The first actual settler in Loran Township, Stephenson County in 1836 was William Kirkpatrick, who put up a water powered sawmill on Yellow Creek east a couple miles from present day Pearl City. The road past it is still called “Mill Grove” just a little way south of the Pearl City-Freeport Road. The site is all it should be when describing places of mill sites.
By 1840 the Babb family arrived to claim a homestead with a stream, Yellow Creek, an objective.
In that area, however, Yellow Creek was a slow-moving, somewhat lethargic stream with a marshy grassy appearance and early made show a pond, probably shallow, give the Andrus brothers, Warren and Anson reason to believe if they built a dam there’d be enough full to create water-power. No one mentions of what the dam was built.
The Andrus brothers (early spelling of Andrews) huge, clumsily built mill stood at the very northeast corner of today’s Pearl City. It and Mill Grove drew business and residents. All Mill Grove disappeared but when the railroad angled northwestward toward it collected permanency plus the features all towns needed to last awhile: post office, bank and newspaper. At first however, the place was called “Yellow Creek” for the stream, a common thing. The familiar was carried on. (Kirkpatrick and Andrus are names heard in other mill histories.)
Then in the 1880’s a pearl was found along the muddy banks of the Yellow Creek and the long-settled village decided a bit of excitement was necessary—how ‘bout Pearl City. An down the road west of the mill back in the twists of Yellow Creek some gold was allegedly discovered—just enough to swell the hopes of dreamers or searchers everywhere. But there was only enough to make a speck in the wink of time.
There was argument for while between the names “Yellow Creek” or “Pearl City.” In future will be told the civil unrest between the north/south sides of the commercial district (north/south of the railroad). If the town argued by districts over the names might come up.
Some things take longer than others—like raising a bank. Tho’ settlement had occurred in the mid-1830’s, a banker, Michael Wishon of Galena didn’t show up until fifty years later.
Wishon built a bank of frame construction on the northwest corner of Main and DeVore Avenue. By comparing several other pictures it can be identified plus in 1912 a brick bank (shown above) replaced the frame one that was moved west to be remodeled into a residence.
These photos were “borrowed” from the Pearl City Centennial Book, 1891-1991” lent by Norman Brinkmeier, Lanark, formerly of Pearl City. Thanks for the reminiscences.
In 1919 the bank was robbed a first time with a large amount of money stolen as well as stock and bonds from safety deposit boxes.
During the Depression era the bank was closed, a common occurrence in towns and cities.
When the Pearl City Bank reopened plans began to be formed to construct a bank of modern design. It was opened in 1984 on the lot north of the town’s library remodeled the next year, 1985.
With the railroad tracks removed in 1973, a new post office was sited on part of the former rails, near where the depot had been. Following name and site changes, designs and ideas the basic town buildings are, perhaps, permanently situated though we no longer have those two daily witnesses.
Pearls and gold were the lure that brought people to what began as Andrews’ Mill and Yellow Creek in Loran Township in the late 1880’s.
It was the common greenback and silver that drew two thieves to the small town to rob its bank in the early 1950’s.
It was a hot summer day—July the 25th in 1952 actually, when there was no one walking the streets of Pearl City. Except that is for two young boys each swigging a bottle of pop believing they were being cooled off.
A stranger’s car pulled up in front of Sprague’s Hardware store in a used, worn two-toned blue Packard coupe. Two dark-skinned men got out of the car, one applying a blazing white handkerchief to wipe the sweat from his neck and face. They disappeared into the corner store.
Later it was learned from the clerk that the men purchased a box of .22 caliber rifle shells “to go squirrel hunting,” they’d remarked.
Apparently, the clerk thought nothing of it nor did the two boys, Norm and Randy, from their usual daily vantage point for watching the activity there was in the small rural farm town.
Norm and Randy did a double-take as the two men emerged from the hardware, entered the coupe and made an illegal U-turn to park in front of the bank. Some words between the men, adjustment of felt hats. As they looked up and down the street, one merely tipped a finger to Norm and Randy. Cashing a check, the boys wondered? Change for the cigarette machine?
