Willard Scott in Holland’s 1886 Directory
Naperville had two bankers listed in Holland’s 1886 Directory, both of which were also merchant tailors first. Last time, we looked at George Reuss. Across the street from Reuss’s shop was that of Willard Scott who had been around even longer.
In the early 1800s, Stephen Scott decided to move his family from Maryland to stake out a claim in Illinois. He sailed through the Great Lakes, much like Joseph Naper would a few years later. Rather than in the fledgling settlement near Fort Dearborn, Stephen chose land near Grosse Point, now part of Evanston. A few years after settling there, Stephen learned that their homestead had been awarded to the family of Antoine Ouilmette following the Prairie du Chien treaty. During hunting trips, the Scotts had explored land around the DuPage River and decided to relocate there, a few miles out from the Naper Settlement area. This was in 1830, the summer before Joseph Naper arrived with his community.
Stephen’s son, Willard, was already a young man when the family moved to Illinois. During a journey to Peoria, he stopped at the Hawley homestead. Smitten by the daughter of the house, he asked her to marry him. Caroline refused the one-day’s courtship proposal and he continued his journey. On the way back home, Willard stopped again at the Hawley’s and repeated his proposal. This time, Caroline said “yes” and they were married July 22, 1829.
After a time, the Scott family, including both Caroline and Willard’s parents, moved from their farms and into the Naperville town proper. Willard and Caroline started a family and had three sons who grew into adulthood. One of Willard’s early businesses was the Naperville Hotel, which he ran for a number of years. By the 1840s, Willard and his oldest son, Thaddeus, were operating a general store on Washington Street. The business thrived and as Willard’s good reputation grew, farmers who traveled into town for supplies started asking him to hold their money. Officially, Willard started his private bank in 1854, the same year George Reuss was immigrating from Bavaria to New York.
The bank survived the Civil War, as did the Scott sons, and the merchant business grew, but within just a few years, Thaddeus died at a New York restaurant after choking on his food. Willard, Jr. then stepped into the store partnership and in the late 1860s, bought out the business from his father, leaving Willard, Sr. to focus on the bank.
The store, which was about where Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea is today, was enlarged and remodeled in the 1870s. A separate building was attached to one side for the bank and a spacious second floor ball room was added. For many years, Scott’s Hall was the largest space available and it used for community meetings, celebrations, graduations, and similar gatherings.
Around the same time, Willard Sr. was building his grand Italianate mansion on the corner of Washington Street and Franklin Avenue. It still exists today as the River Valley Law Firm and there are several interesting stories about it. Strangely, a photo in the Naperville Centennial book is labeled “Home of Willard Scott I, Corner of Washington Street and Franklin Avenue,” but that’s not the Italianate mansion in the picture. Perhaps the frame building in the photo was Willard, Jr.’s house on Jefferson?
Another oddity is the front-page ad that ran for several weeks in The Naperville Clarion saying that Willard Scott & Co. was going out of business. These ads were published in January of 1886, the same year as the Holland’s Business Directory. Willard, Jr. seems to have sold the store in 1905, so it’s puzzling as to what the Clarion ads mean. Willard and Caroline lived good, long lives and their sons and daughters-in-law were quite active in town. Both Alvin and Willard, Jr. served as trustees in the village government for many terms and later, Alvin became treasurer and Willard, Jr. became mayor. Willard, Jr. was also the first fire marshall and his wife, Etta, was instrumental in launching the Naperville Women’s Club and they are all buried in the Naperville Cemetery except for patriarch Stephen Scott, the first to settle. Stephen’s burial place is unknown, however. Adventurous even into his seventies, Stephen started for California to pursue gold-mining and was not heard from again.