Wilmington Illinois History

Wilmington is a charmingly picturesque little village nestled in the forested valley of the Kankakee River, fifty-two miles below Chicago. Here the Kankakee River flows to the north, which is rare among the rivers of Illinois and the town’s location on the river bank provides it with a wealth of outdoor recreational activities which attract visitors from all over the state and beyond. Besides fishing and boating on the Kankakee, the Des Plaines Conservation Area nearby has almost five thousand huntable acres. Wilmington combines the best aspects of country and suburban lifestyles including rich farmland, top quality public services, and a thriving business community. Apart from its recreational opportunities, Wilmington Illinois healthcare is among the best in the nation so the town is also popular with retirees.

Wilmington was originally settled by the Potawatomi tribe, which was part of the Nation of Three Fires (along with the Ottawa and Ojibway). The Kankakee River was then part of the great Native American water highway where principle Indian paths crossed the Kankakee at Wilmington. After the French and Indian War in 1762 Pontiac, chief of the Ottawa, settled in the Wilmington area. In order to maintain his tribal rights, he rejoined his original tribe and lived here in his final years (until he was assassinated in 1769 by an Indian brave near Mount Joliet). Pontiac’s murder led to savage, bitter conflicts between Ottawa and Illinois healthcare, which in the end led to the Illini tribe’s extinction at Starved Rock. The most famous Native American of this region was Shabonna, who was born on the island near Wilmington in 1774. His father was the war chief of the Ottawa tribe, and had settled here with Pontiac. Shabonna was a mesmerizing speaker, and his eloquence secured generous settlements for his tribe at peace negotiations, such as Wayne’s Treaty which was read at Greenville in 1775. Shabonna died at the age of 85 on July 17, 1859 and he is buried in Morris.

Wilmington was settled by whites in the early 1830’s. One of the earliest settlers, Thomas Cox, acquired 400 acres from the government in 1834 and built a sawmill, corn cracker, gristmill, and carding machine. Pioneer farmers from all over the region brought their wheat and corn to Cox’s mills to be ground. In 1836 Cox surveyed and laid out lots to create the town of Winchester, which changed its name to Wilmington two years later. Wilmington was incorporated in 1865 as a municipality. Among its other historical points of interest, Wilmington is on the Illinois & Michigan Canal and was a way-station on the Underground Railroad which conducted slaves from the south to freedom in Canada before the Civil War. The town still features many historic buildings which date back to the mid-nineteenth century, including one of the oldest hospitals in Illinois. It is famous for its antique shops (over twenty of them!) which attract collectors from around the country. In the automobile age, Wilmingtonians could get their kicks on the famous Route 66 which passes through the town as it winds from Chicago to L.A.

7 Travel Mistakes to Avoid

We are well into the summer season which means many people are traveling or preparing to travel. There are so many things to consider before traveling, especially abroad. There are also a lot of costs to involved, too. You will probably be tempted to cut corners in one way or another.

However, here are a few things you should not cut corners on while traveling to be sure you are not spending unnecessary money or getting scammed.

Misleading Hotel Descriptions

When searching for a hotel it is important to look at multiple sources. Photoshop and false advertisement can be very deceiving, so do not fall into that trap.

Hidden Fees

The cheapest flight or hotel price is not always the best deal. Most time the lowest prices for places come with quite a few hidden fees such as checked bags, resort or hotel fees, etc which could put you over budget.

Not Buying Travel Insurance

Many people opt out of buying even the most affordable travel insurance because they think that nothing will happen to them or overall, it is just not worth it. But, travel insurance can protect your luggage in case it is lost which happens more than you think. It can also pay for lost hotel reservations or even medical expenses you may endure.

Third-Party Discount Scams

Third party scammers typically push you to book using their services by tempting consumers with one-time only deals. Usually, these scammers take your money and do not follow through with services promised. One way to avoid this is to read the fine print and ask a lot of questions. Or just avoid third-party companies all together.

Currency Exchange Fee

Make sure to only go to credible currency exchange places and not some corner shop. Although

Free Vacation Offers

Scams on the internet and over the phone are extremely common, just remember that unless you enter some sort of credible sweepstakes there is no such thing as a free vacation in exchange for your credit card information. So, protect yourself from scammers as one of the red flags to look out for is a free vacation offer.

