Naperville History

Naperville history spans nearly two centuries. The story of this community’s development into a city with more than 140,000 residents is an interesting one. Read on to learn more about some key moments in Naperville history.

Native American Roots

Before “Naperville” became Naperville, the area was home to Native American tribes. When Caucasian people first made contact with the Native Americans in 1641, the majority tribe in the area that is now Naperville consisted of members of the Illiniwek tribe.


Naperville’s Beginnings

Joseph Naper founded Naper’s Settlement in an area of Illinois that was along the DuPage River in 1831. It later became known as Naperville. In the early days, the town’s primary residents were settlers from the Northeast. Historic families like the Scotts, Hobsons, and Paynes were amongst them.

The Illiniwek tribe was predominant in Illinois at the time but was later forced out of the land by the Potawatomi tribe. The Potawatomi tribe was occupying the Naperville settlement until settlers drove them out.

The Black Hawk War

By 1832, over one hundred settlers inhabited Naper’s Settlement. Unfortunately, Naperville history hit a troublesome period.

Following an event known as the Indian Creek massacre during the Black Hawk War, these settlers fled to a nearby military fortress, Fort Dearborn, in anticipation of an attack by the Sauk tribe.

Fort Payne was built to fend off an attack, then the settlers returned. Fortunately, the attack never materialized.


The Pre-Emption House

By 1834, Naper’s Settlement had become a common stagecoach stop on the road from Chicago to Galena. To capitalize on this increased traffic, a group of settlers decided to establish a hotel. The hotel was named The Pre-Emption House. This bit of Naperville history is actually a piece of DuPage county history too because The Pre-Emption House was the first hotel in DuPage county.

Today, you can visit the recreated Pre-Emption House Tavern in Naperville.


Naperville Becomes a Village

Later, in the 1840s, the early families were joined by a wider variety of settlers, including Pennsylvanians, Germans, the English, and Scots. Together, these villagers built a thriving community that won a county seat in Dupage County in 1839.

In 1857, Naper’s Settlement was incorporated as a village and became known as Naperville. At the time, the community had a population of approximately 2,000



Naperville Gets Connected To Chicago

The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad ran its line through Naperville in 1864. This connection to Chicago encouraged the population and economy of the village to grow significantly in the late 1880s. Noteworthy companies like Stenger Brewery and Kroehler Manufacturing Company, the largest employer in Naperville, benefited greatly from their ability to ship products directly to Chicago.

Naperville Becomes a City

Naperville was officially reincorporated as a city in 1890. By 1900, they’d attracted a population of 2,629 people. Around the same time, they began receiving city services like water, sewers, electricity, and telephones. This was a great time in Naperville history. The city grew steadily for the next several decades, reaching a population of 12,933 by 1960.

Modern Day Naperville

In Naperville history, the community experienced a population explosion that started in the 1960s and continued into the 1990s. In both the 80’s and the 90’s the city’s population tripled in size. The city also expanded to 50 square miles in 1993, making more space for residents. By 2000, Naperville had 128,358 inhabitants in total. As of 2019, the population is 147,501.

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