Lanark is situated on section five, in Rock Creek Township. The first settler
in this township was David Becker, who settled here in 1844, and made a claim of
the land now included in the farm of Daniel Belding. Until Mr. Becker settled
here, the primitive stillness had never been disturbed nor the soil broken by
the innovations of civilization. The settlements, as elsewhere noted, had been
confined to the shadows of the groves, and when Mr. Becker selected his claim
and expressed his determination to settle "away out on the prairie," it was
supposed he was making a very hazardous and foolish experiment - that no
civilized white man or white woman could withstand the exposures and winds of an
open, unobstructed prairie plain. But he only laughed at such objections, and
ventured upon the trial. Time and industry proved his wisdom. His cabin was
built, and while his neighbors in the groves were grubbing, cutting and mauling
away to make farms, he was enjoying the ease of a farm already made, the
enclosures alone excepted. Soon after the selection of his claim, the virgin
soil was turned over by the breaking team and plow of E. Spaulding and L. T.
Easterbrook. The next settlers were Z. B. Kinkade, John Kinkade and Nathaniel
Sutton, who came in the Spring of 1846, and located on section seven. Z. B.
Kinkade was the next man after Becker to commence making a farm by breaking up
the prairie. Settlements in the townships were slow for a number of years, and
until there was a prospect for a railroad, after which immigration was rapid. In
locating the town, John Nycurn donated 80 acres to the railroad company, and
they purchased 80 acres more - making them owners of 160 acres. The company has
contributed liberally, in lots, to most of the church societies. After the lands
granted to the Illinois Central Railroad were selected, land entries were rapid,
and nearly all were taken up for farms and homes - but very little being entered
for purposes of speculation.
From 1845 to 1850, the people of Northern Illinois were considerably interested
in devising ways and means for building railroads. Almost every neighborhood had
a scheme of its own. Every settlement wanted a railroad, and many men who owned
land that was intersected by cross-roads imagined that, if railroads were built,
they couldn't fail to centre at his particular place. In some instances,
magnificent plans were based on small prospects. Many towns were laid off - on
paper. High-sounding names were given them and their streets and avenues, but
their glory and prosperity didn't last long. They went down before more
fortunate rivals, and are now only known in name. Among such towns in this part
of Carroll County was Georgetown - about four miles north of Lanark, of which
Messrs. Stanton, Turner and Puterbaugh were the proprietors. At one time, when
the Racine & Mississippi Railroad bade fair to be completed success, Georgetown
had a promising future, but when that enterprise failed, Georgetown's glory
The first house built in Lanark was a small one-story frame structure, 16 by 96,
intended for a boarding house, for the accommodation of the men employed in
building the Lanark Hotel, now occupied by Samuel Deitrich. The old boarding
house was built under the direction of D. W. Dame, and, when completed, was put
in charge of Daniel H. Stouffer and wife, the first family to claim an abiding
place in the new town. That shanty-like structure has undergone a good many
changes and alterations since that time, and is now included, for the most part,
in the building occupied by C. E. Wales & Co., as a hardware store, on the east
side of Broad Street.
When it was known beyond question that the railroad would be built, there was
rapid influx of aspiring business men. Situated in the centre of as grand a
farming district as there is in Illinois, Lanark was conceded to be the "coming
town"" in this part of the state, a concession that has been fully sustained by
time and its developments. Building didn't drag, but men of brains, money and
muscle, went to work with a will, and it was not long until all the prominent
corners were taken and occupied. Where, but a few months before, there was
nothing but an undisturbed prairie, with no really productive and remunerative
farms within sight, all became hurry and bustle. Stores and trading places were
opened just as fast as accommodations could be secured. The country around began
to liven up, farms to be made, houses and barns to be built, every month adding
some new improvement, until now, look out in any direction, and evidences of
wealth and comfort and progress rise up to relieve the eye's wanderings. From
the old boarding shanty of a few years ago, Lanark has grown into a well
regulated and well governed town of 1,500 people, whose homes and business
houses give token of intelligence, thrift and comfort. Many of the business
houses are large ones, their annual transactions reaching far up into the
thousands. The founders of the town were wise and liberal in their establishment
of the streets and avenues. They are not narrow, pent up, alley-like concerns,
but wide and convenient, and, as they come to be occupied with residence houses
have been handsomely shaded, while wide, substantial plank walks line their
sides from one end of the town to the other. With all the streets and avenues
macadamized, as is the purpose of the citizens, Lanark will become as popular
among non-residents for its attractive beauty as it is dear to the people whose
homes are within its limits.
