Why they called the private ‘Major’

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Twice before in this column space, we have spotlighted the life and death of one of Pekin’s co-founders, Major Isaac Perkins, who was killed in the battle known as Stillman’s Run on May 14, 1832, during the Black Hawk War. We first looked at Perkins in a column published on Aug. 3, 2013, and again examined Stillman’s Run in a column published last summer, on July 25, 2015.

This is the signature of Major Isaac Perkins on the pages of minutes from the 1829-1830 planning meetings for Pekin's founding. Perkins was one of the four original platholders of Pekin. IMAGE COURTESY  OF TAZEWELL COUNTY COURTS ADMINISTRATOR COURTNEY EETEN

This is the signature of Major Isaac Perkins on the pages of minutes from the 1829-1830 planning meetings for Pekin’s founding. Perkins was one of the four original platholders of Pekin. IMAGE COURTESY OF TAZEWELL COUNTY COURTS ADMINISTRATOR COURTNEY EETEN

Our first look at Major Isaac Perkins presented some of the findings of the genealogical research of the family of Cathie Butler Pipkins of Olympia, Wash., who is a descendant of Perkins’ youngest son James. (Incidentally, Pipkins is the sister of Tim Butler, Illinois House Representative for the 87th district, which includes the part of Tazewell County where their ancestors Isaac and Jane Barker Perkins were pioneer settlers.)

But despite great progress in reconstructing Isaac Perkins’ life and ancestry, one question remained unanswered: Why did the standard histories of Tazewell County and Pekin refer to him as “Major” Isaac Perkins when he had only the rank of “Private” during his Illinois State Militia service in the Black Hawk War?

Pipkins recently emailed the Pekin Public Library with the news, “Mystery on the ‘Major’ title solved!”

In her email, she wrote, “According to the index card catalog at the Illinois State Archives in Springfield, he was commissioned as Major of the Illinois Militia, Peoria County Battalion, 22 Sept. 1826. Source: Illinois Executive Record, 1818-1832, Vol. 1, p.138. Also, in the Governor’s Correspondence, Vol. 2, 27 July 1827, there’s a record of Isaac Perkins as Major commanding the Peoria odd battalion.”

Prior to Pipkins’ discovery, the best guess is that Perkins had held the rank of Major during earlier militia service. That’s exactly what the information from the State Archives shows.

Pipkins also found some records that document another detail of her ancestor’s life mentioned in old Tazewell County histories – namely, that Perkins had served as Tazewell County Recorder of Deeds.

“Also, in the index file is a record of his nomination as recorder for Tazewell Co. He was commissioned as Tazewell Co. Recorder on 14 Feb. 1827. Source: Illinois Executive Record, 1818-1832, Vol. 1, p.151. His resignation as Tazewell Recorder is noted in the Senate Journal, 1828-29, p.165, but no date is given on the index card of which I have a copy.”

Another fascinating record of Isaac Perkins’ family is the obituary of his daughter Elizabeth “Lizzie” Perkins Uhl High, who died April 15, 1898 in Peoria and is buried in Springdale Cemetery. Her obituary was published on two successive days, in the April 16-17, 1898, issues of The Peoria Herald. The obituaries help shed further light on the experiences of Tazewell County’s pioneers. Here is the second one, headlined, “Funeral of Mrs. High – First White Child of Tazewell County is No More.”

“The funeral services of Mrs. Elizabeth High, wife of J. R. High, and the first white child of Tazewell county, was held yesterday afternoon at the home, 302 Hayward street, Rev. L. Kirtley, of the First Baptist church, officiating. The services were largely attended by many of the real old settlers of this city and from around her old home at Circleville, Tazewell county. She was the first female white child born in Tazewell. Her father, Major Perkins, helped drive out the Indians during the Black Hawk war. [Note: Though Perkins was killed at Stillman’s Run, the result of that war was the clearing of all Native American tribes from Illinois.] She was born between Pekin and Circleville, October 21, 1827, and was married about forty years ago. Her father conducted a relief station at Circleville. The Indians murdered the travelers, but never harmed Major Perkins or his family. Several times little Miss Perkins was stolen from the family, but was never harmed. She was returned in a few days loaded down with beads and presents.”

#black-hawk-war, #circleville, #elizabeth-perkins-uhl-high, #isaac-perkins, #pekin-history, #stillmans-run, #tazewell-county-history

Bates’ roll of Tazewell County pioneers

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

For the past two weeks, we’ve spotlighted some items from the trove of William H. Bates papers recently donated to the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society. This week’s column will feature one more fascinating item from the Society’s Bates collection – an old bound daybook in which are enrolled the names of early Tazewell County settlers.

