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Atlantic News-Telegraph
Excerpts from the Farm Monthly

Vol 27 - No. 9 Atlantic, Iowa
November 28, 1986 Issue

Memories of Lorah
by Trena Chinitz

Submitted by Darcy Papenfuss
(a descendant of Samuel L. Lorah)

(Editor's Note - This is the first In a series of stories about the village of Lorah located northeast of Atlantic in Pymosa Township written by Trena Chinitz of Atlantic, who visited the community many times as a child. "Memories of Lorah" linger in the hearts of many Cass County residents.)

Nestled among the corn and soybean fields of northern Cass County is a cluster of houses and buildings that mark the site of a once thriving farm village named after one of the most respected men in early Cass County history. The community is Lorah and its namesake was Judge Samuel L. LORAH, who built a house in 1855 in Cass County, hauling the lumber from the Iranistan sawmill west of Lewis. He was not only a judge in the early days of Cass County, but served in the Iowa General Assembly and was a member of the Cass County Board of Supervisors.

Pioneer Dream

His dream, perhaps like many pioneers, was to have a community to serve the rural area. The dream became a reality after the building of the Audubon branch line of the Chicago Rock Island and Pacific Railroad north of Atlantic. Unfortunately, he did not live long to see his community grow, dying about five years after the village was platted. It thrived for many years and had its shares of good times and had times as the farm economy went. The community featured a post office, bank, general store, blacksmith shop, grain elevator and other business and was a station on the railroad. As a child growing up on a farm about a mile southeast of Lorah, it was always a thrill to visit the community and during the summer there were free shows.

With the advent of better rural roads and more families owning automobiles, the service provided by small rural villages declined as stores, one by one closed, or the owners moved the business to a larger community. Lorah was no exception. The post office, opened in 1880, was closed in 1936. A fire destroyed the grocery store in the 1940s and by the middle 1960s the large grain elevator disappeared from the scene. One elevator had been moved to Exira and the larger one was cut in half so it could easily be transported to Atlantic for grain storage at the VanNostrand Grain Company on the north end of Chestnut Street.

Old newspaper files contain interesting tales of life in the county and Lorah had a regular column appearing in the Atlantic paper for many years. One writer in the l890s gave an interesting account of a heavy snow and how the boys and girls of the community would have a fine time sleigh riding. The stories told of happy times and bad times.

1882 Tragedy

A near fatal tragedy struck the community only two years after it was platted.

The Atlantic Daily Telegraph of Friday, Jan.20, 1882, told this tale:

"The day before Christmas, a shooting match was held at Lorah, six miles north of this place. Twenty-six of those present ate of some cheese that was bought in Lorah and it made them wretchedly sick. The victims writhed in pain, but none died. The cheese was probably poisoned by corroded zinc, of which it partook while in process of making."

Lorah was surveyed by P.I. WHITTED Sept. 16-20, 1880, and a plat was filed for record at 10 a.m. Oct.26, 1880, by S.L. LORAH with W.B. TEMPLE, county recorder. It consisted of 11 blocks; three east-west streets named Main, Cedar and South; and four north-south streets, named First, Second, Third and Fourth. The railroad cut through the eastern part of the village at an angle and Second Street followed the angle of the railroad line. The railroad also had a siding. The official description listed Lorah as located on part of the southwest quarter of the north-east quarter and part of the northwest quarter of tine north-east quarter of Section 14, in Township 77 north of Range No. 36 West of the 5th pm Iowa Meridian."

1000 Acres

Judge LORAH found his for-tune, so to speak, by coming to Cass County in 1854. It is said that at one time he owned about 1,000 acres of land in Pymosa Township. He was born in Berk County, Pa., in 1809 and moved with his parents to Franklin County, Pa. They moved to Wayne County, Ohio, when he was 13 and his father, John LORAH, was a farmer. At the age of 17, he left home and served an apprenticeship to the trade of tanner and currier, an occupation he followed for 12 years.

His entry into law came in 1837 when he was appointed clerk of the court of common pleas in Wayne County, Ohio. He served in that capacity for 15 years In October 1851 he was elected probate judge of the same county and held the office for three years. The urge to move westward came to him in 1854 and that fall he came to Cass County, purchasing a large amount of land in Section 14 of Pymosa Township and also 120 acres in Section 13 from Dr Samuel M. BALLARD, another noted pioneer.

County Judge

LORAH was elected county judge in 1857 and served two years. In the fall of 1862 he was elected to the General Assembly of Iowa, serving two-year term as representative. He was a member off the first board of supervisors of Cass County and also held various townships and school offices. The "1884 History of Cass County" said Judge LORAH, however, devoted a greater part of his time to agricultural pursuits, instead of being a public servant.< After the completion of the Audubon Branch line, LORAH made application for establishment of a station in Section 14 and the proposition was accepted by the railroad. He then proceeded to lay out the village which bears his name.

