Kings, Ogle Co., IL History
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 outin June of 1876. It is situated on land owned by William HenryKing 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 1874from the mainline at Flagg Center, north to Rockford.
The village was known for many years as Kings Station, andthat is what it was, a station designed to serve Hank King inhis vast operations of farming and cattle feeding. Much of theland of the community was owned by various members of the Kingfamily
and the town was laid out by Hank King, and the first buildingswere built by him, including a hotel, a large two story buildingon the main corner (building still stands but no longer used asa store) and several houses which were built for his hired men,of
whom he employed about twenty. At one time Mr. King raised popcornon a large scale and he bought all the cats that people broughtto him at ten cents each to keep rats and mice out of his dryinghouse. He also had a large building along the west side of therailroad track on the south side of town which he called a silo.Its dimensions were about 80 feet long 30 feet wide and 15 feethigh. The lower part was constructed of stone and the upper partof lumber. It was divided into four bins. Whenever a grain elevatorwould burn in Chicago or anywhere, Mr. King would buy the damagedcontents, have it shipped to Kings Station and unloaded into thissilo. He would use this for feeding cattle. At one time, he hebought several carloads of linseed cake after a fire in a linseedoil mill.
W.H. King died in 1899, his death being attributed to inhalingfumes from spoiled feed while working in the buildings. The buildingstood for many years after it was no longer used, and it madea swell place for boys of the community to play in. Hank Kingwas the son of John M. King Sr. who died in 1886. There were ninechildren living at the time of his death, George W. King, JamesH. King, William Hank King, Charles T. King, Isabella King Morehead,John M. King, Lucy King White, and Mary King Robbins. The lasttwo, Lucy and Mary were the children of his third wife Armena.Mary King Robbins is still living in (in her 90’s) in StillmanValley. (NOTE: The article only listed 8 children)
The Farmers Bank of Kings was established by farmers of thecommunity and operated successfully for over 50 years. Frank J.King, son of Richard M. King, was president of the bank at thetime of his death in 1929. His son, Francis R. King, then becamepresident, but the bank was forced to close during the depression(January 1933) never to open again. Eventually, it paid out $1.09for 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 onthe north edge of Kings, along what is now Route 64. This propertyis now owned by W. V. Davis who has built a store on the northwestcorner of the block. The Post Office is located in this store.The store which Mr. King built on the corner of Main Street (threeblocks 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 CharlesT. King) and in the 1890’s the store business was purchasedby W. H. Gibson who operated it until 1920 when he sold it toR.V. Gates who, in turn, sold it to W. V. Davis about 1935. Mr.Davis operated it until he built his new building three blocksnorth along the highway. The Post Office at White Rock Burg wasmoved to Kings Station and was located in the corner store buildingexcept for two brief periods when Mr. Sechler had it in his storeto the west and when Frank King had it in the bank building, untilit moved to its present location in the Davis Store. Jesse R.Haerr was the rural mail carrier from 196 until he retired in1947. Of the present day residents of Kings, Mr. Haerr and hissister Eva-Belle Donaldson and the Doeden brothers, Emil and Doud,have probably lived there longer than anyone else. Their familieswere George and Barbara Haerr, and John and Rentje Doeden, bothfamilies being among the very first residents of the village.The oldest resident of Kings at the present (1955) is probablyGrace Faust. The other store that has been in continuous businessfor many years is located on Main St. about midway between theold corner store and the depot. This store was started by JohnFrancis, but it failed. Charles Sechler obtained the building,moved it a short distance to the east, and operated it. Mr. Sechlerlater moved to Rochelle. Jesse Dimon of Rockford bought the buildingand the store was operated by Guy Haselton, a Mr. Pease and byT. W. Evans of New Milford and has been operated by a Mr. Murray,Dan Thompson, Fred Peterson, Herbert Hayes and W. R. Smith whohas been in business about 25 years.
