Winnebago County, Illinois
Township of Durand and Village of Durand (The City of Volunteers)
The village of Durand gave birth to the first tax-supported volunteer fire department in Illinois, and for good reason. Since its settlement, Durand has been plagued by devastating fires. Durand Township's roots are in a no longer existing settlement called Elton, the area south of Durand settled in 1835 by Nelson Salisbury, Harvey Lower, and Scott Robb. Newman Campbell arrived a day later than the Salisburys, Lowes, and Robbs. They and nine other pioneer families settled in the extreme southwest portion of Durand Township, part of which is now Pecatonica Township and Rock Run Township of Stephenson County. Durand Township's first settlers who came from LaPorte, Ind., were the first passengers to ride the ferry boat launched by Alva Trask on May 17, 1836, at the present site of Trask Bridge on Illinois 70, between Rockford and Durand. Durand's early history is closely tied with the development of the Racine-Mississippi Railroad, which later became the Western Union and then the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul. The line reached Durand in 1857, on its way to Freeport, marking the end of the Elton community. The settlement shifted to Durand, which had been named after the railroad's first president, H.S. Durand and, as Durand built up, Elton disappeared. L.V. Cleveland, who staked his claim at the present village site in 1836, is considered the first resident of Durand. It was platted in 1856 by J.R. Herring, who was called the "father of Durand". And area called Medina, just west of the present town site, had been considered as the place for the village, but the final choice, an area known as Howard, was decided on in a compromise by early civic leaders. The name Medina lives on in the modern Medina Manor Nursing Home opened in Durand in the early 1960's. Herring left his marks on Durand. Deciding that the infant community would never be a large city, he worked into his original plan for the village what he considered to be a distinctive feature, the central park that still runs the length of the business district. Herring, township treasurer for 35 years, also served as justice of the peace, first town clerk and township supervisor. He was organizer of the first cooperative insurance company in the county and served as chairman of the county board's Building Committee when the courthouse was built. Durand made another contribution to the courthouse in Rockford. Aaron Haughton, a stone mason who built Durand's first stone houses, was called upon to finish the Winnebago County Courthouse after the first attempt in 1877 ended in the disastrous collapse of the heavy dome. Early Durand grew so fast astride the railroad tracks that there were predictions that it would outdistance Rockford in size and importance as a trade center. By 1857 it had two hotels, about 20 retail stores, a "ten pin alley", four lumber yards, planing, saw, flour, and shingle mills, six wheat warehouses, two physicians and two lawyers. It also had a three-story building containing 51 rooms and a "spring dance floor". This building originally was to have been a hotel, but it became a girl's seminary. Disastrous fires in the business district in 1895, 1900, 1904, 1912, and 1925 led up to the organization in 1927 of the Durand Volunteer Fire Department. Winnebago Country Fire Protection District No. 1 in Durand was the first one in the stat with the power to levy taxes. Dr. T.C. Young, who organized the department after spending two years raising money through dances and private donations, served as chief for many years. Realizing that the newborn fire department could not be effective without a reliable water source, he successfully promoted the creation of a water works, serving as resident engineer for the project. One of the first schools in Winnebago County was opened in the Elton area about 1836, but there was no real school district in the Durand area until 1843. The district received $95.43 in tax money for its first year of operations. Later a log schoolhouse was built to serve the Durand-Laona area, and in 1857 a school was built in Durand. One of the first teachers at both of these schools was John Taylor , who later, while serving as Winnebago County Sheriff, was murdered on the streets of Rockford. His slayer, Alfred Countryman, was the first person to be convicted of murder and executed in the county. Although school consolidation had been considered as early as 1917 in Durand, it did not become a reality until 1949. Durand now has a consolidated grade school as well as a high school. Also figuring in the academic history of Durand is the "old seminary", a school for girls that operated during the 1860's. The school, featuring courses in classical languages, music, and bookkeeping, was known first as the Winnebago Normal and Collegiate Institute and the as the Howard Seminary. Like most of the small communities in Winnebago County, Durand flowered in the second held of the 19th Century. As Rockford, with its cheap and abundant water power and then electricity continued to flourish, Durand's importance as a mercantile center stabilized and the began to decline. One-important manufacturing plants were destroyed by fire and not replaced. Durand became what it is today, a community of about 800 residents of northwestern Winnebago County and furnishing workers for business and industries in the surrounding cities. The attention and sympathy of the entire nation was drawn to Durand in 1955 when 10 of the 14 children of Mr. and Mrs. Keron Walsh became ill with polio on the Walsh farm near Durand. When the one-family epidemic had ended, two of the children, David, 19, and Edward, 17, were dead. The others suffered no crippling after-effects. The tragedy of the Walsh family was the last polio epidemic for Winnebago County, coming as it did just a few years before the Salk and Sabin vaccines all but wiped out the disease. [from Sinnissippi Saga, Nelson, C. Hal, 1968]
DURAND NAMED LAONA BEFORE RAILWAY CAME
Name Changed in 1863 To Honor President of New Railroad
Durand is located in the northern part of the country about 20 miles from Rockford.
