KINGS SURVEYED IN 1876
Raymond Buker Rochelle News Leader July 7, 1960
(The following history was written by Raymond Buker of Oregon, IL in 1955)
The plat of the village of Kings was surveyed and laid out in June of 1876. It is situated on land owned by William Henry King and Emeline, his wife, which Mr. Long purchased in 1864, from James V. Gale. It is located on on the branch of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, which was constructed in 1874 from the mainline at Flagg Center, north to Rockford.
The village was known for many years as Kings Station, and
that is what it was, a station designed to serve Hank King in
his vast operations of farming and cattle feeding. Much of the
land of the community was owned by various members of the King
and the town was laid out by Hank King, and the first buildings were built by him, including a hotel, a large two story building on the main corner (building still stands but no longer used as a store) and several houses which were built for his hired men, of
whom he employed about twenty. At one time Mr. King raised popcorn on a large scale and he bought all the cats that people brought to him at ten cents each to keep rats and mice out of his drying house. He also had a large building along the west side of the railroad track on the south side of town which he called a silo. Its dimensions were about 80 feet long 30 feet wide and 15 feet high. The lower part was constructed of stone and the upper part of lumber. It was divided into four bins. Whenever a grain elevator would burn in Chicago or anywhere, Mr. King would buy the damaged contents, have it shipped to Kings Station and unloaded into this silo. He would use this for feeding cattle. At one time, he he bought several carloads of linseed cake after a fire in a linseed oil mill.
W.H. King died in 1899, his death being attributed to inhaling fumes from spoiled feed while working in the buildings. The building stood for many years after it was no longer used, and it made a swell place for boys of the community to play in. Hank King was the son of John M. King Sr. who died in 1886. There were nine children living at the time of his death, George W. King, James H. King, William Hank King, Charles T. King, Isabella King Morehead, John M. King, Lucy King White, and Mary King Robbins. The last two, Lucy and Mary were the children of his third wife Armena. Mary King Robbins is still living in (in her 90s) in Stillman Valley. (NOTE: The article only listed 8 children)
The Farmers Bank of Kings was established by farmers of the community and operated successfully for over 50 years. Frank J. King, son of Richard M. King, was president of the bank at the time of his death in 1929. His son, Francis R. King, then became president, but the bank was forced to close during the depression (January 1933) never to open again. Eventually, it paid out $1.09 for every $1.00 deposit. As was the case with many smaller banks, this bank was closed because of conditions beyond its control. Hank King built a large house in the center of a full block on the north edge of Kings, along what is now Route 64. This property is now owned by W. V. Davis who has built a store on the northwest corner of the block. The Post Office is located in this store. The store which Mr. King built on the corner of Main Street (three blocks south of Route 64) was operated by Mr. Sheadle, Dent Taylor, G.W. (Walt) King (son of Hank King) and by R.W. King (son of Charles T. King) and in the 1890s the store business was purchased by W. H. Gibson who operated it until 1920 when he sold it to R.V. Gates who, in turn, sold it to W. V. Davis about 1935. Mr. Davis operated it until he built his new building three blocks north along the highway. The Post Office at White Rock Burg was moved to Kings Station and was located in the corner store building except for two brief periods when Mr. Sechler had it in his store to the west and when Frank King had it in the bank building, until it moved to its present location in the Davis Store. Jesse R. Haerr was the rural mail carrier from 196 until he retired in 1947. Of the present day residents of Kings, Mr. Haerr and his sister Eva-Belle Donaldson and the Doeden brothers, Emil and Doud, have probably lived there longer than anyone else. Their families were George and Barbara Haerr, and John and Rentje Doeden, both families being among the very first residents of the village. The oldest resident of Kings at the present (1955) is probably Grace Faust. The other store that has been in continuous business for many years is located on Main St. about midway between the old corner store and the depot. This store was started by John Francis, but it failed. Charles Sechler obtained the building, moved it a short distance to the east, and operated it. Mr. Sechler later moved to Rochelle. Jesse Dimon of Rockford bought the building and the store was operated by Guy Haselton, a Mr. Pease and by T. W. Evans of New Milford and has been operated by a Mr. Murray, Dan Thompson, Fred Peterson, Herbert Hayes and W. R. Smith who has been in business about 25 years.