There have been various other businesses in Kings during theyears. Corb Bennett had a meat market near the depot and at onetime ran two meat wagons through the country. There was a storenorth-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 varietyof businesses, concrete work, harness shop, hardware, and forawhile, groceries. While in the grocery business, in the early1920’s Mr. Rice had a truck route through the country duringthe summer. He had a two price system, a lower price for cashthan for credit. In the early days of the automobile, the storeshad gasoline pumps in front of them. These have been replacedby service stations along the highway. The first blacksmith shopwas operated by John Doeden Sr. where the town hall is now located.There was a livery stable across the street from his shop. RobertSipe came to Kings about 1887 and started a blacksmith shop southof this livery stable. He bought the livery stable and moved hisbusiness there. He later sold out to his brother, Ed Sipe, whooperated the business until his death. His grandson, Edward Sipe,still operates the business, but the horseshoeing part is a thingof the past. He specializes in plumbing, pump work, and machinerepair. Before the first world war there was also a blacksmithshop on the south side of Main St. operated by O.O. Locke. JohnHoffmaster was in the implement business with Ed Smith for a while.His brother, Jake Hoffmaster, was cashier of the bank for manyyears. A pool hall and confectionary was in operation for severalyears. Among the propietors have been Ben Eyster, Peterson Brothers(Frank and Fred), Enno Doeden. Harry Walb has had a barber shopfor several years. It is now located in the Davis Store building.Two grain elevators operated in Kings for many years, but theproperty of the old Neola elevator was purchased by the WhiteRock Elevator Company, which continues to do a thriving business,not only in buying grain, but in selling feed, lumber, coal, hardwareand so forth. There hasn’t been a doctor in Kings for 40years. Before that time there was Dr. Mendenhall, Dr. Graves andDr. Johnston. Rapp brothers have been in the building businessfor a long time and have done most of the construction in Kingsand the surrounding community for the last 40 years. Farmers formerlydrove or hauled their livestock to the stockyards at Kings tobe shipped to market, but this operation is efficiently handlednow by Rader and Speed, with their pickup and trucking servicedirect to Chicago.
The first school in Kings was in a building that was movedinto town from a location a mile to the east. It was placed atthe north edge of town, next to the railroad track and acrossfrom the Presbyterian Church. A new school house was built inthe south part of town about 1911. The old school house was movedto a location on the south side of Main St. east of the depotand used for many years by W.T. and J.R. Haerr in their hatcherybusiness, until the White Rock Grange obtained the building andmoved it to its present location on the north side of Main St.,just east of the Doeden garage, which is across the street fromthe old corner store. So the old schoolhouse still serves thepeople 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 bassementand a basketball floor on the second story. A two year high schoolwas in operation along with the grade school until discontinuedduring World War I. In 1921, one of the first school consolidationsin Ogle County took place when four rural districts, White RockCenter, Gibson, Spring Valley and Bethel were consolidated withthe Kings District. A high school was started that year and continuedas such for a number of years. The second floor was finished offfor classroom purposes and a few years later a large additionwas made to the building. A gymnasium 60 by 96 feet, was constructedjust west of the schoolhouse in 1923 as a community project, largelyby donated labor. It was built by a unique design at the time,the rafters being made by placing 1X6 inch boards, eight boardsthick, in forms and nailing them together so the completed rafterswere half circles with a radius of 30 feet. This building provideda 40 by 80 foot basketball floor with 10 feet on each side forbleachers and a 16 foot stage across the south end. This buildingserved well through the years as a school gymnasium and communityhall. George F. Cann who later served two terms as Ogle CountySuperintendent of Schools, was principal of the Kings School beforethe war and again from 1922 to 1924. The Kings grade school continuesas a consolidated unit, with more territory added, but there isno high school, the district now being part of the Rochelle TownshipHigh School District. The Doeden garage, previously mentioned,was built in 1922 by Bill and Ralph Hayes, grandsons of EmoryHayes Sr. from lumber obtained from the rural school buildingswhich were sold after the consolidation of their districts withthe Kings District. The Hayes brothers started the first electriclight plant in Kings in this building, furnishing service duringthe evening hours only, and not too trustworthy, as there wasfrequently trouble with the gas engine that furnished the power.