In May, 1826, the first crossing by ferry was made where Trask bridge now stands. Scott Robb and Hervey Low were among the first to cross. They journeyed on and were the first to reside in the settlement which was a half mile southeast of the present location.
For several years the settlement was called Laona and the postoffice was established under that name. In 1850 the postoffice was moved further north to a place now occupied by the buildings of the Randall farm. This territory is still called Laona.
Named Changed To Durand
The name of the settlement was then changed to Medina, but in 1863 it adopted its present name, honoring Henry S. Durand, first president of the Racine and Mississippi railroad which passed through the settlement. This road is now owned by the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific.
In 1849 a grist mill was established but there is little evidence of it now. The road which led to it has been closed.
In the fall of 1855 the town was laid out by John Herring, Price Webster and John Pettingill.
Town Layout Causes Strife
There was considerable strife about the location of the business district. Different persons owned land in various sections of the village and each had hopes that the town would be centered at this or that place. The town as laid out was to have had its main street east and west and it was some years later that the business places were finally grouped around the present park.
In the earlier days Durand was deprived of school privileges because the districts were improperly organized. In 1856 a grade school was built.
Meantime John Pettingill had built what is known as the old Seminary at a great expense as the lumber was brought from Milwaukee. It was built before the railroad passed through the town. This building was intended for a hotel but it afterwards was used as a private school with a Professor Johnson as superintendent. Later Mrs. Emory conducted it. This private school was discontinued when a new school was built in 1869 on the block where the grade school now is located. The first class was graduated in 1870 and consisted of Carrie Dickerson (Mrs. Carrie Randall), Durand; Duyann Dickerson (Mrs. Cramton), Fordville, N.D.; Andrew Blake, Long Beach, Cal.
Early Church Activities
Church activities began in the first years of the settlement. The Rev. Samuel Pillsbury, a traveling Methodist minister, held meetings at the homes of the settlers. The first Methodist church was built in 1859 on the street where the grade school is now located. It was later moved and rebuilt, and is now the Bella Opera house.
In 1894 another church was built which was destroyed by fire three years ago.
The Lutheran church was organized in 1900 and the present church was built in 1905. The Lutheran people did not have a resident minister until 1921. The Rev. E.A. Bealson has been in charge since that year.
Durand was one of the first missions established by Bishop uarter, the first Catholic bishop of the diocese. In 1866 a Catholic church was built.
Dr. J.C. O'Callighan, of Pecatonica was the first priest. In 1909 a rectory was built and Fr. D.A. Feelen was the first resident pastor.
Durand has had a local paper since about 1870. The Winnebago Chief was the first paper. At present H. M. Bancroft is editor of the Durand Gazette.
Durand lodge No. 202, A.F. and A.M. and Shaubena lodge No. 146, were the first lodges to be organized in the town. Later the Reform lodge with 20 members and a Reform club with 250 members, were organized. The first grange was organized in 1873 with 55 members.
Durand's men have always responded when their country called as the names on the memorial monument in the park will testify.
Hiram Stauffer is the only old soldier of the Civil war living in or dear Durand. He is hale and hearty and enjoys life, usually making a daily walk to the village.
