As our nation honors the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812, the West Chicago City Museum has launched programming showcasing the connections our community has with the historic war.
Below is an introduction to a blog series that will follow this programming written by Cheryl Waterman. Cheryl has done extensive research on the four War of 1812 veterans who are buried in West Chicago’s Oakwood Cemetery. An exhibit based on her research is also on display at the City Museum through the end of the year. We hope you enjoy learning about this historic time period.
On June 18, 1812, the young United States of America, tired of constant interference in their affairs, declared war on Great Britain. Often called the “Forgotten War,” the reasons for this war have often been glossed over in the history books, but it played an important role in our developing nationalism and set the stage for further expansion of the nation.
Originally part of the Northwest Territory, the Territory of Illinois had been split from the Indiana Territory in 1809, and was sparsely settled with various tribes of Indians, French, and some American settlers. It encompassed Illinois, Wisconsin, and parts of Michigan and Minnesota. This territory played a role on the border of the conflict with Great Britain, especially with the raiding and capturing of Chicago and Detroit by the British. Gillum Ferguson of Naperville realized that the role Illinois played in the war had never been fully explored and recently published a recommended scholarly volume, Illinois in the War of 1812.
Why should we be interested in that long-ago war here in West Chicago? Our city and DuPage County did not even exist in those war years, but in later years men who served in that war moved into the area. At least four of these veterans are interred in Oakwood Cemetery: Daniel Benjamin, James Snyder, Daniel Wilson, and Daniel Wood. The stories of their lives are in They Did Their Duty, available at the City Museum or on Amazon.
This past June 30th, the Friends of the West Chicago City Museum presented a special “War of 1812 Oakwood Cemetery Walk” at the graves of these four men with interpreters and approximately 50 people present on a very hot evening. If you missed it, read the next few blog entries as we’ll give you brief summaries of the lives of each veteran.