The Lanark House was commenced on the first day of July, A.D. 1861, under the
patronage of the railroad company. It may be regarded as the first house of more
than one story completed in Lanark. Others soon followed, but it is the pioneer
building of more than one story.
The first business house was a small establishment, opened by "Uncle" Chauncy
Grant and his one-armed son, William. Their stock was small, and did not exceed
$150 in value. However, they prospered, and made some money and accumulated some
property. Their old business stand is now occupied by Mishler, as a grocery
Among the first houses erected here, was a one and a half story building, now
owned by Andrew Tomlinson, the lower part of which is occupied as a fire engine
house, and the upper part as a dwelling that has a history within itself. It
stands on the east side of Broad Street, between Carroll and the railroad track.
This building was first erected in New Orleans out of live oak lumber and timber
for a warehouse. In later years it was taken apart, moved up to St. Louis, and
re-erected on the levee at that city. When the steamboat interest became strong,
and demanded the tearing away of the small warehouses, this building was again
taken down and moved up to Savanna, and again re-erected as a warehouse. When
the Western Union railroad track was established, it obstructed the proposed
track, and was condemned and ordered removed. Henry Pierce then became its owner
and when the railroad was completed, the company gave him free transportation
for it, and he removed it to Lanark. Here it was again re-erected, and in the
upper part two or three rooms were fitted up for family use, and were occupied
by A. M. York, in whose family occurred the first birth and first death in
Lanark. York came here as a young attorney, and hung out his shingle from this
building, and used it both as a residence and a law office. When the war came
on, he enlisted, and in due course of time, became manager of the Freedman's
Bureau, at Paducah, Kentucky. After the was closed, he found his way to
Independence, Montgomery County, Kansas, and was elected as State Senator from
that district. While serving as such senator, an election of United States
Senator occurred, in which York took an active part, and won a national
reputation, by exposing the means (as he alleged) by which Pomeroy proposed to
secure his re-election to the United States Senate, and sent up to the speaker a
package of $7,000, which he declared Pomeroy had given him for his vote. He also
acquired some notoriety by tracking up the murderer of his brother, Dr. York,
and fastening it upon the Benders, who lived near Thayer, in Kansas.
Since the time when these buildings were first erected in Lanark and the first
business house opened, there have been many changes. Business houses increased
in number and importance as the country around was developed and improved, until
there are now about seventy-five establishments of various kinds - dry goods
stores, clothing stores, grocery and provision stores, millinery establishments,
grain elevators, lumber yards, etc. The aggregate business , is, perhaps, larger
than the business of any other town in the county. The annual shipments of grain
and stock are large - a statement of which will be found in another place.
Besides the stores and other trading places, there are a number of shops of
various kinds, devoted exclusively to the demands of the farmers of the country
surrounding. Among them all there are none that rise to the dignity of
manufacturing establishments as compared with those of larger towns and cities,
and which are the life and support of the communities in which they are located.
But this is no fault of the Lanark mechanics. They are just as industrious, just
as competent as the mechanics of larger places, and the only reason their shops
are not larger is because the same practices exist here that exist in many other
localities, to wit: people prefer to go abroad for a manufactured article - a
wagon, a plow, a cultivator, or whatever else they may need, to buying of their
own home manufacturers.
Of their church edifices and school building, the people of Lanark have just
occasion to be proud. When the town was four years old, the people moved for the
erection of a school house, the style and architecture of which should be in
keeping with the character of the town that had been named in honor of the home
county of the Glasgow (Scotland) banker who had advanced the money to build the
line of railroad on which it was situated. In laying off the town, the railroad
company, through Mr. Dame, as their agent, had designated one entire square of
block, for the uses of a public park, and another square for the uses of a
public school house. When the people came to consider the building of the school
house, a controversy arose between them and the company's agent, that resulted
in the building of the house in an entirely different location. This controversy
enters so largely into the history of Lanark, that the following proceedings of
the board in relation to it are deemed essential:
At a meeting of the board held on the 13th of May, 1863, notices were issued for
a special school meeting to be held at the school house on Wednesday, May 25, 8
o'clock P. M., for the following purposes: "First, to vote upon the number of
months school shall be kept the following year; second, to vote upon building a
house for a graded school upon the block of ground donated for that purpose by
the Railroad Company."
At that special meeting, the whole number of votes cast was 24, of which 15 were
in favor of ten months' school, 7 in favor of eleven months' school, and 2 in
favor of a mine months' school.
