Two snapshots of the Illinois River waterway

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Two weeks ago, we explored a remarkable aspect of the natural history of the Mackinaw River in Tazewell County. One of the publications we used was the 1998 compilation of river maps prepared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, “Illinois Waterway Navigation Charts.”

This compilation of colored drawn river charts is a recent acquisition of the Pekin Public Library, donated to the Local History Room collection by David Perkins of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society. River charts such as these are of course indispensable for those who use the Illinois River for recreation and commerce. Consequently, besides the charts, which trace the course of the Illinois and Chicago rivers from Grafton, Ill., on the Mississippi River, up to Lake Michigan, the compilation also includes laws and regulations for the use of the river, as well as appendices on barge facilities and submerged crossing clearances.

The charts are also of interest for those studying the geology and geography of Illinois, offering a snapshot of what the Illinois River was like in 1998. Another, related publication recently donated to the Pekin Public Library for the Local History Room provides similar information – a 1969 collection of aerial photographs of the Illinois River entitled, “Report for Recreational Development: Illinois River Backwater Areas,” prepared by the Department of Conservation’s Division of Waterways.

Like the 1998 charts, the photographs in the 1969 collection follow the course of the Illinois and Chicago rivers from the Mississippi to Lake Michigan. But the 1969 publication’s photos are black-and-white with colorized markings, while the 1998 publication’s charts are colored charts. In addition, the 1969 report’s photos take a more extended view of the lands near the Illinois River, since the report’s focus is on the river’s backwaters that are used by fisherman and other boaters for recreation. The 1969 report does not include supplemental appendices.

Though prepared for different reasons, these two publications both provide visual details of the Illinois River’s course at two moments in the recent past, helping to show how natural forces and human activity influence the river and change how the people of the state of Illinois make use of this natural resource.

This detail from a 1969 aerial photograph of the Illinois River, taken by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and included in the State of Illinois report "Illinois River Backwater Areas,” shows the mouth of the Mackinaw River southwest of Pekin. The Rocky Ford D & L District is today entirely submerged beneath Powerton Lake.

This detail from a 1969 aerial photograph of the Illinois River, taken by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and included in the State of Illinois report “Illinois River Backwater Areas,” shows the mouth of the Mackinaw River southwest of Pekin. The Rocky Ford D & L District is today entirely submerged beneath Powerton Lake.

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Why do we call it ‘Five Points’?

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

A few weeks ago, a Pekin Public Library patron asked two “pointed” questions: Why is the V-intersection of Court Street and Broadway, located on the north side of Broadway from St. Joseph Catholic Church, called “Five Points”? And when did it get its name?

To learn the answers to those questions, we turned to Lou Klockenga of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society. The answers have to do the layout of that intersection in the past, Klockenga said.

As we’ve noted in this column previously, the streets in the original town of Pekin run parallel and perpendicularly with the Illinois River, but the streets in the rest of Pekin run along a simple north-south-east-west grid. That creates peculiar intersections where the original town’s streets meet the later gridwork.

At Five Points, the intersection was especially complicated, with Court Street cutting across Broadway at a spot where Seventh Street met both Court and Broadway. South of Broadway, Seventh Street runs north and south, but north of Broadway, it angles to the east, running northeast and southwest.

With streets shooting off in several directions, Pekin residents apparently took to calling the intersection “Five Points.”

There was only one difficulty with that moniker, Klockenga said. “It was actually six points when you counted the streets.”

Indeed, old Pekin maps show that if one were to stand in the middle of “Five Points” looking west down Broadway and then do a 360-degree clockwise turn, he would see Court Street heading northwest, then Seventh Street heading northeast, then Broadway heading east, then Court Street heading southeast, and finally Seventh Street heading south.

Six points, not five.

This detail from a mid-20th century map of Pekin's city streets shows the "Five Points" area, where three streets intersected: Court, Broadway, and Seventh.

This detail from a mid-20th century map of Pekin’s city streets shows the “Five Points” area, where three streets intersected: Court, Broadway, and Seventh.

So, why “five” points? We can only guess that the intersection made people think of a star, which is typically represented as having five points. Perhaps by “Five Points,” they really meant, “That crazy star intersection where Court and Broadway and Seventh all come together.”

