About the Village
of Steward IL
is a small town community, located in northern Illinois,
with approximately 250 residents. Step back in time to
a place where kids play in the village park while watching
the trains go by, residents stop at the local post office
to collect their mail and to keep up with the locals news,
tractors cruise down main street on their way to the local
elevator, everyone know whos who in town, people
stop at the local tavern to pick up chicken dinners, and
families attend special events at the local grade school,
or gather at the church on Sundays for fellowship, or
to enjoy a potluck lunch. Its a quieter, peaceful
place to live, yet within easy access to some bigger towns
and even bigger cities. Downtown Chicago is just a little
over an hour away to the east; the town of Rochelle (population
20,000) is just 5 minutes north; Dekalb (home of Northern
Illinois University) is 15 minutes to the east, and the
city of Rockford (population 300,000) is only 30 minutes
north. Steward, the recipient of The 1999 Governors
Hometown Award, recognizing volunteer efforts in renovating
the elementary school, is located right off I-39 which
runs north and south through the state, and is just a
few minutes south of I-88, which runs east and west. Lakes,
rivers, camping, sporting events, golf courses, fine arts,
music, theatre, museums, festivals, farmers markets
you might wish to experience
is just a short drive
away. Or stay in town and enjoy the charming, small town
living that Steward has to offer.
of Steward, IL
is a village in Lee County, Illinois, United States. The
population was 256 at the 2010 census.
was named for Wesley Steward, who in 1855 came to this
area in Alto Township to settle the land owned by his
father, Marcus Steward. John Grimes built the first house
in Alto Township in Plum Thicket in 1847, located east
on the outskirts of the village as it is today. In 1861,
Mr. Steward married and built the first farm house in
the location of Steward, which is still standing. The
town is located in the west central part of Alto Township
and the northeast part of Lee County. Mr. Steward was
influential in getting the Chicago and Iowa Railroad,
now known as the Burlington Northern, through the township
extending from Hinckley, Illinois to Rochelle, Illinois
completed in 1870. The Village Hall on Main Street is
one of the oldest buildings in existence and the jail
cells bought in 1903 and housed in the building are still
one of the few reminders of the early days (not used).
In 1872 Mr. Steward built the first elevator at the east
end of Main Street run by steam. The history of the elevators
in Steward over the years is a story in itself. The first
house in Steward after the towns formation is on
John Street, also standing today, built in 1872.
The railroad offices and warehouse were in Wesley Stewards
barn until 1871, when the first depot was then built.
It is said to have burned down in 1894. The present depot,
no longer in use by the Burlington Northern and in the
process of being salvaged by a group in interested citizens
of the village as a historical landmark, a museum, library,
and social meeting place for anyone in the community,
was built in 1896. This project The Steward Illinois
Depot Project, Inc. was being projected as a Bicentennial
venture during the 1976 year. In 1902 Steward was selected
as the junctional point for the Chicago, Milwaukee and
St. Paul Railroad Company as they recognized the need
for a railroad to run south out of Rockford, Illinois.
The Milwaukee depot and switch tower for both railroads
were on the northwest edge of town.
The first businesses were a restaurant and general merchandise
store built in 1871. By the early 1900s, business houses
were located on both sides of Main Street with a steady
growth and expansion until the depression days when the
town could then gradually see a decline in the businesses.
The charter for the First National Bank of Steward was
signed and issued on December 18, 1902. A new building
was erected and business started January 2, 1903 and continued
till 1933. The first Post Office was established at Heaton
Aug. 31, 1871 and located in the Steward depot. It was
relocated in Steward April 12, 1876. Today it is located
in the old bank building on Main Street. By 1976, the
village became mostly a residential community with the
exception of the Post Office.
Famous people: Leroy George Herrmann (Born: February 26,
1906 in Steward, Illinois Died: July 3, 1972 in
Livermore, California), was a professional baseball player
who played pitcher in the Major Leagues between 1932 and
1935 ; he played for the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds.
