Courthouse time capsule refreshes memories of Pekin’s founding

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Quite a lot has happened in Pekin in the 192 years since Jonathan Tharp built his log cabin at a spot that is today the foot of Broadway. Many of those events have been documented in books, newspapers, and photographs, but most have been forgotten – and even what has been recorded often suffers from gaps of detail that might be of interest to us today but didn’t seem important enough to our ancestors to record.

Last month’s opening of the Tazewell County Courthouse 1914 time capsule, however, is enabling local historians to refresh many of our memories of the county’s and Pekin’s history. Among those refreshed memories are forgotten details of the story of Pekin’s founding which never made it into the history books.

One of those details is the fact that if a crucial vote of stockholders had turned out differently, we might today be living in the city of “Port Folio.”

That and other fascinating details are found in a four-page document that was one of several items included in the 1914 time capsule but not listed among the contents of the courthouse cornerstone printed in the “Historical Souvenir” published for June 21, 1916 dedication ceremonies. Apparently it was decided to include this document and several other items only after the “Souvenir” was already printed. When the time capsule was opened last month, this document was found within a stationery envelope of Pekin attorney John T. Elliff. Typed on the envelope was this description of the document’s provenance: “The within paper left in the office of the late William Don Maus and now in possession of John T. Elliff, Atty., Pekin, Ill.” William Don Maus (1836-1901) — not to be confused with Pekin’s pioneer physician Dr. William S. Maus (1817-1872) — had come to Tazewell County with his father in 1847. William Don Maus moved to Pekin in 1854 and became an attorney in 1857, later serving as a county judge in the 1860s.

The document in question dates from 1830 and contains handwritten minutes from the stockholder meetings of the company that founded Pekin. The minutes were taken at meetings held from Dec. 28, 1829, to Jan. 19, 1830, and then formally attested and signed in March 1830. The information in the minutes substantially corroborates the accounts of our city’s founding that may be read in the standard published works on Pekin’s history. Some of the specific traditions about Pekin’s founding are not substantiated by the minutes, while other quite interesting details mentioned in the minutes go unmentioned in the standard Pekin histories.

To illustrate that point, let’s first review what Pekin’s pioneer historian William H. Bates (who seems to have selected most of the contents of the 1914 cornerstone time capsule) had to say about Pekin’s founding in his account which was printed in the 1870-71 Sellers & Bates Pekin City Directory, pages 9-10.

“At the land sales at Springfield in the fall of 1828, the ‘Town Site’ was purchased by Maj. Cromwell for a company composed of himself, William Haines, William Brown, Thomas Snell, Peter Menard, Dr. Warner, A. Herndon and —- Carpenter, of Sangamon county, and the purchase was divided into twelve parts. The question as to who should possess so important a piece of ground as the present location of Pekin created considerable excitement and the feeling rose to such a pitch at the land sale that pistols were drawn and bloodshed seem (sic) inevitable. The parties above mentioned, were successful, however, and the matter was amicably adjusted. . . .

“In 1829 a survey of ‘Town Site’ was made by William Hodge of Blooming Grove, then County Surveyor. The compass run without variation and, in the absence of a surveyor’s chain, the town lots were measured with a string.

“The survey made, and the town laid out, Mrs. Cromwell being called upon, exercised her share of woman’s rights in that early day by christening the embryo city of the new Celestials, PEKIN. Why she thus named it the legendary history of the days gone by fail to record, and we can only surmise that in the plenitude of her imagination she looked forward to the time when it would equal in size that other Pekin – the Chinese City of the Sun.”

Many of the details in Bates’ account are supported by the testimony of the minutes, but many other things of which Bates tells aren’t mentioned in the minutes at all. For example, the names of company members Cromwell, Haines, Brown, Menard, and Carpenter appear in the minutes (which give Carpenter’s first name as William), but Bates’ account doesn’t mention other settlers who have long been known to have been important members of the company, such as Major Isaac Perkins and Gideon Hawley (called “Isaac Pirkins” and “Gidian Holley” in the minutes).

