Stories in Stone

On a crisp fall afternoon, with the leaves crunching beneath their feet, a group of people made their way to the historic Naperville Cemetery to hear stories from the stones beneath them.

“Actually, it was in one of the rodeos that Otto was traveling with that featured a side show. And I was one of the hoochie coochie dancers in that show, and he saw my act and was very impressed by me and wanted to meet me, so that night we had dinner in the dining car, and we fell in love,” said Tiny Kline.

Short stories like this about local rodeo star, Otto Kline, told by his wife Tiny, who went on to play Tinkerbell at Disneyland, were all part of Naper Settlement’s Stories in Stone, a history walk telling the tales of impactful residents buried in the Naperville Cemetery.

“It’s a great way to connect people to Naperville’s history and that is the mission of the settlement. To connect people to Naperville’s history using engaging and unique experiences, and what better place to learn about history than down at the cemetery,” said Cindy Lackore, Lead Museum Educator at Naper Settlement.

Patrons moved through time, listening in on first hand accounts of the Blackhawk War from Clarissa Hobson, the first woman in DuPage County.

“We were just settling down to dinner when a man and a boy from a field nearby came in and began talking about the Indians were coming. The boy said they were killing and burning everything in their way, the report was exaggerated but back then we didn’t question the news, our families safety was our top priority,” said Clarissa Hobson.

Moving on to little known tidbits about our town founder, Joseph Naper and his wife, Almeda.

“It was 1840 and Joseph tore down the saw mill and he built a flour mill, and I was mighty proud to see Naper’s Premium Flour being sold. It was a busy time, well Joseph set up a volunteer fire department, and the cemetery, and was able to help a church with an offer of land,” said Almeda Naper.

Actors were able to bring the eight Naperville notables to life thanks to archives at the settlement.

“We have used journals and letters, things of that nature, all primary sources to really get a feel for what these people were all about,” said Lackore.

Depending on the time of year the settlement puts on different walks to bring Naperville’s history back to the present population.

“We do try to change it up, people may see a different character. We do a Civil War cemetery walk, it just offers a unique setting,” said Lackore.

Though the Stories in Stone are a fun way to spend an afternoon, Lackore hopes residents walk away with more.

“I hope people learn a little bit about what life was like and hopefully they walk away with a new appreciation for the town they may live in,” Lackore said.

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