Illinois History Available at Our Very Own Naper Settlement
Byline: Stephanie Penick
When our family lived back East, we enjoyed Colonial America from Boston to Williamsburg.
Our children experienced reenactments at George Washington's headquarters in Morristown, N. J., a short distance from our home in Chatham.
And we all knew the Jacob Morrell House on Main Street, where the general really did sleep during the American Revolution.
Since our move to Naperville in 1993, our passions to understand the world before us have led to Naper Settlement time and time again.
With so much rich heritage right here in our back yard, we hadn't ventured out much into the Land of Lincoln - until two weeks ago when my 23-year-old daughter and I planned a two-day road trip to the state capital.
After an easy three-hour drive with virtually no traffic down I- 55, we arrived in Springfield. Planning our itinerary along the way with tourist info provided by state Rep. Mary Lou Cowlishaw's office, we learned that Lincoln rode his horse into Springfield in 1837, about the time it became the state's third capital. (Kaskaskia was first in 1818, followed by Vandalia in 1820.)
Back then, according to one brochure, livestock roamed the dirt roads amid the lawyers and the politicians.
In the 21st-century summer when the General Assembly is not in session, we discovered there's little roaming in Springfield at all!
Our first stop was the capitol building where brilliant murals and paintings reflect Illinois' rich history, spirit, values and traditions.
As we wandered the tall hallways, we were awestruck by the stained-glass dome, glistening in the sunlight, surrounded by impressive architectural design and larger-than-life statues of former elected officials.
Sandwiched between lunch and dinner, we visited the Old State Capitol, Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices and the Lincoln Depot where friendly guides told Lincoln's story.
Unrelated to Lincoln lore, we discovered a large carousel of horses perfect for the Naperville United Way in the center of a shopping mall.
"Where are you from?" asked the park rangers repeatedly along Eighth Street near the Lincoln Home, a National Historic Site just down a block from the Springfield offices of U.S. Senators Peter Fitzgerald and Dick Durbin.
Funny, in Naperville, the answer to "Where are you from?" is not a one-city answer.
In Springfield, we simply answered, "Naperville."
Then, in my curiosity and never-ending tendency to inform, I asked the park ranger if he was from Illinois and if he knew Naperville's connections to Lincoln.
When he answered, "No," twice, I provided a couple of facts.
First, Joe Naper served in the State Legislature at the same time as Lincoln. And secondly, it's reputed that Lincoln visited Naperville and delivered a speech from atop the porch of the Pre- Emption House when the original building stood at Main Street between Jackson and Chicago avenues. …