As for the skirmish at the land sale, related in Jacob Tharp’s 1860 diary as well as the 1949 Pekin Centenary and 1974 Pekin Sesquicentennial volumes, perhaps understandably no reference to it appears in the company minutes, nor is there any mention of the purchase being divided into 12 parts. The minutes merely state that the land be surveyed and laid out into lots, and that Major Nathan Cromwell was appointed “to survey said parcels of land, and lay it off into Town plat and forme (sic) as the Commisioners (sic) present did devise and agree upon.” The minutes record the surveying of “Town Site,” calling for the hiring of “Chain carriers and Stakers” to “afsist and Compleet said Survey,” but the name of the actual surveyor, William Hodge, isn’t mentioned, nor is anything said in the minutes of the unavailability of a surveyor’s chain making necessary the use of string.

This image, photographed by the author with the assistance of David Perkins of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society, shows a detail of page two of the minutes of the settlers' company that founded Pekin telling how the town got its name. IMAGE COURTESY OF TAZEWELL COUNTY COURTS ADMINISTRATOR COURTNEY EETEN

This image, photographed by the author with the assistance of David Perkins of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society, shows a detail of page two of the minutes of the settlers’ company that founded Pekin telling how the town got its name. IMAGE COURTESY OF TAZEWELL COUNTY COURTS ADMINISTRATOR COURTNEY EETEN

The minutes are especially valuable for providing specific dates for key events in the process of Pekin’s founding. Later sources generally give only the year or the season of the year in which these events took place, and sometimes these sources even give the wrong year. The minutes make clear, however, that it was on Dec. 28, 1829, that Cromwell was appointed to survey and stake out the proposed town, and Cromwell reported on Jan. 18, 1830, that “the survey of Said Town, is Compleeted (sic) and the Stakeing (sic) nearly done.” On Jan. 19, 1830, the company’s commissioners met again to decide on the name of the new town and to arrange the sale of lots to be announced in several newspapers throughout the Midwest. That same day, the commissioners directed Cromwell to have the town plat “recorded according to law,” and then chose two of its members as officers of the corporation. Brown was named treasurer as well as the land agent for the stockholders, and Haines was named secretary.

Perhaps the most remarkable fact mentioned in these minutes, however, is the account of the naming of Pekin on Jan. 19. This passage of the minutes is worth quoting in full (spelling, capitalization, and punctuation as in the original):

“on motion of Isaac Pirkins, to Chainge the name of Town Site to Some other name. the votes where Called to decide, whether – Pekin – Port-Folio – or PortuGall – Should be the name of the contemplated Town. and after the votes being legally takeing and Counted, it appeared that a large majority announced the name of said Town to be forever hereafter Known by the name of Pekin.”

The minutes say nothing about Ann Eliza Cromwell choosing the name “Pekin,” but given the unanimity of the early sources that “Pekin” was her idea, there is no reason to doubt that tradition. The early sources and standard histories say nothing, however, about “Pekin” being just one of three possible choices – and consequently we don’t know who wished the new town to be named “Port-Folio” or “PortuGall” (Portugal).

How very different Pekin’s history would have been had “Port Folio” or “Portugal” beat out “Pekin.” There would never have been a Pekin professional baseball team named “the Celestials,” no Chinese-themed downtown theater, and instead of the “Pekin Chinks” and “Pekin Dragons,” we might instead be rooting for the Port Folio Financials or the Portugal Galos (Roosters).

Full images of the 1830 minutes document, along with a complete transcription of the document’s cursive script, may be examined below. The Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society will also feature the document and a transcription in its monthly newsletter.

Shown are the first and fourth pages of the 1829-1830 minutes detailing the actions taken by Pekin's first settlers to organize and found a new town in Tazewell County. IMAGE COURTESY OF TAZEWELL COUNTY COURTS ADMINISTRATOR COURTNEY EETEN

Shown are the first and fourth pages of the 1829-1830 minutes detailing the actions taken by Pekin’s first settlers to organize and found a new town in Tazewell County. IMAGE COURTESY OF TAZEWELL COUNTY COURTS ADMINISTRATOR COURTNEY EETEN

Shown are the second and third pages of the 1829-1830 minutes detailing the actions taken by Pekin's first settlers to organize and found a new town. On page 2 is the account of the vote that gave the town the name of Pekin. IMAGE COURTESY OF TAZEWELL COUNTY COURTS ADMINISTRATOR COURTNEY EETEN

Shown are the second and third pages of the 1829-1830 minutes detailing the actions taken by Pekin’s first settlers to organize and found a new town. On page 2 is the account of the vote that gave the town the name of Pekin. IMAGE COURTESY OF TAZEWELL COUNTY COURTS ADMINISTRATOR COURTNEY EETEN

Town Site  Tazwell County, Ill., December 28th – 1829.,

	In Conformity to appointment William
Carpenter, William Haines, and Isaac Pirkins, being
a majority of the Commifsioners appointed by the stock
-holders of the property Known by the name of Town Site
Meet and proceeded to buisinefs as followes.

