Through the years in Pekin’s directories

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

This one provides an illustration of how to use old Pekin city directories to trace the history of a property in town and the people who lived at a particular address.

Through the years in Pekin’s directories

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Although a phone book or a city directory isn’t exactly the sort of thing one should read before turning in for the night – unless one suffers from insomnia – nevertheless, old city directories are “must-reads” for historians and genealogists, as well as for sociologists, demographers or economists wishing to track a community’s growth and development over time.

To illustrate, this week we’ll take a look inside the old Pekin city directories in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection, in order to explain what they can show us about one specific location in Pekin over a period of about eight decades. For this exercise, a random location was chosen from the very first Pekin city directory – Roots’ directory of 1861, which has the following entry for the spot that is today known as 201 Catherine Street:

“Jones Sophia, widow of Richard, res. ne. cor. Second and Catharine.” That means Sophia Jones, widow of Richard Jones, resided at the northeast corner of Second and Catherine streets.

The next city directory was published by Sellers & Bates in 1870-71. Finding the same location in this and later directories took some work, because these earliest directories only had lists of residents and businesses in alphabetical order, but did not have a cross-referenced street index. In addition, numbering of houses for postal addresses didn’t begin until about 1880. Consequently, tracking locations in the earliest Pekin directories requires poring over each page until one finds the spot one is looking for.

And so we find the following in the 1870-71 directory: “Smith Hardin, teamster, res ne cor Catharine and Second.” The widow Sophia Jones may have died or remarried and moved away after her name was recorded in the 1861 directory.

There was only one Sellers & Bates directory due to the death of Sellers, but his partner Bates carried on after him. Thus, the 1876 Bates directory shows “Smith Hardin, retired, res ne cor Catharine and Second.”

Smith presumably died sometime after that. At any rate, in 1887 the directory shows: “Haas Abraham, res. 201 Catherine.” This is the first appearance of house numbers in the directories – and the spelling of the street name had changed from “Catharine” to “Catherine.”

Abraham Haas continued to live at 201 Catherine St. until about the turn of the century, when he apparently died. The 1893, 1895 and 1898 directories list him as (successively) “Haas Abraham,” “Haas Abram,” and finally “Haas Abe, retired.”

The next Bates directory is from 1903-04, and this is when the very helpful cross-referenced street index first appears, making it much simpler to track single locations through the years. In this edition of the directory we find “Williamson, Frank G., clk John Oberly, r 201 Catherine” – Frank G. Williamson, a clerk working for John Oberly, residing at 201 Catherine St.

The residence on that corner would then remain the home of the Williamson family until about 1925. The Bates directory for 1908-09 shows “Williamson, Frank, wks C. P. Mfg Co., r 201 Catherine” and “Willliamson, Hugo, r 201 Catherine.” Then in 1913 we find “Williamson, Frank, wks C. P. Rfg. Co., r 201 Catherine” and “Williamson, Hugo, wks A. H. Co., r 201 Catherine.” We find the identical entries in 1914, but in 1922 we see that Frank had moved to a home next door, 506 N. Second St., while “Williamson Hugo (Anna) fore Keystone” are listed at 201 Catherine – Hugo and his wife Anna.

201 Catherine St., Pekin

This detail from the 1925 Sanborn fire insurance map of Pekin shows the residence that then stood at 201 Catherine St., the northeast corner of Catherine and Second streets.

The 1922 directory was the last Bates city directory – since then, Polk has published Pekin’s city directories. The first one, in 1924, shows “Williamson Hugo (Anna) formn h201 Catherine” (with Frank still living next door at 506 N. Second St.). By 1926, however, Hugo and Anna had moved to 911 N. Fourth St., while Frank still lived at 506 N. Second. Living at 201 Catherine St. that year were “Spencer Harold C (Bertha M) (1) wirewkr” and “Pool Edw (Golda F) lab” – the “(1)” indicates Harold and Bertha had a minor child living with them.

