Darien Local History
Welcome to Darien's local history page! The library has partnered with the Darien Historical Society (DHS) to make some of its historical photos available online. From the library's Flickr page, select the Darien Historical Society collection to view digital photo albums of historical places and people. Explore the local history entries to learn more about Darien's past.
For more information about Darien's history, read Images of America: Darien authored by the members of the Darien Historical Society. Copies are available for purchase during Open House at Old Lace Schoolhouse Museum, or by contacting the historical society.
- Castle Eden, Darien’s “White House”
- Darien Volunteer & Public Library
- Elisha Smart and Family
- IPPL History
- Lord of Life Lutheran Church
- Marion Hills, Illinois
- Our Lady of Mt. Carmel’s Christmas Creche
- Our Lady of Peace Catholic Parish
- Sam Kelley and the Naming of Darien
- St. John Lutheran Church
- The Andrus Family and Cass Community
- U.S. Representative Martin B. Madden
Castle Eden, Darien’s “White House”
Did you know that Darien has a “White House”? Castle Eden (now the Carmelite Spiritual Center, formerly Aylesford) was built in 1903 as a 1/10th scale model of the U.S. White House on the former childhood home (North Frontage and Bailey Roads) of Josephine Smart Madden. Josephine was the daughter of Elisha and Eliza Smart who were early settlers of Cass. Martin B. Madden named the home Castle Eden after one of his favorite childhood places in England. It is said that Madden commissioned the house to be built as a 25th anniversary present for his wife.
Although the land and the building remained part of the Madden estate until 1952, Castle Edenunderwent changes. During the 1930s, the Thayer family of Hinsdale rented Castle Eden and opened it as a restaurant. John Petermann, Madden’s caretaker for Castle Eden, continued to operate the property’s farm. In 1942, Louis Petermann and his family moved into Castle Eden, residing there until 1950.
In 1959, the Carmelites purchased the vacant building, the large carriage house, and ten acres for $65,000 as part of the Aylesford Retreat Center of the Carmelite Fathers. [“Historic Home Aging” by Jennie Korb, Suburban Life, May 7, 2002 p. 14-15]. The Carmelites have maintained the home’s original features including the Panama Room which was built to look like the East Room of the White House. The room’s nickname reflects Representative Madden’s backing of the Panama Canal project. The dining room is modeled after the the Oval Office, and the building still has a lovely curved staircase and stained glass windows. Some oak trees on the property are over 400 years old, and the grounds have trees that were given to Martin B. Madden as gifts.
The Darien Volunteer Library
The Darien Woman’s Club (DWC) initiated a campaign in the 1970s to create a public library for Darien. The establishment of a public library in Darien would become the DWC’s overriding goal for almost a decade. After a DWC-sponsored survey revealed that the community supported bookmobile service, the Club signed a contract with the Suburban Library System. The Club raised $5,000 through door to door donations, baseball games and card tournaments.The City of Darien contributed $3,100 to fund the bookmobile service. After a successful year, the DWC raised another $6,000 to keep the bookmobile service for a second year. Louis Both, a member of the ad hoc library committee and trustee for the bookmobile, proposed a referendum for the creation of a library district which would exist as its own taxing body with its own elected officials. Despite the overwhelming success of the bookmobile service, in July 1973 a referendum to create a public library district in Darien failed. When the City could no longer contribute to funding the bookmobile the service ended.
In 1976, the Darien Woman’s Club and supporters of the bookmobile service revisited the creation of a public library in Darien. Mary Deardorff and Anita Simester spearheaded the DWC’s Project Read (Read Educate Activate Darien). Project Read surveyed residents to assess whether or not there was sufficient community interest in a public library. When the results indicated two to one support for a public library district in Darien, the DWC agreed to fund the costs of another referendum. The referendum was shelved when Darien School District # 61 decided to seek a referendum. Upon the city’s request, Project Read and other library supporters formed an ad hoc library committee to meet with a city committee to discuss ways to establish a library. Members of the ad hoc library committee included: Chairman Louis Both, Mary Deardorff, Robert Bowden, Virginia Koss, and Lori Speckmann.
