The following is from a reprint West Chicago Newspaper - it is not dated

Early in January, 1907, the Wheaton Illinoian mentioned briefly that, "Thomas WHEELER, a pioneer engineer on the Chicago & North Western Road, died at Wabasha, Minnesota. He was at one time engineer of the old Pioneer, the first engine that ran over the Freeport division."

The news item, evidently of interest to the paper's readers, failed to identify WHEELER as a former resident of present-day West Chicago. Of further interest is the fact that WHEELER'S enlistment in the Civil War was never credited to Dupage County and consequently his name was omitted from the compiled military rolls as published in several histories of DuPage County

As every mystery takes time for its eventual solution, it took a century in passing before Thomas WHEELER'S forgotten Civil War record came to light. A few years ago a searcher in the State Archives failed, for some reason, to find WHEELER'S name in the index of Illinois' Civil War soldiers. Later, after photocopies of the long-sought military and pension records were supplied by Mrs. Eugene J. DONOHUE of New Jersey, a descendant of Thomas WHEELER

The concise life story of Thomas WHEELER is as follows:

The oldest of West Chicago's six WHEELER brothers who gained railroad prominence, Thomas WHEELER was born in Belleville, New Jersey on March 7, 1844. A year later his parents, Andrew and Ann ( O'CONNOR) WHEELER, moved to the Wheaton area, and a few years later settled in Turner Junction, where the father was employed by the old Galena & Chicago Union Railroad

Up to the time of Thomas WHEELER'S removal to Minnesota in 1878, where he again pioneered in railroading, he was identified with the history and development of this community

While employed as a switchman on the Galena Road, young WHEELER went to Chicago and in August, 1863 enlisted for three years' service. He was enrolled in Company K of the 89th Illinois Infantry -- a regiment organized by the railroad companies in this section of Illinois. WHEELER'S military training was indeed brief, as a month after his enlistment he was wounded at the battle of Chicamauga, Geirgia, on September 19th 1863. The ankle wound necessitated some hospitalization and after duty in the Invalid Corps, WHEELER was discharged for disability in November, 1864

Returning to Turner Junction, WHEELER soon became an engineer on the North Western, and probably was at the throttle of the historic Pioneer before its retirement in 1871 to a roundhouse stall at Turner Junction. In 1866 he married Jane WELSH, whose younger sister Catherine became the second wife of his younger brother Samuel WHEELER; the latter's descendants still live in DuPage County

In 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic Post No. 301, of Turner Junction, was organized, Thomas WHEELER was one of its thirteen charter members. In April of the same year, he was elected Collector of Winfield Township, defeating Charles E. BOLLES, another Civil War veteran. WHEELER was re-elected the following year

In April 1878, Thomas WHEELER was elected trustee on the Turner village board, but a few months later joined the exodus of local railroaders who followed John H. LAKEY to Wabasha, Minnesota, where LAKEY, a former long-time railroad offical here, had charge of the construction and poeration of a narrow-gauge railroad from that point

It was here that Thomas WHEELER spent the remainder of his life as an engineer, and where he jointed the local GAR Post. Sometime before his death on January 4, 1907, he incurred another serious leg injury in a fall from his engine


The year 1968 marked the 150th anniversary of Illinois' statehood, and it was also the centenary year of the founding in this community of the fist Grand Army of the Republic Post in DuPage County and possibly in this section of Illinois

On March 16, 1868, Grand Army of the Republic Post No. 301 of Turner Junction ( now West Chicago) was formally organized with thirteen charter members who were empowered to function and to formulate by-laws. Except for the charter, which was signed by Major General John M. PALMER, commanding the Illinois Department, little else is known of this forgotten chaper of West Chicago's military history. The Post, however, was constituted in time for the first observance here of Memorial Day in 1868

Post No. 301 was founded earlier than Chicago's first George H. THOMAS Post, which was organized in the fall of 1868, and perhaps both Posts after a short and uneventful existence were disbanded. The Turner Junction veterans' group was established before Aurora's well-known GAR Post No 20, which was organized in 1875

The first GAR posts were founded during the troublesome times of the Reconstruction years and were inclined to be militant and with strong Union sentiments. They also aligned themselves, especially in Illinois, with the Radicals of that day and this, in a short time, brought about either disbandment or the reorganization of the original GAR posts or their replacement by newer posts

Albert H. WIANT, whose name was first on the charter, was the last surviving original member when he died in 1926. Hiram UMBERGER, who like WIANT, was also a veteran of the 105th Illinois Infantry. Four others, who served in the 89th Illinois the Railroad Regiment were Thomas WHEELER, Emort B. WATSON, John LEARLY and Otis B. SCOTT

Other charter members were Hiram H. KETCHAM, who enlisted in Company K of the 13th Illinois Infantry, the first military unit recruited in DuPage County, and Charles KETCHUM or KETCHAM who served in the 69th Illinois Infantry, a three-month regiment. George M.D. GREGORY, who is reported as being attached to the U.S. Telegraph Corps, first saw service with the 140th Illinois, a 100-day regiment of infantry

James M. TIRTLOT, who was wll known here, enlisted elsewhere in the county and served in the 33rd Illinois Infantry

It is probable that the local GAR Post disbanded a few years after its organization and the members affiliated with the Wheaton GAR Post charter. Some years back the framed and rare document with other Civel War items was found in the DuPage County Courthouse, and later donated to the DuPage County Historical Museum. About 1968 the charter was photographed and thus a century later was reproduced for the first time