History of Wheaton

Erastus Gary sepia portrait

Founders

A glimpse into Wheaton’s history begins with its founders: Erastus Gary, Jesse Wheaton and Warren Wheaton. The trio traveled west from New England and claimed hundreds of acres of land in northeastern Illinois in 1837 and 1838. There, they began to lay important cornerstones for what would become the City of Wheaton.

In a strategic move, they offered the budding railroad several miles of free right-of-way through the growing area. Rail workers posted a sign, “Wheaton Depot,” giving the community its name. The founders gave away land surrounding the station to those who were willing to build immediately.

Warren Wheaton black and white photo portraitThe region began to prosper, and Wheaton incorporated as a village in 1859 with Warren Wheaton serving as its first president. He donated a parcel of land to the Illinois Institute, which was renamed Wheaton College in his honor. The historic campus of this nationally accredited college remains an important community fixture nearly 150 years later.

In 1867, the Wheaton brothers led a successful campaign to move the DuPage County government seat from Naperville to Wheaton. A referendum vote approved the move by a narrow margin of 1,686 to 1,635. In present-day Wheaton, the complex on the west side of town acts as theJesse Wheaton black and white portrait central hub for DuPage County government.

Many landmarks from Wheaton’s past still exist today as reminders of its distinctive history and culture. Wheaton’s roots can be seen in the presence of the railroad, former county courthouse and Wheaton College, which remain integral parts of the community.

History of Wheaton Government

1859: Wheaton Incorporates as a Village

On February 24, 1859, Wheaton first incorporated and operated as an  Illinois village. Under the Illinois statute for villages, the governing body was the Village Board of Trustees, with the chief executive officer known as the village president.

Presidents:

  • W. Wheaton, 1859
  • S. Daniels, 1860
  • C. Smith, 1865
  • S. Moffatt, 1866
  • F. Edwards, 1867
  • H. Vallette, 1868-69
  • S. Sedgwick, 1870-71
  • E. Gary, 1872-75
  • S. Moffatt, 1876-78
  • N. Gary, 1879-80
  • S. Sedgwick, 1881
  • S. Moffatt, 1882
  • H. Grote, 1883
  • H. Holt, 1884
  • J. Cole, 1885-86
  • W. Gary, 1887-89

1890: Wheaton Becomes a City

On April 24, 1890, Wheaton incorporated as a city with an elected mayor and aldermen, serving from wards.

Mayors:

  • W. Gary, 1890 to 1892
  • J. Peirronnet, 1893 to 1898
  • H. Grote, 1899 to 1900
  • J. Peirronnet, 1901 to 1904
  • E. Reber, 1905 to 1908
  • H. Schryver, 1909 to 1912
  • H. Mills, 1913 to 1914
  • A. Perrottet, 1915 to 1916

1917: Wheaton Chooses Commission Form of Government

On April 17, 1917, Wheaton chose the Commission form of government with a mayor and four commissioners, each charged with a specific part of the city government’s operations. The Commission form of government lasted 44 years.

Mayors:

  • W. Gamon, 1917
  • W. Caldwell, 1918 to 1922
  • M. Rittsford, 1923 to 1930
  • W. Caldwell, 1931 to 1938
  • W. Renton, 1939 to 1942
  • W. Gamon, 1943 to 1954
  • E. Farrar, 1955 to 1958
  • R. Coonley, 1959 to 1962

1961: Voters Choose Council-Manager Form of Government

In November 1961, the voters of Wheaton approved a change from the Commission to the Council-Manager form of government, with the first city manager appointed in July 1962.

Mayors:

  • R.T. Coonley, 1959 to 1963
  • K.H. Heimke, 1963 to 1968
  • M.D. Hamilton, 1969 to 1971
  • R.H. Barger, 1971 to 1983
  • R.J. Martin, 1983 to 1990
  • G.S. Henry, 1990 to 1992
  • D.L. Maxwell, 1992 to 1993
  • C.J. Carr, 1993 to 2007
  • M.J. Gresk, 2007 to present

City Managers:

  • C.R. Foote, 1962 to 1965
  • R.J. Eppley, 1965 to 1971
  • L.H. Caro, 1971 to 1973
  • W.E. Kirchhoff, 1973 to 1980
  • D.B. Rose, 1980 to 2016
  • M.G. Dzugan, 2016 to Present