Here are the first documents defining the town of Lane (later, Rochelle), Illinois. This plat, a sheet of paper roughly the size of an end-table, is held at the Ogle County Recorder’s office, and it was filed with Ogle County government on 30 July 1853 (and re-recorded in 1915). According to the process of town formation described in the source detailed here, it seems that all a landowner — in this case, Rockford businessman Robert P. Lane — had to do to create a town was to hire a surveyor to make a plat, and then to record that plat — it seems there was no requirement to gain permission of a county board or higher authority, as there often is now for new land developments. The filing of the plat was the official act that allowed the landowner/proprietor to start selling lots. As Lane did not incorporate as a governmental entity of its own until February 1861, law enforcement and other government functions were, I presume, provided by the county.
Click on each photo to see it zoomed in.
The streets named on the map above and their modern names:
East-West streets: Holland Street is 5th Avenue, Brice Street is 4th Ave., Palmer Street is Lincoln Ave., and Walnut Street is 2nd Avenue.
North-South streets: Lafayette Street is 6th Street, Washington is now Lincoln Highway (except south of Lincoln Ave., where it’s still Washington), Main remains Main, and Flagg St. is 3rd Street.
Notes and observations:
• These blocks and lots are still used as legal descriptions of properties today. For example, according to Ogle County GIS, the Rochelle Municipal Utilities building at the southeast corner of Lincoln Highway and 4th Avenue is sited on lots 6, 5, and part of lot 4, block 13. Rochelle City Hall is on lots 1, 2, and 3 of block 6.
• Outside dimensions of the plat are 1,980 feet (north-south) by 1,650 feet (east-west), for a total area of 3,267,000 square feet, which, at 43,560 square feet per acre, would be 75 acres. Most roads are 66 feet wide. Most lots are 66 feet wide by 123.75 feet deep (lot size 8,167.5 sq feet or 0.1875 acre), followed by an alley of 16.5 feet. There’s at least 50 feet between railroad tracks and the nearest plots.
• The Walters article describes some towns being designed with smaller “in-lots” and larger “out-lots,” the in-lots being more valuable as they were closer to the town center, presumably the future business district. The article also states that “by the 1850s the railroad station replaced the square as town center,” and this seems to describe Lane/Rochelle. This could explain why the lots on Cherry Avenue are smaller — they were meant to be the locations of businesses.
• While most of the streets marked on this plat remain today, 3rd and 6th streets not crossing the railroad tracks, and Dewey Avenue is an east-west alley splitting the lots in the 18th block. Certain other changes to the plat have been marked by later handwriting.
• The “G & C.U R.R.” marked on this plat is the Galena and Chicago Union Rail Road, also sometimes called The Dixon Air-Line or the Chicago, Fulton & Iowa line, was under construction during 1853, according to Yesterday and Today: A History of the Chicago and North Western Railway System (page 22). The 1878 History of Ogle County states that the “final survey” of the railroad was made in the spring of 1853, and that “several different routes were projected with the evident purpose of inducing competition among the landowners in order to cheapen the right of way” (page 513). I would like to do further research to find out the precise chronology of when Lane proprietor Robert P. Lane first heard of the railroad’s route and when he bought land and ordered the plat survey. Lane filed his plat and, it seems, started selling lots when the railroad was under construction but before it was operational.
• This rail line first opened from Turner Junction (West Chicago) to Lane on 10 January 1854, connecting Chicago with Ogle County (pages 22 and 27; the 1878 source gives the date of completion as 14 January (page 513). The Galena & Chicago Union railroad later became the Chicago & North Western RR and exists today as the Union Pacific line. Note also that the second line to come through Rochelle, today’s BNSF line, is present on the 1872 Krause map (link forthcoming) and it cut through blocks 26 through 30 on the plat above.
• The railroad arriving in southeast Ogle County changed the business conditions for the local farmers, according to the 1878 Ogle County History: “Chicago was the principal grain market for this section until about 1852 when a load was occasionally drawn to Rockford, Peru and St Charles. The greater part was taken to Chicago, however, until the railroads came and gave them a market here at Hickory Grove. There were few horses used until about 1843 or 1844 and it usually consumed six days to get a load of wheat to market.” And while the railroad was being built, “there was a great influx of people, all anxious to reap the advantages and embrace the opportunities for money-making that were sure to be developed here by the new railroad. The old Lane Hotel … was built that Summer by Horace Coon … and when the railroad was completed arrangements were made for a grand banquet in the hall over the hotel.”
• It’s not clear that Lane proprietor Robert P. Lane ever lived in Rochelle before or after buying the land and constructing the plat survey of this town. The 1878 Ogle County History names several settlers, including Willard Flagg, Sheldon Bartholomew, Horace Coon, Harmon Minkler, and Mills Stewart, who seemed to have been living in this area, as they had applied for land patents, well before 1853. I wonder how these land owners felt about a town being platted near their farms by someone from outside of town. Perhaps they didn’t mind — Sheldon’s widow, Charlotte Bartholomew Powell, did sell land to R.P. Lane that made up part of the town plat (link forthcoming).