Hello and welcome to our visitors! In the summer of 2015 the Pekin Public Library debuted this new weblog spotlighting our Local History Room collection. The weekly “From the Local History Room” column that is published in the Saturday Pekin Daily Times will be posted here. We welcome your comments and questions and research queries.
Here’s a chance to read one of our old Local History Room columns, first published in June 2012 before the launch of this blog . . .
A big riot at a Little Mine
By Jared Olar
In his 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” Ben C. Allensworth called it “the most serious riot ever known in Tazewell County.” It was the Little Mine Riot of June 6, 1894, which took place at the Hilliard Mine near Creve Coeur (then known as Wesley City). This event didn’t get its name because the riot or the mine were little, but because the Hilliard Mine was leased by the brothers Peter and Edward Little, coal-mine operators of Peoria County.
The Pekin Public Library’s local history room collection has only Allensworth’s account of this incident. Local historian Fred W. Soady, however, went into greater depth in his master’s thesis, “Little Mine Riot of 1894: A Study of a Central Illinois Labor Dispute.”
“Labor” and “management” sometimes have differences that lead to a falling out, and workers go on strike. Such disputes usually don’t involve exchanges of gunfire and people shot to death, as happened in the Little Mine Riot, but relations between the Littles and their miners had deteriorated drastically.
The miners’ immediate and primary grievance, according to Allensworth, was that the Littles had installed new machinery that meant fewer men were needed to work the mine. In addition, “The miners in Peoria County had been on a strike for some time, and the fact that coal was being taken daily from the Hilliard Mine seemed to be a source of aggravation,” Allensworth wrote. Local historian Dale Kuntz, however, has observed that ethnic and racial tensions also contributed to their unhappiness – the Littles employed Italian Catholic immigrants and African-Americans, .
As Allensworth told the story, “The result was that threats by the strikers to close their mine came to the ears of the Littles, and they prepared for trouble by storing guns and ammunition in the tower which overlooked the valley below. On June 15th (sic), Sheriff J.C. Friederich received the following telegram from Ed. Little: ‘The miners are coming tomorrow, five hundred strong, and armed. Be on hand early.’ Sheriff Friederich and Deputy Frings swore in about thirty deputies. They could secure no weapons worthy of mention, and, consequently, went up unarmed. In the meantime about three hundred miners assembled on the opposite side of the river, and nearly all armed with guns, pistols and other deadly weapons. They crossed the river in boats, and under the leadership of John L. Geher, an ex-member of the Legislature, marched to the mine. The sight of the mine in operation seemed to enrage them beyond control, and they started on a run for the works. They were met by the Sheriff, who asked them to abstain from violence, and commanded them to disperse. They brushed the sheriff and his deputies aside, and began firing in the tower. The assault was replied to by the Littles, striking a miner by the name of Edward Flower, who fell dead.”
Unsurprisingly, some details of this incident are unclear and disputed. The miners claimed the Littles shot first, and Ed Little is reported to have admitted as much, and to have said Geher had done all he could to avoid violence. The miners also protested that they were provoked by the proud and domineering attitude of one of Little brothers.
Allensworth’s account continues, “In the tower were the Little brothers, William Dickson, colored, Charles Rockey and John Fash. Seeing that resistance was useless, they ran out a flag of truce. Both the Littles and James Little, a son, were wounded. Dickson attempted to escape but was followed and shot several times, was taken to a Peoria hospital and died there. The miners completed the work of destruction by pouring coal oil down the shaft and setting fire to it. Some eleven men were working in the mine at the time, but all succeeded in making their escape.”
When news of the riot reached the ears of Gov. John P. Altgeld, two companies of the state militia were sent to Tazewell County, which was virtually placed under martial law for about a week. Residents of Pekin also organized a company of guards to defend the city, because the striking miners had threatened to come to Pekin and break their friends out of the county jail.
