Napervilles's first central fire station on Jefferson Ave, early twentieth century
Reuss Building with bell in downtown Naperville, late nineteenth century
When sleepy Napervillians heard the clang of this bell in the pre-dawn hours of December 21, 1868, few citizens would have suspected that it was Judge Hiram Cody in the Belfry at the Congregational Church, alerting the town to raiders from neighboring Wheaton who were making off with the County Records. Tension between Naperville and Wheaton had started in 1858, when Wheaton petitioned unsuccessfully to have the DuPage county seat moved from Naperville to their more centrally located town. People in the northern part of the county complained that it took them two days to get to and from Naperville to conduct county business, such as land transfers. In 1867, the question again was put to the residents, and Wheaton was voted in as the new county seat by a narrow margin. Naperville contested the vote and refused to turn over the records. So Wheatonites took the law into their own hands, in the raid that would go down in Naperville history as the “Rape of the Records.” The dispute continued into the early 1870s, when the courts decided that the county seat would remain at Wheaton.