From a telegraph pole, with a tin pan nailed to it, to a bustling little village of about 2,000, Dwight came into being. The pole and tin pan was a landmark and guide for the surveyors who were to lay the rails for the Chicago, Alton and St. Louis Railroad.  This railroad was to run between Joliet and Alton. It was begun in 1853, pushed forward with such enthusiasm and vigor that  the first passenger train rolled over the new road on July 4, 1854. It has made Dwight what it is today. The men responsible for this great endeavor were: Oliver H. Lee, Chief Engineer of the company, Assistant Engineers, R. P. Morgan, Jr., H. A. Gardner and James A. Spencer.

In 1869, the Western Division of the C. & A. Railroad, which leaves the main line at Dwight, was begun and completed, and trains running over it in 1870.  This makes Dwight quite a railroad center.

Dwight Township and Village was one of the last of the Townships to be developed.  It was not one of the favored timbered locations, but one which had to spring up out of the rank, prairie grass. It was a  wild prairie, untrodden by the foot of the white man, without a stick of timber.  It was difficult to create the villages and farms, but where yesterday the tall grass waved in the wind, today a village sits, full of history, built of hope and home to many hard-working, determined pioneers.

John Conant came in 1854, from Rochester, Ohio. He put up  a frame building outside of the village. Mr. Conant was the first postmaster.  The next year Nelson Cornell came and put up a house on Section 5.  Thomas Little settled near Cornell soon after. James McIlduff, in 1854, bought the northwest quarter of Section 18, on which he lays claim to the “first breaking of prairie” in Dwight Township.  In 1855, came James C. Spencer, his farm was adjoining the present village of Dwight. He owned 1,200 acres of land.  It was on this farm that the Prince of Wales made his headquarters for a few days, in 1860.

Among the early settlers to this township was Henry A. Gardner,  Benjamin Chester, 1860;  and C. Roadright, 1857, P. E. Miller (where the Prince planted a tree).

Dwight was surveyed by Nelson Buck, Deputy County Surveyor, in the fall of 1858 for R. P. Morgan, Jr., James C. Spencer, John Lathrop and J. and K. W. Fell, who owned the land on which it stands.  It was dedicated on January 30, 1854 and the plat admitted to record.  It was named for Henry Dwight, of New York, who was a capitalist and furnished the money to build the road from Joliet to Bloomington, known now as the Chicago, Alton and St. Louis Railroad.  It was said he lost a fortune in the construction of this road and as a compliment to him, his name was given to the new village.  Efforts were made to change the name but it still remains.

The first cabin in the village of Dwight was built on lot 8, block 18, in 1853 by a man from Morris, whose name is forgotten.  It became the possession of Dr. Haggerty.  The first permanent residence in the village was by Augustus West, on lots 18 and 19, in block 7 and was completed in June 1854.  In 1854, John Campbell put up a temporary eating house, which was the first place of public entertainment.  The trains stopped at it for dinner and supper until 1855, when it was purchased by Hiram Cornell, who conducted it as a hotel for some time.  He remained in this little shanty until he built the “Dwight House,” the first regular hotel in 1855.  Charles Stafford ran the “McPherson House” in later years.

            The first regular store was built by David McWilliams, in 1855. It was painted white, and, like the telegraph pole and tin pan, served to be a marker to all in search of the village. At the time he settled in Dwight, also living in the village were, Simeon Lutz, his father-in-law, John Routzong, Augustus West, James Morgan, Thomas Wilson, James S. Harrison. From the Empire State, Hiram Cornell, George Flagler, William Clarkson, Jeremiah Travis, William H. Ketchum and B. Losee. From Pennsylvania, Isaah H. Baker, S. L. D. Ramsey and Dr. J. H. Hagerty.

The first wagon maker in the village was Joseph Rockwell, who came here in 1858 from Connecticut and made the first wagon in Dwight. He made a loom for weaving cloth and his wife used it.

The first religious meeting held in Dwight was in an unfinished building on Lot 17, in Block 6, in 1855, few people attended, but few people lived in the village at the time.  The first sermon ever preached in the village was over McWilliams’ store, on the second Sunday in June, 1855, by the Rev. A. D. Field, of the Rock River Conference.

