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Homesteading In Rooks County

Damar

On October 8, 1884, President Grover Cleveland signed the document which entitled Francis St. Peter to one hundred and sixty acres of land on the western edge of Rooks County for the consideration of $4.00. By 1880, most of the government land had been "taken up." Francis St. Peter had hauled ammunition during the Civil War and, like so many other veterans, was lured to seek the free land made available by the Homestead Act.

Almost immediately, other Canadian French Catholic people followed. They came by way of Illinois, then Concordia, Aurora and St. Joseph and on further to the west looking for cheap land and a new home. The community became so solidly French in character that it was referred to as the "Acadia of the West." It has retained much of its original tradition to this day.

The first church services were held in the home of Ezra St. Peter, in 1887. Mr. St. Peter then donated three acres for a cemetery and two acres for a church to the east of his home. The new community was first known as St. Petersville. However, the first post office located about two miles to the northeast was named Ainsworth. When the Union Pacific Railroad passed nearby, the first small frame church was moved to the site of the present church. The post office moved also, to the railroad station. It was at this time that the new town became known as Damar.

Today, the St. Joseph Catholic Church is recognized as one of the most beautiful churches in the area. Due to hard times, the building was completed in stages. The limestone was quarried at Waldo and shipped to the site. The towers were completed in 1913 and the first mass celebrated in 1917.

The Damar Knights of Columbus Hall, located on Main Street, was completed in 1922 and serves many functions in the community.

A war memorial next to the post office in town, commemorates those citizens that served and dedicated their life to the freedom of the United States.

Sources

Information from Roger Hrabe, Rooks County Economic Development Director

 

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