The Roaring ’20s in Tazewell County

This is a reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in November 2013 before the launch of this weblog.

The Roaring ’20s in Tazewell County

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

In March 2013, this column concluded a 25-part series that had begun in Sept. 2012 on a pair of sensational murders that occurred in East Peoria and Pekin in the early 1930s. The series put a magnifying glass on different aspects of life, law and crime in Tazewell County toward the end of the Prohibition Era.

The era of Prohibition, of course, is commonly known as the Roaring ’20s, a colorful description of a generally high-spirited time of material prosperity and swift social change. It’s now been a century since the start of that decade. A book about that time is included in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection: “Roaring in the ’20’s in Tazewell County,” produced in 2002 by the Tazewell County Genealogical and Historical Society and compiled by Vivian Higdon.

The book is only 46 pages, yet “Roaring in the ’20’s” has individual chapters on all of the things for which that era is known: not only gangsters and organized crime, or Prohibition and speakeasies, but also the Woman’s Suffrage Movement, fashions, automobiles and roads, new inventions, sport and entertainment, and heroes and daredevils.

The Roaring Twenties weren’t all gangsters, speakeasies, and flappers. Sometimes it was a group of neighborhood boys in Pekin shooting a game of marbles, as in this undated 1920s photo from the Peoria Journal-Transcript. Shown left to right are Urban Albertsen (1917-1999), Edwin Hamilton, Dan Reardon, Howard Riopel (on bicycle), Chester Marshall, Harvey Bennett, Paul Herren (1917-1986), Joe McNaughton (1919-2002), Murray Revoid, and Robert Hamilton. The photographer was Brooks Watson.

Among the social changes of that decade were changes in the language, so it makes sense that “Roaring in the ‘20’s” also has a handy one-page glossary of 1920s-era slang, from “applesauce” to “whoopee.”

Here are some selections from the glossary:

Applesauce: Horsefeathers!
Bee’s knees: An excellent idea, person, thing
Berries: Similar to bee’s knees
Big cheese: Big shot
Bluenose: Prude
Bump off: Murder or kill
Bunk: Nonsense
Cake-eater: A ladies’ man
Cat’s meow: See “Bee’s knees”
Cat’s pajamas: See “Cat’s meow”
Cheaters: Eyeglasses
Crush: Infatuation
Darb: Reliable to pay a check
Drugstore cowboy: A man who tries to pick up girls on the corner
Dumb Dora: A stupid woman
Flapper: A stylish, brash young woman wearing short skirts and shorter hair
Giggle water: Alcoholic beverage
Heebie-jeebies: The jitters
Hoofer: Dancer
Hotsy-totsy: Pleasing
Jake: It’s OK
Joint: A club, usually serving alcohols
Keen: Attractive, appealing
Nerts: To show disgust (“Nuts!”)
Scram: Leaving quickly after being told to
Sheba: Woman with sex appeal
Sheik: Man with sex appeal
Spifflicated: Drunk
Struggle buggy: Backseat of a car (a parent’s worst nightmare)
Swell: Wonderful; or a rich man
Take for a ride: Drive off with someone to bump him off
Torpedo: A hired gun
Upchuck: To vomit as a result of drinking too much
Whoopee: To have a good time

#brooks-watson, #chester-marshall, #dan-reardon, #edwin-hamilton, #harvey-bennett, #howard-riopel, #joe-mcnaughton, #murray-revoid, #paul-herren, #preblog-columns, #roaring-20s, #roaring-in-the-20s-in-tazewell-county, #robert-hamilton, #the-third-degree, #urban-albertsen, #vivian-higdon

News of days gone by: the 1st Pekin Daily Times

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

“Citizens of Pekin, here your daily is!”

With these words, the Pekin Daily Times made its debut 139 years ago this month. It began as a four-page broadsheet, with five columns to a page, published by Joseph B. Irwin and W. T. Dowdall, and delivered by four newsboys: Ad Merrill, Charley Wagenseller, Benny Irwin, and Johnny Michael. Joseph Irwin and Dowdall had purchased the Pekin Weekly Register in 1873 and rechristened it the Pekin Weekly Times. On Jan. 3, 1881, Irwin and Dowdall made the risky decision of starting a daily edition of their newspaper.

