Early History of Glen Ellyn
The first European-American settlers to this area arrived in 1833 when three Babcock brothers took claim of land in what is now, partially, the Five Corners intersection of St. Charles, Geneva and Main Streets. That area was called Babcock’s Grove, and included part of what would become Lombard. In 1834, the Churchill family arrived and staked their claim nearby, along St. Charles Road and Swift Road. Additional families, mostly from the New England area, soon arrived. A log cabin schoolhouse was constructed, and was the community’s first public building. The Stacy family arrived and purchased land on what is now Geneva Road, where they constructed a wayside inn in 1846, “a sort of tavern for the land-seekers and travelers.” This building is still on its original foundation and is Glen Ellyn’s only museum: Stacy’s Tavern Museum. The community became known as Stacy’s Corners.
The residents of Stacy’s Corners tried to persuade the new railroad to lay tracks by their community. But Dr. Lewey Newton owned land in what we now call “downtown” and he deeded a right of way through his land to the railroad in 1848. This shifted the heart of the community a mile south. He built a train station at his own expense, and this stop became known as Newton Station. The first train passed through Glen Ellyn in 1849. In 1851, David Kelley became station agent. There was already a Newton town in Illinois, so he named it Danby for his birthplace in Vermont.
By the beginning of the Civil War, DuPage County’s population had grown to 15,262. Danby sent 70 of its men, over 20% of the population, to fight, most in the Eighth Illinois Cavalry. Marcellus Jones, from Danby, fired the first shot at the Battle of Gettysburg.
Baseball was introduced to Glen Ellyn by two University of Michigan alumni, Lawrence Cooper and Doc Harcourt. A local club known as the Rustics played against the Excelsiors (which later became the White Stockings) in 1865 and lost 102 to 2.
The quiet country village of Danby changed its named in 1874 to Prospect Park, after some of the men who returned from the Civil War had altered the town’s reputation to “rowdyish” with their behavior. In the 1880’s Prospect Park transformed into a Chicago suburb. The creation of Lake Ellyn by damming up a stream, and the mineral springs which attracted visitors, were further changing the town’s character. Successful businessman and author Thomas E. Hill settled here in 1885 with his wife Ellen. It is thought that the town’s name was changed to Glen Ellyn after Mrs. Hill, given her Welsh heritage and the Welsh spelling of Ellyn; and for the village’s lovely glens. The Glen Ellyn Hotel and Springs Company enhanced the springs and built Hotel Glen Ellyn, which was struck by lightning and destroyed by fire in 1906. An 1891 fire had destroyed almost the entire west side of Main Street. The Glen Ellyn Volunteer Fire Department was organized in 1907, and remains vibrant to this day.
Glen Ellyn Historical Society © 2013