As a village, Dwight was incorporated about 1868. An important feature of Dwight is the grain and stock business. The shipments from this point annually exceed those from any other place perhaps in the county.  The first grain warehouse was built by by John C. Spencer in 1857, but as the country was rapidly increasing in agricultural importance, David McWilliams started a larger warehouse, but it was not until 1864 that it was completed by J. McPherson.  S. G. Eldridge occupied that warehouse later on. Other elevators built were: C. S. Newell and John Campbell built in 1866, capacity of 15,000 bushels; In 1868, C. W. Newell and J. G. Strong put up an elevator adjoining the one last mentioned. It is occupied by Messrs. Deffenbaugh & Co., and runs on steam, storage capacity 15,000 bushels. In 1878, Cadwallader & Rhodes built an elevator on the east side of the tracks, a little south of the Round House, with a capacity of 17,000 bushels.  Walter Bladen put up one a little north, in the same year, which stores 12,000 bushels of grain and was operated by Hahn & Kine.  Several of the elevators were operated by steam and provided with “grain dumps.”  Dwight was also one of the largest stock markets in the county and ships a large amount yearly.

A large stone steam mill was built in 1859, owned by H. E. Segert at present. The first brick house was built by Dr. Hagerty, in 1871-72 and was occupied by C. M. Baker as a drug store.  The first brick residence was built by Mr. Deffenbaugh.

The first school house was a rather diminutive affair, about 16x24, and was put up in the fall of 1855 at a cost of $275.  It was used for three years as a school house, church and public hall.  Sarah A. Snyder taught the first school. In 1859, it was found necessary to erect a larger school building and a house was put up on the east side of the village. In 1864, this had to be enlarged, with an addition made to the original building.  In a few years it was necessary to again put another extension to the school and in 1870, the elegant brick on the west side was erected. 


Methodist Episcopal Church, first sermon preached by Rev. A. D. Field in 1855. His circuit, known as the Mazon Circuit, embraced all the country south of the Illinois River and extending from Morris to Avoca Township.  The society was organized with six members, Simeon Lutz, John Routzong, Isaac Baker, Isabelle Baker, David McWilliams and Jeremiah Travis. In 1862, the society was struck off from the Mazon Circuit and Rev. O. W. Pollard was appointed to the charges of Dwight, Odell and Pontiac.  They erected their first building in 1858.  About 1862-63, the society had so increased in number as to necessitate an enlargement of the  building and it was lengthened by 20 feet. They built a new building in 1867 under the pastorate of Rev. E. D. Hall. It is a handsomely finished edifice capable of seating 500 persons.  The first Sunday School Superintendant was David McWilliams.

The Presbyterian Church was organized in Dwight in 1856.  Their original number were three males and five females, they worshipped in the school house until 1857 when they built their church on lots donated by James C. Spencer and R. P. Morgan. The pulpit was filled by various ministers, until 1869, when Rev. L. F. Walker was called to the charge.  In the Fall of 1871, he was succeeded by Rev. W. L. Boyd, who filled the pulpit until 1878.  The Elders of the church are Hugh Thompson, Robert Thompson, James George, James Paul and John C. George.  The Sunday school is well attended.

Congregational Church organized December 1, 1865. Rev. J. A. Montgomery preached the first sermon.  In 1867, an effort was made to build a church, the lots procured and the building started.  In January 1868, their church was dedicated, free of debt. Rev. Montgomery was replaced by Rev. W. C. Rogers in 1873, with about 115 members. Their Sabbath school has an attendance of about 150 with A. Brubaker as Superintendent.

The Baptist made the next effort but have not, from some cause or other flourished as some of the other denominations have. (1878) They have a building on the West side, but no settled pastor.

The German Lutheran Church was built in 1867, has about fifty members. Rev. Schleitweig of Cayuga is the pastor.

The German Evangelical Association or Albright Methodists, have a handsome little frame church edifice, 22x30 feet, which cost about fifteen hundred dollars. The ministers are Revs. Wiltman and Shaffle, and the society has 26 members.  A Sunday school with an attendance of forty children is carried on by Dr. H. G. Thole, Superintendent.

Danish Lutherans have a pretty little frame church, built a few years ago, which has a large and flourishing membership. The Pastor is Rev. Jacob Holm.