It was only the second time anyone had ever published a daily paper in Pekin (there was an abortive attempt to publish a daily paper in 1876, when William H. Bates put out a daily called The Pekin Daily Bulletin for nine months, from Jan. 3 to Oct. 5, 1876), and even after the Pekin Daily Times was born, for a while Irwin and Dowdall continued to publish a weekly edition alongside the Daily Times. Over the decades the Daily Times continued to thrive in a local market that included several other weeklies, but one by one its rivals shuttered their offices or were purchased by the Pekin Daily Times, until by the mid-20th century the Daily Times was Pekin’s only newspaper.

Shown here is the top half of the front page of the Pekin Public Library’s copy of the first edition of the Pekin Daily Times, Pekin’s second — and only successful — daily newspaper.

The Times has changed hands several times since Irwin and Dowdall brought it into being, including an ugly two-year period in the early 1920s when it was owned by three leading members of the Ku Klux Klan. The paper enjoyed its greatest success and prosperity under F. F. McNaughton’s leadership, who came to the Times in 1927 and passed away in 1981, when the McNaughton family sold the paper to Howard Publications of California. In 2000 the newspaper was sold to Liberty Group, which later renamed itself GateHouse Media Inc. In the last months of 2019, Gannett Co., owner of the USA Today, and GateHouse merged, so the Daily Times is now a Gannett paper.

In an editorial column apparently written by Irwin on page 3, the publishers announced the new daily paper and issued what amounts to a mission statement for their journalistic endeavor. Here are excerpts from that column:

“For a long time the citizens of Pekin have wished that they might have a daily paper printed in the place – they have wanted a home daily. This statement will not be disputed any where.

“The issuances of this sheet materializes that well-defined wish into a living reality – a palpable fact. The PEKIN DAILY TIMES is born. How long it will live depends entirely upon the good people of Pekin and Tazewell county. If it lives it will be because the people of Pekin and Tazewell sustain it. If it dies, it will be because they do not sustain it. . . .

“That a good daily paper will be of great value to Pekin, no man in his senses will deny. For years Pekin has been over-shadowed, ridiculed, sneered at and derided by the numerous daily papers of the burg on the river just above us. It has been the butt and laughing-stock, a standing subject for the cheap jibes and jokes of these papers forever. We had to bear it because we had nowhere else to go for our daily news. Pekin should have self-respect enough to change this condition of affairs at the first opportunity. That opportunity now presents itself. . . .

“We have many evidences going to show that Pekin has just entered an era of renewed prosperity. All the signs are most encouraging for our little city. It now only needs a daily to vitalize its yet partly dormant energies, to encourage its embryotic enterprises, and to thoroughly advertise its growing prosperity and its very many splendid advantages.

“The DAILY TIMES itself, from day to day, must tell the story of what it is to be. Would you know what this is, you must read it. This only do we promise: That so long as it lives it shall be in every way a credit to Pekin. Its quality shall be as good as a liberal outlay of money can make it.

“Citizens of Pekin, here your daily is! If you like it and want it to live, patronize it. If you don’t like it and don’t want it to live, don’t patronize it.”

The first edition of the Pekin Daily Times filled its front page with news that had come over the telegraph from Washington, D.C., Columbus, Ohio, Grand Haven, Mich., St. Paul, Minn., and New York City, as well as international news from Paris, France, and Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. In keeping with the usual practice of 19th century newspapers, two whole columns of the front page were given over to local advertising. An opinion column on page 2 warned of the political and cultural influence of the Mormon religion, and decried the Mormon practice of polygamy (which the Mormons did not formally renounce until 1890).

The last page of the paper was taken up by local news – but not what we today would expect of local news coverage. The local news in the first Pekin Daily Times was a long string of items of a prosaic or even mundane nature, chiefly being announcements of family visits, out-of-town trips of Pekin residents, community events, or how Pekinites had enjoyed their sleighing and bobsledding during the New Year’s holiday. As an example: “Ben Towner, of Teller, Col., is in the city on a visit to old friends. He was the second city marshal of Pekin, after it became a city, and is well known by all the old residenters.

