History of Lanark

In The Beginning

D.W. Dame who worked for the Racine and Mississippi railroad ,was looking for a terminus for a depot/town and approached one Mr.

Lanark Railroad DepotPitt. He owned land just to the east of Mr. Howell, ½ to 1 mile east of the present day Lanark. Mr. Pitt’s land was not to be chosen being he wanted too much money for the right-of-way for the railroad.
Col. Daniels owned 40 acres in 1861. Dame bought the 40 acres for $925.00 on June 28, 1861, and the site for Lanark was chosen. John Nycum gave another 40 acres plus alternate lots in another 40 in Section 5 of Rock Creek Township. D. W. Dame had been operating under the auspices of the Racine and Mississippi Railroad. Now the land was acquired, and the scene set for the birth of a town on the prairie.
The next item to be settled was the naming of this new place. The capitalist looking to develop this new railhead at first chose Glasgow most likely because of their Irish decent. However, they soon learned that Glasgow was already in use in southern IL, so Lanark, the county/shire of the ancient city of Scotland, was suggested by some of the men holding considerable monetary investment in the project.
Lanark, Scotland, an ancient town (1140 A.D.) with a very rich history. Lanark was once an ancient capital of Scotland where William Wallace lived and became an outlaw to the English in the late 1290’s ( The Oscar winning film ‘Braveheart’ ). It also boasts some of the most beautiful countryside in Scotland, a world heritage village of ‘New Lanark’ – which is credited with being the first Co-operative workforce in the world (names – Robert Owen, David Dale)

These are excerpts from the book “Sesquicentennial Lanark IL 1861-2011

History of the City Cemetery & Veterans Memorial Park

Lanark Cemetery Aerial PhotoIn 1860 the Methodists were already worshipping in a small building that once stood in the southeast corner of today’s Lanark cemetery. Here the tiny congregation also had their burial ground. From this location the church was moved as stated earlier in 1861, closer to the center of the growing town. It was in this location were the Lanark cemetery got its start. The Methodists had already been using part of the site for the burial of their loved ones. So when the church moved, it became Lanark’s burial place. The first known burial in the Lanark cemetery was that of little Willis York, the 2 month old son of early Lanark settlers. He was the first child born in town; his father was an attorney who soon after Willie died, moved to Kansas where he became a senator. The cemetery remained in the Methodists care till 1880, when they asked the city to take it over. The city added another tract of land, and in 1881 Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Kingery deeded additional land, and the Methodists deeded their land and plots to the city as well. It has remained in the utmost care and has been the pride of Lanark for over 150 years now.

The flagpole in the center knoll of the Lanark Cemetery was donated in memory of Jack and Mary Lou Eckburg on Memorial Day 2005. The American flag has since been joined by (two) other flags, benches, sculpted walkways, memorial walls containing commemorative personalized bricks, each naming a local U.S. Military veteran. With the additions of the Armed Services monument, this serene and hallowed site has since become the Veterans Memorial Monument/Park.Lanark Veterans Memorial Park

The first additions to the memorial grounds were three marble slabs dedicated to the branches of the military.  These were placed in the center of a circular walkway.   The second major additions were the three slanted concrete slabs donated by Burkholder and Sons Concrete.  These slabs were designed to accommodate 82 marble bricks each.  Each brick contains the name, rank, service branch, unit, and dates of service of a military service person from the Lanark area.  Black bricks were chosen for those who had lost their lives while on active duty.  Families and friends purchased the bricks and provided the information along with information obtained from the military records.

These are excerpts from the book “Sesquicentennial Lanark IL 1861-2011


History of Lanark Schools

School 1In the early part of 1862, the sitting room of Richard Thompson, located at 217 E Locust St., was said to have been the first to serve as a school. In 1867, Alexander Smith, was hired to construct a school that was a three story brick with a mansard roof. School opened in 1867. It 1875, an “official” high school curriculum was adopted, so that the class of 1876 was considered the first graduating class of Lanark High School. The citizens School 2on the north side of town were concerned about their children crossing the busy railroad tracks so they petitioned for a grade school of their own.

In 1883, the North Side School was built at the north end of Boyd Street between 117 and 207 W Leland Street. In 1894, it was closed and the children again attended the south side school. The North Side School building was periodically used as a gymnasium until it was torn down about 1915.

School 3The Lanark High School building was discovered ablaze at three o’clock Saturday morning, November 25, 1893. In January 1884, the Board of Education reported progress for a new building on the sites where the old building had burned. The building was 91’ by 61’ two story, but with a semi-exposed basement and dormer attic surely enough to say, three stories.

In 1911-12, a large addition was put on the east side due to increased enrollment. The new gymnasium was erected in 1928.

EHS Today

These are excerpts from the book “Sesquicentennial Lanark IL 1861-2011


Historic People

Many interesting people have called Lanark home over the years.