In any case, the name has stuck, and Pekin residents still call it “Five Points” even though, as Klockenga commented, “That intersection has been reworked.” To eliminate the tangled mess of traffic at Five Points, during the 1980s the city closed off Seventh Street at Broadway on the south and sealed off Seventh on the north as well, so Seventh no longer intersects with Broadway at all. Instead, south of Broadway, Seventh ends in a cul-de-sac at the St. Joseph Church entrance, and to the north Seventh intersects with Margaret Street but extends no further. In closing off Seventh on the south side of Broadway, Court Street was interrupted, dog-legging a short way eastbound along Broadway to a traffic-light-regulated intersection at Margaret, while westbound traffic on Court is routed up to Broadway via Eighth Street on the east side of St. John’s Lutheran Church.

It’s unknown when this intersection first got its name, but it was certainly prior to 1955. We know that’s the case because the 1955 Pekin City directory lists the nearby “Five Point Tavern” (sic) at 623 Court St., owned and operated by Louis M. Friedrich. The tavern does not appear in the 1952 directories or earlier (the Local History Room collection does not include city directories for 1953 and 1954).

In 1956, Friedrich’s tavern is listed as “Five Points Tavern,” and then in 1959 the city directory shows that Friedrich had changed his tavern’s name to “Five Points Buffet.” Friedrich continued to operate the Five Points Buffet until 1969, when the city directory listing for 623 Court St. includes both Friedrich’s Five Points Buffet and Jimmy L. Walker’s Five Point Barber Shop (plural “Points” for the buffet/tavern but singular “Point” for the barbershop).

The following year, in the 1970 directory, the barbershop appears alone – Friedrich’s buffet/tavern had been closed. But in 1971 the barbershop was gone, and Donald L. Sanders reopened the buffet/tavern under the name “Five Point Buffet.” The tavern continued under that name until it closed in or around 1984, the last year it appears in the Pekin city directory. The tavern’s proprietorship changed hands several times during those years, though: Sanders (1971-1973), Dale D. McCarty (1974-1976), Carl Long (1977-1980), Ronald L. and Donna Krause (1981-1982), and finally Donna G. Geiler (1983-1984).

After 1984, though, the tavern’s name was changed to Mickey’s Irish Pub, which was operated by Sharon Bushong until about 1989. The former Five Points tavern building has since been demolished and is now a parking lot. But the intersection for which the tavern was named is still known as Five Points.

This 1912 photograph, reproduced in Herget National Bank of Pekin's 1998 Historical Calendar, shows a view of Court Street in Pekin looking west from the Five Points intersection.

This 1912 photograph, reproduced in Herget National Bank of Pekin’s 1998 Historical Calendar, shows a view of Court Street in Pekin looking west from the Five Points intersection.

#court-street, #five-points, #pekin-history, #pekin-streets

The meandering Mackinaw changes its course

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

In this column we explore topics related to the history of Pekin and Tazewell County during the period of the past two centuries or so. This week, we’ll take a look at a remarkable matter of natural history having to do with one of our area’s natural, primeval features: the Mackinaw River, an important tributary of the Illinois River.

Water has probably flowed down the Mackinaw into the Illinois River far longer than anyone can imagine. The river’s source is far to the east, near the village of Sibley in Ford County, and it then meanders and wends its way for about 130 miles through McLean, Woodford and Tazewell counties.

However, a survey of old maps and atlases reveals that the Mackinaw River’s outlet was not always where it is today. The river formerly flowed through what it now Mason County, but, as David Perkins of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society recently brought to my attention, at some point between the 1830s and 1860s, the Mackinaw shifted its course. No longer did the Mackinaw River continue a generally westward course until emptying into the Illinois in Mason County near the spot where Chautauqua Lake is located today. Instead, the Mackinaw took a northward turn and found a new outlet at a location on the Illinois just west of the modern-day Powerton Fish and Wildlife Area.

Early Illinois maps and sources document the old course of the Mackinaw River. An 1815 map by Rene Paul (Plate XL in “Atlas: Indian Villages of the Illinois Country 1670-1830), for example, shows the “Macanac R.” flowing west-south-west into the Illinois River at a point nearly opposite the mouth of the “La Marche” river, a good ways south of Peoria Lake. No northward bend in the Mackinaw is shown.

