Tag Archives: Rochelle history

R.P. Lane, founder of Lane/Rochelle

The town of Lane (later, Rochelle) formally began with the filing of a plat at the Ogle County Recorder’s office on  30 July 1853 by Robert P. Lane. Some background information about Lane:

• Robert P. Lane, M.D., lived Feb. 21, 1818 to March 7, 1891, (aged 73 at death), according to Find a Grave, and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Rockford.

•  Holland’s Rockford City Directory for 1874-5 lists Dr. R.P. Lane on page 153 as living at 508 N. Church and as having these titles: president, Second National Bank; cashier, Rockford Savings Bank, and treasurer, Rockford Insurance Co.

•  In a “Historical and Business Review” of Holland’s Directory (pages 9 and 10), Dr. R. P. Lane is named among a list of “prominent gentlemen [who] associated themselves under the style of ‘Rockford Water Power Company’ and determined to build another and stronger dam” after a first dam across the Rock River failed. Also mentioned in Kett’s History of Winnebago County, 1877. (page 403)

•  In a section describing his management of the Second National Bank, Dr. R. P. Lane is described as “one of the foremost and progressive public lights of Rockford” who “settled here in 1836, and has succeeded abundantly in the many and varied enterprises of his own creation.” (page 35) This 1836 date of arrival is contrasted to the 1851 date given in the Past and Present source below.

•  Lane “secured” “a special charter” for Rockford Savings Bank, an institution that may be “highly appreciated” by “the working classes and those of small means.” This bank is “another evidence of [Dr. Lane’s] business capacity and good will toward his cherished home, Rockford.” (page 52).

•  According to the book Past and Present of the City of Rockford and Winnebago County, Illinois, (here at Google Books, full-but-uncorrected text here), Robert P. Lane, M. D., was born in Hopewell, Bedford County, in south-central Pennsylvania, in 1818, and came to Rockford in 1851.

Past and Present also says that Lane “was a member of the banking firm of
Lane, Sanford & Company and was “one of the organizers of the Second National Bank, and continuously served as its president from 1864 to 1881, when
he resigned to accept the Presidency of the Rockford Insurance Company. He served as a member of the library board, and was senior warden of the Episcopal church for forty years.” Library board report here, in Annual Reports of the City of Rockford, page 50.

• R. P. Lane was involved in the building of the Kenosha & Rockford Railroad in the later 1850s, and he was involved  — it’s not clear to me exactly how — in some military or political organizing during the Civil War times. (Past and Present, pages 80-81, 88).

•  In addition, Lane was involved in organizing a hospital for Rockford, and he served as one of the first “consulting physicians” for the hospital that opened 1 Oct. 1885. (Past and Present, page 128)

• “January , 1855, the banking firm of Dickerman, Wheeler & Co. began business on West State street. The firm consisted of W. A. Dickerman, Buel G. Wheeler, G. A. Sanford and R. P. Lane. This house became the Second National bank.” (Past and Present, page 132)

•  Lane was involved in building the Chick Hotel at 123 S. Main in Rockford.

•  In March 1855, Lane was president of an effort to build a rail line between Rockford and Mendota, but “operations were never commenced on this line.” (History of Winnebago, 1877, page 284)

Robert P. Lane may have never lived in Rochelle, but his son Jas. B. Lane is listed as a Rochelle resident on page 664 of the 1878 History of Ogle County. Jas. B. Lane is said to work in the manufacture of malleable iron in the firm Barber, Lane & Co. and “he also attends to the sale of lands for his father, Dr. R. P. Lane,  of Rockford.”

First buyers of Rochelle-area land

Here are the names of the patent holders for the lands that eventually became the town of Lane, and later, the city of Rochelle. Patents were granted to those who first bought the land from the U.S. government, and here their names are placed on the 1840-41 township survey .

Information on patents came from Bureau of Land Management General Land office records (links for Section 23Section 24, and Section 25 patents) and Illinois Public Domain Land Tract Sales Database (link here).

Click on maps to enlarge.