There have been various other businesses in Kings during the years. Corb Bennett had a meat market near the depot and at one time ran two meat wagons through the country. There was a store north-east of the depot which was run for awhile by Charles Faust. C.A. (Del) Rice had a store near the depot where he had a variety of businesses, concrete work, harness shop, hardware, and for awhile, groceries. While in the grocery business, in the early 1920s Mr. Rice had a truck route through the country during the summer. He had a two price system, a lower price for cash than for credit. In the early days of the automobile, the stores had gasoline pumps in front of them. These have been replaced by service stations along the highway. The first blacksmith shop was operated by John Doeden Sr. where the town hall is now located. There was a livery stable across the street from his shop. Robert Sipe came to Kings about 1887 and started a blacksmith shop south of this livery stable. He bought the livery stable and moved his business there. He later sold out to his brother, Ed Sipe, who operated the business until his death. His grandson, Edward Sipe, still operates the business, but the horseshoeing part is a thing of the past. He specializes in plumbing, pump work, and machine repair. Before the first world war there was also a blacksmith shop on the south side of Main St. operated by O.O. Locke. John Hoffmaster was in the implement business with Ed Smith for a while. His brother, Jake Hoffmaster, was cashier of the bank for many years. A pool hall and confectionary was in operation for several years. Among the propietors have been Ben Eyster, Peterson Brothers (Frank and Fred), Enno Doeden. Harry Walb has had a barber shop for several years. It is now located in the Davis Store building. Two grain elevators operated in Kings for many years, but the property of the old Neola elevator was purchased by the White Rock Elevator Company, which continues to do a thriving business, not only in buying grain, but in selling feed, lumber, coal, hardware and so forth. There hasnt been a doctor in Kings for 40 years. Before that time there was Dr. Mendenhall, Dr. Graves and Dr. Johnston. Rapp brothers have been in the building business for a long time and have done most of the construction in Kings and the surrounding community for the last 40 years. Farmers formerly drove or hauled their livestock to the stockyards at Kings to be shipped to market, but this operation is efficiently handled now by Rader and Speed, with their pickup and trucking service direct to Chicago.
The first school in Kings was in a building that was moved
into town from a location a mile to the east. It was placed at
the north edge of town, next to the railroad track and across
from the Presbyterian Church. A new school house was built in
the south part of town about 1911. The old school house was moved
to a location on the south side of Main St. east of the depot
and used for many years by W.T. and J.R. Haerr in their hatchery
business, until the White Rock Grange obtained the building and
moved it to its present location on the north side of Main St.,
just east of the Doeden garage, which is across the street from
the old corner store. So the old schoolhouse still serves the
people as a Grange Hall. The new school at the south end of town,
built on land donated by Ada King Lovett, daughter of Hank King,
has two large classrooms on the first floor, a full bassement
and a basketball floor on the second story. A two year high school
was in operation along with the grade school until discontinued
during World War I. In 1921, one of the first school consolidations
in Ogle County took place when four rural districts, White Rock
Center, Gibson, Spring Valley and Bethel were consolidated with
the Kings District. A high school was started that year and continued
as such for a number of years. The second floor was finished off
for classroom purposes and a few years later a large addition
was made to the building. A gymnasium 60 by 96 feet, was constructed
just west of the schoolhouse in 1923 as a community project, largely
by donated labor. It was built by a unique design at the time,
the rafters being made by placing 1X6 inch boards, eight boards
thick, in forms and nailing them together so the completed rafters
were half circles with a radius of 30 feet. This building provided
a 40 by 80 foot basketball floor with 10 feet on each side for
bleachers and a 16 foot stage across the south end. This building
served well through the years as a school gymnasium and community
hall. George F. Cann who later served two terms as Ogle County
Superintendent of Schools, was principal of the Kings School before
the war and again from 1922 to 1924. The Kings grade school continues
as a consolidated unit, with more territory added, but there is
no high school, the district now being part of the Rochelle Township
High School District. The Doeden garage, previously mentioned,
was built in 1922 by Bill and Ralph Hayes, grandsons of Emory
Hayes Sr. from lumber obtained from the rural school buildings
which were sold after the consolidation of their districts with
the Kings District. The Hayes brothers started the first electric
light plant in Kings in this building, furnishing service during
the evening hours only, and not too trustworthy, as there was
frequently trouble with the gas engine that furnished the power.