Harold Spencer and his wife and child remained at 201 Catherine St. until about 1935. In 1928, though, Edward and Golda Pool had been replaced by “Fahnders George J (Jessie) hod carrier.” The directories in 1930, 1932, and 1934 show only the Spencers at that address. In 1930 and 1932, Harold is identified as a “lab” (laborer), while in 1934 he is a “fence opr” (fence operator). The 1934 directory also shows “Spencer Robt J student” at 201 Catherine – no doubt Harold and Bertha’s son.

By the time of the 1937 directory, Harold Spencer, “fence mkr,” and his wife Bertha had moved to 435½ Court St., and 201 Catherine was the home of “Kickler Herman H (Bessie L) sheet mtl wkr C&NWRy.” The Kicklers didn’t live there long, though, because the 1939 directory shows “Tracy Calvin E (Thelma M; 4) lather h201 Catherine.”

Thus, we find that the Pekin city directories enable us to track without much difficulty the residents of 201 Catherine St. during the 78 years from the eve of the Civil War to the eve of World War II – a succession of families and individuals named Jones (1861), Smith (1870-76), Haas (1887-1898), Williamson (1903-1924), Spencer (1926-1934), Pool (1926), Fahnders (1928), Kickler (1937) and Tracy (1939).

#201-catherine-street, #pekin-city-directories, #pekin-history, #preblog-columns, #research-tips, #william-h-bates

First flowering of Pekin’s Marigold Festival

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

The 44th Annual Pekin Marigold Festival, scheduled to run from Thursday, Sept. 8, through Sunday, Sept. 11, is less than two weeks away. However, since this weekend in fact falls within the anniversary of the very first Marigold Festival, which ran for 10 days from Aug. 24 to Sept. 2, 1973, now is an ideal time to refresh our memories of the festival’s first flowering.

After almost a year in which the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce worked hard to fertilize and cultivate the ground for the first Marigold Festival, the festivities opened with the coronation of Cynthia Xanos as Marigold Queen at the Pekin riverfront, followed by the arrival at the foot of Court Street of a group of Voyageur canoeists who were reenacting the expeditions of French explorers Louis Joliet and Father Jacques Marquette through the states of Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin that summer. The festival also featured the now traditional Marigold Parade and a carnival, along with dinners, music festivals, an art fair, and a visit from the King Brothers Circus.

Since the festival was conceived by members of the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce as a way to honor the memory of Pekin’s late Sen. Everett McKinley Dirksen (1896-1969), the first festival’s committee scheduled public readings from Dirksen’s speeches and writings on the first three days of the festival, along with a special reception for Dirksen’s widow Louella at the Pekin Country Club on Sunday afternoon, Aug. 26, 1973. An invitation-only benefit ball for the Dirksen Library (originally located at the Pekin Public Library, now in its own building on the east end of town on Broadway) took place on Saturday, Aug. 25.

In this Pekin Daily Times photograph, Pekin's first Marigold Queen Cynthia Xanos, right, chats with Mrs. Everett M. Dirksen and Mrs. Dirksen's daughter, Mrs. Howard Baker, during the Marigold Ball at the Pekin Country Club, Saturday, Aug. 25, 1973, one of the main events of the First Annual Marigold Festival.

In this Pekin Daily Times photograph, Pekin’s first Marigold Queen Cynthia Xanos, right, chats with Mrs. Everett M. Dirksen and Mrs. Dirksen’s daughter, Mrs. Howard Baker, during the Marigold Ball at the Pekin Country Club, Saturday, Aug. 25, 1973, one of the main events of the First Annual Marigold Festival.

To promote the late Senator’s favorite flower – and bolster Pekin’s self-bestowed title of “Marigold Capital of the World” – the planning committee not only organized a flower show and contest at the Pekin Mall on Thursday, Aug. 30, but in the months leading up to the festival also strongly encouraged Pekinites to plant marigolds.