Perhaps the most remarkable local news item in the Daily Times’ first edition was the announcement that Eugene Hyers had been granted a divorce from his wife Anna in Peoria Circuit Court, accompanied by the libelous comment that Mr. Hyers “was drawn into a very unfortunate marriage with a woman who had neither honor or virtue and we congratulate the young man upon his release.

Definitely not the kind of “news” that would ever make it into print today.

A copy of the first edition of the Pekin Daily Times is on display in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room.

#ad-merrill, #anna-hyers, #ben-towner, #benny-irwin, #charley-wagenseller, #eugene-hyers, #f-f-mcnaughton, #johnny-michael, #joseph-b-irwin, #kkk, #mormons, #pekin-daily-bulletin, #pekin-daily-times, #pekin-weekly-times, #polygamy, #the-bulletin, #w-t-dowdall, #william-h-bates

Electric lights and a village disaster

This is a revised reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in August 2012 before the launch of this weblog.

Electric lights and a village disaster

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Electric street lights have been a part of our lives for so long that most of us take them for granted. Nevertheless, the introduction of street lights in the latter half of the 1800s was a revolution in the way we live – and not uncommonly in a revolution, people can get hurt, as well shall learn in this week’s exploration of the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection.

It was during the 1860s that street lights were installed in Pekin – but they were gas lights, not electric. Here is how the 1974 Pekin Sesquicentennial tells the story:

“It was February 18, 1861, when an Act to Incorporate the Pekin Gas Light Company was approved by the Illinois General Assembly. It was four years later, however, before said company was organized, with William Stansbury as president. . . It was under Stansbury, though, that the first gas street lights were put in operation, and the old lamp-lighter was a familiar figure in the city from February 5, 1866, until 1888, when electric street lights replaced the old gas type.”

William H. Bates in the 1887 Pekin City Directory also notes that, “On the 5th of February, 1866, the City Council ‘deemed it expedient and proper to light the streets, lanes, avenues and alleys of the city with gas.’

The Sesquicentennial also tells of the founding of Pekin’s first electric utility companies in the late 1880s and early 1890s. The switch from gas to electric lights also meant a change in power sources. With gas lights, it was simply a matter of burning natural gas to give off light, but with electric lights the electricity must be generated.

In those early days, steam power was one of the means of power generation for electric street lights. Usually everything worked as it was supposed to, but one September day in Morton it resulted in tragedy.

Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County” includes accounts of various “Calamitous Events” that befell the residents of Tazewell County. One of them, related on page 82, is entitled, “Fatal Explosion at Morton.” Here is Allensworth’s account:

“A 5 o’clock, p.m., September 5, 1897, the steam-boiler of the electric light plant at Morton, blew up from some cause never ascertained. The building was a one and a half story brick, and was used as a feed-mill, pumping station for the water supply, and as a saw-mill. It was owned by Barr Bros. & Co. George Grimm, foreman, had just gone to his supper leaving a pressure of 25 pounds on the boiler, when the explosion took place. The boiler was blown through the roof, and brick, iron and debris were scattered for blocks around.

“Those killed were: Tillie Buyer, aged 5 years; Emma Buyer, aged 12 years; Albert Buyer, aged 4 years, who died next day.

“The injured were: Frank Buyer, aged 14 years, and Miss Cassie White, who was visiting friends in Morton at the time the explosion occurred. The children injured and killed belonged to the family of Moses Buyer. At the time of the explosion they were playing in the back yard, and at the first intimation of danger started for the house nearby, but were caught by the falling missiles and two of them were instantly killed.

“This was the most serious calamity that has ever befallen the village of Morton.”

Shown is what was left of the Morton electric power plant after the explosion of Sept. 5, 1897, that killed three children and injured two others who were playing in the neighborhood. The photograph is from the “GHPERK/Perkins Family Tree” at, which shows the genealogy of Moses S. Beyer, who lost three of his children and had a fourth injured in the disaster.

