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Short Posts of Historic Facts and Events in Illinois

Published on Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Notable Naperville Women -- Named "Naper"

Gravestone of Almeda Naper, wife of Joseph
Traditionally May is Heritage Month in Naperville, including Civil War Days which is May 20 and 21. So let’s take a look at the women who were here at the beginning. 

It’s Joseph Naper’s bigger-than-life statue in the park on Mill Street and Jefferson Avenue, but he certainly didn’t found this town without some help.The first settlers included his brother John Naper, his brother-in-law John Murray and their pretty remarkable wives.

When these three families arrived 1831, this land was the western frontier with a just a couple of families, such as the Hobsons, in the area.


Joseph and John Naper were in their early 30s, experienced and in the prime of their lives. Joseph’s wife Almeda was a thirty-one-year-old mother with three young children. John’s wife Betsy was even younger, just twenty-three, with a couple of preschoolers in tow. Both women would more than double the size of their families in Naperville. 

Gravestone of Amy Naper Murray,
wife of John Murray
and sister of Joseph and John Naper
The Murray family was of a slightly older generation. Amy Naper was probably a half sister of Joseph and John from a previous marriage of their father. She was keeping house for another brother, Benjamin, in the earliest days of Ashtabula, Ohio when Joey and Johnny were just tykes. That’s where she met John Murray who was a school teacher in the newly-settled town. Naperville wasn’t the Murray’s first pioneering gig.

The Murrays already had a married daughter whose husband, child and in-laws were also among the earliest Naperville inhabitants.

Robert Naper, the father of Joseph, John and Amy died in Ohio before the family relocated to Illinois, but his wife Sarah is buried in the Naperville Cemetery. She would have been in her mid-sixties when she helped hack a settlement out of the prairie. 

With only each other to rely on, it’s remarkable that these women fed and clothed their families, gave birth and tended illnesses and injuries in this isolated wilderness. 

1874 map of Naperville showing
Betsy Naper's land
Almeda and Betsy both outlived their spouses by decades, although Amy predeceased her husband. The Naper bloodline apparently burned bright rather than long.
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Author: Kate Gingold Host

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