Died in 1885

His death in 1885 was a shock to the residents of the county. Judge LORAH died June 20, 1885, and was buried next to his second wife in the Atlantic Cemetery.

The Lewis Independent, a newspaper printed every Wednesday by J.B. ERION in Lewis, went into great detail about Judge LORAH's passing and his contribution to the county. Part of the story contained in the June 20, 1885, edition said:

"Judge S.L. LORAH died at his home in Pymosa Township about 5 o'clock this morning. For some time he has been in poor health. Last winter he had a very severe fit of sickness, but for some weeks has not been bedridden. This morning he got up early, dressed himself and went out on the porch and sat a few minutes. He then came into the house and sat down and seemed to be in great distress.

"His daughter asked him what was the matter and he said he felt as though he wanted to cough and could not. A messenger was immediately sent to town to summon Dr. EMMERT, but he being out of town, Dr. KIRKPATRICK started for Lorah, but on the road met a man who said the judge was dead. He died from some trouble of the heart, from which he had long been a sufferer."

Eight children

LORAH was married twice. The first time in 1830 to Tamar STOPHIET, a native of Pennsylvania. She died 1 years later. In 1833 he was married to Rachael WILSON, who was born in Pennsylvania in 1813. She died in the autumn of 1879.

He had a son, David, by his first marriage. This son went to Australia as a young man and then to Oregon, where he died.

Seven children were born to the second union. They were Samuel Irvin, Esther Jane, Tamar Eilen, Rachel Emeline, Sarah Lavinia, John Wilson and Charles Emmett.

Politically, Judge LORAH was allied to the Democratic Party.

The 1884 history said: "Few men in Cass County are more widely known than Judge LORAH and be has ever been held in high esteem for his sterling character, and respected for his many excellent qualities of mind and heart."

The Lewis paper further recounted the life history of Judge LORAH, noting that he had been re-elected to tine county board in 1883 and again in the fall of 1884.

"During a residence of more than 30 years in this county he has always been known as a man of unquestioned honor, upright in all his dealings with his fellow men. He was one of the oldest settlers of this county and has noted its growth from a wilderness. No man in the county was better known or more respected than the pioneer whose long and useful life has just closed."

First School

Judge LORAH's daughters were instrumental in the development of schools in Pymosa Township. In the summer of 1856 Tamar, listed in the "1906 Cass County History" as one of the daughters of the well-known and ever popular Judge LORAH, opened the first school in the township in her father's frame dwelling on Section 14. The house in which his daughter established the pioneer school of the township was the second frame dwelling to be erected in Pymosa Township. In 1864 the first school building in the district was erected and Emiline LORAH, another of LORAH's daughters, was the teacher. The building was used for school purposes until 1875, when a new one was erected.


LORAH, for a time, was looked upon as a place where a farmer could retire. An item in the 1906 history said John STONER bought a farm in Pymosa Township in 1875, which he improved and which he lived on until 1897. In that year, he moved to the village of Lorah, which he has since made his home.

The history said STONER recently sold 320 acres of his land at a price which represented its original value and, in part, the value of his labor and intelligence which for years were applied to its improvements.

Following is a list of the seven children of Judge LORAH's second marriage, their date of birth and other information that has been obtained through research.

  • Samuel Irvin LORAH, born Jan.20, 1834, married Agnes (?). He later married Rose OATHOUDT.
  • Esther Jane LORAH, born July 31, 1836, married Ozro STOUT Nov. 8, 1859.
  • Tamar Ellen LORAH, born Jan. 20, 1839, married Peter D. ANKENY Dec. 6, 1859.
  • Rachel Emiline "Toots" LORAH, born April 13, 1843, married Joseph DONER Nov.11, 1866, and later married Sinnici HOWARD.
  • Sarah Lavinia LORAH, born June 28, 1846. She was married to O.R. BALLARD. They had four sons and three daughters.
  • John Wilson LORAH, born July 13, 1849, married Emma BOWEN Jan. 1, 1870.
  • Charlies Emmett LORAH, born July 12, 1852, married Maryette HAVENS Jan.18, 1873. He died Dec. 1,1950.

    Future articles in the Farm Monthly will cover "Memories of Lorah" as recalled by residents of the village and the surrounding neighborhood. Persons interested in contributing to "Memories Of Lorah" are to contact the author, 511 East Fifth, Atlantic, Iowa 50022, telephone 243-4979.



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