In his account of this tragedy, Allensworth misspells the family name of the children who died or were injured. They were the children of Moses S. Beyer (1861-1933) and Susan (Zobrist) Beyer (1868-1922). Moses, an electrician, worked at the very plant that took the lives of three of his children when it exploded (and in fact, Allensworth’s “Barr Bros. & Co.” may be an error for “Beyer Bros. & Co.”). Emma, Tillie, and Albert Beyer are buried in the old Apostolic Christian Cemetery of Morton. Also buried with them is an unnamed infant of Moses and Susan who also died in 1897.

Besides their son Frank, U.S. Census records show that Moses and Susan had three other children, daughters named Mary, Lena, and Anna, who survived to mourn the loss of their siblings. Their mother Susan, severely traumatized by the loss of four of her children the same year, can also be counted as a victim of the disaster: census records show that by 1900 she was a patient living at the Peoria State Hospital near Bartonville, and remained there until her death on Oct. 16, 1922. She and Moses are buried together in Morton’s Apostolic Christian Cemetery.

#albert-beyer, #anna-beyer, #beyer-bros-and-co, #cassie-white, #electric-street-lights, #emma-beyer, #frank-beyer, #gas-street-lights, #george-grimm, #lena-beyer, #mary-beyer, #morton-power-plant-disaster, #moses-s-beyer, #pekin-gas-light-company, #peoria-state-hospital, #preblog-columns, #susan-zobrist-beyer, #tillie-beyer, #william-stansbury

Hinners’ Organ Company’s privileged place

This is a slightly revised reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in April 2014 before the launch of this weblog.

Hinners’ Organ Company’s privileged place

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

It’s not at all uncommon that the Pekin Public Library receives a research question on one subject that might lead to delving into other, related areas of local history.

For example, a few years ago a patron expressed interest in locating a photograph of a former Pekin resident named Gene Stein, who died in Peoria on Feb. 1, 1922, and was buried in Springdale Cemetery. His full name was Eugene Albert Stein, and he was born in Pekin on May 26, 1864, son of German immigrants named Herman and Emma (Hinckle) Stein. His wife was Eleanor “Lallie” Erler (1879-1946), daughter of Franklin and Elizabeth (Howells) Erler. As a first step in the search, Stein’s obituary was found in the Pekin Daily Times. Though by no means an extended account of his life, his obituary is quite informative. It turns out that Stein was well-known in Pekin.

His obituary says he was “one of the best known musicians, composers and orchestra directors of this vicinity. . . . ‘Gene,’ as he was familiarly known to nearly everyone in Pekin, grew to manhood here and always was identified with this community. . . . Known far and wide as one of the best musicians of this section, ‘Gene’ was for years identified with the Hinners Organ company here and with the Capitol theatre, where he was orchestra director. Just previous to his last illness, he gave up his orchestral work to become manager of the Pekin Music company.

This drawing of the Hinners Organ factory in Pekin is cropped from an image of the back cover of an old copy of “Hinners’ Organ Method,” an instruction book for learning how to play the organ.

The name of Hinners is prominent in Pekin’s history, and references to the Hinners’ Organ Company – that is, Hinners & Albertsen – appear several times in the standard works on the history of Pekin. For example, the 1949 Pekin Centenary, page 147, says, “For years, too, the Hinners Organ Company, founded in 1879, was one of Pekin’s leading factories, producing thousands of Hinners reed and pipe organs, sold to all parts of the United States, Europe, and other parts of the world.”

The Hinners organ factory was located at 125-131 Court Street, at the corner of Court and Second streets. Another old publication, the Industrial & Commercial edition of one of Pekin’s former newspapers, the Pekin Post-Tribune, includes the following two paragraphs about Hinners on page 21:

“In 1879 the manufacture of organs was inaugurated in Pekin by John L. Hinners. The first organs were made by him and one assistant. Small and insignificant as was the enterprise in the beginning, it has steadily developed in a natural and healthy manner and today it is one of the principal and most successful manufactories of the city. The establishment at the outset began the system of selling without agents, direct from the factory at factory prices, to private purchases.

