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John Lorang

(parents Bernard Lorang and Angela Hermann) was born Feb.22,1858 in Johnsburg, Wisconsin. He died Feb,16,1926 in Genesee, Idaho, buried at St. Mary’s cemetery, Genesee, Idaho.

John was the first of the Lorang family born in the U.S. "At the age of 17 he went to the lumber woods in Wisconsin and Michigan. Through hard labor and thrift he succeeded in accumulating, during the following few years, what was considered at that time a small fortune--a few hundred dollars.” Genesee News, Feb., 1926

In 1884,two weeks after marrying Mary Gesellchen, they left on one of the first immigrant trains to the West and arrived in Riparia, WA. From there they continued by river boat up the Snake River, to Lewiston, Idaho, and then up the steep Lewiston Hill (elevation 2,756 feet) by lumber wagon to Colton, WA, arriving on Mar.21,1884. There they shared a small cabin with friends from WI, Sebastian Dahm and his wife, Mary. Their first child, Peter was born here.

They rented the farm at Colton, WA for one year and 9 months before buying the Lorang Homestead ranch in Genesee, known as the White Spring Ranch. The original 1885 (or earlier) homestead home was added onto in 1890 and 1904, until it became a grand (one of John's favorite terms) home with two stories and an upper balcony. This may have at one time all been lost. There is a story of how one of the farm hands, sleeping in an alcove near the kitchen woke to a fire in his room. It was a terrifying night until the fire had been contained.

One of the curio cabins behind the house, a wonderful old 1884 or earlier log cabin, with a stone chimney and fireplace, was the original cabin on a neighbor's farm. It was given to John for use as a curio cabin. John and his son, Charles, then numbered each log and then carried them down the hill by wagon and reassembled them on the farm.

There were numerous gatherings on the ranch with many family reunions. It is said that people would often ask to stop on the farm to rest on their journeys through the area because it had become a beautiful park with all the unusual species of trees and plants that John had collected and planted there.

The grove of trees there today was included in the listing of the ranch as a National Historical site, as of Jan.6, 2004. There used to be a large grove behind the house as well and many animals, which John also collected. Coyotes, porcupines, squirrels, owls, and other birds, many wild animals that he had received permission to keep because of his interest in nature. It was said that John was given permission by the Smithsonian to collect some of his items. He at one time had so many curios and collected so many from other countries that he had flyers made for his museum.

John also liked to make his own chairs. He made one simple one out of a very large old tree stump, which is in many photos. But the others were more intricate. We have a photo of a highchair that he made for one of the grandchildren. It was made of different woods, from different trees he had planted and included inlaid pieces of wood from the old homestead homes in Germany and Wisconsin and even a piece of the first wagon John ever owned. One beautifully sculptured one was made entirely out of wood from one apple tree. The arms and back were created by shaping the wood, rather than made in pieces. And we have a photo of a chair John made completely out of horns.

In Grandma's scrapbook there is and article, which says "John Lorang has received from Governor Alexander a commission appointing him as a delegate to the 10th Annual International Dry Farming Congress to be held in Denver, Colorado". Most likely from the Genesee News. John was admired by his friend Governor Alexander, who stopped by to visit at the farm. This Congress was in 1915. We have a photo of him at the Congress. And in "The Legacy of John Lorang", which written as an Architectural paper by Kurtis Zenner in 1986, there is a copy of a Dry Farming identification card . (Kurt is hoping to update "The Legacy" at some point with enhanced photos). John also received two medals for 1st place, for barley and wheat at the 1905 Lewis and Clark exposition in Portland. We have photos of these medals as well.

Mary and John traveled in 1910, visiting the Holy Land and Europe, looking up the homes of their parents and grandparents and taking hundreds of photographs. One of their most memorable moments was having a private audience with Pope Pious X. John and Mary both have an extensive journal of their trip. The phrase John liked to often use was "It was the Grandest thing I ever saw".

They also have an enormous collection of photos, for the time, of the ranch and family.
One photo I found had everyone lined up in front of the house, and the next photo, everyone was in front of the house, faced the other direction with their hats on. One was of John out camping by himself, so he tied a string to his toe, attached it to his camera and sat on the running board of his truck. Then tried to look casual, drinking a cup of coffee while he pulled on the string and took a picture of himself. John also devised a way, with use of a rope, to open the White Spring gate without getting out of his buggy.

Henry's family then lived at the White Spring Ranch. Most of John's collection of curios, local animals and artifacts went the University of Idaho in Moscow. One collection is of eggs of every size from ostrich to humming bird. There's is rumor of a peacock found in one of the local Moscow restaurants that may be the one taken from John's collection at one time. After searching, we found the restaurant is now closed.

GreatAunt Martha Lorang, daughter of John and Mary, has a wonderful 18 page story on life growing up on the Genesee Ranch. All of the children who were born and raised on the farm, (except Charles who was born at Gritman Hospital) later became accountants and business owners, telephone operators, salesmen, County school assistants, bankers, etc. Mom remembers Grandpa Barney saying how hard the work was on the farm and only Henry stayed. Among many of the poems Henry wrote was a poem about "Life on the Farm" and how tough the work was.

We have many, many photos of John on the Genesee Ranch, three of him as a younger man in Wisconsin, photos of John and Mary in Europe, one of him in front of the Lorang house in Wisconsin, which then belonged to his brother, Vincent. Others in front of the ancestral homes in Germany. We have John and Mary's marriage record and some land records from Genesee. Also a few references to him in the Genesee paper. We have two letters translated from Old German that he wrote to the boys. Photos and documents too numerous to mention. Much more to come.....

Diana Conroy

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