In a 1973 promotional advertisement expressing hope for the blooming of 250,000 to 300,000 marigolds, the planners stated, “We take this opportunity to encourage your youth groups, men’s club, and other church organizations to participate in this festival by planting your grounds with as many marigolds as possible. . . There are seven varieties of marigolds the committee has chosen for their ease in planting and growing, as well as for their abundance of bloom. They are: Lemon Drop, Aquarius, King Tut, Mediterranean Moon, Bolero, Sparky, and First Lady. . . . We want each block in Pekin alive with MARI-GOLD. Our major planting weekend will be May 24th through May 27.”

The Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection maintains archival folders for each year’s Marigold Festival. Included in the 1973 Marigold Festival folder is a copy of the minutes from the Oct. 2, 1972 planning committee meeting at the Chamber of Commerce offices. From those minutes, we learn that the committee members were Dorothy Doan, Elaine Jefferson, Tom Hallett, Gene Sangalli, John Turnell, Lee Williams, Julian Smith, John Walker, and Henry VanderHeyden (who was absent from the Oct. 2 meeting).

“Meeting was called to order at 4:05 p.m. John Turnell was appointed Treasurer of the Committee. Mark Heine was appointed to Publicity. Lee Williams was appointed as Secretary,” the minutes say. Turnell served as the festival’s general chairman.

Tasks and duties were then assigned to each committee member, with local horticulturalist Sangalli naturally being given the role of Grower’s Coordinator – “To designate five types of Marigolds to be promoted. To discuss the promotion with the growers solicitating (sic) their cooperation. To provide Mark Heine with mats. To assist in the development of planning planting designs.” Hallett was named Retailer’s Coordinator, Heine was in charge of the publicity campaign, Williams was Industry/Business Coordinator, VanderHeyden was Governmental Coordinator, Walker was Special Events Coordinator, and Jefferson and Doan were Service Club Coordinators.

The committee’s hard work was deemed to have paid off: after the festival, the Pekin Daily Times reported that the 10-day event was a “tremendous success,” and the planning committee immediately began to solicit ideas from the public in preparation for the 2nd Annual Marigold Festival. A few years later, the ever-popular Marigold Medallion Hunt was added, and the event was fixed for the weekend following Labor Day in September. The festival no longer extends over a 10-day period, but still carries on the essential traditions of the original celebration in 1973.

#everett-mckinley-dirksen, #howard-baker, #marigold-festival, #pekin-history

Who was William Don Maus?

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Last month we examined some fascinating details of Pekin’s founding that were recorded in a four-page document from 1829-1830 that had been included in the 1914 Tazewell County Courthouse time capsule.

The document was one of several items in the time capsule that aren’t listed among the contents of the courthouse cornerstone printed in the “Historical Souvenir” published for June 21, 1916 dedication ceremonies. When the time capsule was opened in June, 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.

A crucial document from the founding of Pekin was preserved within this envelope in the 1914 Tazewell County Courthouse time capsule. IMAGE COURTESY OF DAVID PERKINS AND TAZEWELL COUNTY COURTS ADMINISTRATOR COURTNEY EETEN

A crucial document from the founding of Pekin was preserved within this envelope in the 1914 Tazewell County Courthouse time capsule. IMAGE COURTESY OF DAVID PERKINS AND TAZEWELL COUNTY COURTS ADMINISTRATOR COURTNEY EETEN

We probably will never know exactly how this document ended up in the possession of William Don Maus, but thanks to the standard published works on Tazewell County history, we do know who Maus was – and who he wasn’t.

He wasn’t Dr. William S. Maus (1817-1872), son of Samuel and Elizabeth Maus of Northumberland County, Pa. Dr. Maus was a pioneer physician of Pekin who came to Pekin prior to 1832. He assisted the victims of Pekin’s cholera epidemic in July 1834, and later served on the committee that oversaw the construction of the old Tazewell County Courthouse in 1849-50. This column featured the biography of Dr. Maus in the Sept. 14, 2013 edition of the Pekin Daily Times.

