Boyhood Memories at Herrick Lake

by Cathy Hall
Research Volunteer, Community Services & Education

Herrick Lake Forest Preserve is an impressive and beautiful piece of land in four DuPage County townships. Some of the earliest pioneers of DuPage County settled on this land. One of them, Ira Herrick, settled the land and built a log cabin in 1834. He purchased a land grant from the federal government for a plot just west of present-day Herrick Road and south of Butterfield Road in Winfield Township in 1842 and built a frame house in 1849.1

Ira’s son John expanded the Herrick property to include land surrounding Herrick Lake, known at the time as Lily Lake most likely from the abundance of pond lilies that covered the surface.2 This addition to the estate was located on the east side of what is now Herrick Road in Milton Township. John and his wife Virginia had five children, including Frank Earl (1875 – 1967).

Frank Herrick graduated from Wheaton College and received a law degree from Illinois College in 1902. He was a notable Wheaton resident, becoming a judge, police magistrate, fervent prohibitionist and a published poet.3 Having written 2,000 poems, the City of Wheaton honored him with the title “Poet Laureate of DuPage County” in 1941.

Frank described his boyhood home (on the land west of Herrick Road) as a two-story painted house with seven spacious rooms. There was an ice house and a pump near the kitchen where the family got all their water. West of the kitchen was a 112-foot long and 30-foot wide red barn. The property also featured a “windmill with a 60-foot tower and a 14-foot wheel nearby. The windmill can be attached to a pump by means of wires, (where all the water is pumped for the stock) and by a shaft to machinery inside the barn, whereby applying belts we can grind and elevate grain, saw wood, shell corn, turn grindstone, cut corn stalks, etc.”4

Frank sold 70.6 acres of the Herrick homestead to the Forest Preserve District in June 1925. This acquisition became the county’s twelfth forest preserve. Over subsequent years, additional parcels were added to the preserve bringing it to its present 896 acres.

I’m sure you can appreciate the legacy Frank, his family and other early settlers left for all DuPage County residents — Herrick Lake Forest Preserve.

Frank wrote about his rural heritage in the following poem.

“A Native Son”

It is my pride
To be a son
Of Old DuPage,
My father too
Here had his birth
And my grandsire
Took up his claim
Where the red-men
Yet roamed the land
Here was I born
Upon a farm
In Winfield Town
But a stone’s throw
From Milton line
Close by the Lake
That bears my name
I tilled the soil
As boy and youth
For twenty years
And well I know
Its joys and woes
Its harvest heat
And winter cold
And endless toil
When roads were poor
And comforts few
And luxuries
Were things not known.5

  1. Bateman, Newton and Selby, Paul (Eds.) Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Du Page County Volume II (Chicago: Munsell Publishing Co. 1913) p. 905.
  2. Herrick, Frank E., “My Home” manuscript. From the collection of the Du Page County Historical Museum. Wheaton, IL. undated
  3. Obituary of Frank E. Herrick, Wheaton Daily Journal, vol 35, no 150, 1/26/1967, p.1.
  4. Herrick. “My Home” 
  5. Herrick, Frank E., Poems of DuPage County (Wheaton, IL: The Wheaton Daily Journal 1936) p. 149.  

Frank and his younger sister grew up at the property today known as Herrick Lake Forest Preserve. Courtesy of DuPage County Historical Museum.

The initial Herrick property settled in 1834 grew in later years with the addition of Lily Lake. 
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