Naperville has a little-known tie to the most famous battle of the Civil War.
Born at Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, on October 13, 1837, Levi Schiffler Shafer was the son of Elias Shaffer and Elizabeth Schiffler.
He first worked in a wagon works and then as a young man in 1855, Shafer came to Naperville. Here he went to work as a carpenter along with his older brother, Alfred.
On September 18, 1861, Levi enlisted as a private and served in the Union Army during the War of the Rebellion in Co. E 8th IL Cavalry.
Levi Schiffler Shafer may best be remembered for lending his carbine rifle to Marcellus E. Jones of Wheaton who is credited with firing the first shot that officially started the Battle of Gettysburg.
Levi also fought in the Battles of Yorktown, Antietam, Williamsburg, Richmond, South Mountain, Culpepper, and Brandy Station. His regiment captured the colors of the vaunted 12th Virginia Cavalry.
In 1886, a monument was carved from stone from the Naperville quarry and placed at the site of “the first shot” on the outskirts of Gettysburg to commemorate the event.
Levi was honorably discharged as a sergeant on October 8, 1864, and married Anna Eliza Naugle on December 7, 1865, in Naperville. They were the parents of Walter, Elizabeth E. (who married Edward Barnes Hall), Grace (who married Henry Earl Rennels), Adela (who married Charles R. Hart) and two sons who died in infancy.
After the war Levi became a carpenter and building contractor. He erected homes for Dr. David Hess, William King and Ernest Von Oven as well as commercial buildings for merchant tailor and banker George Reuss, grocer Valentine Dieter, boot and shoe dealers Collins and Durran and pharmacist WW Wickel.
Levi also operated a planning mill and carpentry shop on the east side of Washington Street between North and School Avenues.
In 1890, Levi was elected as Naperville’s First Ward Alderman, serving for two years.
One of the most recognizable buildings in downtown Naperville, the old Naperville National Bank Building and Masonic Temple at 18 W. Jefferson Avenue, was built by Levi in 1891. Today the historic building houses the Italian restaurant, La Sorella di Francesca, and prominently stands as a testament to his abilities as a craftsman.
He was a member of Euclid Lodge No. 65, AF & AM
Levi Schiffler Shafer died June 23, 1920, in Naperville. His funeral services were conducted by Rev. LC Schmidt of Grace Church and the burial service was in the charge of the comrades of The Grand Army of the Republic. He was buried in the Naperville Cemetery.