By Jared Olar
This week we’ll shine a spotlight on one of Pekin’s many German immigrant families who arrived here around the middle of the 19th century. The family, called Veerman, is memorialized in the name of one of Pekin’s streets, Veerman Street, which runs north-south between Willow Street and Sheridan Road. A residential neighborhood, Veerman is also the location of Willow Grade School and the Boys & Girls Club of Pekin.
A brief account of the Veerman family was published in the 1894 “Portrait and Biographical Record of Tazewell and Mason Counties, Illinois,” pages 292-293, where one may read a biographical essay on Pekin notable Dietrich Jacob Veerman (1853-1938), who arrived in Illinois with his parents in 1864, settling with them in Pekin two years later. D. J. Veerman, who lived at 421 Charlotte St., became a painter and finisher of the popular carriages manufactured at Teis Smith’s factory in Pekin.
Veerman’s biographical essay is only six paragraphs long, and reads as follows:
“A plain statement of the facts embraced in the life of Mr. Veerman, a man well and favorably known to the people of Tazewell County, is all that we profess to be able to give in this volume. Yet upon examination of these facts there will be found the career of one whose entire course through life has been marked by great honesty and fidelity to duty. He has followed an active and industrious life, and is at present Superintendent of the painting and finishing department of the T. & H. Smith Manufacturing Company.
“Mr. Veerman was born in Hanover, Germany, October 29, 1853, and is the son of Jacob Veerman, also a native of the above place, where he was a farmer by occupation. Jacob Veerman came to America with his family in 1864 and located in Peoria, where he remained until the fall of 1866, when he came to Pekin and found work in the blacksmith shop of T. & H. Smith. Later he worked in the painting department for the above company, and departed this life in January, 1890.
“Mrs. Ella (Jansen) Veerman, the mother of our subject, was born in Germany, where she met and married Jacob Veerman. She was a Baptist in religious belief, and died in 1892. The parental family included one other son besides our subject, Edwin, who is engaged in painting in this city.
“D. J., of this sketch, attended evening school after coming to America, and in 1866 apprenticed himself to learn the painter’s trade under the instruction of Phil Weber. After thoroughly mastering the trade, he began working at the same in this and surrounding cities, and after returning to Pekin, worked for the T. & H. Smith Company, having charge of the carriage department until January, 1893, when he was appointed Superintendent of the painting and finishing work, and has a force of about forty men under his direction.
“Mr. Veerman was married in this city in 1876 to Miss Sophia, daughter of John Albertsen. . . . Mrs. Veerman was born in Germany, and has reared a family of four children, Ella, Lydia, Jay D. and Louis.
“In his political relations our subject is a strong Republican, and takes much interest in local matters. His life has been an honorable and upright one, which has gained him the confidence and respect of all with whom he has been brought in contact.”
After the publication of his biography, D. J. and his wife Sophia had another son, named Everett H., born in 1894. Sophia passed away in 1904, and D. J. then remarried to Hulda Hueinken, who also preceded him in death. Dietrich himself survived until 1938, dying Sept. 11. He and his first wife are buried in Lakeside Cemetery in Pekin. His obituary calls him a “well known and highly esteemed resident of Pekin” who “had served as an alderman in the city council and had been president of the school board and a member of that body for a number of years.”
Shown is the cover of a catalog of the T. H. Smith Wagon Company of Pekin that had been preserved in the Pekin Public Library’s 1902 cornerstone time capsule. D. J. Veerman and his team would do the painting and finishing work on Smith wagons such as the one depicted.