Confusingly enough, William Don Maus (1836-1901), born in Philadelphia, was a contemporary of Dr. Maus, who as far as we can tell was not related to William Don. Not only were both William Mauses born in Pennsylvania and live in Tazewell County, but their fathers even had the same name. William Don Maus’ father was Dr. Samuel Gustavus Maus, who came with his family to Tazewell County in 1847. William Don Maus became an attorney and judge in Pekin, being prominent enough in the community to warrant a brief biography in Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” which is as follows:

“William Don Maus (deceased), lawyer and former County Judge of Tazewell County, Ill., was born in the city of Philadelphia, Pa., September 22, 1836, the son of Dr. Samuel Gustavus Maus, who came to Southern Illinois in 1838, and was widely known in that section of the State. Through his paternal ancestors he was of Rhenish-Bavarian stock, early member of his family having originally emigrated from Zweibrucken, Bavaria, Germany, to America. His mother (born Goodman) was a lineal descendant of one of the families that founded Plymouth Colony, coming to America in the Mayflower. His father, Dr. Samuel Gustavus Maus, on coming to this State with his family in 1838, settled at Murphysboro, in Jackson County, where for a number of years he was the partner of Dr. John Logan, the father of Gen. John A. Logan.

“During these years the young sons of the partners formed a lasting friendship and attachment, which was severed only by the death of Senator Logan. About 1847 Doctor Maus moved to Tazewell County and settled at Tremont, and the son from that time to the date of his death, a period of fifty-four years, was a citizen of Tazewell County. His education as a youth was the best the new state afforded; but the opportunities for mental training of young men in that early day were very limited and crude compared with what they are to-day; the successful advent of the common- school system was but a prophecy then, and most of the educational advantages were by private tutors and in private schools. He finished his literary education in the schools of James K. Kellogg in Tremont and the English classical high school at Pekin under the direction of Rev. G. S. Bailey, D. D., in the old brick mansion house on the Tharp place, which were educational institutions of considerable note in that day.

“In 1854 Mr. Maus removed to the city of Pekin to reside permanently. He read law with Judge Samuel W. Fuller, who afterwards became a prominent member of the Chicago bar. In January, 1857, he was admitted to the State bar and continued the practice of his profession in the State and Federal courts for a period of forty-four years, all of which time he was an honored, respected and eminent member of the bar.

“The official positions held by Judge Maus during his residence in Tazewell County included those of Deputy Sheriff for a short time in 1858: Master in Chancery from 1858 to 1867: and County Judge from 1863 to 1865. He was prominent in the councils of the Democratic party, of which he was an active member and which he represented as a delegate from his district in the Democratic National Conventions of 1876 and 1888. In his later years he devoted his attention exclusively to the practice of his profession, declining in 1885 to permit the use of his name as a candidate for Circuit Judge.

“September 11, 1856, Judge Maus was united in marriage, in the city of Pekin, to Mary Clauser, who was born in Pennsylvania and came with her parents to Pekin, Ill., in 1839. Of this marriage there were three children who still survive: Mrs. Adrienne (Maus) McDonald, of Pekin; Kate, the wife of George F. Nasler, of New Orleans, La., and Fred P. who is an attorney of Pekin. Mrs. Mary (Clauser) Maus, the widow of Judge Maus, also resides in Pekin.

“The death of Judge Maus occurred July 28, 1901, and was deplored by a large circle of friends. The event was commemorated by the Pekin bar by the adoption of a generous tribute to his memory.”

It was after Judge Maus’ death in 1901 that the above-mentioned document from Pekin’s founding was located among his papers in his office, coming into the possession of Pekin attorney John T. Elliff (whose son Nathan T. Elliff followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a lawyer and serving as Tazewell County State’s Attorney in the 1930s). Then in November 1914, the document became a last-minute inclusion in the new courthouse’s time capsule.

#john-t-elliff, #nathan-t-elliff, #pekin-founding, #pekin-history, #tazewell-county-courthouse-time-capsule, #william-don-maus, #william-s-maus

A pioneer physician of Pekin: Dr. William Maus

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

A pioneer physician of Pekin: Dr. William Maus

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

The first published history of Pekin, found in the 1870 Pekin City Directory, tells of a calamity that befell Pekin just a few years after its founding – a plague of cholera:

“With the opening of July, 1834, Pekin was visited by the Asiatic Cholera, and for a time the village was enveloped in a pall of gloom, sorrow and despondency. Quite a number of prominent citizens, among whom we find the names of Mr. Smith, Mrs. Cauldron, Thomas Snell, Dr. Perry, Mrs. Perry, Mrs. J. C. Morgan, and many others, fell victim ere the terrible malady took its departure.

“The medical profession was at that time represented by Dr. Perry, (one of the victims,) Dr. Pillsbury, and Dr. Griffith. Dr. W. S. Maus, although not then residing in Pekin, was also present the greater portion of the time, lending his aid to the terror-stricken and suffering people.” (Sellers & Bates Pekin City Directory, 1870, page 13)

On the preceding page, we read that Dr. Maus was among the pioneer settlers of Tazewell County and the Pekin area who had arrived in 1831 and 1832, prior to the Black Hawk War. The 1870 Pekin City Directory also notes that Dr. Maus was elected a few times as a Pekin town trustee in the 1840s. The 1873 Atlas Map of Tazewell County, page 7, says he served on the committee appointed in 1849-50 to oversee the construction of a new Tazewell County courthouse in Pekin, and on page 51 says he was elected to the Tazewell County Board in 1850.

The 1870 City Directory, on page 12, also provides this glimpse into the early state of affairs in the governance of Tazewell County:

“During the time intervening between the removal of the County Seat from Mackinaw to Pekin in 1831 and its removal from Pekin to Tremont in 1836, the offices of Circuit Clerk, County Clerk, Recorder, and Master in Chancery were held by Joshua C. Morgan, who was also post-master. He lived with his wife and four children, a brother and a young lady, and transacted the business of all his offices, in two rooms of the house now occupied by Dr. W. S. Maus. His house was also a great resort for travelers, and our informant says: ‘I have spent the evening at his house when the entire court and bar were there with many others.’”

An extended biography of Dr. Maus was included in the 1873 Atlas Map of Tazewell County, on pages 51 and 54. That account says he was born in Northumberland County, Pa., on Aug. 5, 1817, the sixth child of Samuel and Elizabeth Maus and a grandson of a German immigrant to Philadelphia named Philip Maus.

“Dr. William S. Maus was educated in the common schools of Pennsylvania. When about eighteen years of age he engaged in the drug business and the study of medicine with Dr. Ashbel Wilson, a leading physician of Berwick, Columbia county, Pa. He attended medical lectures at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating and receiving a diploma from that institution in 1830. Immediately thereby he commenced the practice of his profession in Luzerne county, Pa.”

He had married Mary Barton in 1829, and they had seven children, the eldest of whom, Annie, married an early and somewhat prominent resident of Pekin named James Haines.

The biography continues, “In the spring of 1831 Dr. Maus started with a horse and buggy for the west, traveling over the mountains to the mouth of Beaver river, where he took passage on board a steamboat, and traveled on it as far as Madison, Indiana. Here he purchased a horse, and made the balance of the trip overland to Tazewell county, locating in practice in the town of Mackinaw. In June, 1832, he brought out his wife and eldest child, who was then an infant, to Tazewell county, that time making the trip by land.”

Dr. Maus’ brothers Samuel and Joseph also came out to Tazewell County and settled in Pekin. Dr. Maus moved from Mackinaw to Pekin in 1838, and that fall he was elected to the Illinois General Assembly as representative for Tazewell County. He was a member of the last state legislature to convene in the former state capital of Vandalia and of the first legislature to convene in the new capital of Springfield. Around these years, in addition to his medical practice and his state office, Dr. Maus also was a contractor for several railroads, building five sections of the Pekin & Bloomington branch of the Central Railroad (later the I. B. & W.).

