A stroll through the 1888 Pekin City Code

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Many people would find that the 1888 Pekin City Code makes for some rather dry reading, but much can be learned of Pekin’s past by perusing the pages of this book, a copy of which may be found in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection.

This edition of the code was published while Albert R. Warren was mayor. Pekin’s mayor served only a two-year term back then, presiding over a city council of 12 aldermen (four wards, three aldermen a piece). The 1888 code also mentions that the City of Pekin was incorporated by unanimous vote on Aug. 20, 1849. Bernard Bailey was elected our first mayor on Sept. 24, 1849, and Pekin’s population on Jan. 7, 1850 was a mere 1,840.

Quite a lot has changed in Pekin’s government since 1888. A few city department heads are no more, such as the “City Weigher and Overseer of City Hall,” the “Engineer of Steamer,” the City Sexton, and of course Bridge Tender No. 1 and No. 2. Other offices have new names. You can guess what we call the Superintendent of Police and the Fire Marshal now.

The code helpfully enumerates the powers of the city council. Most of these powers are sensible and obvious: “To prevent and suppress riots, routs, affrays, noises, disturbances, disorderly assemblies in any public or private place,” “To prohibit and punish cruelty to animals,” “To restrain and punish vagrants, mendicants and prostitutes.”

The late 19th century Pekin City Council also was empowered “[t]o establish and erect calabooses, bridewells, houses of correction and work houses, for the reformation and confinement of vagrants, idle and disorderly persons, and persons convicted of violating any village or city ordinance . . .”

The rather colorful terms “calaboose” and “bridewell” are archaic terms for “jail.” The code of course details numerous misdemeanors that could land one in the calaboose or bridewell.

One such misdemeanor was prohibited by this city ordinance: “If any person shall within the city challenge another to fight, or shall threaten or traduce another, or shall use any profane, obscene or offensive language, or indulge in any conduct toward another tending to provoke a disturbance or breach of the peace, the person so offending shall, upon conviction, be fined not less than three dollars no more than seventy-five dollars for each offense.”

The 1888 city code gives the impression that Pekin in those days suffered from a wave of crimes perpetrated by unruly boys, for there are a number of ordinances that start with, “No boy or other person shall,” or, “Any two or more boys or other persons,” or, “It shall be unlawful for any boy or other person.” The code does not single out girls in that way.

Even before the days of automobiles, when people transported goods and people using wagons or carriages, some Pekinites nevertheless had problems with speeding and reckless driving. The 1888 code set the speed limit for carts, wagons and carriages at 6 mph, or 4 mph when turning corners.

It also was forbidden for anyone to “use any profane or obscene language in any public place . . . when any woman may be sufficiently near to hear the same;” or to “appear in any public place or place exposed to the public view, in a dress not belonging to his or her sex;” or to engage in “dancing, jumping, drilling, running foot or horse races, playing at ball, ten-pins, billiards, cards or other games, wrestling, boxing, pitching quoits, or any amusement of like nature” on Sunday.

Many children probably had trouble obeying the “no dancing or jumping on Sunday” rule, but it’s unknown how many people liked to pitch quoits on Sunday. (“Pitching quoits” is a game that was popular in the Middle Ages, usually known as “ring toss” today.)

#1888-pekin-city-code, #albert-warren, #bernard-bailey, #calaboose, #pekin-history

Eliza Farnham’s ‘Life in Prairie Land’

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

This column usually features resources from the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection. These are items that remain in the library and may not be checked out. But this week we’ll turn our attention to a book in the library’s regular collection – a biographical narrative titled “Life in Prairie Land,” published in 1846 by an early feminist and abolitionist writer from New York State named Eliza W. Farnham.

