In its earliest incarnations, the Village of Bartlett, Illinois was an old-time camping and hunting ground for the Potawatomi, Ottawa, Miami, and Cherokee Indians. At various other times in the past, Spain, France, Virginia, England, the Northwest Territory, and Indiana also staked their claim to Bartlett. In fact, if not for the fortuitous intersection of the Chicago and Pacific Railway and 40 acres of land belonging to farmer Luther Bartlett, the Village of Bartlett, as we know it today, might never have come to pass.
The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 opened the way for the western migration of New Yorkers and New Englanders to the Midwest. Luther Bartlett, born in 1817 in Conway, Massachusetts, made his way to Michigan in 1842 and moved to Illinois the following year. Luther and his physician brother Lyman bought 320 acres of farmland in Wayne Township in 1844 and another 345 acres the following year. Luther first tried his hand at sheep farming, but abandoned this when the price of wool went down. He then planted wheat. Luther lived on the farm with his wife Sophia and their 11 children until his death in 1882. Another brother, Edwin, established Ontarioville to the east, which was later incorporated into Hanover Park.
In 1873, when many a town lived or died according to its proximity to a railroad line, Colonel Roselle M. Hough, president of The Chicago and Pacific, began building a route west to Elgin, Illinois, to challenge the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad. People donating land for depots along the right-of-way were allowed to name the villages that were formed. Luther Bartlett donated a 40-acre "woodlot," the source of the Bartlett family's lumber and firewood, and named the town Bartlett. The original train depot still stands today and continues to serve as the heart of downtown.
The railroad was a vital link between the dairy farmers in the area and the city. The old Set-Screw factory, which stood next to the railroad line until just recently, was formerly the Huntley Dairy. It wasn't long before the area around the Bartlett train depot was found to be a hospitable home for the factories, stores, saloons and houses being built by the large number of German immigrants who settled the area.
Adorning their storefronts and homesteads with names like Schick and Struckman, Schultz and Thurnau, Krumfuss and, Niewisch, it is these founding families of Bartlett that laid the tracks for growth. They founded Immanuel United Church of Christ, which was first built to serve the local German-speaking population and is now Bartlett's oldest continuing congregation. In the 1880s, they built Bartlett School, which has at various times served children in kindergarten through high school and has always served as a civic and social hub for the Bartlett community. These first families also spearheaded the incorporation of the Village and served as the first civic leaders.
The Village of Bartlett got its official start on Feb. 11, 1891 when the petition for incorporation was filed in Springfield, Illinois. The election for incorporation was held in Herman Niewisch's Hall on Feb. 28, 1891, and it resulted in a 49-0 vote in favor of the motion. George Struckman, a 2nd lieutenant in the Civil War and a Springfield legislator in the 1880s, was elected as the first Village President on March 24, 1891. In that same election, Louis Stumpf became the Village Clerk, and John Carr, Jacob Schmidt, August Schick, Herman Niewisch, Charles F. Schultz and Henry Waterman were chosen as Village Trustees.
The new century brought growth, progress and modern issues to Bartlett. In 1901, the Village Board approved a franchise for two telephone companies, which eventually merged and became Illinois Bell Telephone Co. The first automobile arrived in the Village in 1908 and several homes were constructed in the new Schnadt subdivision in 1909. By 1910, the Village had a population of 408, and there were 200 phones in town. An ordinance to adopt the first speed limits in the Village was passed in 1915. Cars were barred from going faster than 15 miles per hour on straight roads and 10 miles per hour when turning.
In 1920s Bartlett as today, the social event of every year was the 4th of July Parade. There was 100% participation. Patriotic residents were either in the parade or served as enthusiastic spectators. During the Great Depression, residents found some cheer by coming downtown to watch free outdoor movies. They would sit on long benches not far from the train station. The movie would be stopped briefly whenever a train came through. In the 1940s, America joined the war effort and so did Bartlett. A local chapter of the National Defense Council was organized, citizens were instructed in the handling of incendiary bombs and Victory Gardens were planted throughout the town.
It wasn't until the 1950s that the Village experienced its first round of incredible growth. The 1960 census showed a population of 2,291 people, a 220% increase in just 10 years time and an auspicious foreshadowing of the booming suburban community of more than 40,000 that Bartlett is today.