“Upon his return from the legislature,” the biography says, “the Doctor engaged in practicing medicine; he also carried on merchandising with his nephew, Jacob Maus. Dr. Maus enjoyed a lucrative and extensive practice up to 1851, at which time he discontinued the practice of medicine, and devoted his time and attention to a variety of business, and subsequently improved a large farm in Mackinaw township. In December, 1858, Mrs. Maus died at the residence of her daughter, Mrs. James Haines.”

He remarried in 1862 to Elizabeth Batterson of Pekin. The following year he moved to his farm, but returned to Pekin in 1864. “Since 1865 his attention has been largely devoted to Horticulture,” the biography says. He died in Pekin in 1872, but the biography in the 1873 Atlas Map of Tazewell County was not updated before going to print.

Further details of his life, and his horticultural activities, can be gleaned from an “Odds and Ends” column published in the Pekin Daily Times on Sept. 23, 1930:

“Quite a number of folks remember Dr. William Maus, who during his residence in Pekin lived in a locality which is now one of the finest residence sections of Park avenue. The Dr. William Maus home was situated, north of and close to the home now occupied by Fred Epkens on Park avenue. . [Note: the 1930 Pekin City Directory says Fred and Eugenia “Epkins” lived at 1031 Park Ave.] In addition to being a doctor of medicine, William Maus was a pioneer nurseryman of this section.

“The home as many recall it was of southern colonial type and stood well back from the street (now Park avenue). Two rows of evergreen trees bordered the east and west sides of the wide drive which led up to the home and circled around it on each side.

“. . . [O]n the south side of the street [Note: in the 1100 block of Park Avenue] William Maus had a large orchard, which kids of those days often visited. Dr. William Maus was a kindly and generous man, one of our old timers said this morning, and the boys did not have to raid the orchard, for the doctor always gave them all the apples, pears and other fruit they wanted to eat.”

#cholera-epidemic, #dr-maus-orchard, #dr-william-s-maus, #james-haines, #pekin-history

A succession of county courthouses

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

The Tazewell County Courthouse in downtown Pekin celebrated its 100th birthday just last month. Serving the county for as long as it has, the courthouse is neither the first such structure in Tazewell County history nor the first courthouse to be built at that location.
As told in Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” the first Tazewell County Courthouse was located in Mackinaw, which was originally the county seat, being located in the county’s center. The first courthouse, a log house 24 feet long and 18 feet wide, was built at a cost of $125 in the summer of 1827 on lot 1 of block 11. Improvements were made to the simple structure in 1830, but in the summer of 1831 the court relocated to the old Doolittle School at the corner of Elizabeth and Second streets in Pekin.

Pekin historian William H. Bates drew this representation of the first Tazewell County Courthouse, located in Mackinaw, for the "Historical Souvenir" that Bates published for the dedication of the new courthouse in 1916.

Pekin historian William H. Bates drew this representation of the first Tazewell County Courthouse, located in Mackinaw, for the “Historical Souvenir” that Bates published for the dedication of the new courthouse in 1916.

The court was relocated to Pekin because in Dec. 1830 the Illinois General Assembly had created McLean County out of the eastern portion of Tazewell County, which originally was much larger than it is today. With the redrawing of the border, Mackinaw was now toward the eastern edge of the county, and many county officials thought the new town of Pekin would make a better county seat than Mackinaw.
For the next few years, Pekin would function as the de facto county seat even though it had not been established as such by law. But in 1835 the state legislature appointed a commission to permanently fix Tazewell County’s seat, and the commission opted for Tremont rather than Pekin, because Tremont was close to the center of the county. The court moved to Tremont on June 6, 1836, and a temporary courthouse was promptly erected there at the cost of $1,150. Then in 1837 construction began on a permanent brick courthouse in Tremont for $14,450. That structure was completed in 1839 – the same year that the residents of Pekin formally began efforts to have the county seat transferred back to their town.