1 – first, ordered that the lands, and parcels of lands, be
  surveyed and laid out into Town lots.
2 – appointed Nathan Cromwell to survey said parce
  -ls of land, and lay it off into Town plat and forme
  as the Commisioners present did devise and agree upon
  and ordered that the necefsary Chain carriers and
  Stakers be employed to afsist and Compleet said
  Survey.
3 – That in Compliance with an article, signed
  by said stockholders, regulating themselves
  in the further prosecution of their joint interests
  ordered and appointed the 18th day of January 1830
  to be the day for the Said proprietors to meet and
  adopt Sutch measurers as a majority of them
  present may think Consistent with the best interest
  of the proprietors of said property.

  Adjorned
  Till January    Signed
  18th 1830 meeting
                      First

Monday  January 18th 1830.  Town Site

1 – Persuent to ajournement the Stockholders of
  the property Called Town Site, meet at the place and time
  appointed and proceeded to buisinefs as followes –
      William Haines
      Isaac Pirkins       Commisioners present
  reporte as followes, that the survey of Said Town, is Compleeted
  and the Stakeing nearly done, designating the plan of the
_____________

Town, with a plat of the same.

	on motion of William Brown, the proprietors present
proceeded to buisinefs – after Some explination, and inves
-tigation, it was agree to adjorne to Tuesday the nineteenth
inst at ten in the morning. at Town Site.

2 – Tuesday, January 19th 1830
  Persuant to ajornement the Stockholders meet and prosee
-ded to buisinefs.
3 – on motion of Isaac Pirkins, to Chainge the name
  of Town Site to Some other name. the votes where Called
  to decide, whether – Pekin – Port-Folio – or PortuGall – Should
  be the name of the contemplated Town.
	and after the votes being legally takeing and Counted,
  it appeared that a large majority announced the name
  of said Town to be forever hereafter Known by the name
  of Pekin.
4 – on motion of Sgt. Griffin, for Peter Menard, to offer for
  Sale the lots of the Town of Pekin, it was ordered that the
  Same be offered for Sale on the fourteenth day of Aprile
  next at the Town of Pekin. Tazwell County Ill. And that the
  Same be published in a paper Edited at Sprinfield Sangamo
  county, in one at Gelena. Jo davis County - in one at Vandalia
  Fayett County Ill., in one of the papers at Saint Louis – in one
  at Nashville Tennesee – in one Louisville Kentuckey, in one
  at Indianoplis, in one at Da ton Ohio, the Same to be
  inserted in the Springfield and Saint Louis papers till the
  twelfth of aprile next – the Editors of the other mention
  -ed papers to give three insertions and send their accou
  -nts to Springfield for pament.
5 – on motion of Nathan Cromwell to record the Town
  of Pekin, it was ordered that the Town plat of Pekin be
  recorded according to law.
6 – on motion of William Brown – for Treasuer –
  William Brown was nominated and duly appointed, and auther
  -rised to receive all moneys notes and other property that
_____________

  may be paid for lots purchaised of Said proprietors.
7 – on motion of Gidian Holley, for Secetary –
  William Haines was nominated. And duly appointed
  and autherrised to Keep a regular record of all buisi
  -nefs and papers belonging to the proprietors of Said Town
  of Pekin, and account for the Same, makeing a dividend
  of all moneys, notes, and other property, that Shall be
  received in payment for the use of said proprietors.
  every two months. the same to be subject to the dispo
  sition of each and every proprietor for Settlement
  at Some regular appointed time.
    The Treasuer and Secetary Shall have a reasonable
  Compensation for their Services.
8 – on motion of William Haines, for agent –
  William Brown, was nominated by William Haines, and
  Duly appointed agent for the Stockholders of Pekin
9 – on motion of Gidian Holley for defraying
  the expences that Should a crew by Surveying and
  plating said Town, and the Chaining and Stakeing out
  said Town – it was ordered that the persons thus enga
  -ged Should exhibit there bills for the same to the
  Proprietors for payment the day of Sale.
10 – on  motion of William Haines for granting pre em
  -tions, Orrin Hamlin, David Bayley were allowed to
  Select lots and build on the Same and hold Said lots
  as a right of preemption, the Same to be Considered and
  valued by the price of Simmilar lots sold at the Sale.
[11 – on motion] of William Brown to adjorne - ,
                               t we adjorne till the thirteenth day
                               ten in the morning at the Town
[of Pekin.]

