HISTORY OF DURAND, ILLINOIS
In 1818 Illinois became a state. Most settlers lived in the southern part of Illinois. At the time Chicago and Galena were the only large settlements in northern Illinois. It wasn’t until 1835 the first settlers of European descent settled in Durand. A year later Winnebago County was formed and the settlement of Elton was established four miles south of present day Durand. In 1837 residents began settling to the north of present day Durand, resulting in the area attracting more residents. In 1856 land was purchased from the Haughton family by the railroad company resulting in Elton ceasing to be a village. As a result of the railroad coming through the town was named after H.S. Durand the railroad president at the time. Growth followed the construction of the railroad by 1857 Durand had 500 inhabitants, 100 families, and 58 businesses, with many more buildings and businesses going up at the time. By 1906 a group of citizens from the region brought telephone service to the surrounding area. Electric service soon followed in 1914. Although Durand began as a community centered on the railroad in 1980 the railroad was shutdown. Durand still caters to the greater region as a great place to live being in the hub of Freeport IL, Rockford IL, Beloit WI, and Monroe WI. In 2002 expanding into a new residential subdivision of Otter Creek, allowing more residents to call Durand home. One of the great assets of the Village of Durand was formed in 1978 when Chuck and Marlene Saelens donated 9 acres to the community in memory of their son, Nick Saelens, that had been killed in an automobile accident. Saelens Memorial Park is still widely used for ball games, picnics, kids playgrounds, and general exercise.
1st Volunteer Fire Department
Fire played a large part in the history of Durand. In 1886 a devastating fire burnt the first school building to the ground, a new one was built at the cost of $5,010. In 1904 fire destroyed the Norton Hotel, Graham Brothers Elevator, 2 agricultural warehouses, a creamery, and icehouse. 1912 a fire destroyed a restaurant, Randall and Hartman Meat Market, Pool Hall, Mylott, Van Sickle’s Harness Shop, Mrs. G.P. Crowdwer’s Millinary Store, and the office Dr T.H. Young and Dr. C.A. Roberts. As a result Durand became known as the first community in Illinois to arrange a volunteer fire department organized by Dr. T.H. Young in 1925. In 1930 the fire department became an official taxing body within the State of Illinois and was named Winnebago County Fire Protection District #1. The 1926 Peter Pirsch was the first fire truck. It can still be seen at special events.
A History of Volunteerism
From the first volunteer fire department in the state the Village of Durand has a history of supporting volunteerism in the community. In fact Durand’s history of volunteerism resulted in the village board adopting the motto “Village of Volunteers” after a 1981 contest won by Coralee Hardwick. “We were impressed with the cooperation. We applauded the way in which citizens came forward when there was a community need. The choice then became simple and she (Coralee) then submitted the motto” wrote Thomas Hardwick, Coralee’s husband, about how they choose the motto. The Village has gone on to host numerous volunteer organizations from the local Lion’s Club chapter that started in 1973, to the local DARTS (Durand Area Retailers and Trade Services) organization, and finally in 2012 Durand Charm was formed from volunteers all working towards revitalizing the community of Durand.
Ellen Gates Starr
Although communities the size of Durand, like most communities its size, don’t have many famous faces they do have pioneer in the women’s suffrage movement in Ellen Gates Starr. Ellen was born in 1859 north of Durand in a rural settlement of Laona. Her father was a local business owner in the community and was one of the founding members of Durand. Ellen attended Rockford Female Seminary where she met fellow social reformer Jane Addams. They travelled Europe together for ten years developing many of the ideas and inspiration they would bring back to America. They returned to Chicago to establish the Hull House, today a national historic landmark, dedicated to promoting education, autonomy, and breaking into traditionally male dominated occupations for women. In doing so Starr worked to teach new immigrants to the county by providing greater educational opportunities. She also campaigned to reform child labor laws and industrial working conditions in Chicago. In 1931 she became seriously ill and retired to a Roman Catholic convent in Suffern, New York before dying on February 10th, 1940.