The village has had a number of bad fires, the most recent being three years ago when the Hagerty-Hartman store, better known as the Van Sickle hardware store, burned. The Methodist church and Dr. F.J. Lins' office building burned also.
A Prosperous Village
Electric service has been here since 1914 when Walter B(?)ss started to operate a private plant. In 1918 it was changed to Citizens Utility company and in 1921 it changed again to Illinois Northern Utility company.
Durand is a village of 530 inhabitants and is progressive in every way. Two years ago two beautiful churchs and a community high school were built in the same years.
St. Mary's Catholic church was built near the old one which was later torn down. The Rev. E.A. Cerney is pastor of St. Mary's.
The Methodist church was built at nearly the same location as the old one. The Rev. L.E. Winters is pastor.
At the edge of town just one block off the cement highway is the community high school where about 75 pupils come for instruction. T.R. Davis is principal
Club Donates Park
Durand has a community park which was given to the village by Durand Women's club. They bought the land, beautified the grounds considerably and provided benches and tables. The village park is beautified by maple trees. It is a fitting location for the impressive memorial which was purchased by popular subscription and placed there in honor of war heroes, living and dead. Around this village park and on the nearby streets are the offices and old business houses.
They are: Three groceries, three garages, two service stations, one jeweler, one druggist, the postoffice, two banks, one meat market, one baker, one general clothing store, one blacksmith, two lunch rooms, two telephone exchanges, one plumbing and tin shop, two hardware stores, one furniture store, one grain dealer, one lumber and fuel company, two cream stations, one barber shop, one beauty shop, two pool halls, one office of the Illinois Northern Utility company. Three oil trucks operate from Durand, one depot and one stock yard. There are two physicians, two dentists, one veterinarian and one undertaker. There are also various lodge rooms for Masons, Woodmen, Royal Neighbords, Relief Corps, Eastern Star, I.O.O.F. and Rebeccas. Besides these there are many other social clubs. In 1921 the village laid cement around the village park.
A Modern Fire Dep't
In the last two years, Durand has acquired modern equipment for fire protection, consisting of pumper and chemical trucks. A well trained volunteer company is maintained. The town has been surveyed and work of laying water mains throughout the village will begin soon. This will give all parts of the village adequate water for home use if it is desired and an unlimited supply for fire protection. Webster Johnson is mayor of the town and helped promote the water system. [Source: Rockford Morning Star, July 15, 1928]
OLD SETTLER'S CORNER
MRS. NORMAN JUDD
There are advantages in living in a new country, where it is possible for the old settler to look backward along the years to the day when the settlements of the country started side by side, and each fondly believed that it was its proud destiny to outdistance all the others in its development, and become the metropolis of the section. Many of these settlements, like Kishwaukee, and Newburg and Twelve Mile Grove, have dropped entirely from our ken, and the place thereof knows them no more; others still live, stunted and arrested in their development, and it is very interesting to to trace the causes which have led to their arrested development.
Durand came into existence at the command of a number of interested and influential citizens of the section, at the time of the building of the Western Union railroad, in 1856. The The chronicler of the events tells the tale in the following language. "It is one of the principal wood stations upon the road. Its location at this point was the result of a compromise between interested parties who jointly purchased the site of the village of John F. Petingill, Price Webster and Edward Pepper, and the proprietors were John F. Pettingill, Price Webster, Edward Pepper, L.V. Cleveland, Solomon Wheeler, Duncan J. Stewart, M.C. Churchill, G.R. Sackett, John R. Herring, William Randall and D.H. Smith, who, on the 18th day of November, 1856, conveyed their interests in trust to J.R. Herring, by whom the town was laid out immediately after, and within a year was a fine and amd flourishing town. So, you see, the founding of Durand does not lie so far in the distance that there are not many who remember all the details; but perhaps there is no one who remembers better than Mrs. Norman Judd, because of her connection with John C. Pettingill, one of the most interested parties in the transaction.
