STORY OF ALLEN
By Lois Cleal, Dist. 62
Allen township is located in the extreme southeastern part of La Salle
county. It was organized about 1858 or 1859, being among the last of the
townships to be organized.
When the settlers came here the land, which is a prairie, was covered with the blue joint grass. In some places the grass was so high that a man riding on horseback could hardly be seen. A familiar saying among the settlers was, "The only thing that is plentiful is grass." The land was filled with ponds, which have now disappeared as the land has all been well drained. The water in these ponds was stagnant, serving as a good breeding place for the mosquitoes, which were the cause of a prevalent disease known as the ague.
There were at one time a few Indians in this part of the state. Shabbona, their chief, was a frequent visitor at the homes of the pioneers.
The first permanent residence in Allen township was the home of Robert Miller, a Quaker from England. John and Inglehart Wormley came here from Pennsylvania. Inglehart was the first supervisor of the township. Philip Geheber, who came here in 1854, married Kathrina Michelback. They were the first couple to be married here. Their son, whose name is Jacob Geheber, and who is now living in Ransom, was the first white child born in the township.
The first schoolhouse was built in 1856 on M. C. Lane's farm. The first Fourth of July celebration in the township was held at the schoolhouse. Mr. Davis played the flute, and the people paraded in the tall prairie grass. Everyone brought his dinner. The first religious services in the township were held here, also. Allen township is the only township in the county that still has the original school land given it.
The M. E. church of Ransom had its beginning in Allen chapel, the country church which stood on the hill directly across the road from the home now owned by Wm. Mogee, but which was at that time owned by his uncle of the same name.
This part of the Lane farm had formerly been used for a cemetery, the first in the township. Just before the house was moved, all the graves were opened, with the exception of one, and the remains were buried in Allen cemetery. While the caskets were carried to the new cemetery, the casket of an infant seemed to be exceptionally heavy. The coffin had been rudely constructed of wood. Permission was given to open the casket. It was found that the body was petrified, all but one hand. Due to the exposure of air the hand crumpled up.
One grave remained on this farm. Relatives refused to move it. For a number of years it was fenced off, but now nothing but a mound is left.
In 1875, on the 8th and 9th of December, Ransom was laid out.
The first railroad was the Chicago, Peking and Southwestern Railroad. It was built through Ransom in 1875. The depot was the first improvement in Ransom.
A man named Mr. Caldwell, in 1878 started a factory in Ransom. It was a two-story wooden building, located one block east of the main street, where Gerald Blair's barn is now. Where Gerald Blair now lives, Mr. Caldwell lived at that time. Mr. Caldwell abandoned the factory in 1881 because it was not successful. The building was made into an apartment home.
The Ransom Cornet Band was organized in 1883 under the leadership of A. B. Wilkinson. Ransom was incorporated as a village in 1885. Two brothers, Joseph and Jacob Hagi, in 1885, started to manage a tile factory there. Fourteen men were employed at fifty cents a day. The factory was located across the Sante Fe railroad. It had two kilns in which they manufactured drain tile and bricks. The first brick home erected in Ransom which is now owned by John Pellino, was made of bricks from this factory. The clay pits were near the factory. One of the pits is now used as an ice pond. The other one is used for a boys' swimming pool. The factory was destroyed by a fire in 1890, but was rebuilt with new kiln machinery, and a whistle blew when it was time for the men to come to work. It was not very successful this time, so the owner sold it to a Mr. Thatcher, who made it into a soap factory. As many people made their own soap at that time there was little demand for the soap, it was also a failure. The building is used for an ice house. The bricks and lumber that were left were used in building Mr. Gochanhour's home in 1904.
Later, W. F. Allen opened a drug store, Joe Hagy a blacksmith shop, Isade Burns a hardware store, R. O. Baird, Hagi and Lane an elevator, Wm. Mulvihill and Peter Deegan a butcher shop, James Colwell a cheese factory, Jerry Favorite a boarding house, and Carrie Wagoner the post office.
The first printing press in Ransom was in 1892 to 1915. A Mr. Tiffany, of Cornell, took over this paper. The name before was "Ransom News," but it was changed to "Ransom Journal," which is still the name Mr. Tiffany uses. The paper was printed in what is now a lunch room in Ransom, operated by Paul McGuire.
The first mail was carried from Ottawa by Mr. Wagoner. It was then carried from Seneca. The first mail route through Allen was between Mazon and Streator. Mr. Wagoner and his daughter Carrie were the first ones to start a post office in Ransom.
Ransom now boasts of a very progressive oil station, besides other improvements. Allen township is situated in a good farming section and is settled by an industrious and prosperous class of people.