The Bolingbrook Historic Preservation Commission has spent the last three years working tirelessly to inventory and catalog its collection of artifacts, manuscripts and photographs. Last year they uncovered a treasure trove of local DuPage Township poll books and election rolls dating from 1914–1951. Now, the Fountaindale Public Library is digitizing these early election rolls to further local history and genealogical research in our community. You can view and download these collections for free on the Internet Archive.Early DuPage Township Election Records Now Available Online!, Fountaindale Public Library

Early DuPage Township Election Records Now Available Online!, Fountaindale Public Library

Sprague-Phelps School in Romeoville circa 1920

Poll books and election rolls are great tools for historical and genealogical research. The items we are currently digitizing are rare and valuable primary source documents that record the names of voters, what candidates and ballot measures they supported and occasionally, the voter’s place of residence. From these books, we also know on what dates and where local elections were held. Instead of meeting at multiple polling places, elections were held on a single day at Sprague School in Romeoville. The school was located near the present-day Stone City Saloon. The original building was in use through the 1940s and then sold in the early 1950s upon the consolidation of the Valley View School District.

Poll books are especially valuable to researchers who are tracking relatives between each United States Federal Census period. For example, if your ancestors were farming in Wheatland Township from 1916–1922, then appeared in DuPage Township in the 1930 census, you could use these poll books to narrow down what year they moved house. These records also help locate the whereabouts of women, adult sons and extended relatives who may or may not appear on local plat maps.

Early DuPage Township Election Records Now Available Online!, Fountaindale Public Library

These newly discovered DuPage Township poll books are a surviving example of how area residents conducted their elections, where they were held, what measures they voted on and who showed up to cast their vote. You can also see how community improvements and ballot measures were received by voters. As this area of rural Illinois was not paved, most of the ballot measures entailed funding public works such as grating and graveling the larger public roads. Before the common use of cars, road upkeep was a much-needed service, as it ensured horses, buggies and pedestrians had a level surface on which to travel. Even before the advent of heavy car use, the gravel roads in this area would be maintained by public funds. Paved road expenditures would arrive many decades later.

Early DuPage Township Election Records Now Available Online!, Fountaindale Public Library

Governor Edward Dunne signs the Illinois Suffrage Act

The earliest poll books in the collection have separate pages for male and female voters. This is due to Illinois granting women the right to vote on June 26, 1913. When Governor Edward Dunne signed the Illinois suffrage bill into law, Illinois was the first state east of the Mississippi River to enfranchise women. To be eligible to vote, women were required to be 21 or older, needed to reside in Illinois for one year, had to reside in the county for 90 days and were required to continue to reside in the same election district for 30 days preceding the next election. Women were eligible to cast ballots in presidential, state and local elections, including ballot measures. They were barred, however, from voting for police magistrates. This brings up the question, was this section ever amended for women to vote for police magistrates?

Two ballot measures for 1916 consisted of abolishing poll taxes and the consumption of alcohol. Poll taxes required eligible voters to pay a fee before they could cast a ballot. The measure was passed, thus discontinuing this practice in DuPage Township. However, poll taxes would continue in certain areas of the country until 1966, when the Supreme Court of the United States declared them unconstitutional.

The second measure considers the issue of temperance. In 1907, Illinois passed a local option law, giving residents of a precinct the ability to make their precinct an “anti-saloon territory” by outlawing the sale of alcohol. This was overwhelmingly unpopular with voters in this 1916 election, keeping sales of alcohol available to residents until the passage of the 18th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, which prohibited the production and sale of alcohol. From the voting results of 1916, we can comfortably ascertain that prohibition would have been deeply unpopular in DuPage Township throughout the 1920s and 1930s.

Early DuPage Township Election Records Now Available Online!, Fountaindale Public Library

Interested in seeing more early DuPage Township records? Our library has cultivated a rich collection of teacher register books and financial ledgers from one-room schoolhouses. We also have a growing number of digitized books and records that are perfect for your local history research. Want to learn more about our archived digital collections for an organizational meeting or scouting badge? We would love to share all these resources with you! Please email to set up a meeting or appointment.

See You At The Library,