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by Eugene Klendworth - December 25, 1978

Text prepared by Donna Rae Eilts

The richest heritage that shall ever come into our possession is the simple story of the struggles, sacrifices, and triumphs of the men and women who planted in this western wilderness the home, the school, the church, and the State.

We shall never know that story in all its fullness and completeness. For the noble men and women who opened up the way for civilization have long since gone to their reward and they have left meager accounts of all through which they passed when wilderness was king.

We may never realize, fully, what it meant for the men and women of a century or more ago to leave comfortable homes, devoted friends and relatives, the associations of childhood and take up their weary march over mountains, across streams, through trackless forests and prairies, to plant new homes in a wilderness inhabited by wild beasts and wilder men.

The portion of the U.S. that is now known as Illinois was part of the land granted by King James I in 1606, to the London and Plymouth companies for the purpose of colonizing the new territory. The British confined their early efforts to the country near the coast and the French people came down from Canada and established trading posts and missions at various places along the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. The names of some of these Frenchmen are still familiar to us; such as, Marquette, Joliet, LaSalle, and Hennepin.

The first permanent settlements were made at Kaskaskia and Cahakia near St. Louis. At the close of the French and Indian War in 1763, George Rogers Clark, with 150 soldiers, took possession of the settlements and they remained as part of the British Colonies until the close of the Revolutionary War. After this the pioneers started to move west and the new territory grew so fast that it was admitted as a State in 1818 being the 21st State. The capital of the State was Kaskaskia and the first Gov. was Shadrack Bond. In 1820 the Capital was moved to Vandalia and in 1839 to Springfield where it has remained ever since. The early settlements in LaSalle County were along the Illinois River near Ottawa and LaSalle.

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When the early pioneers left their homes in the east and came to Illinois, they settled the wooded districts along the rivers. There were several reasons why they went to these places rather than to the prairies. They believed that the forest grew on the most fertile lands, they knew how to farm the forest regions, and because they believed the prairie land was worthless. The panhandle of LaSalle County, which consists of Groveland and Osage Townships, was swampy, besides being low and flat. Therefore, this section was an undesirable location. It was refused both by Livingston and Marshall Counties, so LaSalle County was compelled to accept it. The land was drained and it was found to be very fertile, the soil being a deep black loam which is very good for farming purposes.

Groveland Township, which is located in the extreme south end of the county, was the last township to be settled. The Illinois Central Railroad Company had completed the road from Cairo to LaSalle. This was in 1855. In the same year Abner Shinn built the first house in Rutland. It was occupied by Oscar Jacobson for seven years until 1862. Rutland was settled before Dana because it was on higher ground and was closer to the railroad. The first settler in the region of Dana was Alex Clegg. He homesteaded one and one-half miles southeast of Dana in section 25. His daughter, Florence, was the first white child born in the township. John Martin also settled on section 25 the following year in 1856. Part of his land is that on which Dana was built.

Other early settlers were the Samuel Clegg's, Pritchett's, Bassett's, John A. Bane, Montgomery's, Metcalf's, Hake's, McHenry, Marshall's, Showman, George Bane, Alfred Bane, Joseph Bane, Dr. Harvey, and many others, most of those mentioned being here before the village was started. The village to Dana was laid out in the spring of 1872. The railroad was completed in August of 1872.

The land was owned by John Martin, John A. Bane, Robert Clegg, and Ulysses Howell, each of them giving 20 acres to the village. It was first called Martin, then changed to Conklin, and afterward to Dana in honor of the superintendent of the Chicago, Pekin and South-western Railroad as this branch was called.

Although Dana was not laid out till the following year, the first store was opened in 1871 by Wright and Manpower. The first postmaster was P. A. Martin, while E. W. Bosserman was the first station agent. The first grain elevator was built by John Martin and the first carload of grain shipped out of Dana was owned by Alex Clegg. The mill which was first used as a planning mill was built by W. W. Pritchett. It was later sold to John Miller who remodeled it into a grist mill. W. W. Pritchett owned a furniture store in the west side of the Pritchett building and in 1875 R. M. Pritchett built and started a drug store in the east side. The Sauer elevator was built in 1873 by G. A. Sauer. G. A. Watts opened the second store in Dana in 1873 and ran it for a few years. Dr. Harvey located in Dana in 1876 and was a prominent physician here for more than 40 years.

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The Christian church was built in 1867. John Martin giving one acre of ground for the site. The cemetery was located there also. The material for the church was hauled from Minonk and Rutland there being no railroad here at the time. The old building stood until 1910 when another building was erected. Another early church was a country church located about two miles south and one mile west of Dana. Rev. Ormsby, a Presbyterian preacher and Rev. Merritt, a Baptist both of Minonk, preached there on alternate Sunday afternoons. The Dana Methodist church was built in 1885, and remodeled in 1915. The first school in Dana was founded in 1887 while previously there had been a school located one mile south and one mile north of Dana. Miss Hattie Laughlin was the first teacher of the village school.

July 6, 1914 marks the date of the fire which nearly destroyed the entire business section. It began with the explosion of a gasoline stove in the butcher shop. As the buildings were nearly all wooden they burned quickly. All of the buildings were rebuilt after the fire.

The United States on 14 November 1855 did give and grant to Lafayette Sconce by James Buchanan, President, the land now known as the Victor L. Strawn farm one half mile south of Dana. It sold on 24 November 1856 for $3.60 per acre. It was sold at once for $5.00 per acre. Sold on 20 March 1857 for $7.80 per acre. On 17 February 1865 it sold for $15.00 per acre. On 15 August 1881 it was sold for $37.50 per acre. This is a little different from the modern day prices of thousands of dollars per acre.

We in this area are sons and daughters of the soil, and we are very proud of it.