Winfield, Illinois is located in Winfield Township DuPage County Illinois. Today (2022) it contains a population of 9,700 people. In reviewing the growth of this community in the mid -1850s it contained a handful of German farmers and merchants. In 1880 the population was 164 people and by 1930 it had grown to 445 people. It has always been a smaller community when in comparison to the near by citys of Wheaton, Naperville and West Chicago in DuPage County Illinois.
A description in the 1874 DuPage County Atlas of Winfield records this description:
Winfield Station (recorded as Fredericksburg) was platted on January 25, 1853 by J.P. Doe. It is a station on the main line of the Chicago and Northwestern railroad and three miles west of Turner (now West Chicago). It has on Church the St. John’s German Roman Catholic, which was organized in 1867 with twenty members, and had increased to fifty-five. The Society has a substantial church, erected in 1867. There is one common school with fifty-eight pupils in attendance.
In reading journals and eyewitness accounts of the area we gain a sense of what Winfield Township was like. A reporter for the Prairie Farmer newspaper provides a description of the area around 1854 three years prior to the Daleiden family arriving around 1857:
Winfield is a place where one may stop by means of a good understanding with the conductor. This step is necessary for though he should look with double power microscope he would find no town big or little here.
Where had the German Immigrants come from in the 1860s? Louise Spanke in her book Winfield Good Old Days (1978) makes this observation regarding the new German immigrants to Winfield: “for a significant number of the newcomers recorded in 1860 and successive censuses, a small area perhaps twenty mile diameter, around Bitburg and south across the Luxembourg border, had been home“.
Most of the German Immigrants had either come on their own and in many cases they had come due to ‘chained migration‘. Chained migration is the theory that many immigrants followed some of their neighbors and relatives who had previously settled in German enclaves in the Midwest in areas around or in the cities of Chicago and St. Louis. Word of mouth via letters and or newspaper accounts attracted many new immigrants. By 1832, more than 10,000 immigrants arrived in the U.S. from Germany. By 1854, that number had jumped to nearly 200,000 immigrants. In the decade from 1845 to 1855, more than a million Germans fled to the United States to escape economic hardship. They also sought to escape the political unrest caused by riots, rebellion and eventually a revolution in 1848. The railroads placed ads in many German language newspapers in an effort to attract settlers to purchase and settle on land along railroad routes. Here is an example of an ad:
Germans were considered clannish by their non-Catholic New England protestant emigrants in nearby Wheaton and other parts of DuPage County (see Jean Moore, Building Your Own Town . . . The Carol Stream Story, 1984). Many German families that settled within the area included families per Moore such as the Dieters, Kleins, Schramers, Hahns, Kammes and Fischer.
German immigrants worked to establisher their own ethnic churchs. In the Winfield and Wheaton area for instance German Catholic farmers and merchants had to travel to either the Saint Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Naperville (7.5 miles to the south east of Winfield) or they had to traveled to the Mission Church of St. Stephen located (4.3 miles to the northwest of Winfield) in Gretna Illinois in Milton Township prior to the establishment of St. Michaels in the City of Wheaton Illinois or St. Johns in Winfield Illinois. Many of the descendants of the families could recall having to get up as early as 4:00 a.m. in the morning in order to get to Church on time prior to the start of the Mass at the churches. Often times this was during harsh weather (snow, rain, sleet, high winds, heat and cold, etc.) over roads or pathways that were neither paved nor grated. Carriages and horses would become bogged down in the mud following a rainstorm.
Language was a barrier for many new immigrants and newcomers from Germany coming into the Chicagoland and Winfield Township areas of DuPage County. German was spoken in schools, at home and in the town of Winfield until the U. S. entry into the First World War ( December 1917).
The new immigrants and most likely the Daleiden family brought with them their cultural traits: a desire to educate their children, the freedom to continue to worship as Roman Catholics in their newly adopted country, and a desire to own land and property. From my perspective and in talking to my Schlick Grandparents I can tell that many of these traits were passed down and instilled in me: get a good education (“something that people cannot take away from you“), own land and property, and have a firm believe in God and to believe that God is with you always and will guide you through life.