By Jared Olar
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.