The book describes Farnham’s experiences living in Illinois during the 1830s, a period when most of the state was a part of America’s wild frontier. Her book’s relevance to the history of Tazewell County and Pekin may be discerned from the following passage on page 24, in which Farnham tells the story of her arrival in central Illinois in 1836:

“We worried on through the flood of water that was pouring down the bed of the Illinois and submerging its banks, till the night of the fifth day brought us to the landing place of our friends in the town of Pokerton. It was at that time the county seat of one of the largest and wealthiest counties in the state. Its name is faintly descriptive of its inhabitants in a double sense: one of their favorite recreations being a game at cards, which is indicated by the first two syllables of this name. . . .”

The county to which Farnham referred is none other than Tazewell County, and “Pokerton” is the disdainful monicker that Farnham invented for Pekin. It’s clear from the way Farnham describes Pekin and its residents that she was greatly unimpressed by Pekin, which was then hardly more than an undeveloped frontier village.

"Life in Prairie Land" (1846), by Eliza W. Farnham, reprinted in 1988 by University of Illinois Press, tells of the author's experiences while living in Tazewell County during the 1830s.

“Life in Prairie Land” (1846), by Eliza W. Farnham, reprinted in 1988 by University of Illinois Press, tells of the author’s experiences while living in Tazewell County during the 1830s.

Born Eliza Wood Burhans (but later called Eliza Woodson) on Nov. 17, 1815, at Rensselaerville, N.Y., she was the fourth of five children of Cornelius and Mary (Wood) Burhans. Farnham, still unmarried when she came to Tazewell County, had left New York to live with her sister Mary for a while. Mary and her husband, John M. Roberts, an abolitionist involved in the Underground Railroad, settled near Groveland in 1831, on a homestead that they named Prairie Lodge. Another likely reason Eliza moved to Groveland was to be near a young man she’d met back East, Thomas Jefferson Farnham, a Vermont lawyer who had purchased land near Groveland in the summer of 1835. Eliza and Thomas married on July 12, 1836, settling in Tremont, which became the county seat that very year. (Remarkably, she never mentions Tremont by name in her book, not even using an alias of her own invention.)

The Farnhams lived in Tazewell County until the spring of 1839. While here, Eliza experienced the double sorrow of the death of her sister Mary in July 1838, followed two weeks later by the death of her own firstborn child during an epidemic. In her book, Farnham tells of her meditations on her bereavement that in time led her to move from her youthful atheist views to “a religious state of mind.”

The Farnhams brief stay in Tazewell County ended when Thomas organized a trip to Oregon, exploring the possibility of leading a group of settlers to the Pacific Northwest. Eliza stayed behind in Groveland and Peoria while her husband led the expedition. Upon his return in August 1840, the couple moved back to New York. So ended her experiences of “Life in Prairie Land.”

Farnham would go on to write several articles and books, and in particular was an advocate of feminism (she held that women were morally and biologically superior to men). She also became matron of the women’s half of Sing Sing Prison in Mount Pleasant, N.Y., where she implemented a series of reforms that were oriented toward rehabilitation of the inmates. Due to strong opposition to her reforms, she resigned her position in 1848.

That same year, her husband Thomas died in San Francisco, Calif., which necessitated her own move to California to settle his estate. Those years in California were unhappy ones – she suffered the loss of two of her children, and her second marriage in 1852 to William Fitzpatrick ended with her divorcing him in 1856. Farnham returned to New York for a few years, promoting her feminist views, then moved back to California for a while, then back to the East to advocate for the abolition of slavery. In 1863, as a volunteer nurse at Gettysburg, she contracted tuberculosis. She died Dec. 15, 1864, in New York City and was buried in the Quaker Cemetery at Milton-on-Hudson, N.Y.

#abolitionism, #eliza-farnham, #feminism, #groveland, #life-in-prairie-land, #pokerton, #tremont

Professional baseball . . . in Pekin?

Here’s a chance to read again one of our old Local History Room columns, first published in January 2014 before the launch of this blog . . .

Professional baseball . . . in Pekin?

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

With the return of spring comes another season of America’s pastime, baseball. For about 150 years, a trip to the ball park has been a summertime tradition. Fans in our area can drive to Chicago or St. Louis to catch a major league game, or can make a quick trip to Peoria for a minor league pro ball.