In the end, cooler heads prevailed and the rule of law was restored. In September 1894, Geher, Daniel Caddell, John Heathcote, and a man named Jones, were sentenced to be imprisoned for five years in the state penitentiary in Joliet, but Gov. Altgeld pardoned them after they had served about a year of their sentences.
The Littles also filed a claim for damages to their business and were awarded $7,710.60, and to ensure that Tazewell County would not again be caught unprepared for major civil disturbances, the county purchased 100 Remington rifles.
By Jared Olar
This week we return to Pekin’s pioneer historian William H. Bates, from whom we received most of our knowledge of Pekin’s early history. It was in the 1870-71 Sellers & Bates Pekin City Directory that Bates first historical sketch of Pekin was published, but Bates also told the stories of Pekin’s past in other places and venues, such as in booklets, pamphlets, and newspaper columns.
One of the ways that Bates told Pekin’s history was in a lengthy essay entitled “Early Times in Pekin and Tazewell County” that he wrote for a magazine called Shades’ Monthly in May 1913. That issue of the magazine was included in the 1914 Tazewell County Courthouse Cornerstone time capsule. Bates’ essay was reprinted in recent issues of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society Monthly (May 2017, pp.1911-1919, and June 2017, pp.1942-1946).
Bates’ essay bears a close resemblance to the historical sketch that he printed and reprinted over the years in his Pekin city directories. It’s also similar to a historical sketch that Bates wrote for his “Historical Souvenir to Commemorate the Dedication of the New Tazewell County Court House.” But in the Shades’ Monthly essay he varied his expression somewhat, and also included some details and anecdotes not found in the city directory account of Pekin’s past.
Following are some excerpts from Bates’ “Early Times” essay, telling of the original Native Americans inhabitants and the settlement of the site of Pekin by the first pioneers. Bates said one of his chief sources for the recollections of the site’s Native American inhabitants was a pioneer named Daniel C. Orr “who played around Shabbona’s wigwam.”
“Yes, Pekin is located on historic ground. For unnumbered years prior to the coming of the white man, the red man held full sway; roaming from one favorable location to another, as fancy, convenience or war dominated him.
“Indian villages occupied high ground above the possibility of overflow by the floods, but were always near the streams, which gave the aborigine fishing and hunting privileges.
“The high ground, from the upper end of Pekin Lake to the southern limits of Pekin, was the home of a tribe of Pottawatomie Indians, under the leadership of Shabbona, an able chieftain, who gained the friendship and gratitude of the white pioneers by warnings and tribal protection, for which he was appropriately named ‘The White Man’s Friend.’ In the Indian war of 1832, because he refused to join Black Hawk, in an attempt to exterminate the ‘pale face,’ he had to seek refuge near his white friends in order to save his life.
“Shabbona, and his immediate followers, while in this vicinity, occupied the high ground near our present Gas Works, on what is today Main street, southward to a point near the present C. P. & St. L. [Railway’s] round house. . . .
“Jonathan Tharp was the first permanent white settler in ‘Town Site,’ the date being 1824. He located his crude log cabin near the family wigwams of Shabbona, just west of the present Franklin School.
“Jesse Eggman, a boon companion of Tharp, also located in ‘Town Site,’ the name the hunters and trappers had given the high bluff . . .
“‘Town Site,’ as seen by the pioneer settlers, was on the first ridge; then came ‘Bitzel’s Lake;’ then another sand ridge between Third and Fourth streets; then a succession of low places and ponds between Fourth and Fifth streets. One of these ponds, about where Albertsen & Koch’s store now stands, was a great resort for ducks. Mr. B. S. Hyers, the oldest Pekin merchant, now living, told the writer that he ‘shot many a mess of ducks at this pond.’
“Then came ridges and ponds for over a mile to the east until you had in view a beautiful body of water afterward named ‘Bailey Lake,’ at the foot of East Bluff . . . .
“Joseph, son of Jonathan Tharp, was the first male white child born in ‘Town Site,’ his natal day being March 10th, 1827. . . .
