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Dakota, A Quiet Country Village, Once Had College, Boat Factory
This article is another in a series of stories on communities in Stephenson, Winnebago, JoDaviess, Carroll and Ogle counties to appear in the Journal Standard. The articles will attempt to touch on the historical and present-day highlights in the communities.
Mrs. Merle Wise and William Nelson
Freeport Journal February 16, 1961
Dakota, a quiet little country village in the heart of a rich agricultural area, was once a college town during a 15-year period just before the turn of the century. The small community also had boat and picket-fence manufacturing concerns at one time. Today there are no industries here, but the village does have a private boarding school for boys, the Dakotah School, which is a highly regarded institution drawing boys from throughout the country.
Although Dakota never became the important shipping center its ... thought it might, the community does offer a pleasant, restful, .... to its 363 residents. Another advantage is its proximity to Freeport, some nine miles west of the village. Dakota is situated in eastern Stephenson County but north of a small school, called the College of Northern Illinois, was founded in 1882 under the leadership of Rev. Frank C. Wetzel, a local pastor. The school was under the auspices of the English Reformed Church of the area.
The college was started during a period when a number of institutions of higher learning were springing up in the Midwest. A liberal arts school, it also offered several commercial courses. In 1897 it was decided to close the college and transform its facilities into a high school. The name of the school was then changed to the Interior Academy of Northern Illinois. The academy was the beginning of what is known today as the Dakotah School.
Dakota was also the site of a boat manufacturing plant which produced expensive, well-made boats during the early years of the 20th century. The plant, owned by John Polluck (Pollock), was located on property now occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Clare Smith. The factory developed in 1907 from a hobby for Polluck and several other Dakota carpenters. In the winter, when barn building and other carpentry work was slack, the men devoted their time to building boats, Gasoline engines manufactured in Racine, Wis., were frequently used to propel the boats.
Many of the vessels were shipped from Dakota to Racine where the engines were installed. Some of the more attractive new boats were taken to the nearby Pecatonica River where they were given test runs. Some of the biggest boats manufactured in the plant was 60 feet long and reportedly is still being used on the Rock River in Rockford. The operation flourished for a short time and then passed out of existence. A similar fate also befell a manufacturing concern started several years before by A.W. Smith and John Brown which produced picket fences.
Now 104 years old, Dakota had its beginning in 1857 when the Western Union Railroad, now known as the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul, first laid its rails through Stephenson County. Area farmers were responsible for the start of the village which ........ center for farm products from the area.
Stanton and S.J. Davis surveyed and platted the village that year. Shortly afterward, permission was granted by the Post Office Department to build a postoffice here. Postal authorities decided to call the town Dakotah after the tall, statuesque Dakota Indians who had formerly roamed Minnesota and other parts of the Midwest. Because there was a Dakota in Wisconsin, local officials attached an "h" to the end of Dakota. The spelling remained that way for many years before being changed to its present form.
The village grew slowly at first but then, between the years 1860-61 and 1866-73 there occurred the biggest building boom in the towns history. The year 1860 was particularly impressive. Seven dwellings were erected that year as well as three stores. Merchants were W.C. Holsapple, a blacksmith, Daniel Keck, general store owner; and Robert Neil, a cabinetmaker.
The Civil War slowed building until 1866 when another building cycle began. The Town was incorporated as a village in 1869 with Peter Yoder being elected the first village president. During these years, the community attained a population of over 200 persons - a total it would never exceed by any great margin in later years.
As the years passed, Dakota became more and more of a quiet residential community. There were no great changes here until 1957 when Dakota began to move forward. That year a $169,000 water system was installed and a new junior and senior high school building erected. Cost of the new school building and its equipment was $850,000. Local residents look upon both with great pride. The water system at present serves 75 percent of the homes in the village and will eventually be hooked up to every home here, according to Ralph Atz, village president. The new school building contains 22 rooms and a gymnasium. It serves students from Dakota, Rock Grove, Rock City and Davis - the four towns in the school district. D.V. Johnson has been superintendent of schools here for a number of years.
The community has also set its sights toward several other progressive goals for the future. A total of $35,000 has been pledged for the construction of a medical clinic here. The project, started by the Lions Club, will get under way as soon as a doctor can be secured for the community.
Dakota would also like to get a dentist in the near future. The town's only physician is Dr. F.L. Powers, a general practitioner ... and the rest of the article is lost..
Notes from Melissa Crusinberry - This article was a copy sent to my grandmother several years ago from Gary Raetz, who used to be with the Rock Run Country Historical Society. It talks about a boat manufacturing business owned by John L. Pollock, Jennie Pollock Smith's brother (and son of John Pollock and Sarah Morton Pollock). John L. Pollock (b. May 1854 in Stephenson County, most likely Buckeye Township) went by L.J., and is listed by that name in both Census records and the obituaries of his mother and niece. L.J. and his brother David were both dentists. I have found both mentioned in the "19th Annual Report of the Illinois Board of Dental Examiners Report, 1900" printed December of 1900. I know that L.J. practiced in Sterling, Whiteside County, IL for some time, but seemed to have moved around a bit; living in NY, MI, OH, and IL. David (b. 1849 in Stephenson County, most likely Buckeye Township) lived in Sterling from the time he set up practice there until he died in September 1911. I am unsure when L.J. (John) died, though I know it was some time after the 1930 Census which shows him living with his sister Jennie and her family and his sister Mary.
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