History of Dakota Township, Stephenson County, Il
From: History of Stephenson County, Illinois
A record of its settlement, oragnization
and three quarters of a century of progress
By: Addison L. Fulwider, A. M.
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
Chicago, 1910


Dakota Township is the smallest in the county, comprising, like the townships of Erin and Jefferson, an area of only eighteen square miles. However, in that limited space, the township includes some of the best farming land in the county, some of the thriftiest and most prosperous appearing farm houses, and, withal, some of the prettiest and most picturesque stretches of landscape that the county can boast of.

There is no large stream. Cedar Creek, which has its source in Rock Grove Township, just across the town line, flows through the whole length of Dakota Township, from north to south, being fed on its way by a multitude of small rills and brooklets, most of them dry at certain seasons of the year, which flow down from the springs on the hillsides to join the larger current.

One railroad enters the township, the C., M. & St. P. R. R., which cuts across the southeastern corner of the oblong, and touches Dakota village, the only village of Dakota Township.

The early history of Dakota Township is closely identified with that of its western neighbor, Buckeye Township, of which it was formerly a part. In 1860, the division was made, and the eleven thousand, three hundred and seventy eight acres of Dakota were set aside as they are today. Various causes have been assigned to account for the break. The probable and generally accepted reason is that the continued petitions and complaints of a company of farmers living near the present site of Dakota, finally secured the desired division. These gentlemen were all good citizens and desirous of exercising their right of franchise, but when a trip to the polling place entailed a drive across country of twelve or fifteen miles of bad road, they were put to great inconvenience. The polling place was then located at the old red schoolhouse near the present village of Buena Vista. It seems now that a more illogical and less central position could hardly have been selected, for not only were the farmers in the eastern part of Buckeye township quite isolated from the politics of the section, but the village of Cedarville and the settlement which marked the site of the future village of Dakota were altogether out of range. The town house of Buckeye has since been moved east and south to a more central location at Buckeye Center, but all this occurred later. At the time of which we have been speaking, Silas Yount, Robinson Baird, B. Dormblazer, and a few others carried on their campaign for a separate township throughout ten years of strenuous endeavor. In 186o they were rewarded with success, and in September of that year, the present township of Dakota was established.

As the early history of Dakota is altogether coincident with that of Buckeye, it has been treated elsewhere under that head. The first settlements in Dakota came about the year 1836. Among the early settlers of the portion of Buckeye which subsequently became Dakota were Benson McElhiney, who settied near Hickory Grove, Henry Bordner, Jacob Bordner, John Brown, Robin McGee, James McKee, Samuel Templeton, John Price, Peter Fair, Daniel Zimmerman, Robert Pierce, John B. Angle, and others Some of them, the great majority, established themselves along the banks of Cedar Creek, others ventured farther out into the township, and took up claims in the northern and eastern sections. In 1857, the Western Union Railroad came through the township, and with this advent the early history of Dakota is closed.


Dakota, or Dakotah, as it is sometimes called, was founded in 1857, when the Western Union Railroad, now the C., M. & St. P. R. R. first laid its rails through Stephenson county. When the railroad decided to touch the southern portion of Dakota Township, several of the public spirited farmers decided to try to found a village in the southeastern corner, and obtain a post office there. The land on which Dakota village was built was then owned by Robinson Baird and Ludwig Stanton. Mr. Baird sold out his claim to Thomas J. Turner, who, in turn, disposed of his interest to S. J. Davis. To Messrs. Davis and Stanton belongs the credit of laying out and platting the village of Dakota. One hundred acres were appropriated for the town, and three farm houses were located at different points on the stretch when the platting was completed. These three houses were the only visible signs of life in the village, for the postoffice had not yet come. The railroad company built their station, which they chose to mis call "Dakotah" and "Dakota" it has ever since remained. When the C., M. & St. P. R. R. came into possession of the Western Union lines, the title was not changed, although the postoffice has always been "Dakota."

The growth of the village during the earlier years of its existence was slow and unpromising. Soon after the coming of the railroad, a petition was presented to the postoffice department to locate a postoffice at Dakota. Robinson Baird and Benjamin Domblazer were the men instrumental in securing this improvement. Their petition was immediately granted and the present name of "Dakota" affixed to the settlement. The village did not appear promising, and very little inducements were offered to the prospective settler, until Benjamin Domblazer built his mansion, the first substantial house of the village. In the next year, which was 1859, Messrs. Dornblazer and Brown built the first warehouse located in the village. Others were subsequently erected by Fisher and Schmeltzer, and one was moved into the village already built and needing only the foundations to complete it. By 1860 the village contained seven dwellings and three stores, the houses being owned by Benjamin Dornblazer, Samuel Lapp, D. W. C. Holsapple, Abner Hall, Robinson Baird, Daniel Keck, and Mrs. Dawson. The three stores were a blacksmith shop, conducted by Mr. Holsapple, a cabinet shop owned by one Robert Neil, and the general store of the village, the proprietor of which was Daniel Keck.