Buss Bed-dingDon BussDon Buss

Donald R. Buss, entrepreneur/inventor – born August 26th, 1911 in Lanark. He started Buss Mfg. Co. in 1947, producing “Lucky Boy” baits, hooks and allied fishing necessities. Buss Bed-ding was invented in response to the need for something to keep the night crawlers alive until they reached the customers.  Soon the customers wanted to purchase the product in which the night crawlers were packed. Buss Bed-ding was shipped from coast to coast in the United States. It is still sold today by Magic Products Company of Wisconsin.

D.W. Dame

Daniel W. Dame, Lanark’s first mayor – was born in Tuftenborough, NH on February 8, 1820. Tireless efforts marked Daniel Dame’s D.W. Damepersonal program to lure railroads through Carroll County.  He served three terms in the State Legislature for such promotion and endlessly organized trips to meet with investors. D.W. Dame found a way to supply a good word at someone’s birthday, eulogy at a funeral, assistance for a burned out business, a trade or manufacturer necessary to the town.  His obituary said that he was a stickler for detail, small or large.  He got things done.  Surprisingly, perhaps, his obituary related that he was a believer in the supernatural, was a Mason, Knight Templar and belonged to the Odd Fellows.  D.W. Dame died December 10, 1895, much mourned, always praised, the father and founder of Lanark.

Glenn Ward Dresbach

Poet Glen Ward DresbachGlenn Ward Dresbach, writer – born September 9, 1889 in Section 13 Salem Township. “Poet of the Prairie” was an appropriate title for Lanark’s one-time nationally known poet. It was ideal.  It is claimed that he began writing poetry when he was eleven and had a book published when he was thirteen.  He graduated with the Lanark High School class of 1908 then entered the University of Wisconsin at Madison where he presented the library with a copy of his book. Following graduation from the university in 1911, he took a job as an accountant for the Panama Canal and Panama Railroad. By the 1930s his output of poetry was steady and prolific.  He won many awards.  His work appeared in all the major magazines and in 1937 it was claimed that he was the highest paid poet in the nation.  Glenn Ward Dresbach was named to the top ten Illinois poets along with Carl Sandburg, Eugene Field, Edgar Lee Masters, and Gwendolyn Brooks.

Charles Cotta

Charles CottaCharles Cotta, entrepreneur/inventor – born and raised at a residence/farm and rural post office four miles east of Lanark, just off present day Route 64. Charles and brothers operated a threshing machine throughout the neighborhood.  During the 1890s he acquired professional quality photograph equipment and started a business.

Cotta invented a feature on an automobile of his own construction and design (“Cottamobile”). It had four wheel drive, four wheel steering, independent springing of each wheel and a special transmission with non-clashing gears. By using chains by which the power of the motor was applied equally and individually to each of the four wheels they each became a traction wheel. Its motive power was steam. It was like no other auto on the market. How and why four wheel drive transmissions came to Charles is not known. He had no background in mechanics or engineering so the excellence in tooling, building each and every part and piece is a mystery.

That year, 1901, Cotta, then thirty, asked twenty year old Harry Curtice, Shannon, Illinois, to come assist him in building an Cotta Carautomobile with some novel special features and the Cotta steamer took form.

Charles Cotta died on July 26, 1945 at the age of seventy-three. His patent application read “an automobile running gear and transmission device.” Nothing said of four wheel drive, a device that changed the industry. But then at that time, hardly anyone knew its meaning. It was the first. Not even the journalists in the motor magazines of the day – “Four wheel traction principle might possibly be used sometime in the future.” And, “Ingenious but impractical.” Lanark’s hometown inventor proved them wrong.

These are excerpts from the book “Sesquicentennial Lanark IL 1861-2011

On June 28, 2014, a State historical marker was erected to mark the location of the shop where the first four wheel drive vehicle was created.


History of WWII – POWs in Lanark

We know that Lanark area folks contributed to the World War II effort in many ways. Not only did they send their sons to war, but they raised extra food, purchased war bonds, wrapped bandages, participated in the rationing of food, rubber, iron, farm machinery, and countless other items, mourned with their community when a loved one was killed in service to his country, and even helped with the safety and security of enemy soldiers—German Prisoners of War (POWs). Yes, Lanark was home for several summer months in 1944 and 1945 for up to 375 German POWs.

According to an article in The Lanark Gazette on June 14, 1945, “for the second year in a row German prisoners of war from Camp Grant (Rockford, IL) were called upon to help relieve a critical manpower shortage in the Lanark, Illinois food processing industries.” The article stated also that the 375 POWs would be paid “$0.80 a day in coupons redeemable at the prisoners’ canteen.” Prisoners were supervised by one or more officers and 45 enlisted men. They were housed “in tents in a fenced-in area (barbed wire) which will be lighted at night and constantly manned by trained escort guards.”

This project was “certified by the Farm Bureau, State Department of Agriculture, and the United States Employment Service as essential to the war effort.” Apparently the effort was successful because The Lanark Gazette reported that July 12, 1945 was a “banner day at the Fuhremann Canning Company, when 13,600 cases of peas were turned out.”

Read more about the POWs and memories of those who remember the time in the book “Sesquicentennial Lanark IL 1861-2011