[Signed]                Nathan Cromwell
                               Clerk for the above meetings
_____________

March      1830, Tazwell County, Ill.

	We the undersigners do hereby Cirtify that all
the within written preambles and adoption have
been duly and regularly Subscribed in conformity, to
the full intent and meaning of an article of an agree
-ment entered into by the joint Stockholders of the
property, or Town of Pekin, and that the Same had
at the time of its doing been unanimously adapted
by us, the owners and part proprietors of Said Town
and that amajority then and there did adopt all
and every one of the within articles.    intestimony
we hereunto Subscribe our names –

			Nathan Cromwell
			William Brown
			Isaac Perkins
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#ann-eliza-cromwell, #isaac-perkins, #nathan-cromwell, #pekin-founding, #pekin-history, #port-folio, #portugall, #tazewell-county-courthouse-time-capsule, #william-don-maus, #william-h-bates, #william-s-maus

The naming of Tazewell County

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

All available records indicate that when the founders of Pekin gave their town its name in 1830, they had in mind the renowned Chinese city of Peking (Beijing). Their new settlement on the east bank of the Illinois River would soon become the seat of government of Tazewell County, which had been established in 1827.

But why was the county given the name “Tazewell”?

The earliest history of Tazewell County, published by Charles C. Chapman in 1879, informs us (page 209), “The county was named in honor of Hon. John Tazewell, United States Senator from the State of Virginia. There is a county in that State which also bears the same name, these being the only two in the United States.”

That’s straightforward enough, although it doesn’t explain why a new Illinois county would be named after a Virginia senator. Chapman’s statement has an even more serious problem, however – there was no Virginia senator named “John Tazewell.”

There were, in fact, two Virginia senators surnamed “Tazewell,” who were father and son – Henry Tazewell (1753-1799), who served in the U.S. Senate from 1794 until his death, and Henry’s son Littleton Waller Tazewell (1774-1860), who served in the U.S. Senate from 1824 to 1832. Since Tazewell County was formed while Littleton W. Tazewell was a senator, no doubt he was whom Chapman had in mind when he said the county was named for a U.S. senator from Virginia. (Tazewell County in Virginia was named after Henry Tazewell, the father.)

Tazewell County in Illinois was named for U.S. Senator Littleton Waller Tazewell of Virginia, depicted here in a portrait in the collection of the Library of Virginia in Richmond.  The portrait is reproduced on the cover of Norma Lois Peterson's 1983 biography of Senator Littleton.

Tazewell County in Illinois was named for U.S. Senator Littleton Waller Tazewell of Virginia, depicted here in a portrait in the collection of the Library of Virginia in Richmond. The portrait is reproduced on the cover of Norma Lois Peterson’s 1983 biography of Senator Littleton.

Gladys M. Dubson’s 1939 Illinois State University master’s thesis, “Historical and Economic Survey of Tazewell County, Illinois, 1663-1939,” which is part of the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection, says (page 2) that it was Littleton Waller Tazewell “for whom Tazewell County, Illinois, was named.” Dubson includes several paragraphs of biography and genealogy of Littleton W. Tazewell. In addition, John Drury’s 1954 “This is Tazewell County, Illinois,” pages 3-4, says, “The new county on the Illinois River was named after Littleton Waller Tazewell, a leading American lawyer and political leader of the time. When the county was organized in 1827, Tazewell was serving in the United States senate, being chairman of that body’s committee on foreign relations. In later years, Tazewell was elected governor of Virginia. During most of his public career he had been a strong opponent of President Jackson’s policies. He died in 1860.”

In this column, we have previously noted that originally, when Illinois legislators made plans to form a new county out of Peoria County, the proposed name was Mackinaw County, not Tazewell County. In fact, the bill that was approved by the Illinois House of Representatives in January 1827 was named, “An Act Creating Mackinaw County.” The Illinois Senate, however, amended the title to read, “An Act Creating Tazewell County,” and it was in that form that the bill passed the Senate on Jan. 31, 1827.