Roman Catholic Church has a membership of about fifty families.  Their church is a neat and tasty little building, put up at a cost of about fifteen hundred dollars. The present Pastor is Father James Halpin, who is also Superintendent of the Sunday school which is in a flourishing condition.


1898 Dwight Business Directory


            Methodist Episcopal Church, Rev. William Wooley, pastor

            Congregational Church, Rev. E. F. Wright, pastor

            Danish Lutheran Church, Rev. J. P. Lilleso, pastor

            St. Patrick’s Church, Rev. M. P. O’Brien, rector

            Lutheran Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church, Rev. L. H. Kjar

            German Lutheran Church, Rev. Wockenfuss, pastor

            Danish Methodist Church, Rev. Andersen, pastor

            Church of the Evangelical Association of Dwight, Rev. M. Gronewohl,



Secret Societies:

            Livingston Lodge, No. 371, A. F. & A. Masons

            Dwight Chapter, No. 166, Order of the Eastern Star

            Pacific Encampment, No. 126, I. O. O. F.

            Dwight Lodge, No. 513, I.O.O.F.

            Prairie Queen Rebekah Lodge, No. 370

            Dwight Post, No. 626 Grand Army of the Republic

            Dwight Camp No. 270 Sons of Veterans

            Dwight Woman’s Relief Corps, No. 144

            Hebron Lodge, No. 175, Knights of Pythias

            Golden Keys Temple No. 59 Rathbone Sisters

            Dwight Camp No 1777 Modern Woodmen of America

            Dwight Lodge, No. 575, Royal Neighbors of America

            Dwight Court of Honor, No. 508

            Dwight Lodge, No. 35 Independent Order of Mutual Aid

            Dwight Home Forum No. 494

            Ancient Order of Hibernians of American Div. No. 1 of Livingston Co.

            Freden Lodge No. 34, Danish Brotherhood of America


            C. L. Romberger, Attorney

            W. H. Ketcham, Attorney at Law, Real Estate and Loans


            William D. Roeder, Barber

            Anton Diefenbach, Barber

            A. J. Diefenbach, Barber

            A. W. Morris, Barber

Banks:  Bank of Dwight, L. A. Nuffziger, Cashier


            J. Jepsen, Blacksmith

            John Smith, Blacksmith

            W. M. Weese, Blacksmith

            A. P. Simmons, Blacksmith

Cigars and Tobacco:

            John Geis, Cigar Manufacturer

            H. Rosendahl, Cigars and Tobacco

            Jens Jensen, Cigars and Tobacco

            John Parvin, Restaurant, Cigars and Tobacco

            John Queden, Cigars and Confectionery

            G. J. Hepplinger, Cigars and Tobacco

            J. E. Gregory, Wholesale Dealer in Cigars

Contractors and Builders

            L. Hodgman, Contractor and Builder

            John Matson, Contractor and Builder

            John Stewart, Contractor and Builder

            A. O. Walso, Contractor and Builder

            John E. Peterson, Drainage Engineer

                and contractor


            E. R. Weart, Dentist

            S. H. Potter, Dentist


Drugs and Medicines:

            Barr & Davis, Drugs

            G. A. Seymour, Drugs

            G. A. Seymour, Drugs, Wall Paper and Paints

Dry Goods and Groceries:

            Gordon Bros., Dry Goods and Clothing.

            McWilliams & Smith, Clothing, Dry Goods and Groceries

            Miller Bros., Dry Goods, Millinery, Clothing, Shoes and Merchant


            Bloom & Deutsch, Dry Goods, Clothing, Shoes

            Reeder & Chester, Groceries

            Jens Knudsen, Groceries

            Spencer & Co., Groceries

            W. T. Scott, Groceries

            G. L. Kern, Groceries

Furniture and Undertaking:

            C. M. Baker, Furniture and Undertaking

            Knudten Bros., Furniture and Undertaking


            Pope, Eachart Co, Austin Gibbons, Manager, Grain

Hardware and Farm Machinery:

            Tock Bros., Buggies, Farming Implements and Blacksmithing

            Charles Waters, Hardware and Agricultural Implements

            Flagler & Potter, Hardware and Farming Implements

            B. A. Buck, Hardware, Buggies and Farming Implements

            H. T. McLane, Farm Machinery


            Livingston Hotel, A. H. Davenport, Manager

            The Ketcham House, Mrs. Ketcham, Proprietor

            Strufe Hotel, Mrs. Strufe, Proprietor

            Pennsylvania House, Adolph Strufe, Proprietor

Insurance and Collections:

            L. A. Nuffziger, Fire and Life Insurance

            M. Wilkinson, J. P., Collection Agent

            H. T. McLane, J. P., Collection Agent

            O. C. Jensen, Insurance

            John Thompson, Insurance and Collections


            Everett Lewis, Jewelry

            J. S. Guardinier, Jewelry

Livery and Feed Stables:

            Pflibsen & Uselding, Livery and Feed Stable

            Starrett & Seabert, Flour and Feed Store

            S. H. Boyer, Livery and Feed Stable

Lumber and Coal:

            G. N. Flagler, Lumber and Coal

            W. H. Conrad, Lumber and Coal

            Chester & Emery, Coal

Meat Market:

            Drew Bros., Meat Market

            G. L. Kern & Bros., Groceries and Meat Market

            E. Rassmussen, Meat Market


            J. A. Spencer, Hay Press Manufacturer

            L. H. Martin, Brick and Tile Factory

            Adams Bros., Musical Instrument Manufacturers

Millinery and Dressmaking:

            Miss Burger, Millinery

            Mrs. Fenn, Millinery

            Mrs. Rowly, Dressmaker

            Miss Maggie Potter, Dressmaker

            Misses Losee, Dressmaker


            W. H. Luther & Co., Granite and Marble Monuments

            Reeb Bros., Granite and Marble Monuments

Painters and Paper Hangers:

            Morgan Bros.  Paper Hangers and Painters

            Bruce Rearick, Painter and Paper Hanger

            T. J. Graham, Painter and Paper Hanger

            L. J. Trunnell, Wall Paper and Paper Hanger


            Charles Crandall, Photographer

            N. N. Mickelson, Photographer

Physicians and Surgeons:

            C. H. Barr, Physician and Surgeon

            Nels Bergman, Homeopathic Physician and Surgeon

            W. L. Rabe, Physician and Surgeon

            Albert L. Yates, Veterinary Surgeon

            M. Palm, Physician and Surgeon


            Dwight Star and Herald, $1.50 a year, W. G. Dustin, Publisher

            The Illinois Banner, W. G. Dustin, Publisher

Railroad and Express Agents:

            Sam Thompson, Adams Express Agent

            C. V. Bower, U. S. Express Agent

            H. W. McCune, I. I. & I. Railroad Agent

            W. H. Doty, Chicago & Alton, R. R., Agent

Real Estate and Loans

            D. B. Stevens, Real Estate

            Romberger & Smith, Real Estate and Loans


Restaurants and Bakeries:

            Crandall Brothers, Restaurant

            Mrs. Gertie Kaylor, Restaurant

            P. H. Weicker, Bakery and Restaurant

            James Nelson, Restaurant

            Ed Tonnisen, Confectionery


            A. Rhode, Tailor

            Ed Shogren, Tailor

            H. C. Hansen, Tailor

            Jens Schott, Tailor


            Strufe Bros., Inc.