Macanac River 1815

This 1815 map by Rene Paul (Plate XL in “Atlas: Indian Villages of the Illinois Country 1670-1830) shows the “Macanac R.” flowing west-south-west into the Illinois River at a point nearly opposite the mouth of the “La Marche” river, a good ways south of Peoria Lake. No northward bend in the Mackinaw is shown.

Another early publication, Zadok Cramer’s 1808 “The Navigator,” reprinted in 1818 and excerpted in the July 2009 Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society Monthly, describes the “Sesemi-Quain” and “De la March” rivers, tributaries of the Illinois, before coming to:

“The river Michilimackinac, comes in on the south-eastern side, above the two just mentioned, and 195 miles from the Mississippi; it is navigable 90 miles, 50 yards wide, and has at its mouth 30 to 40 small islands, which at a distance look like a small village. Some distance up this river is a coal mine, on the banks are red and white cedar, pine, maple walnut, & c.”

“Michilimackinac” was the full, original name of the Mackinaw. But the distance of “195 miles from the Mississippi” does not accord with the course and length of the Illinois River today. A 1998 edition of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ “Illinois Waterway Navigation Charts” shows the present mouth of the Mackinaw at about 148 miles upriver from Grafton, Ill. (which is where the Illinois joins the Mississippi River today), while the former mouth of the Mackinaw River was at a spot approximately 124 miles upriver from Grafton.

An 1819 map of Illinois by John Melish (Plate XLVI in “Atlas: Indian Villages of the Illinois Country 1670-1830), presents the “Michilimackinac R.” flowing much as Rene Paul’s 1815 shows the “Macanac R.” The same basic water course for the Mackinaw can be found on an old 1822 atlas map. Baldwin & Cradock’s 1833 atlas also shows the mouth of the Mackinaw far to the south of its present mouth – but significantly, this atlas map illustrates that before it found the Illinois, the Mackinaw flowed into an extensive swamp in what was then Tazewell County but is today Mason County. This old swamp bears on the changed course of the Mackinaw.

A map obtained by David Perkins, formerly a plate illustration in an 1879 book, shows northern and central Illinois in 1835. This map also shows the old swamp, but traces the course of the Mackinaw along the southern boundary of the swamp. Notably, however, the map also shows a stream or rivulet along the swamp’s western boundary, running in a generally northerly direction up to the Illinois River at a spot near the present mouth of the Mackinaw.

1835 Illinois map from 1879 book

This map, formerly a plate illustration in an 1879 book, shows northern and central Illinois in 1835. This map shows the old swamp, but traces the course of the Mackinaw along the southern boundary of the swamp. Notably, the map also shows a stream or rivulet along the swamp’s western boundary, running in a generally northerly direction up to the Illinois River at a spot near the present mouth of the Mackinaw.

It appears that around the mid-1800s some local event or events of a geologic nature – say, a flood, perhaps with agricultural activities in or near the swamp being a contributing cause – led to the Mackinaw River shifting its course. Abandoning its former course, the river was diverted, or diverted itself, into the channel of the northerly stream. Henceforth the Mackinaw no longer would flow through Mason County. Thus, an 1864 plat map of Tazewell County shows the Mackinaw following its present course, and all subsequent atlases and maps show the same river course.

1866 map of Illinois

This 1866 map of Illinois shows the present course of the Mackinaw River, as is typical for Illinois and Tazewell County maps from 1864 onward.

While such changes are remarkable, it’s well known that rivers can and do change their courses, whether in slight or major ways. The change in the Mackinaw River’s course no doubt was noticed and recorded by contemporaries, but as yet Perkins and I have found no historical notices of the change. Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County” makes no mention of it, nor do the historical essays in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County” say anything about a change in the Mackinaw’s course. More recent reference works that we’ve consulted also are silent on this point.

The Mackinaw’s former course through Mason County still exists, and it even links up to the Mackinaw north of Townline Road in Tazewell County. At that point, one finds a drainage ditch that follows the line of Schuttler Road and then turns straight south along Dinky Ditch Road. Along the way south, it becomes Hickory Grove Ditch, flowing under Hickory Grove Road just east of Manito.

The ditch then makes an eastward curve before swinging diagonally southwest through Mason County – this stretch of the watercourse is known as North Quiver Ditch, but further on past Forest City, it’s the Mason Tazewell Ditch, until finally, past Topeka, it becomes Quiver Creek, which empties into the Illinois at Chautauqua Lake.

But once, way back when, it was the final western length of the Mackinaw River.