By the fall of 1977, with the support of the ad hoc library committee, Ward 1 Alderman Mike Merriman chairman of the Administrative/Finance committee decided to bring a recommendation for a city library before the Darien City Council. Although Louis Both and ad hoc library committee favored a library district, he and the committee supported Alderman Merriman’s recommendation for a city library noting that a future referendum could be held to form a library district. A city library would be funded by the city which would appoint the library board—and pursuant to Illinois law could be created without a referendum. Residents who opposed a library did not want to pay additional taxes, and feared that the city council would approve a library without holding a referendum. On December 12, 1977, Merriman’s proposal for a city library was defeated six to two. Instead the council agreed to hold an advisory referendum on the library issue at the next general election on February 19, 1978. When the referendum showed two to one that residents opposed a city library, the City Council dropped its motion. The ad-hoc library committee decided not to move forward with its proposal for a library district.
Undaunted, the DWC continued to raise funds and assess the community’s support for a library. After the referendum defeat, the Darien Woman’s Club held a public meeting to determine whether residents would support a volunteer-run library. On June 8, 1978, the Darien Volunteer Library (DVL) held its first meeting and elected Robert Kampwirth as board president. Other board members included: Louis Both, Mary Ann Bowden, Robert Bowden, Anne Byrnes, Russell Deardorff, Mary Deardorff, Christine DiBartelo, Lori Gustafson, James Koss, Lillian Lela, Jerome Martin, Michael Merriman, Daniel Siebert, and Mary Siebert. Individuals who lived within a five mile radious of 75th and Cass were eleiglibe to join the DVL. The DWC quickly purchased a bookmobile for $3,502 from the Chicago Heights Public Library to serve as the Darien Volunteer Library’s building.
The DWC sold library memberships at their annual Crafts Fair: $5.00 for a family membership, $250 for a life membership, $100 for an annual sponsor, $50 for a patron, and $25 for a contributing member. Residents responded so generously with book donations that the DVL placed book drops at the White Hen Pantry in the Hinsbrook Shopping Center, the State Farm Insurance office, Convenient Center, and at the Chicago Savings an loan on Cass Avenue. Darien School District #61 donated space in north parking lot for the bookmobile’s location. The bookmobile made its first appearance in the Independence Day Parade, and opened to the public on October 14, 1978. Volunteers collected over 3,500 books that they catalogued for opening day.
By October 1979, the DVL had 400 family memberships and 10,000 books in circulation. School District 61 donated a small house on 67th Street where the library stored its overflow of donated books. The collection and use of the library quickly surpassed the bookmobile’s space. When a music store moved from Brookhaven Plaza in February 1981, the DVL rented the 900 square foot space. Although this space was bigger than the bookmobile, it was also too small for the growing library collection. When a larger space became available, the DVL relocated to a second storefront location of 2,000 square feet.
The Darien Public Library District
In 1981, the DVL board received a grant for a demonstration library to serve Darien and unincorporated areas adjacent to the city. The grant required that a referendum on the establishment of a tax-supported library be held within one year. In March 1982, nine years after the DWC’s first referendum, residents approved the establishment of the tax-supported Darien Public Library District. When the 6,000 square feet space that Massey’s Drapery became available, the library moved to this location with plans on remaining in the space for at least five years.
The Darien Library District’s storefront was within one mile of the Willowbrook Public Library’s storefront location. Both libraries struggled with inadequate funding and space for their collections and services. After reviewing their options, the libraries merged to become the Indian Prairie Public Library District on July 1, 1988.
Elisha Smart and Family
Born on February 10, 1816, Elisha Smart emigrated with his parents from England to Monroe County, New York in 1825. Elisha worked for a time as a cooper, and eventually purchased a 100 acre farm. On December 31, 1835, he married Eliza Fell, daughter of Joshua Fell and Mary (Camach) Fell. Elisha sold the farm after a few years, and most likely used the money to finance a move from upstate New York to Illinois. In 1838 Elisha, his wife, and father-in-law arrived in Chicago, Illinois. The men found work in Chicago with William B. Ogden who sent them to DuPage County to make rails. With the money they earned, Elisha and Joshua purchased farmland in the area known as Cass, Illinois.
The following year Joshua Fell moved the rest of his family from upstate New York to Cass. In the spring of 1839, Elisha’s older brother William arrived in Cass, and later that year he married Eliza’s sister, Mary Fell. William Smart became one of wealthiest landowners in Cass, and was an important figure in the pioneer community. In 1844, Elisha’s and William’s parents moved from New York to join their sons in Cass.