It was Pekin pioneer settler Gideon Henkel Rupert (1799-1877), who soon after his arrival in the future Tazewell County was able to become a successful businessman and landowner – and the wealthiest man in Pekin – who is credited with convincing the Illinois Senate to name the new county after Senator Tazewell of Virginia.

Littleton W. Tazewell had no connection with the county that was to be named after him, so why would Rupert want his county named for Tazewell rather than bear a local Native American place name such as “Mackinaw”? It probably had something to do with the fact that both Rupert and Tazewell were Virginians. Rupert was born in New Markey in Shenandoah County, Virginia. Tazewell was one of the most prominent Virginians of his day, and a renowned and admired speaker whose oratorical skills rivaled those of his fellow U.S. Senator Daniel Webster, so it was probably pride in his native state that explains Rupert’s desire to see the new county named for Senator Tazewell.

A copy of Norma Lois Peterson’s 311-page biography of Tazewell County’s namesake Littleton Waller Tazewell, published in 1983, recently was graciously donated by the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society to the library’s Local History Room collection.

#gideon-rupert, #littleton-waller-tazewell, #tazewell-county-history

What do you call that lake?

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Just a few blocks south of Pekin Community High School’s Memorial Stadium is the north end of a natural, spring-fed lake used for boating and fishing by homeowners who live along its shores.

If one were to ask a Pekin resident the name of the lake, most Pekinites would probably say, “Lake Arlann.”

And until 2012, they’d have been right.

However, around that time the lake was officially renamed “Meyers Lake.” The 2012 Tazewell County plat book is the last one in which “Lake Arlann” appears. Since then, the plat books have said “Meyers Lake.”

The reason for the name change is unclear, nor have I yet determined who filed and approved the new name, nor why “Meyers” was chosen as its name. Presumably it’s related to the expansion of real estate development in the area along the lake’s southern and western shores in recent years.

The timing of the name change is remarkable, given the fact that the Lake Arlann Homeowners’ Association – which has not changed its name – only launched its website (www.lakearlannhomeownersassociation.com) in 2014. Nevertheless, a survey of the association’s website shows no mention of the new name. The website does explain, though, that the LAHA, which represents 10 subdivisions (including subdivisions named “Lake Arlann”), “was formed in the 1950’s to deal with environmental, municipal and other issues affecting the lake and its members, and to present a united voice. It was founded for the PEOPLE, for the common good…to find ways to contribute to the health, pleasure, comfort and security of those living here.”

No doubt it will take a few years for Pekinites accustomed to the name “Lake Arlann” to get used to saying “Meyers Lake” – just as older residents had to train their tongues to say “Lake Arlann” instead of “Bailey’s Lake” or “Bailey Lake,” which is what its name was prior to the 1950s. (It’s unknown what the local Potawatomi and Kickapoo and other native tribes of Illinois called the lake before the arrival of white settlers.)

This photograph of Bailey's Lake, a copy of which is preserved in the Pekin Public Library's Local History Room collection, was probably taken circa 1900.

This photograph of Bailey’s Lake, a copy of which is preserved in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection, was probably taken circa 1900.

The map of Pekin in the 1949 Pekin Centenary volume give the lake’s name as “Bailey Lake,” but the oldest Tazewell County maps and atlases call it “Bailey’s Lake.” Before Lake Arlann became a place for recreational boating and fishing, Bailey’s Lake was the location of the Grant Brothers ice houses during the first half of the 20th century.

Grant Brothers used to have a switch track that carried harvested ice from the lake during the winter up to the New York Central Railroad, which carried Pekin ice across the country for use in families’ ice boxes in the days before electric refrigeration. There were also coal mines dug into the bluffs and hills near the lake. But with the end of ice harvesting and the decline of coal mining in Tazewell County, the land around the lake was redeveloped in the mid-20th century as prime real estate for people desiring a lakeside home. With that redevelopment came a new name – though, again, I’ve not determined why “Arlann” was chosen as its name. The LAHA website sheds no light on that question.

