Naperville's Military History

Learn more about the contributions Napervillians have made to military history and the impact military conflicts have had on Naperville.

Utah War

A carefully preserved letter housed in Naper Settlement's archives is written by the 15th president of the United States, James Buchanan. But what do President Buchanan, Brigham Young, Delana Eckels and Naperville Judge Robert Murray have in common? Why, the Utah War (May 1857-July 1858), of course. The letter written by the president was found among Robert Murray's files, so it is presumed that the letter was sent from his office in Washington, D.C., on behalf of Napervillians.

Just 10 days after his inauguration on March 14, 1857, President Buchanan sat down at his desk and wrote a letter to a "committee" of "gentlemen" regarding their petition to have the new president replace Brigham Young as the governor of the Utah Territory. In this short letter, President Buchanan addresses his petitioners with his reasons for not appointing Mr. Eccles [sic] to the governor's chair. Buchanan's letter also alludes to the impending military conflict with the Mormons. Two months after the letter was written, Buchanan would send 2,300 United States military troops into the Utah Territory to stop a "perceived" Mormon rebellion.

The letter reads:


The decision in regard to the appointment of a Governor for Utah was delayed mainly because there is no existing vacancy, Young still continuing Governor under the terms of the law creating his office. It was postponed for the present for public considerations; and not at all because of the opposition of any person to the appointment of Mr. Eccles.

Your friend
Very respectfully
James Buchanan

14 March 57 

There is no envelope with this letter that would indicate to whom the letter was addressed, nor how it was addressed as Naperville was not incorporated as a village until May 1857. Additionally, the relationship between Delana Eckels and Naperville is not known, but both Eckles and Robert Murray were young attorneys and personal friends of Sen. Stephen A. Douglas, who had proposed the idea of popular sovereignty.

No other extant sources indicate Naperville's position during this "conflict" in Utah. Nationally, antiMormon sentiment had been on the rise since the 1840s. It was during the presidential campaign of 1856, however, that Republicans accused Democrats of holding onto the "twin relics of barbarism - polygamy and slavery" via their platform of popular sovereignty.

World War II

At the close of World War II, thousands of GIs returned home. Some married their high school sweethearts and some returned with brides. By 1947, the United Sates was experiencing one of the largest housing shortages in its history. Naperville was no exception. In fact, the presence of North Central College (NCC) created an even greater demand for housing as young soldiers wishing to use the benefits of the GI Bill flocked to Naperville.

To answer this demand, contractors quickly built 12 barrack-style duplexes, two dwellings per unit, on South Loomis. One newspaper account stated, "Although the barracks are identical on the outside and they contain the same basic furniture, the personalities of the occupants give each an individuality. They have worked out different color schemes and have added pieces of furniture and knick-knacks." These were young 24 year olds with at least one baby. Most of the GIs worked for Kroehler and a few moms and dads attended North Central College.

To supplement the $105 a month to attend college ($120 if you had children), some GIs had to work second jobs at Prince Castle, local golf courses or selling children's books door-to-door. Households were expected to pay the government 22% of their income or a maximum of $40 per month, which did include water, lights and gas.

Dale Schultz, a Navy veteran, and his wife moved into their new home in 1946. By 1948, they had two children, Brad, 22 months, and Laura 10 months. "Dale and I sleep on the 'Davenoe' and let the youngsters have the bedroom. Of course, we can hear the neighbors through the thin partition, but the children are used to noise and it never bothers us." Dale helped pay the bills while working at a gas station, selling cleaning products door-to-door, and playing the piano in a band. He graduated from NCC in 1950 with a music degree.

Before Richard and Gladys Smith were able to move into the barracks on Loomis, they lived for 16 months in the old Adolf Hammerschmidt home, formerly on the corner of Chicago and Sleight. The three-bedroom duplex was welcome after sharing a bathroom and kitchen with several other couples in the old house. Richard graduated from NCC in 1948 and immediately took a position as director of parks in Glen Ellyn. While on campus, he was the captain of the basketball, football and baseball teams.