by Jean Moore
Like the surrounding land
in the county, Carol Stream was once inhabited by Indians. The farmland
which lies between Shawnee Drive and North Avenue was one of several Indian
camp sites in central DuPage County. St Charles Road was little more than
a footpath for the Indians.
The early settlers in the
north Milton, south Bloomingdale and east Wayne townships were residents
from New England and New York state. Most of them had traveled along the
Erie Canal via the Great Lakes to Chicago, while others had taken the overland
route through Ohio and Indiana.
Among these pioneer families
of the early 1830s was that of Anning S. Ransom, a veteran of the War of
1812 and a New York resident, He brought with him his bride, Melissa Bingham
Ransom, an Ohio resident. They traveled by wagon with an ox team, often
used to pull wagons at that time because oxen were less expensive than
horses. En¬titled to a tract of land in the newly acquired Indian territory
due to his military service, Ransom selected a slight knoll in north Milton
Township along St. Charles Road as the site for his first home, a log cabin.
Like many families, the Ransoms lived in their wagon until the cabin was
completed. Later, he built a larger home on the north side of St Charles
Road near Pleasant Hill Road.
From the 1874 Atlas &
History of DuPage County, Illinois
The Ransoms made an annual
marketing expedition to Chicago to trade their produce and grain for the
staples needed to operate a home on the northern Illinois prairie. The
trip to the city on the lake was made over St Charles Road, improved to
a wagon road in 1836. In order to cross the Des Plaines River west of Chicago,
the Ransoms would unload the bags of grain and carry them across the river
on their backs to keep them from getting wet. After leading the cow and
wagon across the river, they would reload the wagon and continue the journey
into Chicago. The return trip would be made in much the same fashion.
In 1842 Daniel Kelley came
west on a land purchase trip. Returning to his home in Danby, Vermont,
he obtained enough funds to return the next year and acquire 1,400 acres
of land in north Milton and Bloomingdale townships. He began construction
of a home for himself and his bride-to-be, Mary Elizabeth Huls of St. Charles,
a former Vermont neighbor. Today the home, known as Tall Trees, still stands
on the north side of St. Charles Road at Main Place.
Kelley and several of his
brothers and sisters moved to this area. A brother, David, was stationmaster
and postmaster for the Village of Danby (now Glen Ellyn) in 1849. Daniel
brought Merino sheep from his father's herd in Vermont to his home in the
community of Gretna. The Merino sheep, originally im¬ported from Spain,
were noted for their fine wool and for their hardiness in warding off attacks
by wolves which still roamed the area in the 1850s. Kelley founded the
Illinois Wool Growers Association.
Visitors at Gretna Cemetery, Container
Corporation is located to the north of this pioneer site.
Kelley was an active member
of the Wheaton Community. He donated land for the original First Baptist
Church of Wheaton, now the Geneva Road Baptist Church, at the north¬east
corner of Seminary Avenue and Main Street. His wife and daughter lived
in the small house which later became the church parson¬age. He also
donated anew right-of-way for St. Charles Road when the original roadbed
was acquired by the Chicago and Great Western Railway for its tracks. Moving
slowly east¬ward from the Minnesota area since 1854, the railroad came
to Gretna in 1885.
By that time the destiny
of Milton Township had been determined by a generous land dona¬tion
from Warren and Jesse Wheaton and their brother-in-law, Erastus Gary; they
had offered land to the officials of the Galena and Chicago Union Railway
in 1 849 if the railroad would be platted through their adjoining farmlands
near Roosevelt Road rather than following a course which at the time would
have taken it through Gretna.
Despite the loss of the
railroad line in 1849, the community in north Milton continued as a small
service area serving the farmers of the area who continued to use St. Charles
The Daniel and Mary Kelley
family had eight sons and three daughters, all of whom played a major role
in the political and business development of the Wheaton area in the latter
quarter of the 19th century and early part of the 20th century.
Another change came to the
Gretna area in the late 1840s when a number of German farm families, fleeing
the political oppression and famine in their homelands, arrived in north
Milton and Bloomingdale townships. Fre¬quently they took ownership
of farmlands which earlier had been acquired by settlers who later continued
their westward search for open space.
The Germans who settled
in the Gretna area were primarily Catholics from southern Ger¬many.
At the time, there was no Catholic church in the county other than Sts.
Peter and Paul in Naperville. Once a month, one of the priests from the
church would gather his reli¬gious articles for the journey across
the prai¬ries to Gretna. By 1852 the bishop of Chicago had authorized
construction of a wooden Catholic church and school with a churchyard cemetery.
