Joseph Naper

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Joseph Naper
Joseph Naper Photogragh.jpg
Joseph Naper town founder of Naperville, Illinois, circa 1850s-1860s
Died1862 (aged 64)
Resting placeNaperville Cemetery, Naperville, Illinois
Other namesJoe Naper, Captain Joseph Naper
Occupationship captain, shipbuilder, surveyor, businessman, state militia officer, soldier, politician, city planner
Known forbeing the promoter and co-founder of Naper's Settlement in 1831, the oldest frontier Illinois town
Spouse(s)Almeda Landon
RelativesJohn Naper (brother), Benjamin Naper (brother), Amy Naper Murray (sister), John Murray (brother-in-law), Betsy Goff Naper (sister-in-law)

Joseph Naper, also known as "Joe Naper" and "Captain Joseph Naper" (1798–1862), was an early Illinois pioneer, ship captain, shipbuilder, businessman, surveyor, state militia officer, soldier, politician, and city planner. In 1831, Naper and his brother John were credited with founding Naper's Settlement, the oldest Illinois community to be established west of Fort Dearborn, now Chicago. Naper's Settlement would be renamed Naperville, becoming the oldest town and first county seat of DuPage County, Illinois, later moved by county vote in 1868 and displaced by Wheaton.

Early life[edit]

Joseph Naper was born in Bennington, Vermont and traveled west with his parents during his youth to Ashtabula, Ohio, where he learned to be a ship builder from his father. In 1809, Joseph Naper's sister Amy Naper married John Murray of Ashtabula, Ohio, who would later become one of the founding settlers of Naperville, Illinois. The Naper family ships traded goods on the Great Lakes, frequently stopping at Fort Dearborn on Lake Michigan. On an early trip, Naper acquired lots near the fort, as did many of the first settlers to reach the Chicago River port.

Town builder and politician[edit]

On a later trip in 1831, on the Telegraph, a ship built by Joseph Naper, he was joined by his brother John Naper. The Naper families and five other families settled in the area, first known as Naper's Settlement, which later would become a part of DuPage County. Joseph Naper platted the town of Naperville, surveying the property and was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives for the first time in 1836. Here, Naper laid the groundwork and supervised passage of the 1839 bill which separated DuPage County from Cook County. Joseph Naper also served on the same committee with Abraham Lincoln, then a newly elected legislator from the Springfield area.

Military service[edit]

Joseph Naper served as an Illinois Militia captain in the Black Hawk War of 1832 and was one of the many DuPage County men who served in the Mexican War of 1846.

Businessman and village president[edit]

In the 1850s, Joseph Naper was one of the founding stockholders for the short-lived "Southwest Plank Road", now Ogden Avenue/U.S. Route 34, which improved transportation between Aurora, Illinois and Chicago. Another major plank road stockholder was Colonel Julius M. Warren of nearby Warrenville. Joseph Naper returned to the Illinois General Assembly in 1852. His aggressive actions again provided a means for establishing new communities within the state of Illinois. In 1857, Naper became the first village president of Naperville. As many early settlers had done, Naper engaged in a number of trades and businesses as he helped to develop Naperville and Dupage County.


In 1862, Joseph Naper died in Naperville, Illinois and was buried in Naperville Cemetery.


  • Richmond, C.W. and H. F. Valletta. A history of the county of DuPage, Illinois. Chicago: 1857.
  • Richmond, C.W. History of DuPage County, Illinois, Aurora, IL: Knickerbocker & Hodder, 1877.
  • Blanchard, Rufus. History of DuPage County, Illinois. Chicago: O.L. Baskin & Company, 1882.
  • DuPage Roots. Wheaton, IL: Du Page County Historical Society, 1985.
  • Gingold, Katharine Kendzy (2007). Ruth by Lake and Prairie; True Stories of Early Naperville. Gnu Ventures Company. ISBN 978-0-9792419-0-1.
  • Williams, William W. (1878). History of Ashtabula Co., Ohio. William Bros.
  • Anonymous (1894). Portrait and Biographical Record of Cook and DuPage Counties. Lake City Publishing Company.
  • Naperville, Illinois History Page
  • A photograph of Capt. Naper