Several daybooks or diaries were included in the donated trove of Bates papers and photographs. Some of Bates’ daybooks recorded the activities and minutes of Civil War veterans groups to which Bates belonged. However, Pekin’s pioneer historian used one particular daybook to maintain an extensive alphabetized list of names that seems to have served as something of a personal directory of Tazewell County’s pioneers. David Perkins of the TCGHS has generously supplied photocopied pages from this daybook to the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room, and the Society also plans to present the contents of the daybook in the TCGHS Monthly.

The daybook is 12 inches long and 6 inches wide. The names are handwritten on 146 pages of the daybook, the pages numbered from 10 to 155. Most pages are completely filled up with 33 names each, but other pages have only 10 to 20 names, and a few pages have only about five names. Each line entry consists of the settler’s name, the state where he or she was born, the town where the settler’s post office was located, the year the settler arrived in Tazewell County, and the year of death if the settler had passed away.

The most recent deaths recorded in the daybook happened in 1907, which therefore apparently would be the last year that Bates updated this list of settlers. Most of the settlers in the daybook presumably were still alive in 1907, for they have no date of death. In almost all cases, if a death is written in the daybook, it is only the year of death, but a handful of times Bates included the exact date of death. Because Bates’ daybook is from a period prior to Oct. 1914, when the Pekin Daily Times microfilms begin, the death dates written in the daybook can provide genealogists with information that may otherwise be unavailable due to a missing obituary or a missing or illegible gravestone.

We can’t be sure of the reason Bates maintained this list of Tazewell County settlers. It’s quite possible that he did it as part of his own endeavors in recording the history of Pekin and Tazewell County. He may also have relied on this and similar rolls of settlers in researching or updating the annual Bates City Directories that he printed and published. One might also wonder if this tally of settlers’ names was related to the Tazewell County Old Settlers social organization.

The 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County” and Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County” include the names of the Old Settlers who belonged to that club. If Bates’ daybook has something to do with the Old Settlers, it could be a membership list that was regularly updated. On the other hand, it does not give the appearance of being a membership register, for it doesn’t include information such as length of membership or payment of dues.

Whatever the reason Bates kept this book of settlers’ names, it is now a precious historical relic and an important early source available to historians and genealogists who make use of the services of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society – or who make use of the library’s Local History Room collection.

This is part of one of the pages of an old daybook from the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society's collection of William H. Bates papers. The daybook was a roll of early Tazewell County settlers. On the page shown here may be seen the name of Henry Hobart Cole, a prominent Pekin photographer whose pictures and portraits helped to chronicle the early history of Pekin and the county. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

This is part of one of the pages of an old daybook from the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society’s collection of William H. Bates papers. The daybook was a roll of early Tazewell County settlers. On the page shown here may be seen the name of Henry Hobart Cole, a prominent Pekin photographer whose pictures and portraits helped to chronicle the early history of Pekin and the county. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

#bates-collection, #henry-hobart-cole, #pekin-history, #tazewell-county-history, #w-h-bates, #william-h-bates

The men who built the P., L. & D. Railway

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Last week’s column featured the Civil War discharge paper of William H. Bates of Pekin, a notable item from the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society’s recently acquired Bates collection. Another remarkable document in the Society’s Bates collection is a relic from the early period of the Era of the Railroad – it’s a payroll ledger sheet for the Pekin, Lincoln & Decatur Railway.

Bearing the date of October 1870, and browned, creased, and partly crumbling with age, the payroll sheet records the wages paid out on Oct. 15, 1870, to men who worked for the Pekin Railway Construction Company. It’s not clear how this page ended up in the possession of Bates, who was then engaged in the newspaper and printing trades. Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” pages 735-740, tells of the founding and construction of the P., L. & D. Railway, but Bates is not named among the men involved in the company, nor do his published biographical essays mention any connection with this railroad. Perhaps he acquired this sheet while compiling Pekin’s history for one of his local publications.

Chapman’s account goes to great lengths to stress how important this particular railroad was to the people of Tazewell County. “No other of the several railroads traversing this county seem so closely identified with the interests and history of Tazewell county as the P., L. & D. It is a road in which every one takes a commendable local pride,” Chapman says. The 1873 Atlas Map of Tazewell County traces the railroad’s route south out of Pekin through Cincinnati Township, then through Sand Prairie Township to the west of the lost town of Circleville, down to Green Valley where the road veered east through Malone Township to Delavan in Delavan Township, finally heading southeast out of Tazewell County on the way to Lincoln and ultimately Decatur.

The company was chartered in 1867, and its founding members were Benjamin S. Prettyman, Teis Smith, Peter Weyhrich, R. B. Latham, A. M. Miller, John Wyatt, M. Wemple, J. F. D. Elliott, S. C. Bean, Henry B. Durfee, and Luber Burrows. Prettyman was the company’s first president. Subsequently, in 1869, other prominent and wealthy investors joined the venture, including Columbus R. Cummings (founder of the Cummings Estate which donated James Field to Pekin’s public schools), Gordis R. Cobleigh, and John B. Cohrs (whose wife was one of the founding members of the Ladies Library Association, predecessor of the Pekin Public Library). Cobleigh became the general superintendent of the P., L. & D Railway.

