Thursday, April 18, 2019

Lost Towns of Illinois - Bradley, later renamed Dunton.

History of Dunton began in March, 1836 when Asa Dunton, a Yankee stone cutter from Oswego, New York, with his wife, Lois Hawkes Dunton, and six children, the youngest of whom was only two years of age, came to this locality looking for desirable farming land on which to stake a claim. Previous homesteaders had settled in the wooded areas of Wheeling and Elk Grove, but Asa, recognizing the excellence of the soil and the advantage of well-drained higher ground, decided to file his claim on open prairie. He filed his claim for the 160 acres allowed and a like amount for each of his minor sons, William H., 17 years old, and James, 14 years old.

He established his pre-emption rights to these public lands by declaring his intention of settlement, by proving his residence within six months, cultivation of the tract within one year, and payment of the established purchase price of $1.25 an acre. Final title of the homestead was not secured until he had proved his residence for five years. During that first winter Asa and his family were forced to stay in temporary shelter from the winter's icy blasts in Deer Grove. Final proof of compliance with the law enabled Asa to obtain full title to the three homesteads in 1841. The family moved to Lemont, Illinois, where the men found employment in the quarries where stone was being cut for buildings in the town of Chicago, then numbering 4,000 people.

By then the area had largely changed its ethnic composition, as many German farmers from Saxony had arrived during the 1840s. John Klehm might serve as an example; he was at first a potato farmer, supplying the Chicago market, and in 1856 began a nursery for cherry, apple, and pear trees, later moving into spruce, maple, and elm, and then flowers. By the late 1850s the area had become noted for its truck farms, sending dairy products as well as vegetables to Chicago on the railroad.
First Map (1854) of the Town of Bradley Dunton (Arlington Heights), Illinois.
In 1854 he laid out one-half of his farm into lots, creating the town of “Bradley” named in honor of Peter Bradley who was a great friend of Asa's son, William Dunton. When the village was first platted, it was only four blocks wide by eight blocks long. The first boundaries matched Euclid Street on the north, Arlington Heights Road on the east, Sigwalt Street on the south, and Highland Avenue on the west.

The name was changed to Dunton when it was learned that there was already a Bradley in Illinois near Kankakee. (note the word Dunton was later written in by hand just above Bradley on the plat map).

In 1855, Asa became the Postmaster of Arlington Heights operating out of his house.

Asa Dunton left Lemont in 1847 to return his family to his original claim. The small frame home that Asa erected for his family home stood on open prairie, beside an old Indian trail (Arlington Heights Road), with no neighbors and no roads. It still stands today (2019) at 612 North Arlington Heights Road. Built of hand hewn beams it has withstood the ravages of wind and weather and is today the proud possession of its present owner. Old timers well remember when it was the home of Asa's granddaughter, Mrs. Farwell.

Some of the old pine and spruce trees, a number of which are still standing north of Euclid and east of Arlington Heights Road, were set out by the Dunton Family. The name "Pine Street" was chosen in later years because of that stand of pines, now more than 170 years old, truly a bequest of beauty.

James Dunton resided in his father's home until his marriage in 1849. He built his first home at 623 North Arlington Heights Road, which stood until 1916 when new construction raized the house. There the family lived until James erected the stately three-story home at 619 North Arlington Heights Road in 1869, just before the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The story is told that many local people stood on the flat part of the roof at the rear and watched the conflagration from that vantage point, twenty-two miles from the scene of the blazing city.
Recent picture of 619 North Arlington Heights Road, Arlington Heights, IL.
Recent picture of 619 North Arlington Heights Road, Arlington Heights, IL.
Recent picture of 619 North Arlington Heights Road, Arlington Heights, IL.
The little town at the depot slowly grew, acquiring a blacksmith, a cheese factory, a hardware store, and a hotel. In 1874, the name was changed to Arlington Heights and was incorporated in 1887, when its population numbered about 1,000. Most were farmers, but they were joined by others who worked in Chicago, for Arlington Heights was an early commuter suburb.

The town developed religious institutions that reflected the origins of its citizens; the first churches were Presbyterian (1856) and Methodist (1858), with a German Lutheran church following in 1860; Catholics had no church here until 1905.

By the turn of the century Arlington Heights had about 1,400 inhabitants, and it continued to grow slowly with a good many farms and greenhouses after World War II. By then Arlington Heights was also known for its racetrack, founded in 1927 by the California millionaire H. D. “Curly” Brown on land formerly consisting of 12 farms. Camp McDonald and two country clubs were founded in the 1930s.

The great population explosion took place in the 1950s and 1960s, when the spread of automobile ownership, together with the expansion of the Chicago-area economy, drove the number of people in Arlington Heights—expanded by a series of annexations —up to 64,884 by 1970. By then virtually all the available land had been taken up, and the formerly isolated depot stop found itself part of a continuous built-up area stretching from Lake Michigan to the Fox River.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

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