1860 was the golden year of Dakota's history. In that year a large number of new buildings were erected: Fisher and Schmeltzer's warehouse, the third which had been raised in the history of the village, the new Methodist church, the village hotel, after occupied by John Brown as a residence. Two new houses were built and used as residences by one George Muffley and Mrs. Ingraham. Soon after Charles Muffley came to settle in Dakota, and opened the first taproom of the village, which he ran in connection with a carpenter shop. The venture did not seem to prosper, for Mr. Muffley abandoned it and enlisted as a volunteer at the time of the war, and is reported as never having returned from the combat.

The Civil War suddenly thwarted the growth of the village and everything was at a standstill for a number of years. Nothing in the way of progress was accomplished for four years, and then the town took a new start and erected four new residences. Then began Dakota's one and only "boom." Between 1866 and 1870 the main part of the village was built and only a limited number of additions have been made since that time. In 1869 the settlement was incorporated as a village, by a special act of the Legislature, approved during the session of 1869, and the first election under the provisions thereof was held on Monday. April 5, of the same year. Silas Yount, W. R. Auman, and J. D Bennehoff acted as judges and F. B. Walker and A. T. Milliken as clerks. The The following officers were elected at the first town election:

Peter Yoder, president; John Brown, W. R. Adman, George Lambert, and R. M. Milliken, members of the board.

From 1869 to 1873, the town grew amazingly - the "boom" had not yet subsided. Then came a frost - a killing frost - in the shape of the panic of 1873, which withered up all trade, advancement and improvement. Everything was at a standstill, and Dakota's "boom" was over. The financial stringency which affected the whole country so disastrously was felt for five years, and Dakota never fully recovered from the effects. No market could be found for the crops, and the resources of the surrounding country, abundant though they were, were valueless for they could not be disposed of. When the panic loosed its clutch, the prospects for the growth of Dakota as a financial center, however vague they might have been, were effectually crushed.

Within the years of recovering from war and panic, Dakota began to gradually settle down into the customary type of country village which is familiar to everyone. There has never been anything in the least "dead" about Dakota Business has never for a moment stagnated, but, on the contrary, has kept up a gratifying and prosperous increase, quite different from most of the villages of Stephenson and surrounding counties. But the history of the village has been a disappointment for it has never grown to the proportions fondly planned for it by its early founders. The population at present numbers about five hundred inhabitants. There are several stores, a large grain elevator owned by the H. A. Hillmer Company of Freeport, a high school known as the Dakota Interior Academy of northern Illinois, three churches, and a number of lodges and fraternal organizations.

Interior Academy. The Interior Academy of Northern Illinois, formerly known as the Northern Illinois College, was founded in Dakota in 1881, under the leadership of the Rev. Frank C. Wetzel, pastor of the Reformed church of Dakota. Rev. Wetzel conducted the work for six years and then left it to devote his entire time to the ministry. The academy has since been presided over by Professor W. W. Chandler, Rev. H. L. Beam, Rev. H. C. Blosser, Rev. H. L. Beam, Rev. P. C. Beyers, Rev. C. K. Staudt, Professor Nevin Wilson, Rev. W. D. Marburger, now of Orangeville, and Rev. G. W. Kerstetter, the present incumbent.

The academy, though small, is really an institution of unusual excellence for so small a settlement, and many of its graduates have made names for themselves. The list of alumni, published annually, show a large number of business men in Freeport and Chicago, and a number of boys and girls at college. The course of the school is remarkably complete, the musical department being especially noteworthy. Seven instructors are employed on the faculty, the present roll being: Dean, Rev. G. W. Kerstetter; languages, Miss Alma B. Conrad; mathematics and science, Mr. C. M. Finnell; commercial course, Mr. F. L. Bennehoff, Jr.; instrumental music, Mr. Gail P. Echard; vocal and piano, Miss Rosa E. VolVolirathiolin, Mr. Edwin R. Rotzler.

Within the past year a number of improvements have been made and the equipment of the school has been materially added to. The Academy buildings, which consist of a college building and boys' dormitory, are pleasantly located in a four acre plat of ground, shaded by a grove of maple trees. The original college building is a substantial frame structure, 4ox40x70et, containing an auditorium and four recitation rooms. The trustees and faculty aim at constant improvement and raising of the school standard. A monthly journal, called the Interior Standard, is published by the faculty and students in the interest of the school. A special outfit of physical apparatus has been added this year enabling the students to perform all the experiments required in an ordinary high school course in physics. Athletics and all manly sports are encouraged, special emphasis is laid on public speaking and debate, and in every respect the standard of the institution is being raised. The course of study embraces five years of work, including a preparatory year and four years of the regular course. Forty one students were enrolled in the school last year, nearly half of them in the music department.

