History of Mendon and Loraine, Il.
From: Quincy and Adams County
History and Representative Men
David F. Wilcox - Supervising Editor
Judge Lyman McCarl - Charman of Advisory Board
Published by: The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York, 1919

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The northwestern and central portions of Adams County between Rock and Bear creeks have always embraced some of the best agricultural, live stock and dairy sections of that portion of the state. Settlers came in early, have been unusually permanent and the lands have therefore been continuously improved and increased in value. The region named was originally called the Bear Creek country, and. when township organization was adopted in 1850 it was erected, as an entirety, into Ursa Township, thus retaining the "Bear" part of the name. In 1851 the four tiers of sections south of Bear Creek to the base line, ten miles in length, were set apart from Ursa Township to form Mendon. That is the territory to which this portion of the chapter is confined.


Ebenezer Riddle appears to have been the first to settle in that portion of the county. He was a Kentuckian and in 1829 located on the southeast quarter of section 9, where he built his cabin and left descendants to inherit the la-nd which he then purchased. In the same year Col. Martin Shuey settled on Mendon Prairie, just over the line in Honey Creek Township. John C. Hardy located on section 29. Mendon Township, in 1830, and within the next few years Samuel Bradley, John B. Chittenden, the Bentons, the Baldwins and other thrifty Connecticut Yankees came to the Prairie and formed there a prosperous settlement.


In 1833 the settlement was first laid out as the Town of Fairfield by John B. Chittenden, Benjamin Baldwin and Daniel Benton, but as the proprietors were soon notified by the postoffice department that there was another Fairfield in the state they changed it to Mendon.

In the year of its platting E. A. Strong opened a blacksmith shop, and while working at his forge he studied theology and eventually became prominent in the Episcopalian ministry. A postoffice was established in 1834 and Abram Benton was placed in charge of it. Daniel Benton was the first merchant, but the postmaster soon succeeded him in business and continued to conduct a growing general store for half a century. S. R. Chittenden was also a pioneer merchant, his sons followed him and his descendants to still later genera.tions are in business at Mendon. The grain elevator of the present is owned and operated by a member of the Chittenden family (C. A. Chittenden).


The fertility of Mendon prairie, with the consequent development of the region, gave the village quite a standing as a political rallying point in the early days when so much of the electioneering was done in. the rural districts. For example, in the William Henry Harrison campaign of 1840 a grand wliig barbecue was held at Mendon Village, and hundreds came in for miles around to attend it and consume the roasted carcasses of oxen, sheep and hogs, representative of the riches of the Bear Creek country. Upon that particular occasion Daniel Nutt was manager of the roasts and the eloquent O. H. Browning, the principal speaker.

It is said that the first school in the village was taught in J. B. Chittenden's house, during 1832, by the Miss Burgess who became Mrs. Willard Keyes, of Quincy. She lived only a short time after her marriage. What was considered to be quite a handsome brick schoolhouse was erected in 1876.


In 1833 the church people of the town erected the Union Meeting House. in which those of any religious faith could meet if they could secure the services of a minister. The Congregationalists also organized a church in February of that year, and theirs was said to be the first society of that demonination in Illinois. They erected a frame meeting house in 1838, a larger structure in 1853, and the edifice in which they now worship in 1905. The old Congregational church was purchased by the Mendon Improvement Company and transformed into a public hail. Rev. Milton J. Norton is the present pastor in charge.

The Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church of Mendon was organized in April, 1853, at the town hail, and the meeting house was dedicated August 5, 1854. It is still standing and is one of the old landmarks of the place. Rev. Joseph C. Miller is serving as pastor.

Zion Episcopal Church has also been organized for many years, Dr. D. E. Johnstone being its pastor; the Methodist society is in charge of Reverend McNally, of New Canton, Illinois, and St. Edward's Catholic Church is served by Rev. Father Paul Reinfels.

Considering its size, Mendon has a number of rather strong lodges. Mendon Lodge No. 449, Ancient Free andĽ Accepted Masons, was organized in 1865; Mendon Chapter No. 157, Royal Arch Masons, in 1873, with a present membership of about fifty, and Mendon Star Chapter, No. 153, Order Eastern Star, instituted in 1889, has a membership of 95. There are also Mendon Lodge, No. 877, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and Mendon Rebekah Lodge; Golden Grain Camp No. 422, Royal Neighbors, and the Tri-Mutual and the Modern Woodmen of America, Camp 751.