They sold out to John Doeden Jr. who continued to operate the power plant until the territory was taken over by the electric company. After the death of John Doeden Jr., his brothers Emil and Reno (twins) took over the garage business. There were two cemeteries near the new village of Kings, one a mile east and one a mile west and a mile north at White Rock Center. There was a church by each of these cemeteries and both of these churches were moved to Kings. The Presbyterian Church at White Rock Center was one of the oldest congregations in Ogle County. The church was moved to the north edge of Kings on the east side of the railroad track and the north side of the road. A large addition was built on it and it still serves the community. A story is told of Hank King that he was sitting in church and saw a farmer driving cattle past on the road, he opened the window and called out, What will you take for those cattle? The Methodist Church near the other cemetery was moved to the location east of the
Presbyterian Church, the Methodist parsonage being between the two churches. Among the early and influential settlers of the community were the families of the Hayes brothers: Emory Sr., Hiram and David. The Kings were Presbyterians and the Hayes were Methodists and there was intense rivalry between the two churches. After the turn of the century the Methodist Church was moved from Kings to Flagg Center and gradually most of the Methodists became affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. A minister continued to live in the Methodist parsonage for some time and served the Flagg Center and Paynes Point Methodist churches. In 1921, the Methodist conference leased its property to W.T. Haerr for a 99 year period. The parsonage burned down and Mr. Haerr built a house on the lot. Around the turn of the century many lodges and fraternal orders came into being and were active in providing social life for the people who did not have the many forms of entertainment that exist today. Maple Leaf No. 2652. Modern Woodmen of America was organized in Kings in the 1890s with E.D. Buker as the first consul. This camp is still maintained by a few members who have insurance with the society, but is no longer active as a social unit.
In the last two decades of the 19th century many young Germans came to White Rock Township. Most of them had left their homeland to avoid the three year period of srvice in the German army required of all young men there. They went to work on farms. They were industrious and thrifty and within a few years most of them owned farms. At one time when there were several new German families in the community, R. W.King, who operated a general store in Kings, hired Doud Doeden, who spoke both German and English to clerk in his store so that these people could more easily make their wants known. The Germans built a church, the Elim Reformed Church at White Rock Center about 1890. The first building was replaced in 1950 by a beautiful brick structure. For many years the preaching was in German and English, on alternate Sundays, but with the younger generation growing up, the German language was discontinued. In the 1920s some of the German farmers who had retired from their farms and were living in Kings were Meene Bruns, Gerd Ebens, Harm Alderks, Remmer Terviel, Louie Ludwig, Ulrich Zell and Casper Scholl. All of these mentioned have now passed to their reward.
Among the agents at the Burlington depot have been James Fessler, John Lynch, Frank Babbitt, Frank Ford, and the present agent, Ed Treat, who has been there for over 30 years. For a number of years there was a night trick and George Laughrin was the night agent during the 1920s. The depot used to be a favorite gathering place and people never tire or going down to watch the trains come in. There was formerly a large section gang operating out of Kings. Swan Peterson was foreman for many years. At the time of the first world war the railroad through Kings was very busy with troop trains going to and coming from Camp Grant and a huge freight business. There were five passenger trains each way daily between Rochelle and Rockford. Later, as automobiles became more prevalent and people didnt patronize the railroads, the steam trains were replaced by a gasoline operated car, which the people nicknamed the Galloping Goose. In time this was taken off and although there was still considerable freight business on the railroad, the people of Kings are without public transportation of any kind. For many years, the whistle of the 9:11 was the curfew call of the younger generation to get home and to bed, but now that whistle exists only in memory.
The function of the small town has changed greatly from what it was in years gone by. Formerly it was a self contained unit and the center of activities for the farm families of the community. Now it is a spot along the highway and the traffic whizzes by. The farmers and their families came to town to trade or sell the products of their farms and to buy what they needed. Only rarely was it necessary to go to the bigger towns, to purchase the things which the village stores did not carry. They came to the smaller towns too for their entertainment. They congregated in the stores, the pool hall, the blacksmith shop, and enjoyed good old visits with their neighbors. They knew their neighbors would be there to visit with, it was one of the customs of the times. Saturday night, especially, was a big time in a small town. In the 1920s under the leadership of the Rev. B. F. Jacobs, the businessmen sponsored the Community Sing on Saturday nights during the summer. Only those who were there can appreciate the spirit of neighborliness and friendliness that was present. It was like a religious revival. It wasnt something you paid to watch someone else do, it was something you and your neighbors took part in freely and with enthusiasm. In the 1930s the business men sponsored free street movies.This wasnt quite the same. It was free, but you didnt take part in it, you just watched. But still, you and your neighbors were gathered together and you visited about the weather, the crops and other things that are really important. That has all changed now. If you go to town now, your neighbors arent there. They are home watching TV or have stepped in their car and whizzed away to the city where they pay admission to watch artificial entertainment. You make a few purchases and go home to your TV or whiz on to the city. The population of Kings hasnt changed much, but it doesnt require as many people to do the work of a small town as it formerly did, so many of them are now commuting to Rockford or Rochelle. They still have an advantage. They dont have to stay in the city 24 hours a day.