Warren L. Wheaton

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Warren L. Wheaton (1812-1903) was an American farmer, teacher, legislator, businessman, philanthropist, and benefactor and namesake of Wheaton College and Wheaton, Illinois.

Early life[edit]

Warren Lyon Wheaton was born in Pomfret, Connecticut on March 6, 1812 to James and Nancy Lyon Wheaton, both natives of New England. Wheaton's family was descended from Reformed Baptist Puritans from the United Kingdom, who helped found the First Baptist Church in Massachusetts and who were sympathetic to Roger Williams. Wheaton's grandfather, James Wheaton, lived in Providence, Rhode Island and fought in the Revolutionary War. Warren Wheaton was the eldest of thirteen children. He attended the Woodstock Academy in Woodstock, Connecticut and became a school teacher after attending the academy for a-year-and-a-half. He also served in the local militia.[1][2][3]

Move to West[edit]

After hearing about the fertile farmland in Illinois from Erastus Gary, Wheaton visited there in 1837 and returned permanently in 1838, followed by his brother, Jesse. While staying with Erastus Gary in Illinois, Wheaton experienced a conversion to Christianity, as did his brother, Jesse, and they both eventually became members of a Methodist church. Warren Wheaton then started farming in Du Page County, Illinois after receiving some government land there, laying claim to 640 acres (2.6 km2) of land in the center of town. Jesse Wheaton later made claim to 300 acres (1.2 km2) of land just west of Warren's.[4] Other settlers from New England soon joined the Wheaton settlement. In 1850, ten blocks of land were platted and anyone who was willing to build immediately was granted free land. In 1853, the lots were surveyed and a formal plat for the city was filed with the county. The city was then incorporated in 1859 with Warren serving as its first President. In 1848 Warren Wheaton married Harriet E. Rickard of Pomfret, Connecticut and had six children before she died after giving birth to their last child in 1863, and Wheaton later remarried to Christiana Shugg who died 1899 after over twenty years of marriage. Wheaton was elected to the legislature by 1848 as a Democrat and persuaded the railroad to locate through his settlement and encouraged other settlers to locate there.[2][3]


He donated land and funds to various churches and civic organizations, including land for a Methodist church, land for a new courthouse, a railroad right-of-way, and large donations of land and cash to Wheaton College, which was named in his honor. He also made large donations to the Aurora Institute, Clark Seminary, and Evanston College. Wheaton also helped form the Mutual Security Company of Wheaton and contributed to the Milwaukee, Galena and Chicago Telegraph Company. A large birthday celebration was held for Wheaton on his ninetieth birthday with students and faculty from Wheaton College presenting gifts. Warren Wheaton died the following year on February 1, 1903 at the age of ninety.[2][3]


  1. ^ Green's Connecticut Annual Register and United States Calendar (Samuel Green, 1832) pg. 93
  2. ^ a b c Newton Bateman, Paul Selby, Historical encyclopedia of Illinois, Volume 2, (Munsell Pub. Co., 1913) pg. 1074-1075
  3. ^ a b c Portrait and Biographical Record of Cook and Dupage Counties, Illinois ...(Lake City Publishing Company, 1894), pg. 120
  4. ^ "History of Wheaton, Illinois". City of Wheaton. 2010. Retrieved 20 July 2010.