St. Stephen's Catholic Church was dedicated the same year by Bishop James
Joseph Kuhn threshing grain
- about 1932.
It continued to serve the
vast German Catholic parish of central DuPage County from Roosevelt Road
north to the county line near Schaumburg. In 1867 St John the Baptist Catholic
Church was opened in Winfield to serve that growing area. The bishop ordered
St. Stephen's closed, except for special services, with families transferred
to St. John's for worship. When St. Michael's Catholic Church and School
opened in Wheaton in 1872, the parishioners from St. Stephen's were trans¬ferred
to that church, along with their records. The cemetery at St. Stephen's
continued to be used until 1911. Today, only the old cemetery remains as
a reminder that once a major Catholic church was located at Gretna. Six
area churches all trace their roots to the original St. Stephen's Mission
Church at Gretna.
The vast farming area around
Gretna and in Bloomingdale and Wayne townships con¬tinued in use as
rich agricultural land in the county until after World War II. The family
names remained the same, it was merely the generations that changed. Included
among these area farmers were the Kramers, Kuhns, Dieters, Nagels, Hahns,
Klocks, Paulings, Starks, Neddermeyers, Barnes, Lies and Kammes. Very few
of the young men were called upon to serve in military service since they
were already involved in a vital wartime industry - that of providing food
for the armed forces abroad and for the people on the home front.
Following World War II,
a few changes were made as the older farmers retired in order to give their
offspring a chance at a place to live and work. The slow but steady migration
of city dwellers into the suburban countryside was underway. However, for
central DuPage County it would be another few years before the cornfields
would come alive with new homes almost overnight. It was in this same period
that another miracle of communication found a spot in the rich farmlands
of DuPage County.
In the spring of 1953, the
Illinois Depart¬ment of Agriculture began a search for a farm and a
farm family who would become the stars of a new television show on the
National Broadcasting Company. One of the thirty-five farms on the itinerary
was the Harbecke Farm on Gary Avenue, rural Cloverdale in Bloom¬ingdale
Township, operated by Harbecke's daughter and son-in-law, Bertha and Wilbert
Landmeier. Tracing their roots to pioneer German farm families, the young
couple had moved to the Harbecke Farm to operate a dairy farm. They had
recently installed dairy equip¬ment which carried the milk in refrigerated
tubes from the milking machine to cooling tanks on the milk truck, which
transported the commodity to an Addison dairy. The farm also had a hay
drier which was another piece of modern machinery not found on every farm
in 1953. These advantages, plus the fact that the location was considered
one of the best be¬tween Chicago and the Fox River for beaming the
television waves, made the selection of the Harbecke-Landmeier Farm ideal
for the show. Thus, "Out on the Farm" began the first of a two-year run
from the Harbecke-Landmeier Farm in the summer of 1953.
During the second season
the first outdoor network colorcast originating from Chicago was the pickup
from the Landmeier Farm. At the end of the 1954 season, the show was over,
as Cloverdale and all of DuPage County were due for rapid change. The emphasis
would shift within another year from the fine agricultural county of the
past 124 years to a prestigious area of new homes for veterans of both
World War II and the Korean War.
It was about this time that
Jay Stream of Durable Construction Company, and a long¬time Wheaton
resident and businessman, be¬gan looking for a place to create his
own town, one in which industry and residence could exist side by side.
Returning to his home town after service in the armed forces during World
War II, he turned to the home construction busi¬ness. One of his business
partners was Gordon Oury, whose family had an interest in the Imperial
Service Company of Melrose Park. They began their new home venture by con¬structing
three homes along Geneva Road.
Durable continued its construction
of new homes on scattered sites in Wheaton during the first years of its
organization. Then Stream acquired two major tracts for conversion to new
homes. These included the old Greene Valley Golf Course, south of Roosevelt
Road between Main Street and Naperville Road, and the Hawthorne area, which
lies east of Main Street and north of Hawthorne Avenue.
But there was one continuing
problem for the families to whom Stream sold homes - high taxes. Many of
the homeowners sought advice from the developer. The only answer Stream
could offer was that the community had to obtain a broader base for the
collection of real estate taxes, which escalated as the need for public
services increased. He felt the simplest way to help defray the cost of
public services in the City of Wheaton would be to have business or industry
help share the tax burden. How¬ever, city officials did not want to
rezone for light industry.