“In the fall of 1828, the first steam boat that ascended the Illinois river, created wild consternation. The Indians fled to the hills or dense timber. Near Kingston, where Jesse Eggman had established a ferry, one Hugh Barr, who had never seen a steam boat, hearing the hideous noise made by the escaping steam, and seeing the open fires under the boilers, which looked like two great eyes, at the weird hour of midnight, turned out with dog and gun and chased the ‘monster’ until it passed up the river. The small band of settlers who lived along our river front, were awakened from their peaceful slumbers by the grewsome (sic) noise. They gathered in groups and waited the approach of ‘the monster of the deep.’ Good, old Father [Jacob] Tharp gathered his family together for prayers, doubtless thinking that Gabriel was blowing the final call; and good Aunt Ruth Stark prayed the ‘All Wise One’ to have Gabriel call at Fort Clark (now Peoria) first, as they were ‘wickeder up there.’ . . . .”
Here’s a chance to read one of our old Local History Room columns, first published in April 2012 before the launch of this blog . . .
Joseph Irwin, founder of the Pekin Daily Times
By Jared Olar
Pekin’s hometown newspaper, the Pekin Daily Times, has a history that stretches back to Oct. 1873, when the Peorians Joseph B. Irwin and Col. W.T. Dowdall bought and renamed a failed weekly paper called the Pekin Register (1856-1873), the successor of the Pekin Weekly Plaindealer (1854-1856), which in turn was born of the merger of the Tazewell County Mirror (1836-1854) and the Pekin Weekly Reveille (1850-1854).
The Pekin Times remained a weekly until Jan. 3, 1881, when Irwin turned the paper into a five-column daily. Ever since, the Pekin Daily Times has been published Monday through Saturday. But rather than trace the newspaper’s history, let’s take a look at the life and career of the paper’s founder.
Irwin’s life story is told in Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” pp. 720-722, as well as the 1894 “Portrait and Biographical Record of Tazewell and Mason Counties, Illinois,” 1894, p.254. Additional details are found in Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County.”
Irwin was born Oct. 11, 1849, in Circleville, Ohio, the son of John E. and Catherine (Tobias) Irwin, who were natives of Pennsylvania. He passed his boyhood days in Circleville, receiving his schooling at Circleville Academy. His lifelong interest in local politics began in Ohio, where he served a term as city clerk of Portsmouth. In Jan. 1872, Irwin married Inez M. Fifer, a cousin of Illinois Gov. Joseph W. Fifer (1889-1893). They had two children, but both had died before 1879.
Irwin moved to Peoria, where he worked for the Peoria Democrat until 1873. After moving to Pekin and founding the Pekin Times in partnership with Dowdall, Irwin also served as school inspector for three years, and was elected Pekin’s city supervisor in the spring of 1894. In his day, the founder of the Pekin Daily Times was one of Tazewell County’s prominent newspapermen and politicians. Back then, usually journalists were openly partisan – politically independent newspapers were rare.
“When the first issue of the Times appeared [in 1873] there was no subscription list, as the paper had changed hands so often that its reputation was well nigh gone and the outlook was extremely discouraging. But by much hard work, natural ability and perseverance, our subject soon placed the paper on a solid basis, and as a newsy and literary production it ranked among the leading weeklies of the northwest,” says the Portrait and Biographical Record.
According to Chapman, “Irwin soon bought Dowdall out, and by untiring energy and rare business tact, built up a larger circulation than it ever enjoyed before. In July, 1877, Geo. E. Schaumleffle purchased a third interest of the paper.” Schaumleffle, born in Pekin in 1854, often wrote the paper’s editorials.
B.C. Allensworth’s Tazewell County history supplies these additional details: ““Irwin soon bought Dowdall out, and the county having passed into the control of the Democratic party, the paper was recognized as the organ of that party and prospered from that time on, when in May, 1886, it was purchased from Irwin by A.W. Rodecker, F. Shurtleff, Thomas Cooper, and B.C. Allensworth.”