When the Methodist Episcopal Church was organized at Mendun in 1839 the circuit included all of Adams County, as well as considerable adjoining territory. The Quincy district, over which Peter Cartwright was presiding elder, was formed in 1832, and included nearly all the western half of Illinois. Enos Thompson was the first pastor of the Mendon circuit. A meeting house was erected in Mendon during 1840, which was replaced by the house of worship built in 1854. Rev. Mr. McNally, of New Canton, Illinois, is in charge of the present Mendon circuit.


Mendon had made such a showing as a town by the late '60s that the villagers applied for incorporation. This was effected by special act of the Legislature in 1867, its corporate boundaries embracing an area of one mile square. In the early '90s it was incorporated as a village under the general laws of the state. Since that time it has increased in population and general attractiveness. Nothing has contributed more to that development than the coming of the Quincy & Warsaw Railroad to its doors in 1870. Col. John B. Chittenden, the original proprietor and platter of the town, set aside a beautiful plat of ground for a public park. It was gradually improved, the most. noteworthy single addition to its attraction being made in 1876, when it was bordered by a row of fine sugar maple trees, appropriately called Centennial Row. They have since developed into a feature of real beauty.

The present Village of Mendon is a pretty, prosperous community, well adapted for residence and comfortable living. Its streets are kept in good condition and well lighted by electricity. Light and power are furnished by a private company, of which James Thompson is president. Fire protection is afforded by a volunteer force of twenty men. The village authorities have provided special cisterns for that purpose, with a gas engine as the chief feature of the apparatus.


In 1877, seven years after the coming of the railroad, Mendon's first newspaper made its appearance. It was the Mendon Enterprise; publishers, C. A. Bristol & Co. After several changes of ownership it was purchased by Jacob R. Urech in 1878, and the name changed to the Mendon Dispatch. The late D. H. Darby was editor for several years. In. 1883 W. H. McIntyre purchased an interest in the paper and became its editor; later, he became its sole owner. In 1899 he disposed of the paper to J. R. and C. H. Urech, who continued its publication, under the name of J. R. Urech & Son, until August, 1911. At that date it was purchased by its present editor and pro. prietor, Joseph B. Frisbie.


Mendon has two substantial banks. The oldest, the Mendon State Bank, was established as a private institution in April, 1889, by J. S. Wallace & Brother. They conducted a general banking business until February, 1895, when they disposed of their interest and the concern was reorganized under the name of the Mendon Bank, which still later became a states institution, as at present. C. A. Chittenden is its president.


Keene Township, in the extreme northern portion of the county, is in the old Bear Creek country and abundantly watered by the upper tributaries of that stream. South Fork, Thurman Creek, Middle Fork and Big Neck Creek are the chief water-courses which have made the region so finely adapted both to stock raising and soil cultivation. These streams also were bordered with dense growths of timber in the early times, and they still bear evidences of their former prodigality in that regard. Fertile prairies lay outside the timber belts, or are interspersed by them. The pioneers therefore were attracted to the Bear Creek country at a very early period in. the history of the county.

About 1834 Joel Benton, Thomas Hudson, Ralph Harden and John Caldwell took timber claims, 'with enough prairie land for agricultural purposes, and were the advance guard of a prosperous colony of settiers who opened up farms and founded homesteads during the following thirty years or more. The first schoolhouse in the township was built of logs in 1843 on section 16 (the school section), about a mile north of the present Village of Loraine. The Methodists were the first to organize a church society, in. 1860. They called it the Union Society and erected a frame house of worship on section 24, in the eastern part of the township. It was organized with fifteen memhers, with Granville Bond as pastor and Samuel Curless as class leader.

In 1852 Seals' Corn Cracker, the first mill in. the township, was erected on section 21, a short distance south of what is now the site of Loraine.