Modern-day landmarks for comparison:

Map compiled from 1840-41 survey, 1853 Lane plat, 1872 Krause map, and GIS property ID number data (the third part of the ID numbers indicate which quarter-section and which quarter-quarter section a parcel lies within).


• The higher ground seems to have sold earlier, and to have been improved (with fields) earlier than the low-lying ground. This isn’t surprising, but it helps explain why Rochelle was settled where it was and not a few hundred yards west or east or south.

• Sheldon Bartholomew died 9 Dec. 1846, according to the 1878 History of Ogle, page 507, just two months after applying for the land patent on two of his parcels listed above. He was the second one buried in the cemetery he had established, located just southwest of the intersection of 7th Street and 8th Avenue. The 1878 history says Sheldon was the second person in this “burying grounds,” as it was called in an 1856 deed. It would seem that the Bartholomew family dedicated property at the far north edge of their property, and that this burying grounds also lay next to the Ottawa-Rockford road. These grounds also occupy land that is elevated a few feet above other parts of the town.

• Sheldon’s wife, Charlotte, remarried to “Mat” Powell and, as Charlotte Powell, she sold to R.P. Lane most of the land that would become platted as Lane, and later, Rochelle.

• But the plat of Lane extended into land originally owned by William Fulton. I would need to do more research to see if Lane owned that Northwest Quarter of the Southeast Quarter when the plat was filed 30 July 1853.

• In making this map, I was surprised to see that all of Lane south of about 4th Avenue had been part of the grove of hickory trees. I suspect that those trees were cut down and removed by the time the town of Lane and the G & CU railroads were constructed, in 1853.

1840 Survey of Flagg Township, Ogle County, Illinois

The image below is of a survey titled “Township 40 North of the baseline Range 1 East of the 3rd Principal Meridian” in Ogle County. This township was labeled this for its location in the Rectangular Survey System (explanatory PDF here). The survey shown below is part of a book held at the Ogle County Recorder’s Office and labeled “Government Field Notes” — these notes seem to be a kind of rough draft for the formal survey of the township survey dated 14 Dec. 1841 (accessible here as part of the Illinois Federal Township Plats). The formal survey seems rewritten but looks very much like this map below.

Click on photos and then click on “View Full Size” to see these images magnified.

1840-1 survey of Township 40 North, 1 East of the 3rd Principal Meridian. This was later named Flagg Township. Map found in volume labeled Government Field Notes held at Ogle County Recorder’s Office, Oregon, Illinois.

Here is the same map, showing the area that would become modern-day Rochelle. The downtown is in the southeast quarter of the southwest quarter of Sec. 24 — basically, it’s that part of Section 24 between the “79.90” and the “640a”:

Detail of Flagg Township map. The words cut off at the right site of this picture say “Variation” and “West boundary–7° 57 [partial word]” and “all the other lines 7° 10”

Some observations:

• Since the final survey is dated 14 Dec. 1841, the information on the map must have been collected before December 1841, and, so this map would seem to be the most detailed information available on what this land looked like before there were major infrastructure changes. The fields marked on the maps perhaps could be identified as belonging to particular early settlers, as described in histories such as the 1878 History of Ogle County .

• It’s my understanding that while some these early settlers may be living on and making claims to buy this land by 1841, no one would have been able to buy the land itself (from the federal government’s land patent system) until these township surveys were completed.

• This township was named Flagg Township at the first township meeting held 2 April 1850, perhaps after early settler in Section 25, Willard P. Flagg. It may be his claim that contains the field located in the northeast corner of Section 25.

•  The land that would become downtown Rochelle — in the southwest corner of section 24 in this map of Flagg Township — seems surrounded by water-logged soils referred to variously as “wet land,” “wet prairie,” “very wet prairie,” “swamp,” “slough,” and “marsh.” The fields in Section 24 and 25 and the “Road from Rockford to Ottawa” seem to be in the (from my personal observations) modestly elevated land between the wetlands marked in light blue. Thus, the reason Rochelle is where it is and is not, say, a mile southwest, has to do with elevation and drainage issues.