By David R. Stuart
Until the early 50s, Naperville was a sleepy little farm town located on the Burlington railroad just 9 miles from Aurora. Route 34 or Ogden Ave skirted the town, so that unless you had specific business in town, you never were in it.
I was raised on the east side of Aurora and when I graduated from East High, my friends asked me if I was going to college. I said that I was and that I was going to North Central, my church's denominational school. Oh, they said. Where is North Central? I said it was in Naperville, and they said, "Well, where's Naperville." Naperville, to me, had two significant reminders. I was in Naperville three times before I came here as a student. The first was the 1947 train wreck. I can still remember my dad holding me on his shoulders to see the lights and the people trying to pry open the smashed railroad cars to get the people out. Then seeing the stretchers handed over the debris. The second time was standing on Aurora Ave. in the winter watching the lake, which is now the boating lake, being drained to see if the Rosie Brothers children were in the bottom. They had been missing and were later found in the river. This was about 1953. The third time was when I visited the campus and with the admissions director, Floyd Thompson.
I was a history major, so my interest has always been focused on the people of Naperville. It has been those people, Milt Stauffer, Dutch Beidelman, Bill Broecker, Herb Matter Sr. and Jr. Irv Keeler, Harold Reibel, Harold Kester, Mr. Oswald, Ben Piper,, Russ Breitwieser, Chuck Bushe, George Yenerich, Bill Abe, Cliff Preston, the Wehrli clan, the Drendel clan, Howie Alien, Dick Smith, John Gillen, Wes Spencer and numerous others. Of course these men could never have done this much without their wives's influence also. The main point is that this town was built by common people who had visions and who made this a close-knit community. Evidence of this is the numbers of sons and daughters of these people, who are still here and are now moving this city forward.
Two things happened, in my opinion, to make this city what it is today. North Central College and Harold Moser. Each played off the other.
After the war the boys returned and went to school here. They were older and more settled and some were already married. They stayed here after graduation and raised their families. In 1961 when I returned to be the first full time Alumni Director at the college, I found that we had over 800 alumni still living here, half of the teachers in the school system were graduates, and the two Evangelical United Brethren churches and the Seminary were here, which brought in more people. Naperville became the second last stop on the commuter train also.
Harold Moser used his entrepreneur ability and parlayed his lumber company, his vision and his skill of bringing these together, to really jump-start this community. The first Highlands was behind the college. Harold controlled the land, the builders, and they had to buy the lumber from him. No subdivion was started until the preceding one was almost finished. We used to say it was Naperville inside of Moser, because, it seemed that Harold had an option on all the land around Naperville. He was certainly the driving force behind the surge in population.
But Harold was not the only one. He was just one of the boys in town and was treated that way also. People helping people have been the theme that has made this city what it is today. Each person, using his or her own talents for the good fo the whole has been the cornerstone fo the success of ths city. Today this tradition is begin carried on by others.