Genealogy and History
Part of the Genealogy Trails History Group
Comprising the southwest corner of, and one of the smallest townships in, the county, is none the less productive and desirable. The country is rolling, with prairie and timber admirably intermingled, well watered, and inhabited by a population who secure for the estates under their control the highest degree of cultivation possible. Jefferson was originally a part and parcel of Loran Township, and so remained until September, 1859, when, upon the petition of citizens praying for an independent organization, the Board of Supervisors so ordered, since when it has been going it alone, attended with a success commensurate with the efforts employed in that direction. As a part and parcel of Loran Tovvnship, the settlers who first became identified with that portion of the county are also to be included, without again being mentioned in the brief notice of the township under consideration. Yet those who settled in that portion of Loran now known as Jefferson should be mentioned fully and in detail, because to their efforts belong the honor of developing the country in the first instance, as also for procuring for Jefferson the capacity to act as an independent sovereign.
The first settler of record who became a part and parcel of Jefferson Township is said to have been Hector C. Haight, who came into the country with his wife and family in 1837 ; entered a claim and built a house on the farm at present owned by Samuel Hays, about four miles from the village of Loran, on the road to Freeport. During Haight's residence in the country, Joe Smith, the founder of Mor- monism, established himself at Nauvoo, whence he made pilgrimages about the country seeking to proselyte unbelievers. On these forays, he met many church-going people, and so eloquently expressed the doctrines expounded that he not only succeeded in confounding some of the wise men of other sects, but many of the followers of Wesley, Calvin, and the thousand and one orthodox class- leaders who flourished in those days on the frontier.
About the same time that Haight settled in Jefferson, a iMr. Pennington came in and opened a claim just east of John R. Housel's present farm. Soon after, though the emigration to Loran was not for reasons mentioned large, quite a number secured claims in that portion which is now Jefferson, and made the improvements usual in such cases, a cabin and corn-patch. George Lashell located a farm in the hollow where the village of Loran now is, Thompson Smith, Henry Aurand, Jacob Gable, now residing in Kent Township, Charles Fleckinger, who resided on the hill near Loran, and a few others whose names are omitted, because of the fact that the survivors of those days were unable to recall them to mind came in also.
Soon after the railroad to Freeport was built, emigration increased and improvements were substituted for those made while the township was in its infancy. New houses were built, farms opened, roads laid out and facilities for communication with the outside world projected. Mechanics who came with this second influx of settlers found constant and remunerative employment ; farm hands were in special demand, teachers and ministers of the Gospel were welcomed and aided in the establishment of schools and houses of worship. Among those of the former profession, who came to aid in developing the young idea, was a Mr. Bonneman and George Truckenmiller. A schoolhouse of logs was built near Loran Village, and here the sons and daughters of farmers for miles around were instructed in the rudiments of education. The Rev. Messrs. Kiefer and Chester came about the same time and expounded the Gospel in the barn of Samuel Hays. To-day schools and churches are to be seen at all points of the compass, whithersoever the eye may turn, prime factors in the building up and development of all communities which have the cause of right and justice and civilization to contend for.
The first death to occur in the little colony took place about 1844, when the settlers were interested in the welfare of each other, and the sorrows of one affected all. A young man named Louis Kleckner, in the employ of Samuel Hays, was taken down with a type of the malarial fever prevalent in early days, and, notwithstanding the care and attention he received, yielded up the ghost. He was buried in a cemetery in the barrens west of Loran, the second inter- ment made in the present village churchyard. Some time previous, a resident of Jo Daviess County named Tiffany deceased, and his burial in the cemetery mentioned, preceded that of young Kleckner.
In the fall of 1845, Henry Doherty was married to Catharine Flickinger, and this is said to have been the first marriage concluded in the present town- ship of Jefferson. It is believed that the Rev. Mr. Kiefer officiated at the ceremony, but whether there were any " fixins " or rejoicings upon the occasion, the settler who furnished the information is in doubt. Most probably not, however, for the days of prosperity were yet unborn, and it required the most constant and diligent attention to cultivating the soil as a means of livelihood, and weddings were regarded as complete without the attendant concomitants deemed indispensable to-day.
The first birth could not be ascertained, not even from those who usually make merry upon occurrences of this character, hence the historian is denied the pleasure of perpetuating the name of the distinguished offspring who first made his bow before an admiring constituency in Jefferson Township.
Jefferson contains one village, with a population of about eighty souls. In 1854, George Lashell, occupying a farm in the hollow, near Jo Daviess County, conceived the idea of laying out a town and attracting population by the sale of lots at a price within the means of the least ambitious. He accordingly pro- cured the services of the County Surveyor and laid off and platted the village of Loran. The town originally contained five blocks of twelve lots each, but, finding a limited sale for his realty, he subsequently vacated a portion of the property, reserving for village purposes only so much as equaled the limited demand then made. The town occupies but one street (High), contains one store, a blacksmith- ), two churches and a stone schoolhouse.
The Methodist Church was built in 1875, and cost $1,600. It is 30x40, of frame, with a capacity of seating of about 150 worshipers. The congrega- tion, which numbers about seventy-five communicants from the surrounding country, belongs to the Yellow Creek Conference. Services ere held twice a month, at which the Rev. J. B. Smith officiates.
The Evangelical Church is also of frame, 30x44, with an attendance similar in point of numbers, and services on every other Sabbath. The Rev. Mr. Fair, of Shannon, Carroll County, is the minister at present in charge.
The schoolhouse, which, as stated, is of stone, is located on the main street of the village, employs the services of one teacher and enjoys an average daily attendance of about thirty pupils. Near the village is a Lutheran Church, in which services are held at intervals by transient ministers. [History of Stephenson County, by Addison L. Fulwider, 1910]
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