Harriet Ely Judd was born at Westbrook, Conn., in 1830. The Elys were seafaring folk from ancient time, and for miles their farms stretched along the seashore, and from the upper windows the women of the family watched the sloops ride merrily out to sea, and so sometimes, alas, they watched long and anxiously for those which never came sailing back--for Westbrook was like the rest of the New England towns, where the congregation sat with bated breath while the elder prayed for those who go down to the sea in ships, and where every burying ground contained stones to the memory of men who went down off this coast or that, in the good ship Maria or Ann, or who sailed away in this good ship or that and was never again heard from.
It was not Durand in those days. The infant settlement was known as Medina, though the change in title came very soon. John R. Pettingill had but recently completed that historical hotel at a cost of $13,000, a magnificient sum in those primitive days; the fact that the town would not support such an hostelry soon became apparent, and then we hear of it as the Durand Collegiate Institute, an institution advertised far and wide during the years immediately before the war. We read that the principal was the reverend T.B. Taylor, and his assistant, Rev. M.M. Johnson, who was also Professor of Greek. Miss K.P. Johnson was preceptress and instructor in French; Miss Jordan, mathematics, Miss Nellie McCaughey, Latin; Miss A.H. Townsend, primary teacher. Mrs. E.W. Taylor taught drawing, music and painting. But this, too, faded into obscurity, and soon the old building was for a time abandoned. It stands today, a monument to the splendid faith which inspired those worthies of old to found the town of Durand.
But there were other attractions in those days. The ancient chronicler tells us that "there is no village in the western county which is surrounded with such beautiful forests and groves, streams and springs of water. It now ('66) contains a population of 600. It has one steam saw mill, steam flour mill, one good hotel, two school houses, and will, the coming summer, erect a large and handsome building for the graded school."
Soon after coming to the west, Mrs. Hart became the wife of Norman Judd, and went to make her home on a farm west of the village. The farm, like all those of the section, was covered with a dense growth of wood, and all the trees had to be felled, and made into cordwood for shipping or be carted to the sawmill to be converted into lumber. All the smaller limbs and the undergrowth were gathered into huge piles, which were burned in the evening. Such bonfires as they made--such merry-makings for the children and young people, who came together from far and near to enjoy the outings.
All this rough land was used as pasture for sheep. Hundreds and hundreds of sheep there were on every farm. Wool was never sold uncleansed in those days, and sheep washing and sheep shearing days were features of the farm life of the time, in those days. The sheep were caught and driven to the edge of the creek, (this was the part the children played_ where they were caught and washed carefully in the running water. Then came another day, following closely enough upon the day of the washing that the creatures had not soiled their wool too much, when the sheep were herded into the barn and shorn, one at a time, and sent capering out into the world, light-headed and silly because of the unexpected loss in weight, to the great amusement of the small fry. There was almost always a pet lamb, one that had been carefully trained to "bunt." That added to the children's enjoyment of the occasion, for who could understand the working of the creature's mind, or tell when, or where he was about to strike.
Those were the days of the old Farmer's clubs, and the Sorghum association, and the Winnebago County Agricultural association, of which Henry P. Kimball was the head. Mr. Judd was interested in them all, an through him, the wife kept in touch with every forward move.
The Judds removed from their farm to the village of Durand many years ago, and have taken an integral part in the development of the village. They recall the building of the town hall on the lot next their home in the early seventies, and many and many a striring scene that has been enacted within its walls.
For years there was a group of old-timers who were often together at the Judd home, and also in the homes of the other members of the coterie who lived over in imagination the old days of the county, to their own enjoyment, and that of the friends who shared their reminiscences. They were Norman Judd, Alonzo Hurd, M. Bedoin, Mr. Rollason, Clark Smith, Oliver Hoyt, Robert Colton, Calvin Starr, M.A. Lord and L. Cleveland. But gradually the circle has narrowed, until today there are few of the old set who remain, the loved and respected of all, for their sterling qualities, and for the good they have accomplished, and are accomplishing, for their town and their fellow-man.