“Messrs. Hinners & Albertsen enjoy a growing business. Only first-class lumber is used in organs. The firm procures the very best, direct from persons whose specialty is the preparing of lumber for organs and pianos. The aim of the company is not to create an opportunity for any one to gain by influencing sales of organs, but to offer to actual purchasers and users of organs the best possible organs at the lowest possible price. Reed and pipe organs are manufactured.”

Despite the well-earned reputation for quality, Hinners’ went out of business just prior to World War II, the victim of advancing technology – Hinners’ rivals had faster, more efficient, automated factories that enabled them to sell organs at much lower prices.

Because the Hinners’ company once occupied a privileged place in Pekin’s economy, the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room keeps a “Hinners” file that includes newspaper clippings, essays, papers, and booklets related to the history of Hinners’. One of the books in the library’s Hinners collection is a copy of “Hinners’ Organ Method,” an instruction book for learning how to play the organ. No doubt as a musician and employee of Hinners’, Gene Stein taught organ lessons in Pekin.

One thing that is not in the history room’s collection, however, is a photograph of Gene Stein. Anyone who knows of such a photo may call the library at 347-7111, ext. 2, or the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society at 477-3044.

Front cover of the Pekin Public Library’s archival copy of Hinners’ Organ Method.

Back cover of the Pekin Public Library’s archival copy of Hinners’ Organ Method.

#eleanor-lallie-erler, #eugene-albert-stein, #gene-stein, #h-j-rust, #hinners-and-albertsen, #hinners-organ-company, #hinners-organ-method, #john-l-hinners, #preblog-columns

William Holland and the founding of Washington

This is a reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in August 2013 before the launch of this weblog.

William Holland and the founding of Washington

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

In our past visits to the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room, we have delved into the stories of the pioneers and founders of the western and southern parts of Tazewell County. This week we turn our attention to the northeast of the county, the area of Washington Township.

Just as we have seen with the rest of the county, pioneer settlers first came to Washington Township in the 1820s. In his 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” pp. 664-669, Charles C. Chapman tells the story of the township’s first settlers, beginning with William Holland Sr., who was one of the companions of William Blanchard Jr. in Tazewell County. As this column recently recalled, Blanchard was the first pioneer settler in Fondulac Township and rival to Nathan Dillon’s claim to the title of first white settler of Tazewell County.

Holland not only initiated the settlement of Washington Township and founded the city of Washington, but prior to that he also was one of the early settlers of Peoria.

The first settler in Washington township was William Holland, Sen., a native of North Carolina, and who emigrated from that State, and settled in Edwardsville, Madison county, Ill., in 1815,” Chapman says. “He remained there for three years, when he removed to Sangamon Co., and after two years residence there moved to Peoria, then Fort Clark, in the spring of 1820. He crossed the river to the flats, now Fond du Lac township, and occupied an old shanty. Here he raised a crop during the summer of the same year. He cut logs, which he hauled across the river and erected a double log cabin. This was the second dwelling built in Peoria.

Further on, Chapman says, “In the spring of 1825, he came to this township, and built a log house on section 23, and on the present site of A. G. Danforth’s residence. Here the family were surrounded by a dense wilderness, and were the only white occupants of this township until 1826. Holland commenced improving a farm on sec. 24, town 26, range 3, just east of the town of Washington, and embracing a part of the Holland, Dorsey, Walthan and Robinson addition to the town. His nearest neighbors were located on Farm creek, three miles east of Peoria, where the first settlement was made in this section. Among them were Wm. Blanchard, Elza Bethard, Jack Phillips, and his son William, Austin and Horace Crocker, and Thomas Camlin, whose cabin was located nearest Holland’s G[r]ove.”

During those early days, one of Holland’s brothers, James, briefly settled in Washington Township in 1827, coming from North Carolina, but he soon moved on to Macoupin County.

