Paw Paw, Illinois

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Paw Paw is a village in Lee County, Illinois, United States. As of the 2000 census the village was home to 852 people. It was settled in the mid 19th century and by 1878 the village had a railroad connection. Paw Paw is home to a house which is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and was the recipient of a 2005 federal grant to construct a water tower.

Contents

History

In 1829 present-day Chicago Road was part of the Fink and Walker stagecoach line from Galena, Illinois to Chicago, though the Potawatomi Indians were the first to use the trail. The tribe didn't turn over the area to the U.S. government until 1833. Fink and Walker also held the mail contract for the area's settlers. The route became popular and garnered a mention in the work of writer Margaret Fuller.[1]

Paw Paw's first permanent resident was David A. Town in 1834, a native of Vermont, Town settled on the south east side of a 2,000-acre (8 km2) wooded grove. The first cabin was built the next spring by Edward Butterfield on the site of present-day Paw Paw. This first house also held the village's first store and would eventually become the first structure in town to burn. During its earliest days the town was sectioned off into East, West and South Paw Paw, all of which became known as simply Paw Paw. In 1837 the village got its first postmaster, William Rodgers. Before Rodgers the nearest post office was 20 miles away in Somonauk, Illinois. Two years later, in 1839 a new road was constructed which allowed mail to be carried from Paw Paw to Princeton, Illinois. The first stage coach station (known as a "Tavern") was built along Chicago Road and operated by Isaac Balding. Balding operated the station until the railroad came to town several years later.[2]

Though settlement in present-day Paw Paw began during the 1830s, by 1847 there were probably no more than 50 people in the village. The name Paw Paw was derived from a nearby grove of Pawpaw trees on the edge of a 2,000-acre (8 km2) forest. American general Winfield Scott is credited with being the first person of European ancestry to discover the area. The area that Paw Paw is located in was home to more than one stand of Paw Paw trees and, thus, more than one settlement took the name Paw Paw. To avoid confusion the townspeople renamed the village Wyoming Township. The new name came from the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania, where many of Paw Paw's earliest settlers originated.[1] The Wyoming Valley was the scene of a massacre during the American Revolution in which over 300 American settlers were killed by Native Americans allied with the British.[1] Many of Paw Paw's early settlers shared surnames with those who are listed as having been involved in the fighting and massacre.[1]

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