There was never any excitement in P.C. except when someone tied a trumpet to the back of Mrs. Van Valza’s pig and someone else blew a rhythmic ta-too as it trotted down main street.
Inside the bank only the irritating buzz of a fly could be heard by the cashier, John Taylor and the assistant, Myrtle Shroer.
A car door slammed and footsteps were heard ascending the six cement steps. Myrtle sometimes counted them, attempt to guess whose shuffle it was.
John looked up as the door latch clicked to see two strangers. Surprised, at one man’s threatening sweeping gesture from one of the men who was holding a gun, and saying, menacingly, “This is a stick-up. Do what you’re told and you won’t get hurt.”
He came ‘round the partition towards Mrs. Shroer, waving the gun for her to move towards the vault, telling her to “open it!” She hoped he’d believe her when she told him it only opened by a time clock.
He took her word for it and turning away picked up a dark green metal box full of coins, counted and wrapped.
Just then a customer walked in, Jack Scofield, who was startled to see the two strangers behind the counter and the employees with fearful looks on their faces. When Scofield saw the gun he could have panicked.
“Back up against the wall and throw down your wallets,” the gunman, now somewhat nervous said in a raised voice.
Scofield replied there was only $2.00 in the wallet and his identification papers.
Sneering, the man kicked the wallet so it slid across the floor for Scofield to retrieve.
With short, jerky motions, one of the thieves gestured the three toward the vault, telling them they would lay down and should not move for ten minutes or they’d return to “Do things right!” Grabbing Myrtle’s purse and what was loose in the cash drawers, then ran for the door.
Taylor, Mrs. Shroer and Scofield lay quietly though the cashier was planning what to do when the ten minutes were spent.
The door had slammed, feet were heard descending the steps, car doors shut, engine revved. Its noise could be heard speeding off.
Taylor had jumped up to run to the door to catch just a glimpse of the rear end of a blue coupe with red disc wheels. A hurried call to the police was made and in no time, it seemed a sheriff’s deputy skidded up in front of the bank to jump out and run inside.
For the first time it occurred to Norm and Randy that more had happened inside the bank than just check cashing. Something exciting besides Mrs. Van Valzah’s tooting pig would make headlines.
A hurried call to the local telephone operator told her to alert all phone users on roads north out of town to report if they’d seen the two-toned blue coupe because they’d driven off in that direction.
An incoming call from nearby Kent warned the sheriff’s office that the Kent Bank had also been robbed. A few police cars sped off in search of the culprits.
Two truck drivers had seen the coupe with its radiator steaming
A farm woman reported what appeared to be the getaway car
The blue coupe had been found on a narrow back road north of Kent
One deputy’s car made the gravel dust roll leisurely like summer clouds as it skidded to a stop at a bridge near Kent.
The deputy exited the car to pick up a green metal box like the one from the Pearl City Bank. It was key evidence because from it a fingerprint was lifted. Using modern techniques of the day, the fingerprint identified its “owner.”
Then, by tracing where the car had been purchased, police learned it came from a used car dealer in Rockford for fifty dollars!
A photo of the fingerprint owner’s identity shown to the car dealer, he, indeed, said he was the dark-skinned buyer. The man with him was his brother.
Found also with the abandoned car was half a torn matchbook.
Here reference material is not at all clear because just a couple short phrases later it also says the other half was discovered in the car and written on the matchbook was “7 miles from Pearl City.”Stated was that both halves were from the abandoned car—some information is missing.
Using road blocks, directions the brothers were thought to have been seen, countless questions led authorities to a fishing shack over the state line into Wisconsin.
Besides capturing the “two dark-skinned” robbers, a caché of $13,000.00 in currency and coin in a rusty milk can was also found near the hideout shack.
After a trial at which the two brothers were found guilty, they were sentenced to twelve-to-fifteen years in a federal penitentiary.
Without any of the sophisticated technological equipment they use on CSI, the lawmen captured the robbers of the Pearl City State Bank in 1952 in just two days!
The two boys, Norm and Randy did not have any valuable evidence towards solving the crime even though they were eyewitnesses on Main Street everyday for weeks at a time!