We do know, however, why the lake was long known as “Bailey’s Lake.” One of Cincinnati Township’s pioneer settlers was an attorney and landowner named Samuel P. Bailey (or Baily), who owned a couple parcels of land along the east and west shores toward the north end of the lake. M. H. Thompson’s 1864 wall plat map of Tazewell County shows Bailey’s property in what was then Cincinnati Township. Later the township boundaries were adjusted so that this land is now within Pekin Township, but, regardless of the township boundaries, even in 1864 the western portion of Bailey’s property was already within the Pekin city limits.

Bailey's Lake and the land of Pekin attorney Samuel P. Bailey is shown in this detail from M. H. Thompson's 1864 wall plat map of Tazewell County. The lake was renamed Lake Arlann in the 1950s, and about four years ago was again renamed Meyers Lake.

Bailey’s Lake and the land of Pekin attorney Samuel P. Bailey is shown in this detail from M. H. Thompson’s 1864 wall plat map of Tazewell County. The lake was renamed Lake Arlann in the 1950s, and about four years ago was again renamed Meyers Lake.

Samuel P. Bailey is mentioned several times in Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County.” On pages 707-709 is a biography of Bailey’s son-in-law George Henry Harlow, who was then serving as Illinois Secretary of State. On page 709, Chapman’s history says Harlow “was married Oct 1st, 1856, to Miss Susan M. Baily, daughter of Hon. Samuel P. Baily, of Tazewell Co. . . . Her father was a native of Penn. He married Mary Dorsey, of Elk Ridge landing, Maryland, and shortly after moved to St. Louis, Missouri. From here he returned to Pekin, where he was for thirty years engaged in the practice of law, and occupied many positions of honor and trust.”

Chapman’s history also mentions that Samuel P. Bailey was one of the first members of Tazewell County’s new Board of Supervisors, representing Cincinnati Township on the county board from 1850 to 1852. On page 371, Chapman lists “Baily, S. P.” as a recruit for Company F of the 108th Illinois Infantry, enlisting Sept. 27, 1864, and mustering out on Aug. 5, 1865 – but it’s not clear if that’s Samuel P. Bailey. Also included in Chapman’s history, on page 388, are a few lines about Bailey’s career at law which all but disregard the ancient rule De mortuis nihil nisi bonum – “Of the dead (speak) nothing but good” –

“Samuel P. Bailey settled in Pekin about 1830 and practiced law up to the time of his death in 1869. Mr. Bailey was an omnivorous reader, and was probably the most widely read lawyer at the Bar, but he lacked practical application and could in no way utilize the immense stores of his knowledge; and the learning which would have given him the highest place as an advocate, was rendered valueless because it availed him but little in the practical discharge of the duties of his profession.”

In other words, Bailey knew a great deal, but wasn’t a very good lawyer.

As much as we know about Bailey, can we discover as much about Arlann and Meyer?

#baileys-lake, #lake-arlann, #lake-arlann-homeowners-association, #meyers-lake, #pekin-history, #pekin-ice-houses, #samuel-p-bailey

Cole put Pekin in pictures

Here’s a chance to read again one of our old Local History Room columns, first published in November 2011 before the launch of this blog . . .

Cole put Pekin in pictures

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

The standard reference volumes on Pekin and Tazewell County history are illustrated with numerous vintage photographs – and if it’s a photo from the 1800s, odds are it was the work of Henry Hobart Cole, who is remembered in old biographical accounts as “Pekin’s pioneer photographer.”

The Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room files on H.H. Cole are augmented with materials shared the Peoria Public Library and the Tazewell County Genealogical and Historical Society. From these documents, a fairly complete story of Cole’s life can be easily reconstructed.

Cole was a born July 24, 1833, in Gilbertsville, Otsego County, New York, on July 24, 1833, the youngest of 10 children of Richard and Emily Morgan Cole. In New York, he and his older brother Roderick learned the art of the Daguerrotype, the earliest successful photographic technology. They came to Illinois in 1850 when Henry was only 17, and Roderick opened a studio in Peoria. At first Henry worked for his brother, but in 1851 he opened “Cole’s Fine Art and Photographic Gallery” in competition with Roderick. After several years of rivalry, Cole bought out his brother in 1859, and Roderick gave up photography and became a dairy farmer.