Chapman’s 1879 account of the township’s early history continues for several more pages. Following are a few key excerpts dealing with Holland and his family, and telling of Holland’s role in the founding of Washington:

“The oldest living settler of this township is Lawson Holland, eldest son of William Holland, Sr., who was born in Lincoln Co., N.C., in 1812, and came to this county with his parents. From him we gather many incidents connected with the early settlement of the township. He was married in Oct., 1833, to Miss Elizabeth Bandy, daughter of Reuben Bandy, who came from Kentucky in 1831, and bought out the claim of Ira Crosby. They were married by Rev. Nathan Curtis, a Methodist minister. This was the fourth marriage in the township. . . .

“The first school-house was built near Wm. Holland’s hut in the winter of 1827-28. It was built of logs and was 16 by 18 feet. The writing desks and seats were made of split logs, and it was lighted by sawing an aperture out of each end of one log, over which was pasted greased paper. This ancient and somewhat unique style of windows served to keep out the wind and admitted some light. The school was a subscription school and was taught by George H. Shaw, now a resident of Shaw’s Grove, who was traveling through the country, and stopped over night with Wm. Holland, Sr. He was satisfied to receive, as compensation, his board, washing and horse feed . . . .

“William Holland, Sr., laid out the original town of Washington in 1834, being part of the town lying east of main street. The first building was erected on the original town plat by Joseph Kelso, Sr., in 1834. Kelso and a Mr. Wagoner had purchased of Holland three lots for $150 each, upon one year’s credit. Much valuable timber grew in front of these lots, and in the street, which, by agreement, the first to build should be entitled to use. The question was settled by lot, which fell to Kelso, who was also the first of the pioneers to open a farm wholly on the prairie. . . . Prior to 1885 William Holland Sr., carried on the only blacksmith shop in town, at which time Brazilla Allee built a large two-story frame building on Main street, now occupied by his widow, Sarah Allee. Allee and William Spencer used this building as a blacksmith shop and wagon manufactory, it being the first place in town in which wagons were manufactured. These were primitive times, and the sight of a wagon was hailed with much joy and pleasure, and its possessor envied by all. Travelling was principally done on horseback, and hauling on sleds. . . .

“William Holland, Sr., built the first grist-mill west of his dwelling, in 1827. It was called a band-mill, and was run by horsepower, a simple arrangement consisting of one large wheel, the nave of which was a log of wood eight or ten feet long, hewed eight square, set in a perpendicular position, and supplied with spokes or arms. The lower end was secured by a pivot, on which it turned to another timber fastened in the ground, the upper end being secured in like manner. The flour produced resembled bran or Graham flour. . . . The band-mill of William Holland, Sr., was the only kind of mill in this section of country until 1836, when Wm. Kern erected a flouring-mill on the premises formerly occupied by Jaquin as a brewery.”

This detail from an 1873 plat map of Washington Township shows land near Washington that was owned by Washington’s founder William Holland and his son Lawson Holland.

#a-g-danforth, #austin-crocker, #brazilla-allee, #elizabeth-bandy, #elza-bethard, #fort-clark, #horace-crocker, #jack-phillips, #james-holland, #joseph-kelso, #lawson-holland, #preblog-columns, #reuben-bandy, #rev-nathan-curtis, #sarah-allee, #thomas-camlin, #washington, #washington-township, #william-blanchard, #william-holland, #william-phillips, #william-spencer

Bristow Motor Company and its successors

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

A query regarding the automobile dealerships that once plied their trade in and around Downtown Pekin in days gone by recently prompted me to look into the history of the Bristow Motor Company, which once was Pekin’s certified Ford dealership. It opened in 1937, founded by Lester Bristow and Vern Grandia.

Older residents of Pekin will recall that Bristow Ford – which by the way would be a great name for a country music band – operated out of a building in the 700 block of Court Street, a familiar structure to those who drive along Court Street. It’s just east of St. Joseph Catholic Church and across the street from St. John Lutheran Church. A younger generation might remember it as the location of Meineke Discount Mufflers (later Meineke Car Care Center). After sitting vacant for several years, the current owners are refurbishing the old Bristow Building.

As for its street address, Bristow Motors’ official building number has varied somewhat over the years, starting out at 714-716 Court Street, later expanding to include 710 Court and even 720 Court before contracting again to just 716 Court St.

