The Potawatomie Indians took residence in the land that is now Plainfield long before European settlement, building a village of semi-permanent structures and farming small plots of land to support their own. In the early 1800s, fur trading first brought white men to the banks of the DuPage River, but none of them stayed long enough to purchase land and establish permanent homes. James Walker learned of the area through his father-in-law, Reverend Jesse Walker, a pioneer Methodist evangelist. In 1828, a group of men, including James Walker, staked their claim and erected a sawmill around which the settlement of Walkers’ Grove developed.
The DuPage River, established routes to Fort Dearborn (Chicago) and an abundance of virgin timber made Walkers’ Grove thrive. In 1834, the southern portion of "Planefield," a 13-block area, was laid out, predating the establishment of Will County. The new village, located northeast of the original Walkers’ Grove settlement, was named Plainfield, possibly in reference to the vast, flat, fertile expanse of prairie reaching outward from the dense forest along the river.
The community continued to prosper and grow. Early industries included a cheese factory, grist mill, wagon manufacturing, a tile factory and foundry. In 1877, the north and south portions of the Village were incorporated. Plainfield’s main thoroughfare, Lockport Street, was chosen as the route of the Lincoln Highway. Begun in 1913, the road was the first paved, transcontinental highway, stretching from New York to San Francisco. Later, when U.S. Route 66 crossed the Lincoln Highway in the heart of the village, Plainfield hosted the intersection of the two longest highways in the world.
By 1960, Plainfield was steadily evolving from a small, rural community into a modern Chicago suburb. Today, Plainfield keeps its eyes on the future while venerating its past. Three of its local sites appear on the National Register of Historic Places. The community continues to reach outward from its historic center in residential, commercial and industrial development. With that development comes challenges the Village of Plainfield is ready and eager to face in a determined effort to continue its prosperity well into the future.