A century ago, however, residents of Pekin didn’t even have to leave town to watch a professional baseball game, because Pekin had its own minor league team, the Celestials. An exhaustive and colorful history of the Celestials was compiled by Gerald R. Sea in his master’s thesis, “The History of Professional Baseball and Professional Baseball Players from Pekin, Illinois,” which is part of the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection.

Sea prepared his thesis in 1972 while pursuing a master of science degree in physical education at Western Illinois University, and one of his main sources was none other than Walter “Spider” Diehl, outfielder with the Pekin Celestials all three years of its existence.


“Although close to ninety years old,” Sea writes, “Walter ‘Spider’ Diehl, vividly remembered those bygone days with fond memories. As he recalled, ‘Playing pro ball in the early 1900’s was great fun.’ ‘Spider’ could still recall the fun of playing on the road and going to the ball park from the hotel in a ‘hack’. He, as most other ball players of that period, lived in the ‘bachelor flats’ over the present Coachlite Restaurant at Fourth and Elizabeth Streets. Their favorite pastimes when not playing ball was sitting on the courthouse benches and talking to girls or playing pool at the Saratoga Billiard Parlor. . . .

“One of the funniest stories ‘Spider’ told was of a pitcher whose name he could not remember, who was released by Peoria because he could not leave the ‘booze’ alone. Pekin solved the problem when they signed him because they would have him locked in jail each night before he was supposed to pitch, so that he would be sober the next day.”

“At the early part of the (20th) century, baseball was essentially a small town game,” Sea explains. “During this era, nearly every town in Illinois had a semi-professional baseball team,” and Pekin was no exception. Sea decided to write the history of the Celestials simply because, as he wrote, “Although there was ample research compiled on almost all other phases of Pekin’s history, there was very little information available concerning the years 1909-1912, when Pekin had its own professional team, the Celestials.”


The Celestials belonged to the Illinois-Missouri League, or the I.-M. League. Many Celestials players also played in the “Three Eye” League, that is, the Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League. For most of its existence (1901-1961), the Three-Eye was a Class B loop, the highest level of “low” minor leagues.

Some Pekin Celestials players went on to play in the major leagues. Among them were outfielder Cecil Coombs of Decatur, first baseman Clarence “Cy” Forsythe of St. Louis, first base, and pitcher Joe Jenkins of Danville. Coombs joined the Chicago White Sox in 1914, Cy Forsythe played with St. Louis’s Federal League team in 1915, and Jenkins was with John McGraw’s New York Giants for a short time during the 1911 and 1914 seasons without appearing in a game. Jenkins was called “the Arkansas Traveler” because he would tour the South playing semi-pro baseball each winter. “Joe never could win when his dad came from Danville to watch him pitch,” recalled “Spider” Diehl.

Three other Celestials players advanced to the big leagues: Bill Hopper in 1910, and Martin A. McGaffigan and Jimmy Bluejacket in 1911. “Probably no pitcher that ever played for Pekin had more talent than the Cherokee Indian, James Smith, or as he preferred to be called, Jimmy Bluejacket,“ Diehl told Sea.

Another member of the Celestials was Red Edwards, also known as “Chief” Edwards, who, according to Diehl, “was half-Indian and was probably the most hated and feared player in the league. He would always sit on the bench before the game filing his spikes so they would be razor sharp.”

After the Celestials folded in 1912, a few of its members decided to put down roots in Pekin. “Jimmy Bluejacket, ‘Spider’ Diehl, Joe Jenkins, and Al O’Hern, all married Pekin girls,” Sea writes. “Bluejacket, Diehl, and Jenkins, later made Pekin their permanent home. Red Williams, a utility infielder from 1909 to 1911, bought a saloon and resided here until he was killed in an automobile accident at Henry, Illinois.”