To supplement his farm income, Elisha transported goods from local merchants to Chicago and supplied Illinois and Michigan Canal workers with meat. In 1853, Elisha and some neighboring men caught “gold fever” and headed to California to join the Gold Rush. Elisha stayed in California for almost seven years, mining gold and working jobs that sprang up around the gold mines. During his absence, Eliza managed the farm and cared for their eight children. Their oldest son, Wesley, was only eleven years old when his father left for California. With money that Elisha sent home, Eliza purchased additional land. In 1859, Elisha returned home and used the money he made in the Gold Rush to pay off the debt on the 130 acre farm.
Elisha and Eliza Smart had eight children who survived to adulthood. Wesley served in Company B, 3rd Illinois Volunteer Infantry during the U.S. Civil War. Josephine, their youngest child, married Martin B. Madden who would serve as U.S. Representative for the 1st Illinois Congressional district from 1905 until he died in office in 1928. See “U. S. Representative Martin B. Madden.” According to local lore, Martin heard Josephine singing under one of the oak trees on the Smart farm and was instantly smitten. On May 15, 1878, Josephine and Martin were married on the Smart family farm. Sadly, shortly after her marriage, Josephine suffered an infection which left her deaf. The Maddens lived in Chicago and later in Washington, D.C.; their summer home, Castle Eden, was built on the farm where Josephine grew up. Josephine and Martin had one child, Mabel, born on March 8, 1886.
Mabel attended South Division High School in Chicago where she met Paul Henderson whomshe would later marry. Rumors of Mabel’s engagement filled the social pages of the Washington, D.C. newspapers. Mabel held her wedding on the grounds of the family’s summer home Castle Eden, rather than in the milieu of Washington, D.C. On June 11, 1910, Mabel and Paul said their wedding vows under the same tree where Josephine and Martin were married.
Paul Henderson worked for almost nine years at the Western Stone Company where he succeeded Martin B. Madden as president of the company. In 1917, Henderson served in the U.S. Army; he remained in the service after the war and attained the rank of Colonel in the Army Air Services. After leaving the military, he continued to work in aviation and served as the second assistant postmaster general. Colonel Henderson made many improvements to the safety of air mail service flights. Mabel and Paul Henderson had five children: Paul Jr., Martin, Clark, and twins: Josephine and Floranne.
Indian Prairie Public Library District
The Darien and Willowbrook libraries were located in small storefronts within one mile of each other. They served similar populations and struggled with funding. As demand for services and inadequate space became problems, the libraries decided to merge to better serve the public. Trustees from both libraries formed a committee, and in 1986 the libraries received a $34,500 Project L.I.M.E. grant to explore the pros and cons of a merger. On November 3, 1987, 85% of voters from the Darien and Willowbrook Library Districts approved the merger. This merger led to the establishment of the Indian Prairie Public Library District on July 1, 1988.
Residents from both districts submitted suggestions for the new library’s name. Board members from the Willowbrook and Darien libraries chose “Indian Prairie Public Library” as the name. In 1988, the combined library boards purchased 3.9 acres on the southwest corner of Clarendon Hills and Plainfield Roads for $400,000 as the future site of a new library building.
The new library district moved into a rented 8,580 square foot storefront at 337 West 75th Street in the Willow Commons Shopping Center. The site was intended to be temporary as it was too small to serve the combined population of 35,740 residents. During its first year, the library had over 1,000 daily visitors.
Voters flatly rejected a referendum in 1989 which would have funded a 64,000 square foot library and increased operating costs. With input from a Citizens Advisory Committee the library revamped its plans and sought funding for a 35,000 square foot building. Despite the scaled down plans, the referendum failed in 1991. The library board and Citizens Committee continued to work for a new library building to better serve the community. In 1993 voters approved a $4.95 million bond issue for a 34,500 square foot building on land that the district had purchased in 1997 and a one-time allocation of $200,000 to purchase new materials.
