History of DuPage Township

In the United States…
Townships are the oldest form of government that continues to operate today. American settlers dating back to 1636 instituted this form of government to escape European autocratic governance. This purely grassroots democratic process was utilized at town meetings, when residents of surrounding areas would come together to discuss important issues and establish laws.

In Illinois…
Township government was launched in 1849, after the Illinois Constitution of 1848 allowed voters in each county to choose to establish township governments or a county commission form of government without township units. Today, 85 of the 102 counties in Illinois operate under the township form of government. There are currently 1,433 townships in the state serving more than eight million residents.

About Townships…
Townships are individual geographic areas that are separate from cities and counties. For example, a large city may contain several townships while one township may encompass several small towns. Township government operates at local levels and was designed to serve the basic needs of the community. It is the form of government that operates in close proximity to the people it serves. In many rural areas, townships are the only unit of government available to provide social services and road maintenance.

Township Functions…
Illinois townships are required by law to perform three functions:

  • General Assistance – Offer food, shelter or emergency relief for people in need until they become self-supporting or qualify for other forms of assistance.
  • Property Assessment – The Township Assessor sets property values for all properties within the township.
  • Road and Bridge Maintenance – Townships collectively maintain approximately 71,000 miles of Illinois roads. This represents more than half of the road miles in the state.

Yet, DuPage Township goes that extra step additionally offering…
Senior Citizen and Youth Services as well as Informational and Educational Services

Locally…
At first glance, it seems puzzling that DuPage Township would be the name given to an entity that clearly caters to the needs of Will County residents. However, given a deeper understanding of the Township’s origins, the name makes perfect sense.

Where the name came from…
Before both Bolingbrook (circa 1965) and Romeoville (circa 1960) were incorporated, people who lived within either of those boundaries were considered residents of the “Town of DuPage”.
Following this logic, the Township adopted the name ‘DuPage’ which best represented the geographic area containing those people the Township was formed to serve.

History of DuPage Township…
Established April 2, 1850, the handwritten entry (an example of perfect cursive penmanship) charmingly captured the proceedings of the annual town meeting which was held at the school house near Seth Wescott in the “Town of DuPage”.

What proceeded was a drafting of by-laws, an organizational outline, and an election of officers. It is interesting to note that the names of founding officers have been memorialized and are still present today. The road ‘Boughton’ which spans Bolingbrook’s east and west boundaries derived its name from Collector and Constable Mathew C. Boughton. Boardman Cemetery (also located in Bolingbrook) harkens back to Harry Boardman, whose title was recorded as “Overseer of the Poor.” Finally, Will County Forest Preserve District’s Whallon Lakes Dog Park bears the last name of the Moderator and Overseer of Highway District #5.

A meeting journal entry (that proceeded the turn of the century) targeted one of the “Town of DuPage’s” major concerns… animal control.  In the mid 1800’s there appeared to be a tendency for residents to allow bulls, calves, sheep, lambs, goats, stallions, and jacks wander at large throughout town limits. To address this issue, Saseton Smith assumed responsibility for maintaining a pound. Because the pay was, in a word, free; it was written into public record that any animal that had not been claimed for a period of five days automatically became his property.

Archives…
DuPage Township has the added responsibility of maintaining the detailed records of public meetings since its founding on April 2, 1850. There are far more stories yet to be discovered in the volumes of books that offer a snapshot of a time long gone.

Conclusion…
Reflecting on more than 150 years of DuPage Township history offers a glimpse into the past and helps residents more readily recognize the role of a governmental unit that has never strayed from its founding mission.