The DuPage River of our downtown Riverwalk is technically the West Branch. The East Branch breaks away around 95th Street. Joseph Naper’s first endeavor in town was a sawmill that he later repurposed as a flour mill. But there was a second sawmill on the East Branch operated by Stephen Scott.
In 1825, Stephen moved his family from Maryland to Grosse Point (the Evanston area). On a hunting trip in the summer of 1830, he checked out the DuPage River and decided to relocate. They moved later that year, months ahead of Naper’s settlers.
By 1839, the Scotts were operating a sawmill on the East Branch to help the growing community build homes and shops. A flood washed away the mill in the late 1800s, but by that time the Scotts had already moved into town.
Stephen’s son Willard Sr. became a storekeeper and banker for the fledgling town and Willard Jr. continued the “pillar of the community” tradition. The impressive Italianate house on Washington Street that now houses attorneys was built in 1867 for Willard Sr.
The Scott family rests in the local cemetery — all but Stephen, the first Napervillian — and no one knows where he is buried. While in his 70s, Stephen was caught up in Gold Rush fever. He started for the west in 1849 and died around 1854, but there are no other details on record.
The Scott family’s rise to prosperity, mirroring that of the town, inspired the creation of “Reflections on Scott’s Mill.”
Chicago-based installation artist and sculptor Lucy Slivinski was chosen to create this representation of Scott’s Mill. Slivinski is known for using salvaged materials in her work and this piece features old gears, chains, hooks and other metal pieces reminiscent of a 19th century water-powered sawmill.
The sculpture welcomes visitors to the Knoch Knolls Nature Center, operated by the Park District. Indoors, there are exhibits for families to learn