Mr. Judd was one of the latest to depart. He passed away peacefully during the autumn of 1912--so recently that we have not yet grown accustomed to his absence, and it seems that we can still turn to his excellent judgement and ripe experience for counsel and direction in case of need. But the home is still there, with all its traditions of hospitality, and here the wife and daughter, Mrs. Griffith, are living, keeping the old fires alight, the fires that so long as their beams illumine the present, will shoe to use the old ideals, that we may not utterly forget the charm of their simplicity and intristic worth. [Rockford Morning Star, September 7, 1913]
RAMBLER GOES RAMBLING TO VILLAGE OF DURAND
WE FIND HERE AND THERE MANY ITEMS OF INTEREST
DURAND, July 9--Here's a town of more than 500 men and women, and I've been able to meet only a few of 'em; but that's because my time has been short. Nice folks--nice town, parked neatly between Beloit and Freeport, with Brodhead only about 15 miles north in Wisconsin, and prosperous looking, green farm land all around.
It must be easy to be happy here. I walked up Main street, with green lawns, and grass growing from the sidewalks right to the edge of the street; nearly every place has flowers of some kind, or flowering plants, or bushes--or all of them. In some yards, the green is sprinkled with white of clover. In warm mid-afternoon, the street is quiet except for singing and chattering of birds.
There are lots of pleasant frame houses, some of them with old-fashioned shutters, many of them with lightning rods. On the right side as one walks toward the hill is a white frame building; simply built--that's the town hall; and farther on, across the street, is another--the Lutheran church, of which the Rev. E.A. Baalson is pastor. And at the very top is the Catholic church, with the foundation for new place of worship already laid on the lot west. After that, an orchard, and Father Cerney's house.
A Friendly Call
I paid a li'l friendly call on Mrs. Emma Walsh, for she's the Star's news-hound in Durand. The cherry trees in back almost kept me from reaching the front door, they were so tempting. Mrs. Walsh says there are lots of cherries this year; Ben Rostad has an orchard full of them, and Lewis Shakey, over in Laona, has a number of good trees, too.
But speaking of The Star--there are three men that carry lots of copies of It Shines For All out of Durand every day. There's Elbert Geary, and Ralph Hoyt, and Will Thorne; they drive the mail routes. Their job isn't so bad except when the roads are muddy.
The postoffice was a surprise. I always thought, somehow, that people in villages got their mail from the general store-keeper; but George W. Fritz, the postmaster here, has a real sure-nuff office of his own, with lots of room to take care of the customers during rush hours.
At the north end of the square is Geary's furniture--and there I found John M. Geary, the oldest business man in town. He was born in Freeport nearly 70 years ago, and has been furniture dealer and undertaker in Durand for about 35 years. Before going into that business, he dealt in hardware for a time. He estimates that he has buried about 1,000 persons during those years.
Concrete For Dobbin
Mr. Geary will tell you about a time when the square didn't have such a fine concrete drive as circles it today. That was when people came to town in a horse-drawn wagon and buggies, and hitched Dobbin to posts around the park. About 10 or 12 years ago, the village put in a curbing and enough concrete to enable the horses to stand out of the mud; and it was some 5 years later before the street was entirely surfaced around the park.
That park by the way, is a mighty pretty place; green, with a few geraniums for extra color; benches for anyone who would rest a while. A pump in the middle: that's fine: I like town pumps. And then, at the south end, a monument to Durand and Laona heroes in three wars--1861, 1898 and 1917. Axel Erickson designed that, saw to its erection, and unveiled it on Sept. 22, 1920. It cost $4,200.
But there's a different kind of monument at the entrance to town--two of 'em, in fact. One is a big three-story building, once a hotel and again a seminary; the other is Bella Opera house, which began existence as a Methodist church. They are monuments to John Foster Pettingill who--they tell me--was one of the finest man who ever lived in Durand.
Folks still talk about Uncle John Pettingill, and how he brought pine down from Mineral Point, Wis., to go into these buildings which are now standing in memory of him. He finished the hotel about 71 years ago--and it was a fine place for those days, finished beautifully inside, with polished walls so you could see your own face. Uncle John ran it himself for a year. "There was a bar in those days," some one told me, "and they sold whiskey. It wasn't hootch, either."
