The Story of  The Taking of the DuPage County Records

from A History of Naperville, 1831-1931




There are many and conflicting traditions about the taking of the DuPage County courthouse records away from Naperville. One story is given us by Francis Cody Sattley and Grace Cody Parmlee, daughters of Judge Hiram H. Cody.  They tell about the old courthouse and its wide steps, upon which they played as children, and where Miss Celia Whitman had a school, her father being the jailer.
 Mrs. Sattley says: "One of my early childhood recollections is of a dim scene in a darkened chamber, where my mother and some of the older children were looking from a front window at the courthouse opposite.
"Cuddled close to my mother I saw by the light of the lanterns held in men's hands, other men going up and down the broad courthouse stairs, carrying arms full of something and putting them in a wagon waiting in the road in front.
"The lanterns cast an eerie half-light over the picture, and hearing someone in our little group whisper They're stealing the records!',  I shivered with horror at the thought of some awful deed being perpetrated, although I had no idea what it meant!
 
 "Then, in the morning, a beloved uncle and aunt, who lived in Wheaton, but had been visiting at our house, were gone, and I was informed they went home in the night.  Someone had come to the house and said to uncle "Doc", if the townspeople know you are here they'll suspect you of helping, and may tar'n feather you.  You'd better leave now.'"
Her sister Grace says that "while these men were going up and down the courthouse steps carrying out the bundles of records, father was slipping out the back way, with mother anxious lest something happen to him, because there was a warm feeling.  They feared violence might take place and stealing over to the Congregational Church where he rang the bell furiously to arouse the town in defense of Naperville's rights.  But as I've heard
the story, the raiders got away just in time and galloped off, leaving a trail of documents which fell out of the wagon as they went.  I am not sure whether a party of Napervillians chased them out on the road, but I have that impression.
 Mrs. Myrtle V. Jenkins, daughter of Mr. James M. Vallette, tells about these lost records.  She says, "One morning just at dawn in 1868, Wheaton descended on the Recorder's Office through a window which had been left unlocked by a Wheaton sympathizer employed by the county and which cost him his sweetheart, who declared she would never marry a traitor and turned her life to better things!  The Vallette home was guarded by Wheaton and when Mr. Vallette attempted to get out to give the alarm, he was seized and held on the way to the office.
"Alec Riddler was also held.  When the raid was made one section of the books was overlooked as well as the county and the state papers.  These were afterward burned by the man who had them in charge, when he became alarmed for fear of search."
The records were hidden in the roof of an outbuilding until things became quiet, and later placed in keeping of Samuel Chase, the Cook County recorder at the Chicago courthouse, pending the outcome of the lawsuit between Wheaton and Naperville.  This building was supposed to be fireproof and all Cook County records were kept on open tables.  The great Chicago Fire in 1871 came when Cook County lost all of their records.  Also the lost records of Du Page County went up in smoke.
 Another story furnished us by Mr. Newton E. Matter, says: "Hon. Lewis Ellsworth was President of the Village of Naperville and James  J. Hunt Sheriff of the County the night the County records were moved' to Wheaton.  Self-appointed representatives of the mind of the public assembled at a Naperville saloon, and became intensely enthusiastic on going to Wheaton forthwith and returning the books to their proper shelves at Naperville.
 "Mr. Ellsworth and the Sheriff, on being told of the hot-head party, planned and schemed to break up the party.  Arriving at the saloon and being told the intentions of the gathering the Sheriff seemed to enter into the plan, but insisted on buying one drink after another and as rapidly as the enthusiasm was drowned, the participant was quietly taken home.
 "The last to remain was the one who was to furnish the team and wagon.  On being told his team would be shot if it appeared on the streets of Wheaton, he also said good night.  It was a diplomatic ending of what might have proven to be the wholesale shedding of blood and the loss of lives, as Wheaton was expecting a move of that kind."
Transcribed with permission from A History of Naperville, 1831-1931, by Diane Bauer.
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