After leaving the Pekin Daily Times, Irwin joined the Post Publishing Company and was made editor and manager of the weekly Republican Post, formerly called the Tazewell County Republican. Irwin’s time at the Republican Post was financially successful, but politically it was controversial. Allensworth mentions that Irwin “antagonized republican interest to such an extent that Colonel Bates” – Pekin historian W.H. Bates, who had retired from the Tazewell County Republican – “came back into the paper business with the Tazewell County Tribune.” Also in 1886, says Allensworth, Irwin founded the Pekin Daily Post, and he continued the publication of the Republican Post and the Daily Post until his death in Pekin on Jan. 13, 1900.
“There is perhaps no better campaigner among the politicians of the county than Mr. Irwin,” says the Portrait and Biographical Record, “who is well known to every prominent citizen in both parties, and being acquainted with all the main roads and byways in this vicinity, can get over and around Tazewell County and in every township and political center quicker than any other man. He has met with several business reverses, but his fine financial standing, business ability and honesty have never been questioned. Among politicians and newspaper readers generally he is conceded to be one of the best editors in the county.”
Here’s a chance to read one of our old Local History Room columns, first published in June 2013 before the launch of this blog . . .
Pekin wasn’t always a welcoming place
By Jared Olar
Included in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection is an extensive file on a dark period in Pekin’s history: the heyday of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. The KKK attained prominence and prestige throughout the Midwest in the early 1920s, and was established in Pekin by a vaudevillian and respected community leader named Oscar Walter Friederich, owner of the Capitol Theater. Friederich was a Grand Titan in the Klan, supervising more than 40 Illinois counties, and Pekin was his regional headquarters.
In September 1923, Friederich and two other Klansmen, Silas Strickfaden and E. A. Messmer, partnered to buy the Pekin Daily Times, which thus became an organ of the KKK’s racist and nativist propaganda. Consequently, much of the Local History Room’s file on the KKK consists of copies of Pekin Daily Times articles and advertisements from the first half of the 1920s.
Almost as rapid as its rise was the Klan’s fall in the mid-1920s, due not only to organized social opposition to the KKK across the country but also to several public scandals that made national headlines. The Klan’s local fortunes in Pekin followed its national fortunes, and when the Klan fell into disrepute, the Pekin Daily Times nearly went out of business and Friederich had to sell the paper in June 1925.
A few other articles in the Local History Room’s KKK file touch on the related subject of Pekin’s reputation as a racist community unwelcoming to non-whites. Given Pekin’s past and reputation, sociologist James Loewen included Pekin in his 2005 study, “Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism,” which explores the phenomenon of U.S. communities that made it known to blacks that they had better be out of town by nightfall.
Obviously, the history of the KKK in Pekin had a lot to do with that reputation, but a closer look at Pekin’s history reveals that the reputation predates the Klan’s arrival in Pekin. For example, on July 24, 1933, the Pekin Daily Times printed a curious story at the bottom left corner of the front page, with the headline, “Now it is Explained: Why Negroes Don’t Light in Pekin; Once Upon A Time There Were Balls and Chains.”
This story followed a news report of the preceding week, published at the bottom right corner of the Daily Times’ front page on July 21, 1933, about a black man from Chicago Heights named James Davis, one of two blacks who had been arrested in Pekin as stowaways atop a C. & I. M. box car. The news report, which utilizes the racially derogatory language common in those days (which we will not quote here), says Davis’ companion went quietly, but Davis allegedly resisted arrest and attempted to escape.
Davis was brought to court the next day, and the judge told him, “The court after carefully considering the case fixes your fine at $25 and costs, but fine and costs will be remitted if you get out of town. The court will give you one hour to get out of the best city in the state.” Davis replied that he thought he could make it out of Pekin in five minutes.