Bristow Motor Company, located at 716 Court St., is shown in this photograph from the 1949 “Pekin Centenary.” Bristow Motors was Pekin’s certified Ford dealership before Velde Ford.

The 1949 “Pekin Centenary” volume, page 114, includes the following short history of Bristow Motor Company:

“Mr. L. R. Bristow and Mr. V. A. Grandia acquired the business August 3, 1934, from James and Gerald Conaghan, when it was located at the corner of Court and Sixth Streets.

“In the fall of 1936, ground was broken on land acquired from the Haas estate, for the new 100’ x 160’ Bristow Motor Company building at 714-16 Court Street. It was the most modern garage building in the Pekin area at that time, and on May 10, 1937, the grand opening was held.

“The senior partner, L. R. Bristow, passed away on November 4, 1937, and on January 1, 1938, V. A. Grandia became sole owner of the business.

“In July of 1938, the lot adjacent to 714 Court was acquired by V. A. Grandia, which now makes the establishment 160’ x 150’.

“Mr. Grandia was 32 years old when he became sole owner, is married and has two children, Gloria and Luther. Luther is learning the business and eventually will become a partner.

“Bristow Motor Company has one of the most modern and complete service departments in Central Illinois.”

The Polk City Directories for Pekin show that Bristow Motors at 720 Court was the local Ford dealership until either 1956 or 1957. In 1956 Bristow is listed as the Ford dealership, but the library does not have a copy of the 1957 directory. In the 1958 directory, Bristow is just “Bristow Used Cars.” In that same directory, however, Velde is listed as the authorized Ford dealership, at 716 Court St. – i.e., right next door to Bristow.

Bristow Used Cars (at 720 Court) and Velde Ford (at 716 Court) continue to appear next to each other in the directories up to 1965, which is the last time Velde is listed at 716 Court. The next year, 1966, the directory shows Velde Ford out on Auto Row, where it’s been ever since.

Meanwhile, Vernon A. “Vern” Grandia continued to operate Bristow Used Cars at 716/720 Court St. until 1976. The next year, 1977, his son Luther D. Grandia is shown as Bristow’s owner, same location. Luther D. Grandia is listed as the owner/operator of Bristow Used Cars up to 1989.

The next year, 1990, “Ronald Hauke” (sic – “Hauhe”) Auto Co. is listed at 716 Court St., while the “720” street number is assigned to L & M Gymnastics. In 1991, though, 720 Court St. (at the corner of Court and 8th) became the address of Downers Furniture, while Ronald Hauhe Auto. Co. remained at 716 Court St., also being listed there in 1992.

The 1993 city directory shows 716 Court St. as “vacant,” but in 1994, Meineke Discount Mufflers first appears at 716 Court St. There it remained up to 2010. Starting in 2006, Meineke is listed as “Meineke Car Care Center.”

The directories do not having any listing for 716 Court St. in 2011 and 2012, but Meineke Car Care Center reappears in 2013, 2014, and 2015. It could be that Meineke failed to update their entry in 2011 and 2012 and so were not listed, or Meineke could have been shuttered for a couple years before reopening for three more years, or else the Polk Directory has a “ghost” entry for 2013-2015.

The 2016 and 2017 city directories have no listing for 716 Court St. In 2018, James Hoelzel appears as a new listing at 716 Court St., but the 2019 directory has no listing for that address.

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Tribal customs of the Central Illinois Pottawatomi

This is a reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in November 2014 before the launch of this weblog.

Tribal customs of the Central Illinois Pottawatomi

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

A few weeks ago, we glimpsed the life of the Pottawatomi War Chief Senachwine, who lived with his tribe in Washington Township during the 1820s when settlers began to pour into the future Tazewell County. This week we will take a look at the customs of the Pottawatomi of central Illinois, as they were remembered by pioneer settler Lawson Holland, who knew Senachwine for about 10 years before the chief’s death in the summer of 1831.

Holland’s memories of the Pottawatomi were collected by Charles C. Chapman, who included them in his “History of Tazewell County” (1879), on pages 675-676.