            Aaron Good, Florist

            Mrs. Ellen Roe, Florist

            Leach & Reeb, Harness and Shoes

            The Leslie E. Keeley Company, The Bi-Chloride of Good Cure for the

                Opium and Liquor Habit                  

            Dwight Driving Park Association, John Thompson, President; James

                Kelagher, Secretary

            Dwight Artesian Laundry, V. S. Wright & Co., Proprietors, laundry

            Dwight Opera House, C.L. Romberger, Manager

            Edward Smith, Tiler

            Walter Schott, Tiler

            Jens Jacobsgaard, Tiler

            David McKenzie, Landscape Gardener

            Dwight Stock Farm, J. R. Oughton, Proprietor, saddle horses

            John L. Simantel, musical instruments

            Conway & Metzke, House movers

            John. L. Simantel, Music Teacher

            Simantel’s Coronet Band, John L. Simantel, leader

            A. D. Bergman, Hay Presses

            Jesse Slyder, Auctioneer

            W. G. Dustin, Postmaster

            James Allison, Bicycles

            Antony Anderson, Well Driller

            L. Roe, House Mover

            John Lowe & Co., Creamery

            Carl Tock, Wagonmaker

            H. E. Siegert, Electric Lighting

            J. E. Hutchinson, News Dealer

            Joseph Eyer, Well Driller and Gas Fitter

            R. P. Morgan, Railroad Expert Engineer

            George Kepplinger, notions

            William Christensen, Poultry

            Ed Breen, Shoemaker

            Charles Young, Long Distance Telephone Manager

            M. Reinhart, Pipe Manufacturer

            M. Reinhart, Pop Factory






In 1868, the first newspaper was established in Dwight. On the 5th of May, 1868, C. L. Palmer issued the first copy of the Dwight Star.  Says Hargreave’s History of Dwight: “The Editor C. L. Palmer, issued this paper more for amusement than profit, but in a short time it was evident that the Star occupied a place which could not be filled by any other claimant.  It has been enlarged 9 times.  It is Republican in politics, and  still owned by C. L. Palmer.  On the 5th day of June 1868, the Dwight Weekly Courier made its appearance, but after a fitful and brief existence, it quietly passed away. The Dwight Commercial was established in December 1877, by a stock company, composed chiefly of the business men of the town.  It is Independent in politics and is edited by C. M. Cyrus; is a very handsome eight-page, six column paper.  The Western Postal Review is edited by H. A. Kenyon, Postmaster and published at the Star office, devoted chiefly to post office matters.

Tenth Battalion of Illinois National Guards

The village of Dwight is the military headquarters of the Tenth Battalion of Illinois National Guards. Lieut. Col. J. B. Parsons, commanding. The Battalion was organized Aug. 15, 1876, composed of companies from Dwight, Odell, Pontiac, Streator, Joliet and Marseilles.


The field officers elected then were:

 J. B. Parsons, of Dwight, Lieutenant Colonel

 L. C. Miles of Streator, Major

Staff appointed:

            L. C. Mitchell, of Joliet, Surgeon

            Rev. J. F. Culver of Pontiac, Chaplain

            J. B. Fithian, of Joliet, Adjutant

            C. J. Judd, of Dwight, Quartermaster.

Under reorganization it is composed of the following companies:

            Parsons Guards, Co. E;

            Pontiac Guards, Company A.;

            Wenona Guards, Company B;

            Odell Guards, Company D;

            Fairbury Guards, Company C

Battalion officers are: 

            J. B. Parsons, Dwight, Lieutenant Colonel commanding

            J. K. Howard, Odell, Major

            H. E. W. Barnes, Fairbury,  Surgeon

            Rev. J. F. Culver, Pontiac, Chaplain

            C. J. Judd, Dwight, Adjutant

            Cadet Taylor, Wenona, Quartermaster


            The entire command, except the Wenona Guards are from Livingston County. They are armed with the uniform breech-loading Springfield rifles, of the Prussian pattern. The companies are well drilled and ready to meet a foe at a moment’s notice.

            The Dwight Guards, a company of the Tenth Battalion, was organized June 20, 1874, and its first officers were: J. B. Parsons, Captain; S. H. Kenny, First Lieut; S. M. Witt, Second Lieut.   Upon the reorganization of the battalion, Capt. Parsons was promoted to its command, and his old company, the Dwight Guards by a company vote and as a token of esteem for their late Captain, changed the name of the company to Parsons Guards.  Their officers at present are as follows: S. H. Kenny, Captain; S. M. Witt, First Lieutenant; J. H. Lloyd, Second Lieutenant.


Bar Association:

            L. G. Pearre, R. S. McIlduff, J. L. Dunlop, W. H. Bradbury, F. B. Hargreaves,

            Lewis Kenyon, J. G. Strong, and F. E. Peck, all lawyers of ability.

            Hon. J. G. Strong has represented his district in both branches of the state


Health of Village

            Drs. L. E. Keeley and C. D. Chalfant, of the Allopathic School

            Dr. H. G. Thole, of the Homeopathic profession


            Oaklawn Cemetery, (1877) Nevada Township.  Landscape artist, Chicago laid it off and divided into lots and plats. First burial in this cemetery was Miss Margaret

            Speers, a sister of Isaac Baker’s wife (Isabella Speers Baker). 

            Dwight Old Town

            Union Cemetery

            Mt. Olivet Catholic Cemetery