Next to Freeport. Lancaster is probably the most important township of the county from a political standpoint.
It comprises a territory of about thirty three square miles, or about 17,000 acres of improved land. The township
is irregular in shape, being bounded on the south by the Pecatonica River, whose irregular and meandering curves
make .the surveying of the township and the calculation of its area a matter of approximation, and difficult in
the extreme. The soil is rich and the township contains some of the best farming land in the county. The extreme
southern portion is not so valuable, owing to the fact that the river is apt to overflow its banks and render a
great part of the adjoining fields useless and swampy.
The history of Lancaster Township begins in 1835, with the migration of Benjamin Goddard, his wife, John Goddard,
and John Jewell, who came to this county in 1835, and settled in Central Precinct, afterward Lancaster Township.
It was in the winter of the year, in the month of December, when the immigrants arrived, and the prospect of the
snow covered fields and the desolate woods must have been far from heartening. To Benjamin Goddard belongs the
credit of making the first permanent settlement in the township, although he was only one of a company which came
in 1835. Most of his associates, however, became identified with Freeport Township, which was afterward cut off
from the southwestern corner of Lancaster and he alone remained in the outlying country.
For several years the settlers neglected Lancaster, or, if they settled there at all, did not remain permanently.
For several months the newcomers had no neighbors at all except William Baker and Levi Robey, who had "squatted"
in Buckeye and Harlem Townships. As far as neighbors in Lancaster were concerned, there were none. In 1836, Levi
Lucas, Robert Jones, and John Hoag visited Lancaster, but apparently were not pleased with the prospects, for they
stayed a brief time only, and then removed to Buckeye and Rock Run Townships.
In the same year David Neidigh settled for a short time and then packed up his goods and moved into Buckeye. In
1837 a few permanent settlers arrived. George Hathaway and Robert Hathaway came in and entered their claims in
Sections II and 32. In 1838 Elias Macomber settled in Lancaster, and in the same year a Mr. Sedam built his log
but in the far northern part of the township on the town line of Buckeye and Lancaster. In 1839, L. O. Crocker,
who has previously resided in Freeport, moved into Lancaster, and later Joseph F. McKibben and Dr. John Charlton
settled in Section 16, Andrew Sproule in Section 12, very near to the present site of the village of Winneshiek,
John Stotzer in Section 24, Samuel Smith, Jr., in Section 24, and later, in 1840, W. B. Mitchell and Jacob and
Mycene Mitchell, who took up extensive claims in the northern part of the township.
On March 31. 1836, occurred the first birth in the township, that of Lucy In the same year the first marriage occurred,
Thatcher Blake being united with Goddard. In the winter of 1837 occurred the first death, that of Reagan Lewis.
From 1840 on, the history of Lancaster Township possesses no distinctive features. It was quite the same of Lancaster
as of the rest of the county. Settlers began to pour in in large numbers and the land was all quickly taken up.
With the completion of the railroad to Freeport, the rural portions of Lancaster suffered a relapse, as many of
the farmers went to settle in the city. Later on this loss was hardly noticed, so quickly were the vacant places
filled, and today it is one of the most populous townships of the county.
Lancaster Township has always been the scene of considerable political activity. It is strongly republican in politics,
and many of the Lancastrian farmers have filled offices in the county and state. Next to Freeport itself, Lancaster
is always looked upon as the principal political hot bed of the county.
There are no important streams in Lancaster Township, if we except the Pecatonica River, which forms the southern
boundary, and is hence not within the township. A small and unimportant stream known as Lancaster Creek rises in
Dakota Township to the north, flows south through the eastern part of Lancaster Township and through the village
of Winneshiek - thence into Ridott Township, where it joins the Pecatonica River. Three railroads enter Lancaster
Township, the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul R. R., which traverses the entire township diagonally from northeast
to southwest, the Chicago & Northwestern R. R., which crosses the extreme southern part of the township from
west to east, just north of the Pecatonica River, and the Rockford & Interurban Electric Railway, which runs
parallel with the Chicago & Northwestern tracks.
