Born January 31 1793—-Died October 5 1857
John Lane Sr. came to Illinois from Pittsford, New York, where he was a blacksmith, in 1833 with his brother-in-law, Capt. Jireh Rowley, and their families. The area at the time was called Yankee Settlement and they located on a farm in Homer Township, three miles east of the present city of Lockport.
The land they came to was covered with billowing prairies that proved challenging for its settlers to plow. The wooden plows that had worked fine in the sandy soil back east became stuck in the rich prairie sod.
Lane’s solution was to fashion a plow made from an old sawmill blade so highly polished that soil did not stick. After field testing on a Homer Township farm, Lane’s plow went into production, first on his farm and later in Lockport. By the 1850s, Lane’s plows were being advertised as “Lockport Clippers” and “Sod Breakers.”
Lane’s accomplishment was obscured by the steel plow made in 1837, also from an old sawmill blade, by blacksmith John Deere in Grand Detour, Ill. However, it was John Lane who conceived the idea of a three-layered moldboard, hard on its outer surfaces but with a soft center. Eventually the soft-centered moldboard was built by virtually every steel plow manufacturer.
Within a few years agriculture had been transformed, as more acres were cultivated. The prairies began to disappear at an increasing rate, and our landscape was irrevocably altered. On his death the magazine Scientific American stated that “John Lane Sr. should ever be remembered as one of the great inventors of the country.”