About the Village of Steward IL


About Steward, IL

Steward 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 who’s 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. It’s 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 Governor’s 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, farmer’s markets…anything 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.






History of Steward, IL


Steward is a village in Lee County, Illinois, United States. The population was 256 at the 2010 census.

Steward, Illinois, 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 town’s formation is on John Street, also standing today, built in 1872.
The railroad offices and warehouse were in Wesley Steward’s 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.






Steward, IL, Park and Depot

Village Park
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 Farmer’s Market Day (including a parade, variety show, games, street dance, food booths, etc.) to raise funds to purchase playground equipment and to build the picnic shelter.
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.

Historic Train Depot
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 Steward’s 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.






Village Hall/Celebration Garden

The Steward 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.

Open houses have been celebrated in conjunction with the Village’s Stewardfest event, which is held the first Friday of August. These events include live music and light hors d’oeuvres 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 Post Office








Steward IL - Tree City USA

Steward has been a Tree City USA for 18 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 each year.

The Arbor 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.

The impact 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 swimming pools.
+Remove 578,000 tons of chemical air pollution from our atmosphere, enough gaseous pollution to fill 70,000 Goodyear®blimps.
+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 … through trees.
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 DT Wilson.