Genealogy and History
Part of the Genealogy Trails History Group
Loran Township is one of the western townships of the southern tier. It is bounded on the west by Jefferson Township, on the north by Kent and Erin, on the east by Florence, and on the south by Carroll County. Until 1859 it was of much larger extent than at present, comprising also the township of Jefferson, with its eighteen square miles extent. In 1859, owing to a petition of the dwellers in the western part of Loran, that section was divided off, and became a separate township. As Jefferson Township has been treated elsewhere, we now propose to treat of the settlers who took up their claims and established themselves in that part of the country which is now Loran Township.
The first settlement in the township was made in 1836 by William Kirkpatrick, who subsequently built Kirkpatrick's mills and became a figure of great prominence in the county history. He established himself in Section 14, on the banks of Yellow Creek, at the settlement which was later known by the name of Mill Grove. Here he soon erected his mill just at what time we cannot say. Some of the old settlers assert that he put it up in 1836 or 1837 as soon as he had got his household settled. Others are quite as vehement in their declarations that the event did not take place until 1838. Whatever the time was, it is of small importance to know the exact date. It is altogether probable that Mr. Kirkpatrick built his mills as early as 1837 at least, for the traditions of the village of Winneshiek, which became Freeport, affirm that some of the houses of that settlement were constructed of boards brought from Kirkpatrick's mills on Yellow Creek.
Mr. Kirkpatrick built his mill as soon as he did his house, and the traditions say that he was subjected to all sorts of hardships while the building was going on, being forced to sleep in his wagon, in an improvised tent, and so forth. Loran Township was settled very slowly, and later than almost any other section of the county. As late as 1838 the settlers were few and scattered, and confined almost entirely to the Kirkpatricks and the few people about the mill in the Mill Grove settlement. In the next year Smith Giddings came, with John Shoemaker, who settled in Section 19, Albert Curry, and Sylvester Langdon, who established himself in Section 15. There were others, but their names are now forgotten.
In 1840 a considerable delegation of new settlers arrived: the Babb family, including Samuel Babb, Solomon Babb, Reuben Babb, and Isaac Babb; Mathias Ditzler, and Christian Ditzler. In 1841, George House arrived and soon after him John Lamb. Warren Andrews and Anson Andrews came about this time, but just when it is impossible to say. They settled in Section 3, and there erected a mill on the banks of the creek. In 1842 Horace Post came, and located near the Andrews brothers' mill. Among the other settlers who came in this year were Truman Lowell, Moses Grigsby, William Barklow, Thomas Foster (both of these men settled in Section 17) ; Joseph Rush, in the southwestern corner of the township; Samuel Shively, near Yellow Creek; John Apgar, also on the creek bank near Kirkpatrick's mill; Henry Layer, and two men by the name of Slocum and Pointer.
Until 1848 settlers came slowly and in small numbers. While the rest of the county began to crowd up with emigrants about 1840, Loran Township did not receive its full quota for fully eight years. With 1848, the process of change began and soon Loran became as populous as any township in Stephenson County. The first marriage said to have occurred in Loran was that of Thomas French and Polly Kirkpatrick, who were married in the fall of 1840. A certain Mrs. James who died about the same time and was buried in the township was the first death. The first school in the township was founded in 1840 at Kirkpatrick's Mills, where it remained for about a year. Then the pedagogue removed his parlors of learning to a new schoolhouse built especially for the purpose in Section 2, near Babb's church. The men instrumental in securing the new building were Reuben Babb, William Kirkpatrick, and Anson Andrews, the first school trustees of Loran.
Until late years Loran Township has always been behind the other townships of the county in point of development. One reason for the neglect which the township suffered was the comparative unhealthfulness of the township, especially along the banks of Yellow Creek. It is said that all sorts of fevers and agues prevailed along the banks of that stream, while even the inhabitants farther inland were subject to fevers of the severest sort. Now-a-days this condition of affairs has been entirely dissipated, and it is very hard to realize what must have been the dangers to which the early Loranites were subjected. In 1850, when the cholera plague made its presence known in the county, Loran suffered excruciatingly. Mill Grove, about Kirkpatrick's Mills, was nearly wiped out of existence. All the farms in the vicinity felt the effects of the plague, which was in every instance of so sudden and violent a character, that many a sufferer who had not realized that the poison was working in his system in the morning was seized with the sickness and died before sunset. In 1852, when the cholera appeared the second time, the horrible story of two years previous was repeated with even greater calamities. In 1854, on the occasion of the third and last visit, Kirkpatrick's Mills suffered again. Since that time, the improvement of the farms, and the drainage of the land has brought about so great a change "that Loran Township has no longer a reputation for unhealthfulness as a place of abode. Mill Grove has disappeared, but Pearl City is very much alive and is as thrifty and thriving a little settlement as can be found in the rural districts of Illinois.
In addition to the unhealthfulness of the land there were the various other plagues to which the early settlers of Stephenson County were subject: snakes, the unfriendly red man, and the ordinary terrors of the wilderness, of which we can have not the slightest conception today. But the farmers were sturdy and survived the perils of the years and their descendants are engaged in the cultivation of farms which are as productive and well conducted as any that can be found in the county.
The township is well supplied with streams. Yellow Creek, entering from Kent Township at the north, flows south and east through Loran and is joined by a large number of sluggish creeks and brooklets. The Chicago & Great Western Railroad crosses the township from east to northwest, following somewhat the course of Yellow Creek, with its one station at Pearl City. The area is the regulation thirty-six square miles, since the division with Jefferson Township. [History of Stephenson County, by Addison L. Fulwider, 1910]
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