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History

The town was founded in 1836 by the Wood family of Vermont, and originally named Wood’s Corners.

Willard and Dyantha Wood, who traveled from Vermont by covered wagon, settled on farmland in the center of present-day Crete. The Woods Hotel was the first lodging built in the area for travelers on the Vincennes Wagon Trail.

Willard Wood renamed the town Crete after the island mentioned in St. Paul’s journey to Rome in the Bible. Touted as the place where Chicago begins, Crete has flourished from its modest beginnings, continually growing and adapting to change. Crete grew into a bustling village following the addition of the railroad in 1869.

Crete’s Main Street was first known as Hubbard’s Trail in the early 1820s when the ponies of fur trader Gurdon Hubbard marked on the path to Danville. Hubbard’s Trail, a major trade route that ran from Vincennes, Indiana to Chicago, became the Vincennes Wagon Trail in the 1830s as the route for wagons from Southern Illinois and Indiana to Chicago. The Illinois Legislature designated it as Route 1 for the first north-south highway in Illinois. In the 1920s it became part of the Dixie Highway as the route from the Great Lakes in Florida.

By 1846, German immigrants started streaming into the area to farm the prairie. Crete had three stations on the Underground Railroad beginning in the early 1840s. Several people were active abolitionists who risked their lives to harbor slaves fleeing from the South to freedom in Canada. The runaway slaves were kept hidden in basements and fields until darkness when they were taken to the next station on the Underground Railroad.

Many descendants of Crete’s early settlers still reside here, and many “modern pioneers” have joined them over the decades, seeking a simpler, quieter life. They also realized that the excitement and opportunities available in Chicago lie just 30 miles to the north. While Crete family life is pleasant and tranquil, it is a community on the move.

Crete has always been a friendly community with a rural charm that continues through today.

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