On September 11, 1994, the library held a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the new building at the southwestern corner of Clarendon Hills and Plainfield Roads. Construction began in November, but a problem with the fabrication of the steel slowed the progress. On February 16, 1996 the building officially opened to the public. The library’s opening collection included almost 77,000 books, 3,000 videos, and 3, 750 audio cassettes and compact discs. The building encompassed 43,394 square feet which included the basement and 4,000 square feet of unfinished space on the second floor. A dedication ceremony for the new two story building was held on Sunday, April 14, 1996 as part of National Libraries Week.
When the library opened, the second floor had 4,000 square feet of unused space on the second floor. In 2003, the library doubled the size of the meeting room and the Youth Services Department expanded into half of the unused space.
Library Director Lee Schacht retired in 2006 and Jamie Bukovac became director of the library. During October 2010, the library closed to complete a $1.3 million renovation to the interior of the building. The renovation expanded the teen area and created a new family center. The project revamped the lobby, relocated the restrooms on the first floor, and added the Inspiration Café. The magazines and computers were relocated to the first floor.
Lord of Life Lutheran Church
From its inception, Lord of Life Lutheran Church has welcomed residents of Darien and the surrounding community to join their worship community. A member of the
Evangelical Church in American (ELCA), Lord of Life Lutheran Church celebrated its 45th anniversary on September 22, 2013. In June 1968 Pastor Anton Danielson and his wife Sally opened a mission development field office in the area south of Clarendon Hills, Illinois. Within a few months, Pastor Danielson held the first worship service for area residents at Gower West Elementary School. Six months later the Lord of Life Lutheran Church congregation celebrated its “organization Sunday” on April 20, 1969.
By 1970 Lord of Life Lutheran Church had 100 members, 60 of whom were children, and the congregation recognized the need for a church building. A committee initiated a building program in June 1970, and by March 21, 1971, the congregation held its ground breaking service at 725 75th Street, Darien, Illinois. The congregation celebrated its first worship service in the new church on September 26, 1971.
After successfully completing his mission to develop a faith-filled congregation, Pastor Ground Breaking CeremonyDanielson left Lord of Life Lutheran Church in 1976, and Pastor Albert Alspach became the pastor. Under Pastor Alspach’s leadership, the congregation grew to 450 members. The need for more worship space led to a second building program which was initiated in 1983 during Pastor Frederick “Fritz” Wehrenberg III’s tenure. Upon completion of the second building program, the church had a new sanctuary, narthex, and handicapped accessible bathrooms. View A History of Lord of Life Lutheran Church for a time line of key events and a list of pastors who served the community.
Marion Hills, Illinois
After World War II, farmers in Lace, Illinois, began selling lots to individuals who wanted to leave Chicago to live in the country. Marion Hills was the first community to emerge as Lace began transitioning from farmland to residential housing sites. Most of the homes in Marion Hills were shell-constructed and the homeowner completed the building project. Marion Hills covered about two and a half square miles bordered by Route 83, Clarendon Hills Road, 67th and 75th Streets.
Homeowners formed civic and social organizations to improve their burgeoning community. In 1949, residents created the Marion Hills Civic Association to address the lack of municipal services and to provide adequate education for their children. Women who lived in Marion Hills formed the Pioneer Club for socializing and for raising money to support local projects. From 1950 to 1958, members of Marion Hills published mimeographed copies of The Village News to keep residents informed and connected. The Village News later expanded its coverage and circulation to nearby communities of Lace, Tri-State, Palisades, Countryside and Tiedtville.
One of the first issues the Marion Hills Civic Association tackled was the need for a nearby Village News Staffschool for their children to attend. The existing school, Lace, was a one room schoolhouse built to serve local farm children. Its facilities could not accommodate the student population which by 1949 had grown to around 60 students. To deal with the overcrowding, half the students attended Lace School in the morning, and the other half went during the afternoon. Parents were also concerned for their children’s safety as they walked almost one and a half miles along busy roads to reach Lace School. Rather than expand Lace School, homeowners pushed to have a new building constructed at a location closer to their homes.
In 1949, Marion Hills residents passed a referendum to purchase land at Eleanor Place and Plainfield Road to build Marion Hills School. The school opened with four classrooms and a basement gym; enrollment in 1952 was 53 boys and 46 girls. Members of the Marion Hills Bible Church used the school gym to teach Sunday school. Church members worked tirelessly to construct a building which they completed in 1956. The church was located on Plainfield and High Roads across from the school. A steeple and additional Sunday school rooms were added later.