The follow-up story, which again uses racially derogatory language, shows an awareness of Pekin’s reputation, observing, “There have been other stories about Negroes getting out of town in a hurry – one about a man that left the city hall in such a rush that he even forgot to eat his dinner, other talks of Negro families moving in town one day and out the next – until it seems that there must be that indefinable something about Pekin that keeps her population almost wholly white.
“Illinois population bulletins show that there are few other cities the size of Pekin that have no Negro population.
“William Gaines, one of our two black men, who is porter at the Tazewell hotel and who has been here for 30 years, explains the non-existence here of others of his race by the fact that Peoria is so near, and that Negroes in general prefer to live in larger cities.”
The story then relates a personal recollection of Emil Schilling, “one of Pekin’s lifetime residents who remembers everything that has gone on here for the past 50 or 60 years.” Schilling attributed the absence of blacks in Pekin to an incident that older men of the town had told him when he was a boy.
“He was told that there had been a gang of levee Negroes working as the crew on a river boat back in the days before the Civil war, 30 or 40 of them, that had gotten too much whisky at 20c a gallon and had begun to carouse.” According to this tale, the blacks were arrested and clapped in iron, and were sentenced to six weeks of labor on the city streets dragging a ball and chain.
Schilling said word of that incident spread up and down the Illinois River. On a trip to St. Louis during the 1880s, Schilling encountered a group of black dockworkers, and he asked one of them if he would like to live in Pekin. According to Schilling, the man replied, “No, suh, boss, no suh, that town ain’t no place for a n—–.”
One of the most remarkable features of this 1933 Pekin Daily Times story is the complete absence of any reference to the Ku Klux Klan, even though the KKK’s popularity in Pekin during the first half of the 1920s is obviously relevant to this question. This is a glaring omission that was probably intentional on the writer’s part.
While it’s unclear how much weight should be placed on Schilling’s recollections, his tale would suggest that Pekin’s reputation as a community unwelcoming to blacks predates the Civil War. That would not be surprising, given the fact that until the Civil War Pekin was a Democratic, pro-slavery political stronghold. One of the important factors in shifting Pekin to an anti-slavery Republican stronghold was the influx of German immigrants around the mid-1800s.
However, while the German influence was crucial in the shift of Pekin’s politics, it also helped make Pekin less desirable as a place to live for non-German-speakers, both white and black. As a result, “The small black population and many of the older white families moved to Peoria,” according to an April 13, 1989 Peoria Journal Star column by retired Peoria Journal Star editor Charles Dancey of Pekin.
The practical results of these cultural and demographic trends can be tracked in the U.S. Census: in 1900, only four blacks lived in Pekin, in 1910 only eight, in 1920 (just before the KKK arrived) a total of 31, in 1930 only one – and in 1940 not a single black person was left in Pekin.
By Jared Olar
The week we’ll recall the life of one of Tazewell County’s “Old Settlers” whose biographies were included in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County.” Most of the Old Settlers were men, but a few of them were women – and among those women was Kitty Ann McDowell (1814-1894), one of the pioneer settlers of the village of Hopedale in southeastern Tazewell County. Kitty McDowell came to Tazewell County as a new bride, all of 16 years of age.
