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Lambert: A Short Street Honors a Man Who Had Big Plans

Arnold Street was named in honor of Levi Arnold, a Plainfield pioneer who helped put the village on the stagecoach route.

The Inquiry

Recently, the village discussed the , which intersect with Route 59 near Main Street. What is the history of these streets?  

The Facts

The two streets are part of the street grid that was laid out by the late 1830s.

The reasons behind the naming of Oak Street are unclear. The street didn't have a name on early maps of the village. During the 1930s, the village board officially designated the roadway as Oak Street.

Arnold Street, however, was named for the pioneer Arnold family, whose land development played an integral role in establishing Plainfield as we know it today.

Originally, the short street was identified as Illinois Street although it did not align with the street of the same name in . The designation of Arnold Street was adopted by the village in the mid-1930s. 

Levi Arnold is believed to have met fellow when the two lived on the St. Joseph Prairie, which stretched across southwest Michigan and northwest Indiana. 

Levi Arnold, a bachelor, likely traveled to this area in the company of the Mathers family in 1831 or 1832. He staked claims along the DuPage River and at several locations throughout present-day Kendall County, and then returned to Indiana to marry Maria Skinner in 1833.

Opportunity Comes Knocking

Within a short time, the newlyweds had settled at Kendall County, which at that time had not been set off from Kane County.  Although the couple remained friends of the Mathers family in Plainfield, Arnold’s relocation to a spot north of Walkers’ Grove was strictly an act of opportunity.

Throughout Illinois’ settlement period, most pioneers traveled by wagon or horseback. Stagecoaches, however, provided suitable transportation for businessmen, women, visitors from the East and elected officials. Also, stage lines became the primary carrier of U.S. mail. 

In January 1834, stagecoach service in the region was initiated by Dr. John T. Temple of Chicago. Temple had the political connections to secure the mail contract from Chicago to Peoria and the money to buy a coach and set up the necessary way stations. 

Temple’s route ran between Chicago and Ottawa, passing through Walkers’ Grove.

Many stages that crisscrossed the state were nine-passenger, four-horse "post coaches." Cramped and uncomfortable, stagecoaches were stifling in the summer and frigid in the winter. Conditions in the small, wayside inns and taverns along the route were no more hospitable. Travel conditions were described as “unpleasant at best and appalling at worst.” 

Arnold realized the great opportunity at Walkers’ Grove and established a friendship with Temple. 

Arnold’s land—adjacent to the DuPage River and straddling the Chicago-Ottawa Road—lay at the strategic mid-point of the newly-inaugurated stage route. Not only could Arnold establish a small inn, but he could provide a stable for the teams of horses that pulled the coaches.

Like other pioneers, Arnold knew the establishment of a federal post office was a windfall for any pioneer settlement. Such a franchise offered offered legitimacy and increased land values.

In 1834, Arnold secured the post office and erected a one-and-a-half story, wood-framed home along the Chicago-Ottawa Road. The Arnold Tavern was situated between the early pioneer settlement of Walkers’ Grove and Mathers’ new mills under construction further upstream.

The Arnold home and tavern was a small building. Overnight male guests likely slept on the floor of the attic loft. Female guests may have been invited to share the bedstead with Mrs. Arnold and her infant daughter.

Disagreement from the Beginning

During the next months, Arnold laid out streets on his land and he allowed others to build upon the land that he owned. But he did not record a plat to establish a new town.

In August 1834, Chester Ingersoll platted the town of Plainfield immediately south of Arnold’s land. Ingersoll sold his town lots to other settlers who, in turn, erected buildings.

Historical accounts record that Ingersoll and Arnold were “at loggerheads” regarding the early development of Plainfield.  In retrospect, it is easy to understand why.

In addition to their differing ideas about land ownership, Ingersoll favored a formal arrangement of square blocks surrounding a formal public square. Arnold, on the other hand, allowed haphazard, random development on his large parcel of land abutting the DuPage River.

Frustrated over many issues, Arnold leased his inn in 1836 to Dr. Wight of Naperville, who promptly enlarged the building.

By mid-1836, the Arnold family had relocated to land near present-day Oswego. There, he and Lewis Brinsmaid Judson founded the town of Hudson in 1835. Arnold served as postmaster there as well.

Not yet 40 years old, Levi Arnold died, unexpectedly, in 1845. 

Arnold’s wife Maria and an executor named Lucien P. Sanger formalized the development that had occurred over 10 years along the DuPage River. Within a few years, most of the Arnold land at Plainfield had been sold to others. 

Known as “Arnold’s Addition,” the large tract linked the two towns of Plainfield and East Plainfield, platted by Ingersoll and Mathers & Turner, respectively. Today, it's an integral part of what we now know as the village's historic core.

Sheila Raddatz December 08, 2011 at 02:56 PM
Interesting. This article sure sheds a different light on the thought of closing the road that was posted on Patch earlier in May. http://plainfield.patch.com/articles/board-wants-residents-input-before-deciding-to-close-oak-or-arnold-streets
Hugo December 08, 2011 at 08:00 PM
These are great. Keep 'em coming.

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