An Interview with Judge Murray
(By a representative from the "Inter-Ocean.")
July 8th, 1883
Naperville is the outgrowth of a settlement made by Jos. Naper in 1831. Mr. Naper visited the West in 1830 and in 1831 brought a colony with him from Ashtabula County, Ohio. One of the boys in that colony was Robert N. Murray, who now gracefully wears the title of Judge, though his bearing is as little like the dignified occupant of the bench, as we read of them as anything could be. He was sitting on a dry goods box in front of the store whittling and telling stories, when the representative of the Inter-Ocean was introduced.
Question: You are one of the old settlers, Mr. Murray? "That's what they say. I came here in 1831 -- drove an ox team from Chicago -- landed there in July -- swam ashore and then had to swim back again and get my boots, because with the shoes I wore, I could not wade across the sand bar."
Question: How much of a boy were you? "Big enough to think I could lay most of the men on their backs, and a good many of them thought so too. I was about 17 years old.
Question -- How many people were in the Naper Colony? "Between 50 and 60, counting men, women and children. Then there were the Hobson's two miles below us and a family by the name of Paine to the North a mile or two -- they were here when we came to this place, and these were all the white people here in 1831, and we were a sort of free born people with broad Christian sympathies. We believe in doing just about as we pleased, so we did not interfere with the rights of other men. The good brethren of the East Branch Settlement who came out here from New England in 1832 used to come up here with their iron bed stead and try to fit us to it, but they found it useless, and gave up the people of
Naper settlement as children of the Devil, for whom there was no hope."
Question -- Judge, it is said that all the voters of the Naper Settlement went to Chicago to vote in 1832? "That is not so. In the Fall of 1832, the polls were open at Naperville -- right over there at the head of that street. I know, because I voted. I was only 18 years old, but I thought I would never get another opportunity to vote for old Andrew Jackson, and I put in my ballot. At that election Andrew Jackson received 13 votes and Henry Clay received 26 -- our good New England Brethren had come in by that time, and they all voted for Clay -- they beat us, but there were twelve other fellows who liked whiskey and black strap just as I did, and we rejoiced in the election of old Andrew Jackson as President. I have voted for the old fellow ever since. People have said he was dead, but I tell them I have not been officially notified."
Question -- What was the boundary of your voting precinct? "It took in all there was this side of Hinsdale and West as far as the big Woods -- there was no one to the North. It was about 18 miles across. It was the Naper Precinct and was set off for us by the Cook County Commissioners at the request of Captain Naper. Before it was made we had to vote in the Flag Creek precinct south of La Grange."
Question -- Did you have any part in the hurried removal to Chicago at the time of the Black Hawk scare? "Oh Yes! I drove an ox team and then joined Scott in his campaign against the Indians."
Question --How did you learn of the intended masssacre? "Black Hawk, on May 15th, 1832, visited Half day, a friendly chief on the Fox River about 8 miles from our settlement, and urged him to join in the war against the whites. Half Day had become acquainted with the whites and was friendly. When Black Hawk came to his village in the night, he sent his boy to our settlement to say that he was in council with Black Hawk and it would be advisable for us to go to the Fort. The boy arrived about 1 o'clock in the night. In the morning all the people in the settlement were warned and there was a general scramble into wagons, and the ox teams started for Chicago where we arrived in the evening. We remained there about three weeks. In the mean time the Bailey and Davis Families were massacred on the Fox River and we mustered all the horses and mules in Chicago, about 25, and a number of us went out there to bury them. We then returned here and built Fort Payne on Ellsworth Hill. We brought the women and children there and then I joined general Scott's command to go with it on the expedition to the West. I did not get back until October. All the line towns from Beloit down to the South, as Elgin, Belvidere, Rockford, Dixon and a dozen other towns are built on the camping grounds of Scott's Army in that expedition."
Question -- Have you lived here ever since? "I have made this my home ever since -- though I was away from the place from 1858 to 1864. When Steven A. Douglas ran for Congress the first time, he came here a stranger. He had met Captain Naper in the State Legislature in 1836. I became acquainted with him and went with him through the northern part of Illinois. He was beaten by J. T. Steward by 16 votes. From that day to the day of his death, Douglas was my devoted friend."
Question --Did you ever meet his great opponent? "Lincoln? Yes, many times. At Springfield he would tell stories, just as long as the boys would listen to him. I'll tell you, the young men Lincoln, Douglas, Campbell, McDougall, Shields, Trumbull and others who were in the State Legislature from 1838 to 1844 presented such an array of talent, as I don't believe was ever seen together any place else. Every one of them made their mark in the history of the country. I am well satisfied with my life, for I have lived in Illinois through the 50 years of most eventful history that was ever written."
Taken from Naperville Centennial, 1831-1931, Copyright 1931, Fort Payne Chapter - Daughters of the American Revolution, Naperville, Illinois. Transcribed with permission by Diane Bauer.