The ”Atlas Map” features Kitty Ann McDowell’s biographical sketch on page 86. Her sketch, which has about as much to say about her late husband as it does about her, reads as follows:
“MRS. KITTY ANN McDOWELL is one of the early settlers and worthy citizens of Tazewell county. She was born in Breckenridge county, Kentucky, in 1814, and was the daughter of Edward and Lacy Leah Bowlings [sic – the name was actually Rawlings], who were both natives of Kentucky. Mrs. McDowell received her early culture at the common district schools of Kentucky, which consists of a good common education. On the 12th day of September, 1830, she was joined in marriage to Rev. James McDowell, who was born in the state of North Carolina, on the 5th day of June, 1797, and at the age of two years was moved with his parents to Tennessee, where he received the first branches of his education at the common schools of that state, and completed his collegiate course at the Louisville college, where he received his degree, with full honors; after which he studied divinity, and was ordained as a Camberlain Presbyterian minister in the year 1830. Immediately after this he married Miss Kitty Ann Bowlings [sic], and moved to the state of Illinois, and entered land on sections 13 and 24, in Hopedale township, Tazewell county, where he was successfully engaged in carrying on farming, in the meantime fully sustaining his calling as a minister of the gospel, until his death, which was in 1846. Perhaps he was entitled to as much credit for the spread of the gospel and improvement of the morals, and the establishment of good society, as any citizen of Hopedale township. He was a true and upright citizen, a loving and kind husband, an affectionate and indulgent parent, and a devoted Christian, and he died as he had lived, in the full hope of a bright immortality beyond the grave, where he hoped to meet all beloved ones in the future.
“Mrs. McDowell has always resided on her good homestead that her husband had provided for her, and has her farm under a high state of cultivation, richly adorned with good buildings, erected under the directions of herself. A beautiful picture of the same is shown in this Atlas. She has been the mother of seven honorable and enterprising children, three sons and four daughters, four of whom are now living; three are married, and are worthy citizens of Tazewell county. Her son, Joseph W., is still single and makes his home with his mother, and takes great pains to provide for her and look after the comforts of his honorable parent. He is recognized as one of the good and enterprising farmers of Hopedale, and has many warm friends.”
Additional information about the families of Kitty and Rev. James McDowell is found in Ruth Schilpp’s “Hopedale . . . My Home Town” (1984). For example, one page 3 Schilpp mentions Rev. McDowell, his sister Jane Paisley, and their in-laws the Orendorffs among the first settlers of Hopedale. Schilpp comments, “The widow Paisley, a sister of Aaron Orendorff’s wife [Martha McDowell], came to Tazewell County with her four sons and four daughters and settled on land that bordered a timber located a mile north of Hopedale. This land is now owned by Deane Wiehmier. Rev. James McDowell, from Tennessee, came to Tazewell County and settled on the land that joined his sister, Mrs. Jane Paisley. The only sermon preached in Hopedale Township before 1830 was preached by Rev. McDowell in the home of Aaron Orendorff.”
Besides that reference, on page 85-86 Schilpp discusses the old Cumberland Presbyterian Church (or “Shiloh Church”) which Kitty Ann McDowell’s husband organized on Nov. 28, 1830, listing the 14 original members. A biographical sketch of Rev. McDowell and his wife Kitty is also found on page 98 of Schilpp’s book.
Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” page 504-505, includes further interesting biographical information about Rev. McDowell and his wife Kitty. This is what Chapman’s history says of Kitty McDowell:
“Mrs. Kitty Ann McDowell, widow of Rev. James McDowell (deceased) . . . Three children [sic – four children, but the fourth apparently died between 1873 and 1879] bless this marriage with the lady whose name is at the head of this sketch; they were Margaret, Lucy, Joseph W. Mrs. McDowell is a native of Kentucky. She was born in Breckinridge Co. in 1814 and was the daughter of Edward and Lucy Rawlings, who were natives of Kentucky. Mrs. McDowell was married when she was but 16 years old, and left the next day after her marriage, accompanied by her husband to this county, where he had previously visited and built a log cabin. The cabin was of the usual style of the day, and still stands on the old homestead. We give a portrait of Mrs. McDowell and would gladly give one of Mr. McDowell, but unfortunately, he never had any kind taken of himself. Mrs. McDowell was married 12 Sept. 1830. She has in her possession some very interesting relics. She has a family Bible that was handed down from one generation to another for 150 years. She also has considerable Continental money of denominations of $20.00 which is a real curiosity to the people of this generation.”
Kitty Ann McDowell died at the age of 80 at her home just northeast of Hopedale. She was buried beside her husband in Shiloh Cemetery, Hopedale. (Incidentally, her husband Rev. McDowell was one of the many Tazewell County settlers of Scottish descent alluded to in our column on the Scottish Highlanders posted here earlier this month.)