They sold out to John Doeden Jr. who continued to operate thepower plant until the territory was taken over by the electriccompany. After the death of John Doeden Jr., his brothers Emiland Reno (twins) took over the garage business. There were twocemeteries near the new village of Kings, one a mile east andone a mile west and a mile north at White Rock Center. There wasa church by each of these cemeteries and both of these churcheswere moved to Kings. The Presbyterian Church at White Rock Centerwas one of the oldest congregations in Ogle County. The churchwas moved to the north edge of Kings on the east side of the railroadtrack and the north side of the road. A large addition was builton it and it still serves the community. A story is told of HankKing that he was sitting in church and saw a farmer driving cattlepast on the road, he opened the window and called out, “Whatwill you take for those cattle?” The Methodist Church nearthe other cemetery was moved to the location east of the
Presbyterian Church, the Methodist parsonage being between thetwo churches. Among the early and influential settlers of thecommunity were the families of the Hayes brothers: Emory Sr.,Hiram and David. The Kings were Presbyterians and the Hayes wereMethodists and there was intense rivalry between the two churches.After the turn of the century the Methodist Church was moved fromKings to Flagg Center and gradually most of the Methodists becameaffiliated with the Presbyterian Church. A minister continuedto live in the Methodist parsonage for some time and served theFlagg Center and Paynes Point Methodist churches. In 1921, theMethodist conference leased its property to W.T. Haerr for a 99year period. The parsonage burned down and Mr. Haerr built a houseon the lot. Around the turn of the century many lodges and fraternalorders came into being and were active in providing social lifefor the people who did not have the many forms of entertainmentthat exist today. Maple Leaf No. 2652. Modern Woodmen of Americawas organized in Kings in the 1890’s with E.D. Buker as thefirst consul. This camp is still maintained by a few members whohave insurance with the society, but is no longer active as asocial unit.
In the last two decades of the 19th century many young Germanscame to White Rock Township. Most of them had left their homelandto avoid the three year period of srvice in the German army requiredof all young men there. They went to work on farms. They wereindustrious and thrifty and within a few years most of them ownedfarms. At one time when there were several new German familiesin the community, R. W.King, who operated a general store in Kings,hired Doud Doeden, who spoke both German and English to clerkin his store so that these people could more easily make theirwants known. The Germans built a church, the Elim Reformed Churchat White Rock Center about 1890. The first building was replacedin 1950 by a beautiful brick structure. For many years the preachingwas in German and English, on alternate Sundays, but with theyounger generation growing up, the German language was discontinued.In the 1920’s some of the German farmers who had retiredfrom their farms and were living in Kings were Meene Bruns, GerdEbens, Harm Alderks, Remmer Terviel, Louie Ludwig, Ulrich Zelland Casper Scholl. All of these mentioned have now passed to theirreward.
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 ofyears there was a night trick and George Laughrin was the nightagent during the 1920’s. The depot used to be a favoritegathering place and people never tire or going down to watch thetrains come in. There was formerly a large section gang operatingout of Kings. Swan Peterson was foreman for many years. At thetime of the first world war the railroad through Kings was verybusy with troop trains going to and coming from Camp Grant anda huge freight business. There were five passenger trains eachway daily between Rochelle and Rockford. Later, as automobilesbecame more prevalent and people didn’t patronize the railroads,the steam trains were replaced by a gasoline operated car, whichthe people nicknamed the “Galloping Goose.” In timethis was taken off and although there was still considerable freightbusiness on the railroad, the people of Kings are without publictransportation of any kind. For many years, the whistle of the9:11 was the curfew call of the younger generation to get homeand 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 thereto visit with, it was one of the customs of the times. Saturday night, especially, was a big time in a small town. In the 1920’sunder 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 wasn’t something you paid to watch someone else do, it was something you and your neighbors took part in freely and with enthusiasm. In the 1930’s the business men sponsored free street movies. This wasn’t quite the same. It was free, but you didn’t 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 aren’t 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 hasn’t changed much, but it doesn’t 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 don’t have to stay in the city24 hours a day.