Eli Franklin Stark was born on August 23, 1873 on the family farm at 87th Street and Book Road in Wheatland Township, Will County, Illinois. Eli was the son and youngest child of Jacob S. Stark and Rebecca Mary Hartman.
On May 26, 1897, he married Linnie M. Wagner, whose father ran the Fly Net Factory. Byron Wagner and Irene R. emerged from this connection.
Eli learned the printing trade at the printers of his brother-in-law, Newton Matter, who was the publisher of The Illinoisanone of the early county newspapers in Wheaton.
Eli studied in Chicago to learn how to use a Linotype machine and was accepted into the typographers’ union. Finding the trade too narrow and the fumes too toxic, he gave up linotyping in 1899 and bought his brother’s bicycle repair shop, located on the site of what is now the Masonic Lodge building on W. Jefferson Ave. 34 found. He sold Wheeler and Wilson sewing machines as well as sporting goods and games.
In addition, Eli ran a newspaper kiosk and employed paper porters who made deliveries by horse and cart Naperville Clarion to the outskirts. In 1901, Eli bought a candy store on Washington Street just north of Jefferson Avenue and added photographic supplies, fresh fruit and berries, and ice cream and candy. Eli and Linnie made the ice cream themselves.
By 1914 he had moved the store to the southwest corner of Washington Street and Jefferson Avenue.
Eli founded the first cab company in Naperville in 1923 and at one time had seven cabs. In 1931, while trying to show his employees how to dress customers, Eli was robbed of his cab, his pants, and $30 by a customer who had stopped his cab.
He was an amateur photographer and his photographs of early Naperville life remain an invaluable legacy to the city. Eli finally retired from all his dealings in 1945.
Eli was a 50-year-old member of Euclid Lodge No. 65, AF & AM, serving as Master of the Lodge in 1913; a fifty-year member of Euclid Chapter No. 13, RAM, and served as High Priest of the Chapter in 1914 and 1915; and a member of Aurora Commandery No. 22
Eli Franklin Stark died on February 13, 1966 in Naperville, DuPage County, Illinois and was buried in Naperville Cemetery. Members of Euclid Lodge No. 65 performed the simple Masonic burial ceremony and Rev. Grant Graver of Grace United Methodist Church performed the religious burial at Ackman Funeral Chapel.