From the 1874 DuPage Atlas – C.W. Richmond
If you do any research into DuPage history, at some point you will read A History of The County of DuPage Illinois by C. W. Richmond & H. F. Valette which was published in 1857. An engraving of C.W. Richmond’s “res & nursery” also shows up in the 1874 DuPage Atlas. So who were these guys?
Charles W. Richmond seems to have been born in Massachusetts in 1822 or possibly 1830. As his wife Ida was also born in Massachusetts, it seems they arrived in Illinois as adults. The History of the County of DuPage says that "C.W. Richmond of Great Barrington, Mass." was appointed principal of the Naperville Academy sometime during the early 1850s and this is further confirmed by the 1854 Massachusetts Register which lists Charles W. Richmond as an instructor at the Great Barrington Academy.
Once Charles and Ida arrived in Naperville, they became very involved with the community. Charles served as both principal and teacher at the Naperville Academy and later as a School Commissioner and the County Superintendent of Schools. The 1860 census identifies his profession as “teacher” and lists two children, also named Ida and Charles, which makes the research a bit confusing. Two more daughters may have been born later.
For several years, the Richmonds also operated a nursery along the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad tracks, as seen in the 1869 bird’s eye map of Naperville. Nurseries were a big business in Naperville. Lewis Ellsworth ran one on property now owned by North Central College and the Ernst Von Oven family oversaw a large nursery operation at Oswego Road and the Green Acres subdivision.
In 1857, the Village of Naperville was incorporated and Lewis Ellsworth commissioned Richmond to research and write the village’s early history as it hadn’t yet been recorded. Henry F. Valette is listed as a co-author, although only Richmond is mentioned in the Naperville Centennial publication that relates the story.
Valette grew up in Wheaton and wanted to be a lawyer, but had no access to education. Through the years, he studied at home, farmed, attended private school, studied with an Aurora law firm, farmed some more, and taught school. By 1848, he was married, settled in Naperville, and finally finishing his law studies. He formed a law practice with partner H.H. Cody. How exactly Valette and Richmond worked together is unclear. The partnership with Cody was dissolved in 1869 and Valette moved his practice into Chicago.
Richmond seems to have been quite community-minded. He served in leadership positions at St. John's Episcopal Church and was a member of the committee that purchased Naperville's first fire equipment. He was also one of the organizers of a “Masonic and Odd Fellows celebration” held in 1858 on St. Johns Day. Still, it appears the family did not remain in town. The elder Charles and Ida are both buried in Forest Park.
Although neither Richmond nor Valette has descendants in Naperville today, local historians can’t help but bump into both of them constantly while researching!