Skip Navigation Links

An Early History of Dana

by Dave Uphoff - February 05, 2010

Taken from the 8/21/1896 edition of the Minonk News
The village of Dana, with a population of 450, the subject of our sketch, this week, is located in the eastern part of the handle of LaSalle county on the Pekin branch of the Santa Fe rail road. Being situated in the center of the most fertile and the best agricultural tract of land in the state, it is one of the best business centers of its size to be met with in the country. By conversing with the old time residents and referring to the records, we have secured a number of facts the hope that it may prove interesting to the readers of the News. Aware of the fact that the best of men will find difficulty in securing every incident in connection with a historical write up, we have been very careful to secure those of greater importance.

In tracing the origin of our town we find that up to 1872 the Christian church which now stands near the center of the village, and a few scattering farm houses on the surrounding farms were the only buildings on the prairie. Early in the spring of 1872, the Chicago, Pekin & Southwestern rail road was surveyed and built. John Martin, John A. Bane, Ulysses Howell and Robt. Clegg, owners of the land surrounding the site of the present town, began negotiating with Col. Dana, Superintendent of the railroad, with a view to securing a depot and starting a town, offering him one half the lots if he would build a depot. The offer, was accepted, the town surveyed and laid off in lots and preparations for buildings began. The infant city thrived for a couple of months under the name of Martin, in honor of John Martin, one of the early pioneers, but this name conflicted considerably with that of Morton, a village near Bloomington, so the railroad company changed the name of the station to Conklin, but the people did not like the name so again it was changed and this time it received the present name, Dana, in honor of Col. Dana, the Superintendent of the C. P. &S.W. R. R.

During this time three or four buildings had been built. Wm. Wright and Joe Mumpower had opened up a grocery store in a small building on the north corner of Main street. Isaac Bosserman was agent at the new depot and for several months before a post-office was secured, handled what little mail came to the inhabitants of the infant town. John Thorpe, the same year, built the building now used by Mat. Neiflng, as saloon, and opened a boarding house and bar room. Near by, Joe Springer, opened up a grocery store. The same fall, John Martin built the elevator owned at present by O. M. Kelly. On August 13th a car was switched in on the side track, containing a new pair of scales. The scales were unloaded and the next day, August 14th, 1872, Martin and Henry Bedford loaded the car with corn which they had bought, and shipped it to Chicago. This was the beginning of the grain market, here, which has grown until now it is as good a market center as there is in the country.

In the winter of '72 Dr. Reeder struck the town and hung up his shingle. He was a good physician and practiced here many years. In March, 1873, G. A. Watts moved into town and opened a dry goods, grocery, boot and Shoe store in the building he now occupies. The same year Geo. Marshal and Wesley Pritchett built a planing mill, which they ran with good success for several years, when it was changed to a grist and feed mill and today is owned by John G. Miller. The first blacksmith to locate here was Sherm Ide. He opened a shop in a small shed like building on the north side of the rail road in the fall of 1872. The next year a gentleman by the name of Stansell also went into the blacksmith business here.

In the Spring of 1873, G. A. Sauers, Sr., began the construction of an elevator. This was the second elevator built and was finished during the summer. A gentleman by the name of John Brevort leased the building and for a few years did a good business buying grain. He was succeeded by others, who would follow the business a year or so, then sell out to some one else, until the year 1879, when C. G. Sauers began buying grain and continued doing business until he leased his elevator to W. B. Rickey about two years ago. The same year he built the elevator, Mr. Sauers opened a clothing store and did a successful business for several years.

In 1874 John Martin built a two story building which was used by Jake Crosmer and George Marshal as a boarding house. Four years later the board of school directors purchased the building and four lots surrounding it and used it as a school house. In 1879 the building burned down and for a few months school was held in the building now occupied by C. M. Turns. During the summer of 1880 a new one room school house was built. In 1888 an additional room was built. The past year the attendance has been so large that the building would not accommodate them all so this summer another room is being built. When the school year opens, the three rooms will be used and the pupils, about 130 in number, will find ample room in which to develop their minds.

In 1873 P. A. Martin built a store and launched upon the village the first hardware establishment. It proved to be a very paying business, growing extensively in a short time. In the same year a post office was established here and Mr. Martin was installed as postmaster, a position he held until he moved to Minonk.

The lumber business was started here in 1872 by Henry Bedford, John Martin and Jonathan Martin and they were succeeded by Jim Stewart and Wm. Frink.

ln 1875 George Evans opened up a dry goods and grocery store in a small building and in the spring of the following year he built the large double store now occupied by Win, Boyd, and moved into it, continuing in the business for a number of years when he retired from business.

In the spring of 1873 R. M. Pritchett and Wm. Frink opened a drug store in the building now occupied by Mr. Pritchett. After one year's partnership Mr. Frink sold out his interest to Mr. Pritchett, who continues the business up to the present time.

Our churches are two in number, the Christian and the Methodist. The former was built in 1860 and for many years was used by different denominations. About the year 1889 the Christian denomination got entire control and since that time have held services there. The present pastor is Rev. Spicer. In connection with the church there is a Christian Endeavor with a large standing membership.

The Methodist church was built in the year 1890. The present pastor is Rev. F.W.Wilson. An Epworth League was organized in the church several years ago and has grown in membership until it is quite large.

In addition to the churches we have three societies, M. W. A., 11. N. A. and I. O. G. T. Each one has a large membership and is in a flourishing condition. The I. O. G. T. was organized in 1890 with a membership of 40. The present membership is about 60. The M. W. A. was organized in 1889. There was a membership of 18 at that time and now numbers 70. The R. N. A. was organized about a year ago and is in a thriving condition, having a membership of about fifty.

The infant village continued to prosper after the fashion of a western town, having three or four saloons, plenty of law suits and everybody doing an extensive business in their own line. In 1875 with a population of 200, the village was incorporated. The following men constituted the village council, Jotham Martin, President. Trustees: Wm. Frink, Horace Stancell, John Thorpe, G. A. Watts, Wm. Wright. Police Magistrate, Wm. Frink; Village Treasurer: P. A. Martin. There was no clerk elected as it was thought that the trustees could keep their own minutes. As we have given the first set of village officials we will also give the present set: President, G. A. Watts; Clerk, C. M. Turns, Trustees, A. 11. Martin, Tom Huxtable, Wm. Marshall, Joe Lutz, John Thorpe; Police Magistrate, Chancy Jones; City Marshal, Otto Thorpe;Cit,y Treasurer, K. M. Pritchett; Street Commissioner, Presley Kelly.

Our thriving little village continues to increase in wealth and beauty year after year, and commands the trade of the country for miles around in all directions. The idea of public improvements has a firm seat in the minds of the people and no doubt but many new enterprises will be established here next year. The village board have considered favorably the proposition to put in a system of water works in the spring. Our schools are being improved every year and our societies increasing.