Here’s a chance to read one of our old Local History Room columns, first published in March 2013 before the launch of this blog . . .
Looking back at Pekin’s police department history
By Jared Olar
In the Pekin Public Library’s Local History room collection is a copy of Pekin Police Chief William Grant Jr.’s annual police department report for the year ending Dec. 31, 1941, submitted to Pekin Mayor J. Norman Shade and the Pekin City Council in January of 1942.
This was the police department’s second annual report. What makes the 1942 report of special interest is that it includes a 12-page year-by-year history of the city’s police department – apparently the first time anyone had attempted to draw up a resume of the department’s history. The records on which the history was based were compiled by Charles Schermer, officer in charge of the department’s records and identification bureau. Following are a few highlights from Schermer’s history:
“It is almost impossible to give much information about the early Law Enforcement officers of the city. It seems that the first record of a Police officer came the year the citizens of ‘Town Site’ voted to change ‘Town Site’ to an incorporated city. That was in 1849, and they elected the first Mayor and Aldermen. Bernard Bailey was elected Mayor, and he appointed Thomas Cloudas as the City Marshall, also the street Commissioner. According to the records the duties of the first Marshall was to catch and impound all the hogs and cattle running the streets, as they had been declared a nuisance. The first calaboose was built in this year, and cost the sum of $49.00. This calaboose stood till the summer of 1868 when it was destroyed by fire. So, Thomas Cloudas is the first mentioned Police officer of this city.”
In those days, Pekin had very much the character of a rough frontier town, and the city marshall had much more to do besides rounding up stray hogs and cattle. Perhaps most of the criminal offenses in Pekin from the 1850s through the 1870s involved alcohol-fueled violence. One such incident was Pekin’s first riot on July 4, 1851, when a steamboat’s drunken deck hands ran wild throughout the city. Cloudas rapidly collected a force of Pekin citizens who engaged in a battle with the deck hands in the city streets and finally, after a hard fight, managed to subdue and arrest the offenders.
The office of city marshall was filled annually by mayoral appointment. In 1850, the city marshall was Benjamin S. Prettyman, a prominent figure in Pekin’s early history whose life story was featured a few months ago in this column. Then in 1851, William Snider was appointed third city marshall, “and he was authorized by the Council to put all the prisoners in custody at the time to working on the streets to pay out their fines. They were fitted out with a ball and chain and put to work on the streets and alleys,” Schermer wrote.
Snider resigned in March of that year and Cloudas returned to his former post. Cloudas was reappointed as city marshall in 1852, in which year a new and larger calaboose was built at a cost of $7,000. According to Schermer, the city council that year decided the marshall would not be paid a salary, but would instead receive “all the fees that are established by Law as pertaining to his office.”
On April 30, 1854, the mayor appointed the Mexican War hero Richard William Tinney as city marshall, a position he would retain until March 5, 1855, when Tinney was relieved of his duties. As we have previously noted in this column, the ever colorful “Uncle Bill” Tinney later served as Tazewell County Sheriff, and afterwards owned and operated a hotel near the Pekin riverfront.
In 1854, the city had elected Charles Turner as its first Police Magistrate. “During this year the first Night police were named by Mayor M.C. Young, they being Thomas Shapard and N. C. Flood, their salaries being $45.00 per month.” So, for many years the city had both an elected police magistrate and an appointed city marshall. The marshall and the city police force were subject to annual reappointment by the mayor and city council.
Turner served a four-year term as police magistrate and then was re-elected in 1858. However, on Nov. 17, 1858, Turner was also appointed to the newly created post of “Chief of Police.” In succeeding years, however, the city police force would be headed by the city marshall.
In 1888, the office of city marshall was renamed “Superintendent of Police.” The same year, the city council proposed cooperating with the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors to construct to new and larger jail that would house prisoners for both the city and county, but Schermer notes, “No further mention is made as to whatever became of the idea.” Instead, the council decided to replace the old city calaboose with a new city jail on the east side of city hall.