William H. Bates reproduced this photograph of the old Tazewell County Courthouse in Tremont for the 1916 "Historical Souvenir" that he published for the dedication of the new courthouse.

William H. Bates reproduced this photograph of the old Tazewell County Courthouse in Tremont for the 1916 “Historical Souvenir” that he published for the dedication of the new courthouse.

The contentious rivalry between Pekin and Tremont continued throughout the 1840s, and Chapman relates that, in their efforts to retain the county seat and to slow or halt Pekin’s growing prosperity, Tremont is said to have lobbied the General Assembly several times to have portions of Tazewell County sliced off and assigned to neighboring counties. After the election of May 1843, Chapman writes, “a stop [was] made to this dividing up and cutting off of Tazewell’s territory. Had they continued it much longer there would have been nothing left of the county but Pekin and Tremont. Then, we doubt not, a division would have been made and both towns have at least gained a county-seat.”
Further on, Chapman comments, “During these twenty years of local war, of course bitterness of feeling was intense, and great injury was done to all parts of the county. Many of the older citizens attribute very largely the prosperity and commercial advantages by Peoria over Pekin to the bitter feuds engendered during this long and eventful strife.”
The conflict ended in 1849, when the citizens of Tazewell County voted to move the county seat to Pekin, where it has remained ever since. A new courthouse was then built in Pekin in 1850, at the site of the present courthouse. “The question [of the county seat’s location] having been finally and definitely decided the courthouse was immediately erected by the citizens of Pekin, in fulfillment of their promise. The last meeting of the Board of Supervisors . . . that was held at Tremont was Aug. 26, 1850, when it moved in a body to their new and more commodious quarters, and on the same day dedicated the edifice by holding therein their first meeting in Pekin,” Chapman writes.
The old Tremont courthouse remained in use as a high school for several years, later being used as a community center and dance hall, until at last the ground level was used as tenements before the dilapidated structure was razed around 1895. The old county histories note that Abraham Lincoln practiced law in both the Tremont courthouse and the 1850 courthouse in Pekin.
“Pekin: A Pictorial History” notes that for the construction of the Pekin courthouse, “Gideon Rupert (his residence is the current homesite of the Noel-Henderson Funeral Home) contributed $600 and with others’ generosity, raised the needed funds for the building. The cost was $8,000. Local products of sandstone, quarried five miles northeast of Pekin, and bricks, fired at the Jansen and Zoeller Brickyard on the East Bluff, were used.” The building also had white marble columns.

The layout of the Tazewell County Courthouse Block in November 1903 is shown in this detail from a Sanborn fire insurance map of downtown Pekin. In addition to the courthouse, the block also encompassed a band stand, the county jail and Sheriff's dwelling, and the county offices building. The courthouse, band stand, and offices building were demolished in 1914 to make way for a larger, even more grand courthouse.

The layout of the Tazewell County Courthouse Block in November 1903 is shown in this detail from a Sanborn fire insurance map of downtown Pekin. In addition to the courthouse, the block also encompassed a band stand, the county jail and Sheriff’s dwelling, and the county offices building. The courthouse, band stand, and offices building were demolished in 1914 to make way for a larger, even more grand courthouse.

Also helping to defray construction costs were prominent local landowners David and Elijah Mark, who each gave $500. The heirs of the Mark estate would eventually donate the land that would become James Field in Pekin.
The 1974 Pekin Sesquicentennial records the tradition that, “Older Pekinites claim that the columns of the old County Court House were painted black up to the height of the first floor doors because the white marble was marred by the hand and fingerprints of the loungers who leaned against them.”
The 1850 courthouse remained in use until 1914, when it was razed to make way for a new and larger edifice – the current structure, which was built over the next two years at a cost of $212,964.
“Wide marble steps and Italian-imported white marble banisters graced the ‘architecturally noteworthy’ interior of the courthouse dedicated on June 21, 1916,” according to “Pekin: A Pictorial History.”
“Thousands attended the dedication services with Illinois congressman and candidate for governor, W.E. Williams, as the featured speaker. According to the Pekin Daily Times, Congressman Williams, ‘spoke for an hour and fifteen minutes . . . .’”