For a time during those years, Cole was the roommate of the famous atheist writer Robert Ingersoll. A previously unknown 1876 photo of Ingersoll, taken by Cole, was discovered in 2007 among the effects of a deceased relative of Cathleen Robertson of Peoria. Even more notable is a historic photo of a beardless Abraham Lincoln taken in 1858, reportedly while Lincoln was traveling the state during the Lincoln-Douglas debates. H.H. and his brother Roderick both claimed credit for that photo, and they both may have been telling the truth, because in those days Roderick often worked out of H.H.’s studio as his younger brother’s cameraman. In any event, H.H. greatly admired Lincoln, and the 1949 Pekin Centenary relates that Cole attended the 1860 Republican Convention “in the ‘Wigwam’ at Chicago, and he, with hundreds of others, returned bare headed having lost his silk hat in the wild enthusiasm following Lincoln’s nomination.”

H.H. Cole’s business at Main and Washington streets in Peoria was destroyed by fire in 1861, so Cole moved to Adams Street opposite the Peoria County Courthouse. In starting anew, Cole went to Chicago and paid $50 (then a considerable sum) to learn the new Ferrotype (or tin-type) paper photograph technology. He is said to have been the first man in Illinois outside of Chicago to take paper photos.

A second fire on Jan. 29, 1869, destroyed his studio and all his negatives, and he relocated to a building at Jefferson and Hamilton. Facing financial hardship in the 1870s, Cole closed his Peoria studio and moved to Tazewell County in the spring of 1879. He first settled in Mackinaw, but in November he moved to Pekin and opened a studio at 317 Court Street. Later he opened a second studio in Delavan.

Active in Pekin’s community life, Cole attended the Pekin Congregational Church and was elected an alderman on the Pekin City Council while William J. Conzelman was mayor. Our Local History Room files include a copy of Cole’s “Souvenir of Pekin,” a collection of his photos of prominent Pekin homes and buildings of the day. Cole also photographed about 2,000 of the notable men of Tazewell County, a collection that previously had been long displayed at the Tazewell County Courthouse. Copies of Cole’s notable men are available for purchase from the Tazewell County Genealogical and Historical Society.

Henry H. Cole stands proudly in front of his new home, which he built in 1914 using stone from the old Tazewell County Courthouse that had been demolished that year to make away for the present courthouse. Cole dubbed his home "Tuscarora Lodge," or the Tazewell Lincoln-Douglas Lodge. This picture is a detail from a photograph that was among the mementos sealed within the new courthouse's 1914 cornerstone time capsule, and recovered when the time capsule was opened last month -- June 2016 -- during the courthouse's centennial re-dedication. IMAGE COURTESY OF TAZEWELL COUNTY COURTS ADMINISTRATOR COURTNEY EETEN

Henry H. Cole stands proudly in front of his new home, which he built in 1914 using stone from the old Tazewell County Courthouse that had been demolished that year to make away for the present courthouse. Cole dubbed his home “Tuscarora Lodge,” or the Tazewell Lincoln-Douglas Lodge. This picture is a detail from a photograph that was among the mementos sealed within the new courthouse’s 1914 cornerstone time capsule, and recovered when the time capsule was opened last month — June 2016 — during the courthouse’s centennial re-dedication. IMAGE COURTESY OF TAZEWELL COUNTY COURTS ADMINISTRATOR COURTNEY EETEN

Cole semi-retired in 1911, moving to Tuscarora in Hollis Township, Peoria County, between Pekin and Bartonville. There in 1914 he built “Tuscarora Lodge” using materials from the old Tazewell County Courthouse and from Rose Villa, the old Henry Westerman home in Pekin that had been demolished to make room for the Carl Herget Mansion at Buena Vista and Washington streets. The walkways around his home were built using stone and marble left over when the new courthouse was built. A photograph of Cole proudly standing in front of Tuscarora Lodge was included among the mementos preserved in the recently opened time capsule that was placed inside the cornerstone of the new Tazewell County Courthouse in 1914.

Attaining the age of 92, Cole died at Tuscarora Lodge the evening of Dec. 9, 1925. His pastor, Rev. Walter Heyl, officiated at his funeral at Noel Funeral Home in Pekin, and he was buried in Springdale Cemetery, Peoria.

#abraham-lincoln, #henry-hobart-cole, #pekin-history, #preblog-columns, #tazewell-county-courthouse-time-capsule, #tuscarora-lodge

How the railroad came to Pekin

Here’s a chance to read again one of our old Local History Room columns, first published in November 2011 before the launch of this blog . . .