The question of a graded school was then considered, and, after some discussion,
Messrs. "D. W. Dame, M. Martin and G. Lobingier were appointed a committee to
make arrangements for a general meeting of the town. An organization was then
effected. Edgar H. Dingee was chosen president; Elias Miller, secretary, and P.
B. Stouffer, treasurer." The meeting then adjourned until Monday evening, May
30. At that meeting, a portion of the committee being absent, "a general debate
took place upon the subject of education as connected with the graded school."
Messrs. Porter, DeWolf, Newcomer, Lobingier and Dame were appointed a committee
to report a plan based upon the principles of the School Law of Illinois, for
the establishment of a graded school in Lanark, said committee to report to a
general meeting to be held in Lanark, Saturday, June 4.
Saturday, June 4 - At this meeting the above-named committee reported as
That a majority of the committee visited the graded schools in Freeport, that
they consulted and advised with the directors and teachers of said schools, and
with leading and prominent friends of the cause, and that after a pretty
thorough investigation of the subject, they would recommend that School District
No. 3, in Rock Creek Township, move in the enterprise and raise funds for the
same by taxation, according to the school law pertaining to the power of
districts through their directors, to borrow money and assess taxes; and by any
other means deemed proper and best, such as donations, excursions, festivals,
selling of scholarships, etc. the committee would also recommend that the
directors, after the sum desired is obtained, procure a deed of the block
proposed to be donated for a graded school from Richard Irvine, Esq., to the
trustees of schools of said township. All of which is respectfully submitted.
Jas. DeWolf, J. B. Porter, Thomas W. Newcomer, D. W. Dame, George Lobingier,
The report of the committee was adopted, and an excursion made to Racine and
Milwaukee, by railroad and steamboat, for the benefit of the school district;
the management and arrangements of the excursion being left to a committee
consisting of D. W. Dame, Dr. J. Haller, and T. W. Newcomer.
June 16th, a special meeting of the citizens of the district was held at the
school house, under call of the directors, to vote - first, upon the building of
a house for a graded school; second, to levy a tax of two per cent, to apply
towards building the same; and third, to authorize the directors to borrow money
for the above purpose. The result of that election was as follows: For building
a house for graded school, 25 votes were cast - against, 2; for the tax of two
per cent, 28 - against, 3; to authorize the directors to borrow money, 25 -
The excursion to Racine and Wisconsin did not turn out well, but left the
district in debt to a small amount, but which was subsequently liquidated.
September 27, Mr. Dingee tendered his resignation as school director, and at a
special meeting, October 31, Z. B. Kinkade was chosen to fill the vacancy.
From the last date above mentioned, until the regular annual meeting, in August,
1865, the records of the clerk of the board are principally taken up with
financial minutes. In August, however, Mr. Edgar H. Dingee was again elected as
school director for three years, and at a meeting of the board held at the
office of P. B. Stouffer, on the 14th of August, Mr. Dingee was elected clerk of
August 26, a special school meeting was held to authorize the directors to
select and acquire the title, by donation or purchase, of a suitable piece of
land upon which to erect and build a school house; to authorize and empower the
directors to levy a tax annually of such amount as they might deem necessary,
not exceeding three per cent, in any one year, and to borrow any sum of money
not exceeding five per cent, in any one year, and to erect and build a school
house of such size as shall be determined upon, not to exceed in dimensions 60
by 40 for the main building, with a vestibule not to exceed 16 by 48 feet, etc.,
the directors, however, not being required to build in that precise manner, but
were allowed to exercise their own judgment as to size, style and architecture.
Third, to borrow money, in any sum they might deem necessary, for the purpose,
at any rate of interest at which it could be secured, not exceeding ten per
cent, etc. Fourth, to vote on the number of months school should be taught, etc.
These propositions were voted upon under the head of Articles 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Forty-eight votes were cast, as follows:
For article 1, 45 votes were cast; against, 1; for article 2, 45 votes; against,
1; for article 3, 45 votes; against, 1; article 4, for nine months' school, 46
votes; for twelve months' school, 1.
From the date of this meeting until the next regular meeting, in August, 1866,
we find but little in regard to the proposed building. At this meeting, Dr. J.
Haller was elected director for three years, to succeed Thomas W. Newcomer,
whose term expired. Ten months' school was also adopted.
January 15, 1867, a special meeting was called, on motion of Dr. Haller, to
determine by vote whether the district would build a brick or wooden building.
