Genealogy and History
Part of the Genealogy Trails History Group
Loran Township, one of the westerly of the southern tier of townships, contains 18,273 acres of fertile land under cultivation, and a large section of timber, principally on Yellow Creek, which, with Plumb Branch and Lost Creek, Avaters the township and furnishes a fine power for miles, of great convenience to the farming community. The timber of the township is located on the north side of Yellow Creek, while south of this stream a greater part of the township is open prairie and an excellent quality of land. This township was originally of greater dimensions than at present, but was shorn of its territorial limits by the action of the Board of Supervisors. At the September term of the board, 1859, the township was subdivided, and the western portion organized into the township of Jefferson. No little difficulty was experienced in procuring facts in connection with the early settlement of the township ; those who came prior to 1840, having long since rendered an account of their stewardship and gone hence, while from those who came in 1840, very little information could be obtained.
The first settlement in the township, however, all agree, was made during the year 1836, by William Kirkpatrick, who was subsequently identified with the company organized to lay out Freeport as the county seat. He was the original white settler in the present limits of Loran Township, establishing himself about Mill Grove, in Section 14. Here he erected a sawmill, but the date of this evidence of enterprise is in dispute. Some contend that it did not go up until 1838, while others assert that it was in active operation a year earlier. This latter assumption is possibly correct, for it is averred in Freeport that during that year houses of frame were erected by the company," of which William Kirkpatrick was an important factor, the material for which was fashioned at the mill of that party, located on Yellow Creek. While he was building this mill, it should be observed, Mr. K. had no house wherein to live, and was obliged to accept the rather equivocal accommodations to be found in a wagon- box inverted and thatched to protect its occupant from the rain. Soon after the grist-mill was completed and operated, competing for patronage with Van Valzah's mill at Cedarville. Settlers began to come into Loran slowly, and, while the majority of those who made their advent into this section continued their explorations further west, a limited number entered claims and began to prepare farms.
Among those who came in about this time, according to the memory of the proverbial oldest inhabitant now living, was Smith Giddings, John Shoe- maker, who opened a farm in Section 19 ; Albert Curry, Sylvester Langdon, who took up a claim on Section 15, and some others, though the number of inhabitants could have been counted, it is said, within a circuit of twenty-five miles without the possession of an unlimited knowledge of mathematics. These new settlers had all the difficulties peculiar to new countries to contend with, in defiance of which, however, they have left their mark upon the history of the times, and created from an almost uninhabited and inaccessible wilderness, a domain of cultivation unsurpassed in Stephenson County.
The precedent established by Kirkpatrick and his succeeding colleagues was emulated by the Babb family and others in 1840. This family consisted of Samuel, Solomon, Reuben and Isaac Babb; Mathias Ditzler came in the same year, but reached his claim in advance of the Babb family, and was followed by his brother Christian Ditzler, who settled here, also, during the year mentioned. George House came in about 1841, John Lamb soon after ; Warren and Anson Andrews in 1839 or 1840 ; they erected a mill in Section 3 ; Horace Post opened a farm near Andrews' mill ; a man named Slocum, Truman Lowell, Moses Grigsby, a man named Pointer, William Barklow and Thomas Foster, both of whom settled in Section 17 ; Joseph Rush, in the southwest corner of the township ; Samuel Shiveley, west of the mill ; John Apgar, east of the mill ; Henry Layer, etc. There were many others who came in, doubt- less, between the date of Kirkpatrick's arrival and that of those who settled in Loran subsequently, but their names and the date of their arrival, not having been preserved, are lost to posterity.
In 1848, settlers began to come more numerously than before that date. The township was generally prairie except Mill Grove and a " thicket in Section 21, and the opportunities for cultivation, thereby increased, were availed of quite rapidly. The wheat and corn of the inhabitants were mostly ground at Mount Carroll and Cedarville ; the trading, however, wag done at Freeport, which was a postal town and contained four stores. The settlers at this time were mostly from New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, sturdy, industrious, thriving men, who laid the foundation for the prosperity to be witnessed to-day in all sections of the township.
At the time the Illinois Central Railroad was completed to Freeport, Loran Township was behind other townships in the county in its settlement and improvements. But with the completion of this enterprise came a tide of emigration which was generously distributed over Loran, adding to its population and developing new sources of wealth. One cause of this alleged failure on the part of settlers to remain permanently in Loran was the unhealthy surroundings ; fever and ague prevailed along the streams, while in the interior the inhabitants suffered with fevers of a pronounced and enervating type. As a consequence, until these maladies were to some extent dissipated, and their causes remedied, settlers were indisposed to venture their health and that of their families in this section. In time, though, they became incidents of days long gone, and to-day Loran is as entirely free from measures which produced the effects cited as any township in the county.
The first marriage of which any information could be obtained occurred in the fall of 1840, between Thomas French and Polly Kirkpatrick, and the wife of a man named James is reputed as the first death. But the first birth is not of record, as also the first fete, and many other important events, without which a history of every settlement is incomplete. Inquiry in these connections failed to elicit any testimony bearing on the subject, and to this latter fact is due the failure of their mention. With regard to the first school taught in the township there is a conflict of opinion, one party maintaining it to have been at Kirkpatrick's as early as 1840, while others insist with much emphasis that it was not established until 1841, when Reuben Babb, William Kirkpatrick and Anson Andrews as Trustees, located a school in Section 2, near Babb's Church, where they employed a teacher by the name of Allison to superintend the education of their children.
No village of importance is to be found in Loran. Yellow Creek, in the northern portion of the township, contains a post office, blacksmith-shop, mill and two or three stores, but, as its importance in the future is contingent upon railroad facilities, the improvement contemplated with the advent of such an enterprise is reserved until the coming of the iron horse. The township is well supplied with schools and churches, the inhabitants are an enterprising class, and Loran compares very favorably with other townships in point of industry, wealth and improvements. [Source: The History of Stephenson County,
Containing a History of the County, its Cities, Towns &c... Western Historical Company, pub. 1880]
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