The peculiar habits of these time-honored natives were naturally a deep curiosity to the whites,” Chapman writes, “and from the well-stored memory of Lawson Holland we were enabled to gather some facts and incidents which we place upon the records of this work, knowing that only a few years could pass ere they would have been lost in the debris of time.

The first of Holland’s recollections had to do with how the Pottawatomi hunted turtles to eat. Chapman writes, “The preparations incident to this journey are somewhat extended. Two horses are placed side by side, and a blanket stretched between them, and the party start for the streams. The turtles are thrown in this blanket, and when a full load is secured they are carried to the camp, and a large kettle filled with water is placed over the fire, and in the boiling chauldron (sic) the living turtles are thrown, until the kettle is filled. When thoroughly boiled, the meat is plucked from the shell and eaten.

Holland also recalled a sacrificial tradition, “which has existed among the Pottawatomies for ages, . . . that at a certain time of the year, a deer must be killed and eaten without breaking a single bone. This performance is entered into largely, and the greatest caution taken to secure the animal without a bone being broken. It is then roasted, and the meat eaten with the greatest possible care. The remains are then gathered up, placed in the skin of the animal and buried.

Holland also observed that the higher status members of the tribe would display their wealth and status with ornamental jewelry and “piercing the nose and ears, from which hang large rings and bells; also bells attached to a strap bound around the leg or ankle.

Pottawatomi marriage customs, according to Holland, included a clearly delineated division of labor between the two sexes. Chapman writes, “In marriage the women promise to do all the work, such as skinning animals, dressing hides, building tents, and performing all the manual labor, the males only furnishing the necessities of life. The marriage covenant is made by the exchange of corn for a deer’s foot by the parties to be united, and is a time of great solemnity.

Polygamy was practiced among the Pottawatomi – the online essay “Potawatomi War Chief (1744-1831) Chief Senachwine” says Senachwine reportedly had three wives and could not be persuaded to give up polygamy even after he was baptized as a Christian. The Pottawatomi also punished adultery severely. Chapman writes, “The punishment for adultery is cutting off the nose; the first offense being punishable by a small piece, the second a larger one, and the third cuts it to the bone. These are rare cases, however, both sexes having a high regard for purity and virtue.

The last Pottawatomi custom that Holland remembered had to do with their burial customs. “In the winter the dead are entombed by standing the body upright, around which is placed poles run in the earth,” Chapman writes.

Besides his memories of Pottawatomi custom, Holland also shared some anecdotes of his family’s interaction with the native inhabitants of the county. One of his recollections was of an occasion when Holland’s wife had boiled water to use for washing. A Pottawatomi woman came into her cabin and either fell or sat in the tub. “Her cries called the braves, who lifted her out and carried her to the wigwam,” Chapman writes.

Another of Holland’s anecdotes was of an occasion of violence between the Pottawatomi and the early settlers. This is how Chapman relates Holland’s recollection:

“One day, when Lawson was a boy, and while the family were at dinner, and a Frenchman, named Louey, who was stopping with them, had finished his meal, lighted his pipe, and was leisurely smoking outside the cabin, a stalwart Indian came down the trail and demanded his pipe, which was refused. The Indian then drew his tomahawk and drove it into his skull. Holland and old man Avery, who was there at the time, rushed from the cabin, and Avery grappled with the redskin. He sounded the war-whoop, and in a twinkling the little band of whites were surrounded by hundreds of the swarthy tribe. The Chief [Senachwine], taking in the situation, drew his war-club and struck at Avery with this deadly weapon, but Avery’s quick eye dodged the blow, and the instrument was buried in a large tree behind him. It was a perilous moment and there seemed to be no earthly escape for this little band of pioneers, but [Lawson’s father] was regarded as a friend, and his counsel was at all times sought. The Indians then had a war-dance, and returned to their camps, and peace and quietness was again restored. This occurred in 1822.”

Shown is the war club of Pottawatomi War Chief Senachwine. A story from early Tazewell County settler Lawson Holland tells of an altercation between pioneer settlers and the Pottawatomi in 1822 in which Senachwine wielded his war club.

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