The head of Pekin’s police continued to be known as the “Superintendent of Police” until the early 1900s. In 1903, Anthony Larkin was appointed police superintendent. There is a gap in police department records from 1905 to 1908, but by the latter year the head of the police department had become known as the “Chief of Police.” On May 4, 1908, Pekin Mayor Henry Schnellbacher appointed Charles Charlton to the post of police chief, while John Beetlet was named assistant chief. From then on, the Pekin Police Department’s head has been known as “Chief of Police.”
On this point, two errors should be noted in the summary of police department history found on pages 150-151 of “Pekin: A Pictorial History.” That account mistakenly says the title of superintendent of police was changed to chief of police in 1905, and that Charles “Charleton” was appointed in that year. Those mistakes appear to derive from misreadings of Schermer’s history of the Pekin Police Department.
Here’s a chance to read one of our old Local History Room columns, first published in December 2011 before the launch of this blog . . .
Teepees along the railroad tracks?
By Jared Olar
This week we’ll revisit a few recent “From the Local History Room” columns as we see what we can learn from a copy of a vintage Pekin photograph on file in the library’s Local History Room. The photo is remarkable because it shows a long row of teepees or wigwams between some railroad tracks.
The copy of this photo, a halftone image, was clipped from a newspaper or magazine, and is accompanied by a caption that informs us that the photographer was none other than Pekin’s own Henry Hobart Cole, whose life we have reviewed in this column previously.
The caption does not say when Cole took the photograph, but several clues both in the photo and the caption help us to narrow down the period when it was taken. These clues also show where the photo was taken, and suggest who placed the wigwams in that unlikely location – or rather, who didn’t place them there.
The caption says, “The long row of wigwams, as you look northward along the tracks of the Peoria & Pekin Union Railway, east of Pekin Lake, represents the site of the largest village of Pottowattamie Indians in this region at the advent of the white settler . . .”
By consulting some of the library’s old maps of Pekin and tracing the rail lines, we can see that the foreground of the photo shows the area where Second Street and Market Street used to intersect – today that stretch of Market Street is a bicycle path. The row of wigwams appears to start around the area of Catherine and State streets.
Obviously the wigwams were not actual Native American dwellings — no one can live in the dangerous plot of ground between two lines of rail. Also, as mentioned in previous columns, Pekin’s Indian population was deported to Kansas in the mid- to late 1830s, while the railroad did not come to Pekin until 1859. These wigwams, rather, indicated the area of Pekin where an Indian village formerly was located. Perhaps they were a display for a community fair or celebration.
The caption provides two more clues as to when Cole took the photo. It says the village was “fully one-half mile in length” and “on the high ground leading along Main street from the present gas works southward.” Similarly, W.H. Bates’ 1902 essay, “Historic Pekin!,” says the village was “on the high ground just east of the Gas Company’s coal sheds, on what is today First Street.”
Gas lights were installed on Pekin’s streets in 1866, so the gas works were constructed by that year, which means the photo can be no older than 1866. Similarly, the caption’s reference to “the Peoria & Pekin Union Railway” suggests a date no earlier than 1880, the year that railroad company was incorporated.
An 1877 aerial “View of Pekin Ill.” in the Local History Room collection depicts the area shown in this photo, including the frame house on the right and the large brick structure on the left. Both the 1877 aerial view and the photo show an overall absence of houses and industrial or business structures in that part of Pekin. Cole went into semi-retirement in 1911, but we would expect to see more buildings in the photo if it was taken that late in his career.
From what we’ve seen, it seems most likely that Cole took the photo during the 1880s or perhaps the 1890s. Pekin’s first street fair opened on Oct. 12, 1898, and a second street fair ran from Oct. 11-14, 1899. Could these wigwams have been an attraction at one of those fairs?