Owing to the proximity of Lancaster Township to the city of Freeport, there are several institutions properly to
be connected with the life of the city, which deserve mention within a history of the township. There is, for instance,
the Freeport Country Club.
The Freeport Country Club was founded in the summer of 1909 by a company of ladies and gentlemen of Freeport who
were desirous of easily and comfortably enjoying the pleasures to be derived from sojourning in the rural districts.
These adherents of the simple life leased a large territory of land belonging to the Maynard farm, and thereon
erected a small and unpretentious but comfortable and well appointed country club house. The site is most beautiful,
occupying a considerable extent of hilly lands completely covered with a dense growth of forest. The club house,
a rustic one story structure, is located at the edge of the woods, on the very crest of the hill, from which the
distant spires of Freeport are visible five miles away.
The institution is so new that very little has yet been done in the way of improving the land. The site offers
great opportunities, however, to the landscape gardener. The woods are most beautiful, covering the sloping sides
of two hills with a thick woody ravine between them, where the timber is so thick that the sunlight barely filters
in between the boughs, and where it is cool and so dark that the matted leaves and grass scarcely dry from one
shower to another. Part of the timber has been cleared away, and up on the hilltop a tennis court has been laid
out. Swings, garden chairs, etc., have been placed about the club house grounds, and golf links are projected for
the coming year.
Forest Park. Forest Park's career begins with the building of the Rockford-Freeport electric line. Previous to
the building of that railroad there were no pleasant picnic grounds within easy reach of the city. The managers
of the interurban conceived the scheme of establishing a pleasure park somewhere along their line, and entered
into negotiations for the securing of a suitable spot. They found a ready co-operator in the person of F. B. Stoessiger,
who owns a farm on the River Road about three miles east of Freeport.
The farm of Mr. Stoessiger is well known as one of the most picturesque spots in the county. It lies cramped between
the river and the Ridott Road, and is covered in part by a thick grove of trees. The old farm house is an early
stone structure, built over half a century ago. It is built close to the highway and clinging to the side of a
steep hill. Down behind the farm house is the old spring house, a most interesting landmark and one of the few
spring houses left in this part of the country. The water which gushes up from the sand bottom is clear and deliciously
cool, and the spring house has become of late years a Mecca for picnickers. In the grove across the tracks from
the spring house Forest Park was built. The buildings consist of a few small sheds and outbuildings for shelter
in case of rain, a lemonade and pop corn stand, which is occupied only on picnic days, a speaker's stand, and a
number of tables and benches for picnickers. The grove winds along the banks of the river, and affords a most delightful
spot for picnics. It has become the custom of late ears for a number of Freeport fraternal organizations to hold
their annual picnics at Forest Park, and many Sunday school and private picnics are held there as well.
There are also a number of private parks and picnic grounds along the river near the electric line, but none are
especially deserving of mention.
Winneshiek, a village of recent growth, is the only settlement of Lancaster Township. It is located in the extreme
eastern part of the township, about three miles south of the village of Dakota, and eight miles from Freeport.
Formerly Winneshiek supported a postoffice and many of the farmers of the surrounding country came here for their
mail. With the advent of the rural free delivery system, Winneshiek postoffice was discontinued, but the general
store continues to do a prosperous business among the farmers of the vicinity.
The town site is attractive, the group of houses being located at the foot of a rather steep hill, and surrounded
by a small grove of trees. Lancaster Creek courses through the village on its way southward to the Pecatonica.
Since the removal of the postoffice, Winneshiek is deprived of all its former importance as a business centre,
but it still has a population of fifty or more, and a store which is doing a steady paying business.
The village supports a church and school. There are also two other churches in the immediate neighborhood of Winneshiek,
as well as three or four schools within a radius of three or four miles. The village is best reached from Freeport
by train to Dakota, and thence by carriage, or by carriage direct from Freeport, driving through eight miles of
the most attractive cultivated land of Stephenson County.