Of the pioneer families who settled in Keene Township, the members of which have been closely identified with the continuous development of the county, none is more widely known and respected than the Steiners. Michael Steiner came to Quincy in 1836, and after working in a mill there for about five years, moved to a homestead location about three miles northeast of the present Village of Loraine, where he resided with his wife and growing family until his death in. 1892. It was there, on the Steiner place, that George was born in 1848. In manhood he bought land in. section 5 and in other localities in the Bear Creek country, engaged in live stock raising as well as fanning and land investments, his operations extending over into Hancock County. Later he moved to the Village of Loraine and established the State Bank, of which he was president at the time of his death, December 2, 1917. He spent the last few years of his life at his pleasant home in Loraine. The deceased left a widow, six sons and two daughters. Among the former are John H. Steiner, county superintendent of schools, and two physicians practicing in Illinois outside of Adams County. The other sons and the daughters (both married) reside on farms near Loraine, the latter on the old Steiner place.


The Village of Loraine is of comparatively recent growth. It is a railroad town, and was platted by Messrs. Woods and Leinberger in December, 1870, while the Carthage branch of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy was in process of construction. James H. Wade opened a store at about the same time, and in the following year, when the postoffice of Loraine was established, became postmaster.

Christopher Seals, proprietor of the old Seals Corn Cracker, or, at least, of that family, also started a store and opened a hotel, under the alluring title of Traveler's Rest. In the summer of 1871 S. P. Hatton built a combined blacksmith shop and dwelling, and Dr. James S. Atkins also erected a building which accommodated his patients and family, without crowding. Doctor Akins afterward became postmaster. D. W. Lowery was soon added to the list of merchants, and in the spring of 1872 George A. Yeuter engaged in the grain and live stock trade, and erected buildings for the conduct of that business.

Several drug stores were established in the early '70s, and E. J. Selleck built a grist mill in the summer of 1873. Other merchants also entered the local field, and Mr. Lowery extended his business so as to deal in agricultural implements and railroad ties. In fact, the trade in railroad ties and lumber was already large. Henry Goodnow and others engaged in wagon-making also. In 1876 he erected a large two-story building, the first floor of which was used for a store and the second as a public hall. Mr. Seals also made a two-story addition to one of his buildings and the Odd Fellows rented the upper story as a lodge hall.

And so the village progressed and has enjoyed a substantial growth since. Of the "old-timers," as they are affectionately called, S. NI. Curless and Dr. E. G. Hedrick are perhaps best known locally, the former being a retired merchant and the latter a fine type of the old country physician.

The Loraine of today is a place of about 700 people, with a number of well stocked stores, a bank, a newspaper, electric light service and waterworks, a good school, a grain elevator, a feed mill and a lumber yard. Its three churches and several lodges also testify to the foresight of its people in the matter of providing for those whose lives demand also social and religious nourishment.

The Methodist Episcopal Church of Loraine, which is in charge of Rev. Lewis E. Baldwin, is an outgrowth of the old Union Society Church, organized in 1860 and whose original house of worship stood on section 24, about three miles east of the present village. Originally, the Baptists and Presbyterians shared the building with the Methodists.

The Christian Church is under the pastorate of Rev. H. O. Rocks, and the Church of the Brethren in charge of Rev. Henry E. Pittman. The latter was organized in 1880.

Both the Masons and the Odd Fellows have lodges at Loraine. The latter, Loraine Lodge, No. 641, Independent Order Odd Fellows, was instituted in June, 1877, in the hail fitted up for the purpose over Christopher Seals' store.

The Loraine State Bank was organized in November, 1904, with George Steiner as president; J. G. Stuart, cashier, and George H. Eastman, vice president. Later S. S. Groves was elected cashier, and Joab Green as vice president, to succeed Mr. Eastman. In January, 1916, Newell Sapp was elected cashier, and in December, 1917, J. A. Ausmus succeeded to the presidency to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Mr. Steiner. The capital stock of the bank is $25,000; surplus and undivided profits, $16,500; average deposits, $300,000.

General mention has been made of the electric light service and water supply of Loraiiae. The former is furnished by the Electric Light and Power Company, of which Bert Van Blair is superintendent. The waterworks are municipal property and comprise a pumping station, with a ninety-foot tower, and an adequate system of distributing pipes-the entire plant under the management of J. H. Cubbage. The domestic water supply and the protection against fire are therefore all that are required.

The village newspaper, the Loraine Times, was established at Ursa by R. B. Ecols in 1896. In 1906, under the editorship and proprietorship of Mr. Mills, it was moved to Loraine. It has been owned and edited by R. K. Adair since 1916.

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