrived in Naperville for the first time ever on New Year’s Day. Glorious sunshine, glistening snow and temperatures in the twenties welcomed my visit. My plan was to spend a week with a recommended Realtor to find a new house for our family of five.
I recall looking at 32 homes; some were too small, some were too big and about half were just right. After narrowing choices to 10, I returned a couple weekends later with my husband to decide. We moved into our Naperville home on March 1.
Always a news junkie, among the first things we did was subscribe to newspapers. Our neighbors next door, across the street and in the cul-de-sac had recommended the Daily Herald, Chicago Tribune and the three-times weekly Naperville Sun. We tried all three.
Back then before the information highway provided a path with social media, this community read newspapers in print. Without a daily “Naperville” paper, folks searched pages in a variety of sources for stories about Naperville, a happening city with entrance signs boasting 89,000 residents and poised to grow to 150,000.
Until about 2010, early morning walks found at least one newspaper tossed on driveway after driveway throughout our neighborhood. All these years later, not so much.
Thanks for reading PN monthly in print and online daily
As we wrap up what could go on and on, let us thank you for reading and for recognizing what attracts residents to places such as Naperville.
More than a few times in this publication, we’ve mentioned our family was attracted by schools, public safety, health facilities, the Riverwalk, Naper Settlement, North Central College and cooperative can-do volunteer spirit that helps find solutions to unmet needs.
From the contest between the North Central College Cardinals and the University of Mount Union Purple Raiders at the Stagg Bowl in Annapolis on Dec. 16 to the matchup between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals in Cincinnati for Monday Night Football on Jan. 2, recent activities on the gridiron also reminded us how sports unite its fans and the entire nation.
Stay safe. Here’s to plans in 2023 to pay attention for prosperity and purpose. God bless Naperville, Illinois, in the U.S.A.
–Stephanie Penick, PN Publisher