In the Beginning A Look Back at How the City Emerged in the 1830s Thanks to a Pairof Brothers from New York Seeking Their Fortune in 'The West.'

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Byline: John Janos Aurora Historical Society By John Janos Aurora Historical Society

Aurora, the state's second largest city, is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year.

The city dates its birthday to March 1837, when a post office was established and the settlement was named Aurora. The small settlement was actually 3 years old at the time.

It was in April 1834 that 24-year-old Joseph McCarty, a millwright from Elmira, N.Y., arrived at the future site of Aurora, accompanied by his apprentice and a hired hand. McCarty was out to make his fortune in "the west," as Illinois was considered at the time.

Seeking a water site suitable for the building of a dam and a mill, he arrived at a spot on the Fox River, near an island, at what is today the center of Aurora. The area was then known as the foot of the "Big Woods" for the tract of timber that stretched from there to Batavia on the east side of the river.

The area also was known as "The Potawatomi Reserve," lands granted to Potawatomi Chief Waubonsie, whose village was located there. A later description by an early pioneer stated, "The old chief, Waubonsie, was a large and powerful man, six feet, four inches, weighing about two hundred pounds a most of their village was composed of movable or temporary wigwams a and contained from three to five hundred Indians, and we had many visits from them."

The local Indians were friendly and peaceful -- they, like all of the remaining Native American tribes in Illinois, had signed the Treaty of Chicago in 1833, at the conclusion of the 1832 Black Hawk War. They had agreed to give up their lands and move to reservation land west of the Mississippi within three years (they did this in 1835).

McCarty laid claim to land on both sides of the river, built a cabin on each side, and commenced to build a sawmill on the east bank of the river adjacent the island. The mill was put in operation in June 1835.

In the meantime, McCarty's younger brother, Samuel, 22, had joined him in November 1834 -- after a "rapid" three-week journey from Elmira. …