At that meeting, plans and estimates of cost were submitted, as follows: A 56 by
60 feet brick, $10,070; ditto, wood, $9,279.16, exclusive of seating.
Seventy-one votes were cast in favor of a brick building, and twenty-four in
favor of a wooden structure.
December 27, the board had resolved to enter into a correspondence with the
railroad company, to ascertain upon what terms they could secure the block of
ground the company had surveyed out for school purposes when they laid off the
town. The company had set aside two blocks - one as a public park, and the other
for school purposes, as already intimated.
In considering the building of the school house, the board of directors had
determined to build it independent of contractors - i.e., to hire masons,
carpenters, etc., by the day; to procure the stone, brick, etc., by inviting
bids through an advertisement in the Lanark Banner, but to hire some competent
architect and builder to superintend its erection. At a special meeting of the
board, held at Dr. Haller's office, January 26 (1867), the proposition of
Alexander Smith, architect and builder, of Chicago, was considered and accepted.
He proposed to superintend the building of the school house, to make his own
drawings, and all contracts, and to take full charge of the building and
mechanics, for six hundred dollars - subject to the direction of the directors.
During these proceedings, a correspondence had been opened between the school
authorities and the railroad company, in regard to the block of ground already
recited. An instrument of writing had been made out and was ready to be
delivered, but its propositions were not in harmony with the views of the
people, and as they came to be understood, they evoked a good deal of heated
discussion among the people interested. April 22, a meeting of the board was
held at Gotshall's office, to consider the question of accepting the deed, or
lease, as it was claimed to be, in fact, by a good many. That instrument
proposed to convey to the district block 14 for school purposes, and on which
some material had already been delivered. When a vote on the acceptance of this
instrument was taken, it was rejected - E. H. Dingee voting to accept the deed,
and Dr. J. Haller and P. B. Stouffer voting against it.
The objectionable conditions of this deed were as follows:
"That the directors of the district shall put up a building of brick and stone,
not less that 44 by 50 feet, three stories high, to be used as a school house,
and for no other purpose whatever. Proper additions may be put up, as the
district may require, but no other building shall be erected on said block,
except the necessary out-houses; and further, that the directors shall keep a
graded school in said building, and the higher class shall be open for scholars
possessing the requisite qualifications, from other districts of the Township of
Rock Creek, by paying the tuition provided by law for children attending school
from other districts. And if any or all of these conditions are not complied
with, the land shall revert to Richard Irvine."
The deed was returned to D. W. Dame, representing the grantor, and a request
made to have it so modified as to render it satisfactory to the district. He
refused to comply with the request, saying that the only change he would make
would be from the hands of the directors to his own. Immediately after said
interview, E. H. Dingee tendered his resignation as director, which was
accepted, and an election was ordered to fill the vacancy.
At a special meeting of the board, held May 1, Emanuel Stover made a written
proposition to the board to sell to the district a certain lot or parcel of
land, on which the school house was finally built, for the sum of $750, and to
convey the same to the board in a clear warranty deed. The contract was
accepted, so far as the board of directors were concerned, and a contract
entered into with him for the fulfillment of his proposition, but on Monday, May
8, a special school meeting was held at the school house, to submit the question
of the two sites to the people of the district. At that election, 107 votes were
cast, as follows: In favor of the Stover lot, 72; in favor of the railroad lot,
35; a majority of 37 in favor of the Stover lot. And there the school house was
It is a very imposing brick structure, situated on an elevated lot of ground,
and from its upper windows a handsome view of the surrounding country, for many
miles, is obtained. The people by whom it was built have just cause to be proud
of its grandeur and magnificence. School is maintained within it about nine
months of each year.
Three hundred and twenty pupils are enrolled as regular attendants. Within the
last three years the school has furnished itself with a good organ by means of
exhibitions. The school is also provided with a good library and all the
necessary apparatus to its successful management. The school house and grounds
cost $15,000, since when additional improvements have been made to the value of
$2,000, increasing the value of the Lanark School House and grounds to $17,000.
The bonds issued in aid of the erection of the building have all been taken up,
and the district is entirely out of debt.
F. T. Oldt, A.M., the principal, is a graduate of Lafayette College, Easton,
Pa., and has held the position for three years. His aids are:
Fonetta Flansburg, Assistant.
Frank Lines, Grammar Department.
Stella White, Intermediate Department.
Maggie Booker, Second Primary Department.
Mrs. M. E. Emery, First Primary Department.