#baseball, #gerald-sea, #pekin-celestials, #pekin-history, #spider-diehl

Tazewell County’s historian wasn’t from Tazewell County

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

One of the most important standard reference works on the early history of Tazewell County was Charles C. Chapman’s “History of Tazewell County, Illinois.” Published in 1879, only 52 years after Tazewell County was created, this 794-page volume draws upon official documents, publications (including local historian William H. Bates’ 1876 Pekin City Directory), and living recollections of the county’s early settlers to tell the stories of Tazewell’s founders and pioneers.

Local historians and genealogists owe Chapman a great debt for compiling and editing this history. It’s only natural to wonder who Charles C. Chapman was and what led him to prepare this book. As we shall see, to answer those questions we’ll need to compare apples and oranges.

While it’s common for authors or editors to provide some biographical information about themselves in their books, in this case we get little help from Chapman’s title page and preface. All we can learn from them is that Chapman signed his preface from Pekin, and that the book was printed and published by Charles C. Chapman and Co. in Chicago.

The preface signature doesn’t necessarily mean Chapman made Pekin his home, and in fact he did not. He wasn’t even from Tazewell County. Chapman probably only spent time in Pekin and Tazewell County for the purpose of researching and compiling the county’s history, but in the 1870s his home was in fact in Chicago, where his publishing company was based.

Charles C. Chapman

Charles C. Chapman

If he wasn’t even a Tazewellite, why was he interested in Tazewell County history? A “Genealogy Today” article from 2010, titled, “From Apples to Oranges: Portrait and Biographical Albums,” explains:

“The Chapman family, which formed Chapman Bros. and Chapman Publishing, traces its history back to John Chapman, or Johnny Appleseed to most of us. Johnny’s journeys resulted in part of the family migrating to Chicago. In the Windy City, Frank M. Chapman and Charles O. Chapman went into business as Chapman Bros. Located at 71 and 73 W. Monroe Street in Chicago, Chapman Brothers were printers, publishers, and lithographers.

“Their most prolific publications were the ‘Portrait and Biographical Albums.’ They had stumbled onto a creative way to write all those biographies. They charged customers to have their biography included — and then the customer did the writing!”

Frank and Charles had a cousin, named Charles Clarke Chapman, born July 2, 1853 in Macomb, Ill., the son of Sidney Smith Chapman (1827-1893) and Rebecca Jane Clarke (1830-1874). Charles Clarke occasionally collaborated with Frank and Charles in producing “Portrait and Biographical Records” as well as histories of counties from several Midwestern states (chiefly Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Kansas, Nebraska, Ohio and Michigan).

“From Apples to Oranges” continues:

“Another relative, Charles Clark (sic) Chapman, took part in producing some of the histories. Born in Macomb, Illinois, Charles Clark Chapman had hoped to attend Eureka College in Eureka, Illinois, but could not afford the tuition. Instead he headed West and made his fortune in California real estate and is credited with introducing the Valencia orange to the American market.

“While he never did attend college, Charles Clark Chapman does have a university named in his honor. Hesperian College was foundering financially and Charles Clarke Chapman bailed them out. It probably wasn’t too difficult since he was one of the founders of the Farmers and Merchants Bank in Fullerton, Calif. Later the bank become known as the Bank of Italy and eventually it became what it is today: the Bank of America. Out of gratitude, the college renamed itself Chapman University.”

To be precise, the college renamed itself Chapman College, and it later became a university. Its namesake, who hadn’t been able to afford the $100 tuition to Eureka College, was none other than the Charles C. Chapman who compiled and edited the 1879 Tazewell County history. In the same year, several other county histories came out under his name, some published by Chapman Bros., some by Charles C. Chapman and Co.

Valuable as Chapman’s “History of Tazewell County” is, it’s remarkable that Chapman wasn’t even a Tazewell County pioneer, but instead was a successful Gilded Age land agent, banker, oil man, and orange grower (known as “The Orange King of California”), even being elected Mayor of Fullerton in Orange County, Calif. His autobiography was later published as “The Career of a Creative Californian 1853-1944.” Charles Clarke Chapman died April 5, 1944, in Fullerton, and is buried with his wives and family in a grand monument tomb in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Calif.