In 1956, homeowners approved the construction of Lace-Marion Hills School to serve students from fifth to eighth grade. The building opened in 1957, and was located just north of the Lace schoolhouse. Students in first to fourth grade attended Marion Hills School; together the schools were known as Lace-Marion Hills. Older students attended Hinsdale Central High School until Hinsdale South High School opened in 1965. Parents not only worked hard to provide their children with a high quality education, but to also provide them with recreational activities. In 1959, a group of fathers formed the Lace-Marion Hills Youth Club which was a baseball league for boys. The Lace-Marion Hills Band Parents’ Association supported band activities such as participation in the Fourth of July parade.
Although residents succeeded in creating schools and recreational activities, the Homeowners Association struggled to provide residents with adequate municipal services. In 1955, the first of several referendums to incorporate failed. Property owners established the Marion-Brook Sanitary District in 1963 to oversee the replacement of septic systems with a sewer system. The following year, the Village of Willowbrook blocked another attempt by Marion Hills homeowners’ to incorporate; efforts to be annexed to the Village of Willowbrook also failed.
From the 1950s to 1960s, additional housing developments and subdivisions began to populate what had once been Lace farmland. As the area’s population increased, so did the need for additional services and schools. In 1968, the Marion Hills Homeowners Association joined representatives from Brookhaven, Hinsbrook, Clarefield, and Knottingham homeowners’ associations to form the Combined Homeowners Study Group to investigate the options of incorporating, annexing to another village, or remaining unincorporated. The study group decided to pursue a referendum to incorporate as a city.
The ballot for the referendum on incorporation required a unique name for the new city. Sam Kelley, President of the Marion Hills Homeowners Association and member of the Combined Homeowners Committee, suggested naming the proposed city “Darien.” Kelley had recently visited Darien, Connecticut which he thought was a pleasant place. After a closely contested vote, Marion Hills became part of the newly incorporated City of Darien on December 13, 1969.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel’s Christmas Creche
In December 1991, the Pastor for Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parish, Reverend Gavin Quinn wanted to purchase a creche for the parish. He learned that Warta Church Goods was selling the creche used in the movie Home Alone. The creche included the crib where eight year old Kevin hides from the burglars. With generous donations from some parishioners, Fr. Gavin purchased the beautiful “Home Alone” creche for the parish.
Our Lady of Peace Catholic Parish
Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church was known as St. Mary’s until 1982. In 1950 Bishop McNamara appointed Father John Savukynas administrator of St. Mary’s Mission, also known as the Tri-State Mission, to serve the growing number of Catholics in the Clarendon Hills area. Within the same year, Father Alphonse Micka (Fr. Al) replaced Fr. Savukynas as administrator. Fr. Al would remain pastor and administrator until he retired in 1997. St. Mary’s Mission continued to grow, and in 1959 it became St. Mary’s Parish. The Marian Fathers at the Marian Hills Seminary assisted Fr. Al in his ministry to the parishioners. The Marian Hills Seminary chapel and grounds served as the first church for St. Mary’s Parish. A beautiful tree-lined driveway led to the chapel where Sunday Mass, weddings, baptisms, and First Communion services were celebrated.
Bishop McNamara believed that St. Mary’s should have its own church building. Consequently, Fr. Al initiated a building fund to purchase land for a future church. In 1959 the parish purchased eight acres on 75th Street and Plainfield Road as the site for a combined church-school building. Fr. Al, local clergy, and parishioners gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony on February 4, 1962. When the church-school building opened in 1963, it had eight classrooms and a gym. The gym served as the church; folding chairs with kneelers provided seating for church services. When the gym was not in use for church services a curtain hid the altar.
St. Mary’s School opened in September 1963 for first graders. After the Sisters of St. Casimir accepted Fr. Al’s invitation to teach at the school, additional grades were added. By 1966 St. Mary’s School provided education for students from first through eighth grade. The rectory, a must needed addition to the parish complex, was built in 1968. Prior to the construction of the rectory, Fr. Al and his assistant pastor Fr. Brown had to travel from their residence at Marian Hills Seminary to the parish complex on 75th Street.