How the railroad came to Pekin

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

The story of the America’s rapid and unprecedented growth as an economic powerhouse is tied inextricably to the story of the railroads, which played a very important role in the life and development of the city of Pekin.

As this column previously has had the occasion to mention more than once, Pekin was once a thriving hub of the railway industry. Let’s take a look at the kinds of things we can learn from the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room about how railroads got their start in our city. In Pekin’s case, this is a story with a key event that happened on the Fourth of July.

The first attempts to bring a railroad to Pekin were made in the 1830s, but it would take more than 20 years for a Pekin railroad to open. “Pekin, Illinois, 1824-1974 Sesquicentennial” tells us that the Pekin and Tremont Railroad Co. only began to build in 1835, and two other companies also tried in 1836 and 1847 but “neither ever drove a spike here.” (Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County” relates these events at some length.)

Then in 1853, the Illinois River Rail Road Co. was chartered. In October 1856, the city of Pekin voted to give $100,000 to the company, and the railroad finally was opened on July 4, 1859, a whole decade after Pekin’s incorporation as a city and more than 20 years after the first attempts to build a railroad in Pekin. This is how “Pekin Centenary 1849-1949” tells the story:

“In 1858, Bitzer’s lake was drained to make right-of-way for the new Peoria, Pekin and Jacksonville railroad (later the Chicago, Peoria and St. Louis, and today the Chicago and Illinois Midland). The depot was built up on piling where Bitzer’s lake had been, and much of the track there was trestle. The 16-foot ravine cutting across the river front area was filled, and the bridge over it destroyed. . . . The biggest day in that particular era came on July 4, 1859, when the first train finally pulled into Pekin on the new railroad tracks in the midst of a city-wide celebration complete with flags, bands, and a parade.”

Showing some damage and age, this photograph of the old Peoria, Pekin & Jacksonville Railroad depot -- Pekin's first railroad depot -- was taken about 1868 by George Bacon. The depot was built in or around 1859, and stood at the southeast corner of Third and St. Mary streets, now the location of the parking lot behind the Tazewell County Justice Center. Tracks still run past this spot today.

Showing some damage and age, this photograph of the old Peoria, Pekin & Jacksonville Railroad depot — Pekin’s first railroad depot — was taken about 1868 by George Bacon. The depot was built in or around 1859, and stood at the southeast corner of Third and St. Mary streets, now the location of the parking lot behind the Tazewell County Justice Center. Tracks still run past this spot today.

The 1861 City Directory says the line was completed as far as Virginia, Ill., and the fare for the 62-mile trip from Pekin to Virginia was $2.25. Regarding the early railroads in Pekin, “Pekin Centenary” comments, “Only a handful of the railroad crossings were actually ‘crossings’; most of them simply blocked the street effectively, buttressed by six foot drainage ditches along the right-of-way,” and also mentions that the Santa Fe railroad used to run afternoon shuttles out to Pekin’s horse race track which was located on the north side of Broadway in what today is 19th and 20th streets.

The Illinois Valley Railroad Co. (Illinois River Rail Road Co.) was taken over in 1863 by the Pekin, Peoria and Jacksonville Railroad. After several more mergers, it eventually became the Chicago and Illinois Midland. The Peoria and Pekin Union Railway Co. was incorporated in 1880, acquiring “the railroad belonging to the Peoria, Pekin and Jacksonville Railroad Company, from a point known as the Illinois Central Junction switch at Pekin, across the river at Pekin, and northward to the city of Peoria,” according to “One Hundred Years of Service, 1880-1980, Peoria and Pekin Union Railway Company.”

In the Golden Age of Rail, Pekin boasted five train depots. Two of them remain. One of them is the depot on Broadway and Third Streets, built in 1873 by the Pekin, Peoria and Jacksonville Railroad. It’s still in use, though no longer as a railroad depot.

The other is the old Chicago and Alton Railroad Station, built in 1898, a piece of Pekin history that has been saved by being relocated from the area near Broadway and 14th to a plot of ground in Mineral Springs Park along Broadway Road. Newspaper reports tell us that President Herbert Hoover visited Pekin on Nov. 2, 1932, arriving at the “Alton depot which is on Broadway at the east edge of the city.”

#pekin-history, #pekin-railroads, #preblog-columns