Westmont Village Beginnings
The area known as Westmont was inhabited by the Potawatomi Indians prior to the year 1833. The U.S. Government made several unsuccessful attempts to persuade the Indians to move from this area, until, in the year 1833, the Indians held a general council in Chicago and, under coercion, agreed to vacate their land for nominal payment.
The Indians had established an elaborate system of trails, which later became the settler’s first highways including The Buffalo Trail and the Ottawa and LaSalle Trail. The Buffalo Trail, today named Naperville Road, was later used as a stage line between Chicago and Naperville. The Ottawa and LaSalle Trail is today designated as Ogden Avenue or Route 34.
The first permanent settler in DuPage County was Bailey Hobson who passed through the Westmont area in the year 1829, on his way to the Naperville settlement. The French trapper and hunter, Francois DuPage, after whom the county was named, traveled through the area in the late 18th century. Father Pierre Marquette is reported to have walked through the township during his visit to the Indians on the banks of the Des Plaines River.
One of the motivating forces behind the development of Westmont may have been improved canal transportation. The Illinois-Michigan Canal can be identified with the early growth of Westmont. Although the State of Illinois authorized the building of the canal in the 1820s, construction did not begin until the 1830s. The economic panic of 1837, brought the rapidly progressing construction to a standstill, which resulted in many of the workers taking up farming in the area around Westmont.
The settlers cleared the land and agriculture became the major occupation. Because of their proximity to Chicago, the farmers had a ready market for their agricultural products. Hard work and excellent soil was attractive to New Englanders who settled here and the area around Westmont was one of the most prosperous sections of the state.
A nine mile swamp between this area and Chicago resulted in the construction of a plank road. The road, originated in Chicago in the year 1840, passed through Westmont, and was completed to Naperville in the year 1851. The road, which permitted travel in all seasons, proved to be an economical means of sending farm produce to Chicago markets, even though maintenance was a huge problem.
The plank road soon became inadequate for this growing area, so, in 1858, local incorporated towns and villages petitioned the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad to build a branch line from Chicago to Aurora passing through their towns. The railroad line was approved and, in 1864, the first train passed through the area.
Gregg’s Station, the name by which Westmont was first known, began as a stop to load agricultural and dairy products on the train. It soon began a gradual transition from an agricultural community to a commuter community. Fields and dairy herds gave way to developments and formal platting of land began.