#chapman-brothers, #charles-c-chapman, #johnny-appleseed, #tazewell-county-history, #valencia-orange

Tazewell County’s Revolutionary War soldiers

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Later this month, the nation will observe Monday, Feb. 15, the third Monday of the month, as President George Washington’s Birthday. The federal holiday today is commonly called Presidents Day since President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is Feb. 12 while Washington was born Feb. 11 on the old Julian calendar (Feb. 22 on the reformed Gregorian calendar). Washington is famed and revered as the first president of the United States of America, and also for his crucial role as the heroic commanding general of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.

Almost all combat and military activity during the War of the Revolution took place within the borders of the 13 English colonies on the Atlantic seaboard. Illinois in those days was under the control of the British Crown, having formerly been a French colonial territory chiefly inhabited by Native American tribes and small groups of French fur traders. Compared to the great and memorable battles in the 13 colonies, military activity in the territory that would later become the state of Illinois was negligible. American Revolutionary forces did, however, succeed in seizing control of the Illinois territory through Col. George Rogers Clarks’ Illinois Campaign in 1778-1779, securing the western frontier of the nascent American republic against British attacks from that direction.

Though there were few American soldiers then living in the future state of Illinois, a large number of Revolutionary War veterans subsequently settled in Illinois and are buried here. One of the volumes in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection is titled, “Soldiers of the American Revolution Buried in Illinois,” published by the Illinois State Genealogical Society as a part of the nation’s Bicentennial celebrations in 1976. This volume lists all Revolutionary War veterans known to be buried in the state. Among them are eight veterans buried in Tazewell County (none of them served directly under Gen. Washington, though).

To be clear, there are other heroes of the War of the Revolution who lived for a while in Tazewell County but moved on to other parts of the state, or to other states, and therefore aren’t buried in Tazewell County. However, these are the eight veterans buried in this county:

• Private James Campbell, died 1832 in Tazewell County, listed on Tazewell pension rolls
• Private Isaac Fletcher, born Oct. 26, 1763, in Westford, Mass., died Feb. 1838, married Ruth Pierce; served in Massachusetts as a substitute for his brother Levi who was ill; wounded and honorably discharged in 1782
• Private Elliot Gray, born Sept. 17, 1755 in Pelham, Mass., died March 1841, buried in Deacon Cemetery, Groveland, married Hannah Crawford; served in Massachusetts in the company of Capt. Elijah Dwight
• George Henline Sr., probably born in Virginia, died 1850, buried near son in Gilbert Cemetery near Armington; came to Hittle’s Grove, Tazewell County in 1828; fought in the Battle of Blue Licks, Ky., on Aug. 19, 1782
• Samuel McClintock, born 1763 in Augusta County, Va., died after 1840; served three times in 1781 in three different companies, was present at the Siege of Yorktown
• Private Norman Newell, born Aug. 28, 1761, died April 6, 1850, married firstly to Rosetta, secondly to Lucy Frisbee; served in the Connecticut Continental, in Capt. Ezekiel Curtis’ company, for eight months in 1777
• Private Levin H. Powell of Tremont, Ill., born 1763 in Loudoun County, Va., died Nov. 28, 1836, second wife named Elizabeth Cohagan; served in Virginia and South Carolina 1780-1783, discharged in Richmond, Va.
• Private David Shipman, born Aug. 15, 1765, in Virginia, died Aug. 11, 1845, buried in Antioch Cemetery near Tremont; served in 1780 in Capt. Robert Craven’s Rifle Company

The adventures of the last named Private Shipman and his manumitted former slave Moses Shipman were the subject of two previous From the Local History Room columns, on Sept. 21, 2014, and Jan. 4, 2014.

#david-shipman, #george-washington, #moses-shipman, #revolutionary-war, #tazewell-county-history