Lodges. Dakota supports four large and flourishing fraternal organizations, and several smaller societies and lodges. The I. O. O. F. have had a lodge in Dakota for many years, and the Modern Woodmen of America, Mystic Workers of America, and Royal Neighbors have been established within the last twenty or thirty years.

Dakota Lodge, No. 566, 1. O. O. F. The Odd Fellows Lodge was established by Deputy Grand Master W.J. Fink on the 22nd of February, 1875, with eight charter members and the following officers: Noble Grand, Ezra Durling; vice grand, J. W. Gladfelter; treasurer, E. Yount; secretary, J. D. Schmeltzer. For a time after the founding of the lodge, meetings were held in Keck's Building. In 1876, a separate hall was built for the accomodation of the society. On the morning of October 27, 1877, this new building, which the lodge had occupied for only a short time, was totally destroyed by fire, and everything except the lodge books of the society were consumed in the conflagration. The loss occasioned was not very great, amounting to a pecuniary damage of only $380, but the havoc wrought and the inconvenience occasioned by the destruction of paraphernalia and appurtenances was tremendous. No attempt was made to rebuild the structure, but quarters were taken in Artley's building, and a lodge temple was never again erected.

The Dakota lodge is in a prosperous condition, with a large membership. The officers for the current year are: Noble Grand, Roy Blunt; secretary, W. C. Smith; financial secretary, Ralph McElhiney; treasurer, J. W. Smith.

Golden Rule Camp No. 137, M. W. A. The camp of the Modem Woodmen of America was established in Dakota October, 1884, and is today in flourishing condition. A. J. Foster is secretary of the organization.

The Rebekahs, in connection with the I. O. O. F., the Royal Neighbors, and the Mystic Workers, are also large factors in the social life of the community.

Churches. There are three churches in Dakota. There were formerly four, but one of them has discontinued services.

Methodist Church. The Methodist worshipers of Dakota began to meet and hold services very soon after the village was founded, but no congregation was formally organized until the summer of 1850. At that time plans were made for the building of a church edifice, which was thereupon begun and duly finished in the fall of the same year. The original cost of the building, which is a frame structure, 49x36, was $2,000, but that amount was increased by various improvements and additions which were subsequently made. In 1878, a steeple was added, and a number of internal and external improvements and changes were made. This fall the fiftieth anniversary of the building of the church will be observed by the congregation, and plans for a celebration are being made. Several years ago the church and parsonage were entirely remodelled, the latter structure having been built in 1875.

The Dakota Methodist church is in the same charge with the Cedarville church, the Rev. B. C. Holloway officiating as minister of the gospel in both places. The church property of the charge, all told, is valued at $8,000, including a $3,00o church at Dakota, one of similar value at Cedarville, and a $2,00o parsonage. The congregations are both very large, that at Dakota numbering one hundred and twenty five members, with a Sunday school of one hundred and fifteen, while the Cedarville church has a membership of one hundred and ten, and a Union Sunday school, conducted in connection with the other churches of the village.

Reformed Church. The Reformed church is of recent organization, dating back to 1881, when it was organized by the Rev. Frank C. Wetzel, as first pastor. Previous to last year, the congregation has had no permanent place of worship, but held their services in the Evangelical Lutheran church. Last year, 1909, the Lutheran church was purchased from that congregation for the sum of $1,500. The church was at the same time repaired inside and out at a cost of $300.

The Dakota church, which is on the same circuit with the Rock Grove church, has a membership of forty and a Sunday school of forty two, while the latter church has a membership of fourteen and a Sunday school of twenty. The Interior Academy of Northern Illinois is conducted by the pastors of the Reformed church, Rev. G. W. Kerstetter being the present official. The academy property, including the parsonage, which is used as a boys' dormitory during the school year, is valued at $10,000.

Rack Run Presbyterian Church. The Presbyterian church of Dakota, known as the Rock Run Presbyterian church, because it was first established in section 30 of that township, was organized in 1855. In 1855 the church edifice in Rock Run, long since abandoned, was built. In 1870, when the "boom" of Dakota was in progress, the Rock Run congregation decided to remove to Dakota, and built their church there in the same year. The church structure, which is the finest in the village, cost $3,000; is of frame 35x55, with a steeple eighty feet in height, affords a seating capacity for 30o worshippers, and is provided with an excellent organ.

The congregation consist of about one hundred members, the Minister at Cedarville officiating as pastor. The Rev. John M. Linn was the first pastor of the Dakota church, and the pulpit has since been occupied by a large number of pastors, with their parsonage at Cedarville.

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