Stained Glass WindowAs the congregation increased, the combined church-school building could no longer adequately serve the parish’s needs. In 1970 the parish formed a building committee for the purpose of constructing a church. The committee selected Ewald Associates as the architect for the building, and commissioned John E. Bera to design and create faceted dalle stained glass windows for the church’s interior. The stained glass windows reflect sunlight throughout the church much as a prisms would and contribute to the contemplative beauty of the church’s interior.
Parishioners enthusiastically supported the church project and helped raise funds. In July 1975 St. Mary’s Parish broke ground for the church and on Mother’s Day, May 7, 1977, the congregation celebrated the first Mass, a First Communion service, in the new building. Fr. Al proudly acknowledged the parishioners’ generosity which allowed the building to be completed debt free. In 1982 Fr. Al requested that St. Mary’s be re-named Our Lady of Peace to distinguish the parish from other area churches called St. Mary’s. On September 12, 1982, Bishop Imesch rededicated the parish. Fr. Al retired in 2006 having served the parishioners of Our Lady of Peace Parish (formerly St. Mary’s) for 42 years. Our Lady of Peace Church remains a vital part of the community and Our Lady of Peace School continues to educate area students.
Sam Kelley and the Naming of Darien
During the July 4, 1968 parade, Sam Kelley (president of the Marion Hills Homeowners’ Association) and three other homeowners’ association presidents discussed the problems their associations faced and the possibility of incorporating as a city. Discussions continued and a referendum on incorporation was held in December 1969. A unique name had to be chosen for the referendum ballot. Kelley who had visited Darien, Connecticut and found it a pleasant place, suggested the proposed city be called “Darien.” Mr. Kelley describes the incorporation efforts in Neighbors of Darien December 2006 Holiday Issue: Darien Celebrates Birthday on December 13.
Sam Kelley served 13 years as a city alderman, and for over 30 years as a board member for the Darien Historical Society. In recognition of his civic contributions, he received the Darien Citizen of the Year Award in 1988.
St. John Lutheran Church
The enduring presence of the St. John Lutheran Church congregation is a testament to its members and to the essential role the church has played in Darien’s history. In 2009, St. John Lutheran Church celebrated its 150th anniversary and published a commemorative history. This excerpt from “150 Years of Sharing God’s Love His Way” and The Doings article from October 8, 2009, page 12, St. John’s Lutheran Celebrates 150-year history provide an excellent overview of St. John’s history.
Here are some interesting facts about St. John Lutheran Church:
On January 22, 1859 three acres of land (67th Street and Clarendon Hills Road) were purchased for $30 to build a church and a cemetery. St. John Lutheran still owns the cemetery.
In 1893 the congregation added a parsonage and a steeple and a bell to the church. The steeple was 10 feet square and 48 feet high.
Conrad Buschmann donated the bell which weighed 921 pounds and cost 168.56. The bell hangs in front the present church.
In 1899 the congregation built a new church on land donated by Conrad Buschmann (where the Taco Bell is today on the corner of 75th Street and Cass Avenue).
In 1915 a monthly service in English was started. In 1922 English services were held (in lieu of German services) on the 1st and 3rd Sundays. In 1950 German services were discontinued.
On August 25, 1968 the last service was held in the Church located at 75th and Cass Avenue.
On September 12, 1971 the current church was dedicated at its present location of 7214 Cass Avenue.
Check out the photos of St. John Lutheran Church and Cemetery on Flickr.
The Andrus Family and Cass Community
Thomas Andrus is believed to be the first settler in the community he named Cass. Thomas first arrived in Chicago in 1833 where he held various jobs, including work on the Illinois and Michigan Canal. He returned to Vermont and came back to the Chicago area in 1835. His first wife Philena Fox with whom he had two children (Mary and Elizabeth) died in 1828. While in Vermont, he married his second wife Melissa Snow Bartlett who accompanied him when he returned to the Chicago area. They had three sons Edgar Smith, Charles William, and Elbridge Gary.