Thus, by the summer of 1956
Stream and his staff were looking in the Wheaton vicinity for land which
could be used to develop a new community, one in which industry would be
a built-in part. One of his requirements was that there should be sufficient
land for his planned community to expand in years to come. After a number
of air flights over the central DuPage area, Durable officials felt they
had located the ideal spot for their future town. The land lay generally
to the northwest of Geneva Road and Main Street in Wheaton. There was plenty
of it, and the views from the air indicated that the sites were adequately
In the summer of 1957, Stream
and his crews were completing work on the Hawthorne Shopping Center on
North Main Street. This would be a service center for his new com¬munity
in its early years because it was less than two and a half miles away.
Land acqui¬sition began with three farms belonging to the Nagel and
Mittmann families as well as the Giesers. This was raw land which had to
be cleared, graded, and sectioned off into units. New streets were cut
through and sewer and water lines installed. Then a developer could begin
to lay foundations for the new homes. Stream reasoned that the homes had
to come first since industry would not be attracted to an area which did
not offer a work force.
While the basic engineering
and work were under way in the new community, a personal tragedy struck
the Stream family. Daughter Carol, age fourteen, was visiting at the family
summer home in southern Wisconsin when she and her friends were involved
in an automo¬bile accident. One person was killed, the others had lesser
injuries, but Carol was critically injured and lay in a coma for days.
Meanwhile work on the new
village con¬tinued. When time came to file plats of sub¬division
with the county, the engineer asked Stream what name should be given to
the small stream which ran through the southern section of the original
units. He mumbled the name "Carol" and thus the name was penciled on the
plat. However, when it was filed at the county offices, the name "Carol
Stream" was applied not only to the small stream but to the entire new
Carol Stream Historical Museum
- formerly the Gretna Station.
In his next visit with his
young daughter who was still in a coma, Stream told her the new town had
been named for her. As he recalled later, the motionless youngster opened
her eyes for the first time since the accident months before. Her rehabilitation
continues to this day.
By November1, 1958, Roy
and Jeanne Blum, with their infant son, Roy Jr., had moved into the first
home to be occupied in the village. Within weeks there were more than 100
in¬habitants residing in the new community. Under state law at the
time, this was a suf¬ficient number of residents to hold a referen¬dum
to incorporate the community as a village. Stream felt this was the only
way to make certain that he would be able to carry out his dreams for a
well-planned community. Six trustees, a village president and village clerk
were elected in a special election held January 31, 1959.
The village was the ninth
in the State of Illinois to pass a 5% utility tax during the first months
of incorporation. The tax continues in effect today with no village property
taxes levied, except for library purposes, sewer and water bond issues.
By 1960 Durable had provided
the com¬munity with a private swimming pool club. When the company
fell victim to the financial recession of 1962, the private swim club was
operated by a small group of interested indi¬viduals. By 1964 a drowning
of an eighth grader, and the problems inherent in main¬tenance of such
a facility led to formation of the Carol Stream Park District.
Today the park district
oversees more than 150 acres of parklands, a community center, a museum,
and enclosed year-round swimming pool, and a system of waterways for the
In 1961 and 1962, the office
and industrial parks began to develop in Carol Stream. Today sixteen religious
businesses call Carol Stream home as do more than 140 industries, ranging
from the large Container Corporation complex to smaller industries which
may employ as few as six or eight individuals. The dream of the developer
that business and industry could live side by side with good homes, sharing
the costs of a well-planned community has come true.
As the community has grown
to the south¬east and northwest, it has found itself involved with
school districts other than the original one in the village. Students in
the southern sector of the village attend schools in the Wheaton¬-Warrenville
Unit District 200. Students in the southwestern sector attend schools in
Carol Stream and West Chicago High School dis¬tricts, while those in
the northwestern sector of the village find themselves attending classes
in the Elgin-U-46 schools of Kane County. Glenbard North High School, which
opened in 1968, is located in Carol Stream. The elementary district has
grown from one school in 1958 to four elementary schools and a junior
The village is served by
a network of major highways, most of them four lanes wide. In addition,
the industrial park is served by two railroads, the Illinois Central-Gulf
on the north side of North Avenue, the Chicago and North Western Railway
on the south side, successor to the Chicago and Great Western Railway.
The village is located eight miles from the DuPage Airport.
While it is a community
with only a quarter century of life, its roots go deep into the early history
of DuPage County; thus it had a stability which lends itself to future
growth patterns for the Village of Carol Stream.
Jean Moore is president of Carol
Stream Historical Society, and was chairman of the village's bicentennial
commission. She also serves on the board of governors of the DuPage Heritage
Gallery, and was president of the DuPage County Press Association.