Academy Grew, Declined
The hotel was rented out after that, and then it became a seminary. Prof. M.M. Johnson came from Philadelphia and ran a sort of college for a while; the school grew, and finally four teachers were employed. But Professor Johnson had an enticing offer from his former place, and when he left the academy dwindled. The professor was long esteemed the most learned man in these parts.
Uncle John Pettingill died about 20 years ago, leaving the hotel to his wife. Another important thing he'd done was the building of the first Methodist church, which was sold about 1896 and turned into the Bella opera house. That was when they built the new church up on the square--the same which was destroyed by fire last winter.
Not long after Uncle John's death, his wife sold the three story building to Albert Baker for $1,400--and there Mr. Baker has lived by himself where he spends some of his time; but his home is in this old 52 room hotel, surrounded by memories of pupils and text-books and teachers.
I suppose one would be safe in saying that Baker's place is the oldest residence in Durand. One of the newst and handsomest, is the brick bungalow of E.D. Shakey, on Main street a block from the square. Built rather low and rambling, surrounded by trees and vines and a well kept lawn, this is a home of which Durand can be proud--and Durand is full of pleasant homes, at that.
That isn't all. This is a big years for Durand, what with the expenditure of nearly $200,000 for building, and the acquisition of new fire equipment and forming of a volunteer fire department. Soon there will be two new churches and a new high school building, besides a building to house the fire equipment.
The Rev. J.A.L. Warren in proud of the new Methodist church, now rushing toward completion, which will replace the one destroyed by fire last winter. It was designed by Bradley and Bradley, of Rockford, and is being built of brick at a cost of $39,000. The auditorium will seat 200 persons, with room for 50 or 75 more in the balcony; and the capacity will be increased by about 200 when the adjoining Sunday-school rooms are opened into the auditorium. Provision is made for a dining room, seating 200, and a kitchen in the basement.
The Catholic church, of which the Rev. Edward Cerney is pastor, will have a new $40,000 home designed by Wyke Van der Meer, also of Rockford. Men are beginning on the brick work this week, Father Cerney has made many friends here since he came to take the place of Father Joe Lonergan.
The new high school building will be ready for use by the first of September. It will have cost $80,000. Prof. Thomas R. Davis is being employed for the fourth year.
A big, gaudy, well-equipped engine is the new fire truck which was specifically built in Kenosha, Wis., at a cost of $7,500. There's a new chemical outfit, too, worth about $1,500; and a siren just east of the square. That's to call the volunteer firemen when necessary; the signal is operated by buttons in the telephone exchanges. The two fire trucks will be housed in a station which is being built in the old haymarket, south and west of the square.
Dr. Tom H. Young, the dentist, is chief of the volunteers. Two squads have been formed already, and another one will be formed soon. Names of the first squad members were given out as Fred Harvey, town marshal, assistant chief; Hubert Bancroft, Ed Bliss, Ed Martene, Orson Miller, Lee Kenyon, Lee Moore, and John Butler.
The second squad hasn't elected its captain yet; but the men composing it are E.W. Schmitt, I,E, Green, L.C. Reddington, F.H. Breed, George Bush, C.J .Wise, Earl Adleman, and Alfred Deal. The firemen will go anywhere in Durand and will respond to calls from any contributor to the department in Shirland, Harrison, and Davis.
The equipment is being kept in Bliss and Green garage until the new station building is completed.
That reminds me--I was rambling past the garage when a short, cheerful-looking youngster spoke to me. He was perched on the curving top of a boiler, with a more or less white white, fuzzy dog, and another boy about his size.
"Want to see Snowball jump down on the ground?" the boy asked me.
I sure did: so with a little urging on the part of both boys, Snowball jumped: he made a very neat landing. "Snowball's my dog," said the first boy. "My name's Robert Bancroft; his name (pointing to the other fellow) "is Junior Christenson." Junior told me he used to have a dog, too, but it got lost somehow.
Robert's father, Hubert M. Bancroft, is editor and publisher of the Durand Gazette, which is published every Thursday. He used to work for the Morning Star before going into business for himself in Durand.
This village has the only Democratic candidate for Congressman from the twelfth congressional district. He is the Rev. Mr. Warren, pastor of the Methodist church. [--Rockford Morning Star, July 10, 1926]
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