While Chapman’s account lists the investors and directors of the company whose money and influence made the construction and maintenance of this railroad possible, this payroll ledger sheet provides a list of 26 men who actually did the work of building the railroad, doing the grading work and laying down the ties and steel rails. Most of the workmen were paid at a rate of $1.75 a day or $2 a day, but a few only a dollar a day. The workmen’s names are handwritten, though, and the handwriting is often not easy to make out – not only the names that were written (and often misspelled) by the company staff member who drew up the ledger sheet, but especially the employees’ signatures that testify they had received their wages.

Among the names that are easier to make out are Thomas Doyle, John Leitz, John Coakley, John O’Brien, James Simcack (as spelled by the staff member, though the signature looks more like Simpcott), Ubbo Blompot (signed Bloempott), L. Cramar (signed Cremer), Albert Ubben, and D. Sathoff. The Bloempott and Ubben families were German immigrants who settled in the Pekin area around that time, and long-time Pekin residents will recall Bloompott Florist & Greenhouse at the corner of Hamilton and Eighth streets, which went out of business about 10 years ago and is now the location of Trouble Free Plumbing.

Next week’s From the Local History Room column will spotlight the contents of one of the old daybooks from the TCGHS Bates collection.

Railroad Payroll

This payroll ledger sheet for the Pekin Railway Construction Company, which built and owned the old Pekin, Lincoln & Decatur Railway, lists 26 men who worked on the construction of the railroad in October 1870. This sheet is a part of the William H. Bates collection at the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society, and this image has been graciously supplied courtesy of the Society.

#pekin-history, #pekin-railroads, #tazewell-county-history, #w-h-bates, #william-h-bates

The life and death of Major Isaac Perkins

Here’s a chance to read again one of our old Local History Room columns, first published in August 2013 before the launch of this blog . . .

The life and death of Major Isaac Perkins

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Among the pioneer settlers of Tazewell County was a man named Isaac Perkins. Though little remembered today, he was a figure not only in the county’s early history but also played a role in the founding of Pekin and took part in an important formative event in Illinois history. In this column, we will sketch Perkins’ life with the help of publications in the library’s Local History Room collection and materials supplied by Cathie Butler Pipkins of Olympia, Wash., a descendant of Isaac Perkins’ youngest son James.

Isaac Perkins was born in 1795 in Livingston County, Kentucky, one of the seven children of Solomon and Elizabeth (Miller) Perkins. Solomon was born in western North Carolina in the 1750s and died around 1809 in southern Illinois. He is mentioned in early Illinois history as the first permanent settler in the Cave-in-the-Rock area of southern Illinois in the early 1800s.

On Nov. 7, 1813, in Pope County, Ill., Isaac, then 18 years old, married Jane Barker (1797-1862), daughter of Lewis Barker, a neighbor of Solomon Perkins who, like Solomon, had been born in North Carolina and settled in Livingston County, Kentucky, before coming to Cave-in-the-Rock. During the War of 1812, Barker had served as a captain in the Wabash Territory Illinois Militia, and in 1818 he was elected the first Illinois state senator for Pope County. In that year, Barker’s son-in-law Isaac Perkins served as a Justice of the Peace in Franklin County, Illinois. Isaac and his wife Jane had eight children. In the 1820s, Solomon Perkins’ sons Elisha and Isaac moved to the future Tazewell County, arriving about a year after pioneer settler Nathan Dillon. Elisha’s wife Susannah was a sister of Isaac’s wife Jane.

In his 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” page 205, Charles C. Chapman says, “In 1824 Nathan Dillon was followed by his brothers with their families, who settled on the creek around him. Then came George and Isham Wright to Hittle’s Grove, Esau and William Orendorff to Sugar Creek, Isaac Perkins, Hugh Woodrow, William Woodrow, Samuel Woodrow, John Summers, Jacob and Jonathan Tharp, Peter Scott and others, came into Sand Prairie in 1824.”

Chapman elsewhere mentions the appointment of Isaac Perkins as a county election judge for Sand Prairie precinct, and that Isaac’s brother Elisha built one of the first mills in Sand Prairie Township. It was Elisha who laid out the now vanished town of Circleville in the northeast corner of the township. Upon their arrival in Sand Prairie, Isaac and Elisha had built crude cabins in Section 1. Elisha remained in that location, while Isaac acquired extensive land not only in Sand Prairie but also at the future site of Pekin.

