Joseph Naper was not a man who gave up easily. He was always willing to try something new. He left that legacy in the roots of Naperville. The Great Lakes were treacherous, and many a sea-faring man had accidents. No one could escape problems, and Joseph Naper and his brothers were no exception. In less than a year’s time they had been involved in a number of accidents, lost men to drowning and sank several ships. From Fort Dearborn the settlers walked 28 miles west. It took them three days on foot to walk alongside their heavily loaded Conestoga wagons toward Naper’s Settlement, back on land for good. In 1831, Captain Joseph Naper selected a parcel of lush prairieland along the DuPage River for his settlement in Illinois.
The early settlers in Naperville were hardworking people. Everything had a use. Most furniture was handmade. Beds had four posts with little knobs on wooden side rails. The knobs held rope that was woven back and forth, side to side over the knobs. Most mattresses were made of chaff bags filled with corn husks, or straw sticks or leftover grain thrashings. They were placed on top of the ropes. Some of the beds were filled with feathers, but these belonged only to the lucky few. On cold nights, they would invite their dogs into bed with them to keep them warm. Sometimes it was a three dog night. When children would crawl into bed with them in those days, parents would caution “sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite.”
The settlers built fine log houses from timber on the land. Shingles were handmade and wooden pegs were used instead of nails. They used the fireplace for all the cooking, for light at night and heat in the winter. There were no stoves, only fireplaces that burned day in and day out. These pioneers shared the dream of quickly building finer houses with real stoves instead of just a fireplace. Pioneer life was hard work and little play. Children as young as three years old were given chores to teach them discipline, also to keep them out from underfoot. They worked side-by-side with their parents in the house and out in the fields. It was necessary for their day-to-day survival.