Steuben Township edges the Illinois River on the east and LaPrairie Township on the west. The first coal mining took place in the 1850s. During the civil war, Steuben township was an important source of coal.
The first settlers in Steuben township were Franklin Ward Graves and his wife and family of nine children. He remained until 1846 and sold to George Sparr. Then, the Graves, their children and two sons-in-laws set out for California, joining the Donner Party. Only six member of the Graves family escaped the Donner Pass tragedy. (See the Graves Tragedy.)
Many of Steubens earliest settlers came from Steuben County, New York. Steuben comprises bottom lands and some hilltop prairie along the river. Anasa Garrett settled in Steuben in 1833 and was the first Steuben township supervisor when the township system was established in 1850..
The first settler of Sparland in 1830 was Franklin W. Graves, who was one of the Donner party who died crossing the Sierra Nevada mountains. His farm was occupied in 1846 by George Sparr. Mr. Sparr's heirs had the town laid off on June 13, 1855. It consisted of two ranges of blocks under the bluff west the the railroad track, running parallel with the track. The railroad station was erected the same year. About the same time, a warehouse was built. The school house was built the next year and a Methodist church was organized in 1857.
In 1860, it was recorded on the published map of Marshall county as "West Lacon". It was originally the "Lacon Station" for the Peoria and Bureau Vally railroad. It was later a station on the Chicago and Rock Island railroad. It handled passengers and freight-express for many years.
Sparland in 1867
Taken From the Marshall County Republican Newspaper, Henry, IL
November 14, 1867, Sparland Items
As your paper has something of a circulation here, I thought you would not object to a few items, so here goes. Our merchants and business men have been doing a very good business this fall, which speaks well for the place as a trading point, and is also proof that our business men are worthy the patronage bestowed on them. You may not be aware of the fact, but there are some as large and well stocked stores in Sparland as there is elsewhere in the county.
Among the recent improvements I will mention the nice brick store erected by Bates, two stories high, with basement. Other stores and houses "too tedious to mention" have been erected this season, and our mechanics have all been busy, besides having to import some. Two fellows, from your place came down the other week, and almost before any body knew it they had daubed 3 or 4 barrels of Chicago lime all over the interior of the Presbyterian church. Their names Parker & Buck -- they ought to be advertised.
Speaking of churches, the Presbyterian has as above stated been hard finished, and painted throughout, and now looks as neat and tasteful as need be. The society have the services of Rev. Holmes, father of our recently elected surveyor. He is a man of more than ordinary ability, and under his administration the society will no doubt prosper.
C.B. Holmes, surveyor elect, formerly superintendent of the Grantville coal mines 3 miles below here, has taken up his abode in our city. He has a well stocked lumber yard, and does a good business, he has invested some $5000 in real estate, and built a dwelling, office, etc. Just the kind of man to build up a town.
Hitchcock -- he of railroad notoriety -- has contracted nearly all the corn in Steuben, at least we should judge so from the size of the crib he is building.
Col. McClanahan keeps the Steuben House in first rate order, and though his beds and tables are crowded, he manages to feed them all, and prevents unwarranted promiscuous crowdings of beds, which is quite a feat for a small man like him.
The Methodist church building is a model of neatness, internally and externally; its erection of the past summer was largely the work of Rev. W. Lebar, whose labors have been very acceptable. Prof. M.C. Kellogg's singing school meets in the church, which speaks well for the liberality of the trustees. We have known singing schools turned out of churches before now, and are glad to make a note to the contrary in the cse just mentioned.
A mile and a half east of us is a village rather larger in pretensions, (especially as all her imports and exports pay tribute to Sparland). The village, Lacon by name puts on more airs than a French dancing master. Its principal editor, the Journal man, was never known to say a generous word or write a generous line unless it reflected entirely on Lacon. So jealous is he in this respect that he hardly even mentions Sparland, and when he does it is always secondary.
Sparland had beaten Lacon 3 or 4 games of base ball; Lacon has beaten Sparland 1 or 2 on 2d nines. The latter have been reported in the Journal; the former have not. The Journal man thinks muchly of Lacon, because it is the county seat, the SEAT, the SEAT. Yes, and if Marshall county was personified, Lacon would still be the seat. With but little invested in wool, and less in "air tight," Sparland only awaits a short lapse of time ere all that is transforable of the seat (save the Journal man) will gravitate to the county's commercial center - Sparland. NICK
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