In 1825, Isaac served as a Justice of the Peace for Peoria County, when then included the territory that would become Tazewell County. After the creation of Tazewell in 1827, Isaac was the county’s first Recorder of Deed, and the very first legal document in the Recorder’s office, dated July 6, 1827, bears his name (A digital image of this document may be seen at http://www.tcghs.org/photo0500.htm).

In 1829, Isaac was one of the four original plat deed owners of Pekin. The other three plat owners were Gideon Hawley, William Haines and Nathan Cromwell. It was Cromwell’s wife Ann Eliza who chose the name “Pekin” for the Town Site on the Illinois River that the four men had platted out. Ann Eliza was a sister of Isaac Perkins’ wife Jane Barker and Elisha Perkins’ wife Susannah Barker. Nathan Cromwell, reportedly with the assistance of his wife Ann Eliza, named the city streets in the original town of Pekin after the wives and daughters of the first settlers here. Susannah Street was named for Elisha Perkins’ wife (although in his list of Pekin’s feminine-named streets, Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 Tazewell County history garbled Isaac with his brother Elisha).

The early publications on Pekin and Tazewell history usually refer to Isaac as “Major Isaac Perkins.” Genealogical researchers of the Perkins family plausibly explain that he probably acquired that rank from an otherwise unknown tour of duty with the Illinois State Militia. Isaac’s only known military service, however, was as a Private in the Black Hawk War of 1832, when he served in the 5th Illinois Regiment Brigade of Mounted Volunteers under the command of Major Isaac Stillman and Major David Bailey.

Stillman and his men, including Perkins, engaged Black Hawk’s forces on May 14, 1832, in the first battle of the Black Hawk War, known as the Battle of Sycamore, or better remembered as Stillman’s Run, which took place at a location about midway between Dixon and Rockford in Ogle County. Chapman tells the story of the battle on pages 258-261 of his 1879 history. Having unwittingly made camp near Black Hawk’s warriors, Stillman’s ill-trained and undisciplined men were immediately thrown into a panic and complete disarray, and the battle, such as it was, quickly became a chaotic retreat (hence the mocking name, “Stillman’s Run”). Black Hawk’s warriors easily slaughtered, scalped and beheaded the few soldiers who attempted to make a stand. Among them was Private Isaac Perkins. His youngest child, James, was then only three months old.

Coming upon the gory scene the next day was a state militia brigade led by a 23-year-old captain named Abraham Lincoln, who with his men gathered the remains of the fallen and buried in a common grave at the battle site, near a creek that consequently was named Stillman’s Creek. In 1901, a monument was erected at the site, which today is at the east end of the town of Stillman Valley.

See also “Eyewitness Accounts of Stillman’s Defeat


#cathie-butler-pipkins, #circleville, #isaac-perkins, #pekin-history, #preblog-columns, #stillman-valley, #stillmans-run

Paper proof that Bates finished his term of service

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

In early April, this column featured a Civil War-era newspaper called “The Star Spangled Banner,” printed in Mexico, Mo., in July 1861 by Union soldiers serving in the Eighth Missouri Infantry. Among the soldiers who helped print the newspaper was Pekin’s own pioneer historian William H. Bates (1840-1930), who served in companies C and H of the Eighth Missouri, attaining the rank of colonel.

Coincidentally, around the same time that this column reviewed the life and military career of William H. Bates, the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society received a donation from an East Peoria resident – a remarkable trove of Bates’ old photographs, personal letters, business papers, diaries, daybooks, and newspaper clippings.

While the TCGHS has been processing and archiving this collection of Bates’ old papers and photos, the Society also has graciously shared copies of a few items from the collection with the Pekin Public Library. Selections from the Bates collection will be featured in the TCGHS Monthly newsletter, and also will be featured in this and subsequent installments of the library’s From the Local History Room column.

Among the copies of the items from the collection that the Society has shared with the Local History Room are Bates’ own Civil War discharge paper, showing him to have been discharged from the Union army on June 12, 1864, at St. Louis, Mo., upon the expiration of the three-year term of service for which he’d signed up on June 6, 1861. Bates’ discharge paper was signed June 25, 1864. The document shows folds, creases, and wrinkles that indicate Bates must have habitually carried on his own person this crucially important paper proving his military duties were complete.

Next week, we’ll take a look at another document from the Bates collection that touches on railroad history in Tazewell County.

This is a detail of the military discharge of William H. Bates of Pekin, a printer and historian who served in the Eighth Missouri Infantry during the Civil War. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL AND HISTORICAL SOCIETY

This is a detail of the military discharge of William H. Bates of Pekin, a printer and historian who served in the Eighth Missouri Infantry during the Civil War. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL AND HISTORICAL SOCIETY

#bates-collection, #pekin-history, #star-spangled-banner, #w-h-bates, #william-h-bates