#mackinaw-river, #mackinaw-river-course, #michilmackinac, #old-maps, #tazewell-county-genealogical-historical-society, #tazewell-county-history, #tazewell-county-maps

‘Big Pete,’ W.H. Bates and The Star Spangled Banner

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Question: What do Pekin’s pioneer historian William H. Bates, the Hanging Judge of Andersonville, and The Star Spangled Banner all have in common?

Answer: Mexico.

No, we’re not talking about that Mexico, and not that Star Spangled Banner, either. In this case, we mean a town in Missouri called Mexico, and a Civil War-era newspaper printed there that was dubbed “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Mexico, Mo., was also the home for the last 35 years of his life of Peter “Big Pete” McCullough, known as the Hanging Judge of Andersonville.

McCullough, Bates and The Star Spangled Banner are spotlighted on a pair of informative historical panels created by the Missouri’s Civil War Heritage Foundation (www.mocivilwar.org). The panels, one featuring Bates and The Star Spangled Banner and the other featuring McCullough, will be formally dedicated at a ceremony in Mexico on Tuesday afternoon, April 12.

This project was brought to the attention of the Pekin Public Library last fall, when Gabriela Molina, programs coordinator of Missouri’s Civil War Heritage Foundation, contacted the library seeking additional information on W.H. Bates of Pekin.

Regular readers of this column will recall that Pekin’s own W.H. Bates, who had a lifelong career in the fields of printing and newspapers, had a part in the printing of The Star Spangled Banner. As we have noted previously, during the Civil War Bates volunteered for the U.S. Army from 1861 to 1864, serving in Companies C and H, 8th Missouri Infantry, 15th Army Corps.

His published 1930 obituary, repeating information from a biographical sketch that was included in Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” says Bates “and other printers in his regiment issued a paper from a print shop they took over at Mexico, Mo., printing the edition on manila wrapping paper, the only kind available, the owner having secreted the print paper at the approach of the troops.”

Allensworth’s history, page 976, presenting information that must have been provided by Bates himself, adds these details: “William Henry Bates, on his arrival at the United States Arsenal, St. Louis, became a member of Company C, Eighth Missouri Infantry (American Zouaves), and took part in the engagement in Wentzville, Mo., July 16, 1861, and several skirmishes prior to, and after the occupancy of City of Mexico, Mo., where, on the 19th, the printers in A. B. and C. companies of the Eighth Missouri, issued the first Union half-sheet newspaper printed in the Confederacy, and named it ‘The Star Spangled Banner.’”

The printing equipment had belonged to a Mexico resident named Robert Verdier. The paper’s editor was Chester H. Childs, who, according to the 1860 U.S. Census, was a bookkeeper in St. Louis before the war.

Star Spangled Banner Newspaper

Shown is the top portion of the first edition of The Star Spangled Banner, a Civil War paper produced in Mexico, Mo., by the members of the Missouri Eighth Infantry on July 19, 1861. William H. Bates of Pekin was one of the soldiers who helped print this paper. The only known surviving copy of the paper is preserved at the Mexico Audrain County Library. IMAGE PROVIDED BY GABRIELA MOLINA OF MISSOURI’S CIVIL WAR HERITAGE FOUNDATION

Despite the conditions under which this newspaper was produced – under the stresses and strains of war, using poorer quality and less durable paper – an original copy of The Star Spangled Banner has survived the 155 years since it was printed. It was donated several years ago to the Audrain County Historical Society in Mexico and is preserved in the archives of the Mexico Audrain County Library. It’s the only copy known still to exist.

With the permission of the Mexico Audrain County Library and the assistance of the Missouri’s Civil War Heritage Foundation, the Pekin Public Library has been supplied with a color photocopy of the top half of this historic newspaper which Bates helped to print, along with reproductions of the proofs of the historical panels to be dedicated this Tuesday.

newspaper

Shown is a full page image of The Star Spangled Banner’s first issue, which is preserved in Mexico, Mo. IMAGE PROVIDED BY GABRIELA MOLINA

As a journalistic project of Union troops charged with securing Missouri for the United States in the face of strong Confederate sympathy, The Star Spangled Banner’s purpose was to promote the Union cause, to reassure Union sympathizers in Mexico that the American Zouaves would keep them safe, and to warn Confederate sympathizers that, as the newspaper proclaimed, “The time of temporizing with rebellion in this part of the State is past.”