An astute businessman, Thomas established an inn/tavern on his 17 acre farm about 20 miles from Chicago along a busy stage coach line. The farm was located along, what is now the South Frontage Road of 1-55 between Cass Avenue and Lemont Road. The stage coach route followed what would become Route 66. Andrus contributed much to the growth of Cass. He served as a Justice of the Peace, County Commissioner, town Clerk and Assessor. As the community developed, it needed a post office. Once again Thomas filled the need using his inn as the office and serving for 15 years as the Postmaster. Before the post office could be established the community needed a name. Andrus called the community Cass. Thomas also helped establish the Cass Methodist Episcopal Church. Thomas died in 1888; Melissa died in 1883.
Thomas and Melissa’s son Edgar was born in 1835 and is reported to be the first child born in Downers Grove Township. He is said to have to have assisted his father by riding a horse to the Illinois and Michigan Canal which he would swim across to collect the mail. Their second son Charles William served in the 33rd Illinois Infantry during the Civil War. A member of the Andrus family still maintains the Cass Cemetery along Frontage Road.
U.S. Representative Martin B. Madden
U.S. Representative Martin B. Madden deserves more recognition than he has received. During his lifetime, Madden was a national figure of great importance. Time and Madden’s modest nature contributed in part to his lack of recognition. Dean Rodkin, Darien Historical Society, has worked to preserve and publicize Madden’s contributions. Madden’s local connection to Darien was through his marriage to Jospehine Smart, the daughter of Elisha Smart, an early and wealthy settler of Cass.
U.S. Representative Martin B. (Barnaby) Madden
compiled by Dean Rodkin, Archivist Darien Historical Society
Martin Barnaby Madden was born in Wolviston, England, in 1855. Economic hardship in England led to his father’s decision to follow the lead of his wife’s brother-in-law and immigrate to the United States. The family did so in 1869, arriving first in Boston
and then moving to Lemont, Illinois, where his wife’s brother-in-law was living.
Martin persuaded his parents to let him seek work in the Lemont stone quarries. Athens (as Lemont was referred to) limestone was in great demand to meet the growing needs of Chicago. Martin began his career earning 50¢ a day as a water boy at a quarry. In 1870, Martin was transferred to a barge line on the Illinois and Michigan Canal that carried stone to Chicago. However, a year later, he slipped while tying up a barge, and caught his foot between the barge and the canal bank. His leg was so badly mangled that it was amputated at the knee.
Rather than pursue a lawsuit, Martin’s family accepted the company’s offer to employ Martin as a clerk. Thus began a career that eventually led to Martin becoming President of the Western Stone Company in 1895.
In 1878, Martin visited Elisha Smart, a prosperous farmer living in Cass. So the story goes, that as he arrived at the Smart property, he heard Josephine, Elisha’s youngest daughter, singing. Martin fell in love with Josephine and they were married in 1878. A few years after their marriage, an infection damaged Josephine’s hearing. Despite the best care, nothing could be done and Josephine became deaf. Their daughter Mabel was born in 1886.
During the 1880s, Madden decided to enter politics. Martin and Josephine wher living at 3929 Michigan Avenue, Chicago, in Chicago’s 4th ward. Martin served as a member of the Chicago City Council from 1889-1897, and was its presiding officer for four of those years, including 1893, the year Chicago played host to the World’s Columbian Exposition. his political career was capped when he was elected to the United States House of Representatives in which he served from 1905 until his death in 1928 at the age of 73. While in Congress, he served as chairman of the Committee on Appropriations. His stature was confirmed when the fighting “watchdog of the treasury” was accorded a funeral in the House of Representatives.
In 1903, on the site of Josephine Madden’s childhood home, the Maddens built a summer home, rumored to be a 25th wedding anniversary present. The home, located at Bailey Road and the I55 North Frontage Road, is today known as the Carmelite Spiritual Center, formerly called Aylesford. Martin called it Castle Eden after a place in England. Castle Eden was built to be a replica of the White House in Washington, D.C.
Josephine Madden died in 1934. Both she and Martin are buried in Cass Cemetery along the I55 North Frontage Road.
According to Thomas Robert Bullard who in 1973, wrote in his doctoral thesis, “From Businessman to Congressman: The Careers of Martin B. Madden,” “Martin B. Madden was a multi-faceted political leader whose career mirrored the issues of the forty years from 1889 through 1928. Despite frequent problems and occasional defeats, he rose from a humble childhood to national power. When he died in 1928 he had outlived nearly all of his contemporaries: . . . . . Madden had endured, and the public reaction to his death reflected his worth.”