IL, Park and Depot
The land that the park currently sits on was turned over
to the Village on May 19, 1934 from the Steward Estate.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, residents held an annual
Farmers Market Day (including a parade, variety
show, games, street dance, food booths, etc.) to raise
funds to purchase playground equipment and to build the
It is still being enjoyed today by all who stop by to
watch the trains go by, enjoy a picnic, play on the equipment,
or just relax for a bit. Families also rent the shelter
for special events for a nominal fee, at which time the
restrooms are cleaned and opened. To rent the shelter,
call Hugh at 815-970-2017.
Wesley Steward, the founder of the Village of Steward,
negotiated with the Chicago and Iowa Railroad officials
to finish the railroad line from Hinckley to Rochelle
in 1870. Alto Township residents took out $32,000 in bonds
to get the track laid, and many farmers helped with this
task. Regular trains did not run on the Hinckley Railroad
(as it was called at first) until April 1871, there being
only one train a day until 1872. The railroad offices
and warehouse were in Stewards barn at first. The
first depot was built in 1871 and is believed to have
burned down in 1894. The present structure was built in
1896. A coal shed and stockyards were east of the elevator.
Livestock was shipped to Chicago to the markets. At one
time there were eight daily passenger trains through Steward;
four made stops in Steward two going east and two
going west. Passenger service stopped before 1970. There
were two tracks through the town, but one was removed.
On March 3, 1970, the C B & Q Railroad became the
Burlington Northern Inc. In 1976, the Burlington Northern
Railroad deeded the depot to the Village of Steward. The
depot was moved into Wesley Steward Memorial Park, turned
180 degrees, and placed on a new cement foundation. The
Village decided to turn over the care of the depot to
a private group of citizens The Depot Committee.
In 2003, The Depot Committee came under the management
of the Village Board once again.
The inside of the
depot has been turned into a museum to accommodate all
of the historical items that have a special place in the
history of Steward, as well as items that have been donated
by residents, past and present. Resident volunteers have
done extensive work cataloging and sorting the many items
that fill the depot. The museum is open for special fundraising
events throughout the year (i.e. bake sales, luncheons),
and by appointment. Fundraising efforts are ongoing and
donations would be greatly appreciated in order to maintain
and preserve these items, as well as the historic depot.
Celebration Garden, created in 2012 and located next
to the historic Village Hall, is a flower garden and
resting/meeting place with a walkway of personalized
bricks in honor, and celebration, of former and current
residents. Bricks are ordered annually, and donations
are given by community patrons to plant, maintain, and
continually update this now beautiful lot located on
Main Street directly across from the post office. Many
thanks to all who have contributed in any way.
have been celebrated in conjunction with the Villages
Stewardfest event, which is held the first Friday of
August. These events include live music and light hors
doeuvres in the historic Village Hall, in addition
to other activities in the village park and historic
train depot (live music, bake sale, church supper).
Steward IL Newsletters
- Tree City USA
been a Tree City USA for 15 consecutive years.
To accomplish this, we must have an Arbor Day Proclamation,
celebrate Arbor Day, have a tree ordinance and tree
committee, and spend at least $2 per capita on trees
Day Foundation has a large initiative for 2022, the
150th anniversary of Arbor Day.
In three years, they want to plant 100,000,000 trees
and inspire 5,000,000 new tree planters.
of The Time for Trees Initiative is:
+Absorb 8 million tons of carbon, the equivalent of
taking 6.2 million cars off the road for one year.
+Intercept and filter 7.1 billion cubic meters of water
runoff, enough water to fill the water bottle of every
person on Earth every day for five years.
+Filter 15,850 tons of microscopic airborne particulate
matter out of the air - that would fill nine Olympic-sized
+Remove 578,000 tons of chemical air pollution from
our atmosphere, enough gaseous pollution to fill 70,000
+Provide $32.9 Billion in total environmental benefits,
the equivalent of the operating budget for the entire
city of Chicago for about 10 years.
+Trees provide the very necessities of life itself.
They clean our air, protect our drinking water, create
healthy communities, and feed the human soul. But these
life necessities are threatened around the globe.
So that is
why they are launching an unprecedented undertaking:
the Time for Trees initiative.
Together, we can create change
Here at Steward, work has already begun. May 20, 2019
volunteers planted 4 trees.
We had at least 2 new tree planters, Marlie Brown and