After their activities in Mexico, the Eighth Missouri was sent to St. Louis and then down to Cape Girardeau, Mo., and Paducah, Ky. While in Cape Girardeau, Bates was transferred from Company C to Company H, known as the Peoria-Pekin, Illinois, Company, since its members had come from this area.

“Although most soldiers were recruited from St. Louis and its vicinities,” wrote Molina in a letter to the Pekin Public Library in February this year, “some of the first companies were from your part of Illinois. As you will read in the panels, The Eighth Missouri Volunteer Infantry made their way to Mexico where they appropriated printing equipment to publish the Star Spangled Banner. It is a coincidence that the other panel features Pete McCullough of McLean, Illinois, who was also part of the Eighth Missouri. As best we can tell, McCullough was not part of the group that went to Mexico in July 1861, but he moved to Mexico after the war.”

The informational panel tells how McCullough, who died in Mexico on Dec. 5, 1910, acquired the moniker of “the Hanging Judge of Andersonville.” As the panel relates, after the fall of Vicksburg, McCullough was captured by the Confederate Army in July 1863, and as a prisoner of war he ended up at Camp Sumter in Andersonville, Ga.

“As the Confederate prison became more and more overcrowded,” the panel says, “Union prisoners engaged in thievery and other depredations against fellow prisoners. Prison authorities allowed Union prisoners to establish a ‘court’ to enforce discipline, and Big Pete McCullough was elected judge. A number of men were tried for various offenses, but six of the prisoners were brought up on charges of murder. A jury was empaneled, and McCullough presided over a two day trial. The six were convicted of murder and hanged on July 11, 1864. Visitors to the Andersonville National Cemetery find among nearly 13,000 graves the stones of these six, conspicuously separated from those of other prisoners.”

Thanks to the dedication of historians and archivists in Missouri, we today can learn of some of the remarkable stories and personalities from these pivotal years of American history that highlight long-forgotten connections between the communities of Mexico, Mo., and Pekin, Ill.

#hanging-judge-of-andersonville, #mexico-missouri, #missouris-civil-war-heritage-foundation, #pekin-history, #star-spangled-banner, #w-h-bates, #william-h-bates, #zouaves

Ninety years of CILCO history

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Although it has been 13 years since CILCO – the Peoria-based Central Illinois Light Company – was acquired by Ameren, for many long-time Pekin residents it may still seem strange to speak of paying “the Ameren bill.”

For them, the monthly gas and electric utility bill will probably always be “the CILCO bill.” With a corporate history that began in 1913, the name of “CILCO” – and the old R.S. Wallace Station which for decades was a landmark on the Illinois River in East Peoria – will likely linger on in local memories for years to come.

One of the items recently donated to the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection is a 1988 brochure published to mark the CILCO’s 75th anniversary.

Titled, “CILCO and Central Illinois: Growing Together for 75 Years,” the 15-page brochure reviews the company’s history using narrative and photographs. The story begins with the merger of seven area companies to create a larger company to provide Peoria and 26 area communities, including Pekin, with gas, electric and steam power.

The brochure also tells of the formation in 1923 of the Illinois Electric Power Company of East Peoria, of which CILCO was a part. The new company built the R.S. Wallace Station as a steam electric plant, located where East Peoria’s Super Walmart stands today. In January 1958 came the addition of the company’s familiar mascot, the lightning-bolt-bodied and light-bulb-nosed Reddy Kilowatt, who displayed the time and temperature for drivers over the Murray Baker Bridge.

Cilcogram March 1955

CILCO’s company mascot Reddy Kilowatt, “Your Electric Servant,” is featured in the pages from the March 1955 Cilcogram that was sent out to CILCO customers with their monthly electric bills.

Also recently donated to the Local History Room collection are several old “Cilcograms” from the early to mid-1950s. These small pamphlets, often featuring Reddy Kilowatt on the front cover, used to be sent out with the monthly CILCO bill. Cilcograms provided information on electricity and wiring for homes, along with promotions of local charitable activities and sponsored advertisements.

Those who would like to learn of, or refresh their memories about, CILCO’s history may stop by the Local History Room.

#cilco, #cilcograms, #east-peoria, #pekin-history, #r-s-wallace-station, #reddy-kilowatt, #tazewell-county-history