Packing Too Much

Make a list and pack pieces that can be made into multiple outfits. If the weather changes drastically you can always buy what you need, but depending on where you are traveling you probably will not need additional clothing, so save your money on luggage.

Planning a vacation can be stressful and a handful, but if you avoid these mistakes it can be very rewarding.

Stephen Wright House – Paw Paw, Illinois

Before we get to the Reagan landmarks in Dixon we stop in Paw Paw, Illinois, a small village many of you Illinois residents have probably passed on Interstate 39, you know you are there when you see the large electricity generating windmills on the horizon. Before 2005 the 850 person village of Paw Paw had no properties included on the federal National Register of Historic Places. The listing of the Stephen Wright House changed that in May of that year.

After mingling amongst the windmills of the Mendota Hills Wind Farm for a bit, I made my way over to the village proper and sought out the Wright House. The house was constructed sometime between 1895 and 1906 by Paw Paw native, and real estate speculator Stephen Wright.

The home is an excellent example of Queen Anne style architecture. It very clearly illustrates the hip roof (wiki) with flanking cross gables (wiki) that is found on about 50 percent of Queen Anne style houses. The roof style is a quick way to identify many less obvious examples of Queen Anne. Viewed from the cross gables, the hip roof is less obvious, making for an interesting visual play, depending on where the viewer stands.

Tomorrow we visit our first Reagan landmark in Dixon. Paw Paw is a village in Lee County, located in northern Illinois. Norther Illinois is full of interesting places listed in the National Register of Historic Places and well worth the look for any history student or buff. Feel free to Google it and have a look for yourself.

Online Resources

Stephen Wright House: National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form (PDF)

Wikipedia: Stephen Wright House, Mendota Hills Wind Farm (both by me, for you).

Ashelford Hall – Esmond, Illinois

There are more than 90,000 listings on the National Register of Historic Places. Not all of them are well-kept, I have come across a fair share of dilapidated properties, one of them here in DeKalb County. While far from falling down, Ashelford Hall in the small village of Esmond, Illinois is, to put it lightly, in a state of disrepair.

1925 – Ashelford Hall

Ashelford Hall was built in 1925 by William Henry Ashelford and it immediately became the social center of the tiny village near the DeKalb-Ogle County line. Medicine shows, vaudeville shows and entertainment of all types appeared at the venue. In 1928, a local men’s club began meeting in the hall, this on the heels of the South Grove Grange meeting at the location from its 1925 opening.

Ashelford Hall has a unique wedge shape

The building is constructed from concrete block, popular from about 1905-1930, and has a unique wedge shape. This was probably to accommodate the lot it stands on. A train depot was once located to its south as were diagonally-laid railroad tracks. The depot and tracks are now gone, as are the buildings that once surrounded the area, but the wedge shaped Ashelford Hall remains.

The wedge shape is the result of angled railroad tracks that once faced this side of the building.

The 1995 National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form states that Ashelford Hall’s current function is a “work in progress”. When I visited last year it appeared that not much progress had been made. The interior seemed to be serving as a storage area, and there was debris about the grounds as well as broken windows. Alas, historic preservation is an expensive endeavor, at least it’s still standing. If you look at the photos linked at the end of the page, you will see there isn’t much difference between the building’s 1995 and 2007 appearance. A good thing, depending on how you look at it I suppose.

The interior was serving as a garage as of early 2007.

As a credit, the nomination form, which is linked below, is nearly encyclopedic in its coverage of the building and the history of Esmond. Hope to see this building put to some good use and receive the restoration it deserves. It would be nice to see music or theater once again echo through Ashelford Hall.

Online Resources

*Wikipedia: Ashelford Hall, Esmond, Illinois (both by me, for you)

*Ashelford Hall: National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form

*Ashelford Hall: Old Photos (NRHP archives) – 1995: 1, 2, 3; Detail 1, Detail 2

Tomorrow we begin a journey into architectural history with the first of an eight part series looking at some of the important sites in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois.