Joseph and Samuel McCarty were farmers and millwrights in New York State. In 1833 when they heard the growing accounts of what were then “the Far West” and the fertile soils of Illinois. At the age of 24, Joseph was the first of the brothers to travel westward, and, in 1834, arrived at the Indian villages occupied by Waubonsie, chief of the Pottawatomie. This village was located just north of the present site of Aurora, Illinois. Joseph staked his claim to some 330 acres of land on the East Side of the Fox River upon which he built a tiny log cabin.
Nearby, an island in the middle of the river obstructed the channel. This combined with a natural fall of the water formed the advantage of waterpower. To secure the rights to the waterpower, Joseph purchased another 100 acres on which he built another small cabin. This second claim was for his brother, Samuel, who arrived a few months later. A dam was built and soon a sawmill was constructed. Later, a gristmill was also erected. These claims covered the ground on which the city of Aurora, Illinois was later built.
Aurora owes not only its location, but also her rapid growth to the McCarty brothers. In 1836, Samuel had the old state line road that ran from Chicago to Galena changed. He and his workmen opened a new roadway and built bridges from Naperville to Aurora and westward from Aurora to Big Rock. With promises of free room and board, Samuel enticed stagecoach drivers to come to Aurora instead of traveling the old road route. Eventually, hundreds of immigrants in search of homes were compelled to stop in the town developed by the McCarty’s, the first white men to settle in the area.
Samuel McCarty was a thrifty manger and laid out his land into streets and town lots, leaving one block for a public park and selling others to newcomers arriving at what had become known as “McCarty’s Mill”. By 1837, when the community’s name was changed to Aurora, 33 men and their families lived here; and 14 youngsters were in school. By 1854, the number of inhabitants had grown to 1,895 and six years later the population was up to more than 6,000. By 1870, more that 11,000 people lived in the city of Aurora and businesses flourished in this commercial and manufacturing city.
Unfortunately, Joseph McCarty did not live to see his town grow and prosper. In 1838, he became ill and moved to Alabama’s warmer climate, where he died a year later. Little is recorded about Joseph and there are no pictures of him because he died before the advent of photography. But Samuel wrote affectionately about his older brother: “He was as noble a man as ever stood on the banks of the Fox River, and one that appeared to foresee the rapid building up of those beautiful prairies and the springing up of flourishing towns and cities along the Fox River.”
Samuel continued in the milling business until 1858, when he began to devote most of his time to real estate, both in Aurora and Chicago. He played an active role in Aurora’s continuing development. Samuel McCarty was 79 years old when he died in March of 1889. By 1900, his little town had grown to almost 20,000 residents. This is particularly remarkable, especially since much of that growth is directly traceable to Samuel McCarty himself. For the last half century his name has been prominently identified with the growth and prosperity of Aurora.
McCarty Elementary School opened its doors in August of 1989. Students determined that the mascot would be a mustang and the school colors would be black and white. The ‘Mustang Song” debuted at the building’s dedication on October 22, 1989. In 1994, the Spirit Council members voted to add red as an accent color to the black and white already established.
It is the hope of the McCarty staff that all its students will be inspired and challenged by the life and contributions of Samuel McCarty. A writer expressed his admiration of Samuel McCarty at the time of his death as follows: