In the area to our east where boundary lines of the village of Bartlett and the city of Elgin now meet, or come close to meeting, was once a place called Spaulding.
The name derived from that of Shepard Spaulding, an early day pioneer who emigrated from Steuben County, New York, to claim land in Hanover Township.
In 1843, he purchased from the government about 240 acres of land located about four miles southeast of the little settlement of Elgin.
When the Chicago & Pacific railway (which became the Milwaukee Road and is now the Soo Line) was constructed from Chicago to Elgin through Hanover Township in 1873, a siding was established on the Spaulding farm.
It was a convenient access point for the farmers, chiefly dairymen, in the neighborhood.
In 1887, the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern railroad (EJ&E) was projected to form a beltline around Chicago from Indiana to Joliet and then to Waukegan. The original plan assumed that its tracks would enter Elgin, but this was discarded when the North Western and the Milwaukee lines indicated a lack of cooperation.
Instead the railroad re-routed through Hanover, and reached the Milwaukee tracks at Spaulding in June 1888. The city of Elgin did not annex portions of the EJ&E until 1962, but local businessmen protested whenever the railroad was rumored to be considering dropping the word "Elgin" from its name.
In 1910, it was proposed to extend the local streetcar line from the Bluff City Cemetery entrance to the Spaulding crossing, which would be renamed "East Elgin," but nothing came of the idea.
A little community arose around the Spaulding Junction, including a hotel/boarding house occupied by railroad workers. A three-story oatmeal mill and elevator was built in 1882 by the Elgin Cereal Milling Co. Mail addressed to the EJ&E often was delivered here under the mistaken assumption that the railroad's offices were located in Elgin.
A one-room Spaulding school was located on the north side of Spaulding road about a half mile east of the railroad station. Before WWI, its bell called about 40 farm children to their lessons.
Chicago Gravel Co. began operating steam shovels and a stone crushing plant at gravel pits nearby in 1903. Spurs running from the EJ&E carried the product to the main lines. Spaulding Road between Illinois 25 and Gifford Road was vacated in 1937 for the widening gravel operations.
The EJ&E provided passenger service for several years. In August 1889, for example, a large group of Elgin excursionists went to Spaulding via the Milwaukee and purchased tickets to Joliet, where they paid an admission fee of 25 cents each to tour the penitentiary and later attended harness races. The trip from Spaulding, 38 miles, was made in an hour.
"For a new road," commented the Elgin Daily News reporter, "The Elgin is remarkably well ballasted."
Trains had to slow down for the crossing, and Spaulding became a favorite place among boys for the sport of flipping freight trains by catching a hold on the handrail and climbing up the side of the car. The Junction also attracted tramps for the same reason.
In 1959, some owners of farmland proposed incorporating Spaulding to control zoning. The boundaries of the proposed village had an irregular shape to keep its limits a mile from those of Elgin and Bartlett. They ranged from the DuPage County line on the south to Illinois, 19 on the north. Of the 90 residents eligible to vote in the referendum, 39 were against incorporating and 22 in favor.
Fires destroyed the boarding house in 1896 and the mill in 1800. The little district school became part of Elgin's U46 system in 1951 and was closed. The Spaulding depot was abandoned and later consumed by fire. With the removal of the signal tower in the 1980s, nothing much is left at the junction today. Passengers on the commuter trains leaving or approaching Elgin take little notice of a place once called Spaulding.