This vintage photograph shows the laying of the new Tazewell County Courthouse's cornerstone in 1914. Standing next to scaffolding in the foreground is William H. Bates displaying the time capsule to the crowd before it was sealed in the cornerstone.

his vintage photograph shows the laying of the new Tazewell County Courthouse’s cornerstone in 1914. Standing next to scaffolding in the foreground is William H. Bates displaying the time capsule to the crowd before it was sealed in the cornerstone.

Shown is a key to the old 1850 Tazewell County Courthouse that was preserved in the 1902 Pekin Library Cornerstone time capsule. Another key to the old courthouse was included in the 1914 courthouse cornerstone time capsule.

Shown is a key to the old 1850 Tazewell County Courthouse that was preserved in the 1902 Pekin Library Cornerstone time capsule. Another key to the old courthouse was included in the 1914 courthouse cornerstone time capsule.

Though the old 1850 courthouse is long gone, some of the marble was claimed by Pekin’s pioneer photographer Henry Hobart Cole for use in the home he built in Tuscarora Heights in Peoria County.
Other surviving mementos of the 1850 structure are two courthouse keys. One was placed in a cornerstone time capsule at the construction the old Pekin Public Library in 1902. That time capsule was opened when the old library was razed in 1972, and that courthouse key and the other contents of the cornerstone, which were found to be in a very good state of preservation, are kept in the library’s historical archives. Another courthouse key was found in the recently opened 1916 courthouse time capsule.

The layout of the Tazewell County Courthouse Block in September 1925 is shown in this detail of a Sanborn fire insurance map of downtown Pekin. The courthouse's cornerstone was laid in 1914.

The layout of the Tazewell County Courthouse Block in September 1925 is shown in this detail of a Sanborn fire insurance map of downtown Pekin. The courthouse’s cornerstone was laid in 1914.

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Trail blazer treks twice to Pekin

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Vast numbers of pioneers trekked their way to the Pacific Northwest in the mid-1800s, following a path known as the Oregon Trail. The pioneer whose name is most associated with the Oregon Trail was a man named Ezra Manning Meeker (1820-1928), who first walked and rode the trail in 1852 and later, when he was old, traversed the country to build popular support for his desire to have the nation officially memorialize the Oregon Trail.

In crossing the country to promote the route he called the “Pioneer Way,” his travels brought him to Pekin. The July 3, 1916 issue of the Pekin Daily Times, page 8, reported on one of his visits to Pekin in a story with the headline, “EZRA MEEKER OLD TRAIL BLAZER IS IN CITY,” and the sub-headlines, “Following in a Pathfinder ‘Schooner’ the Old Trail of ’52” and “Old White Haired Man Attracts Much Attention. Wants Congress to Erect Monument for Pioneers.”

The article begins, “Ezra Meeker, one of the stalwart pioneers who helped blaze the first and original ‘Oregon Trail’ in ’52, who helped settle the now great Northwest, is in the city. The old man arrived this morning, traveling in a Pathfinder twelve cylinder ‘schooner,’ and he has attracted much attention since his arrival. He has his outfit ‘anchored’ near the water fountain on the west side of the court house square. He will spend several days here in the interest of ‘Pioneer Way’ which is proposed to be built over the old Oregon Trail.”

This photograph, reproduced from a microfilm image of the July 3, 1916, edition of the Pekin Daily Times, shows the Pathfinder "Schooner" that Oregon Trail pioneer Ezra Meeker drove on his 1916 tour of the country promoting a proposed national highway called Pioneer Way. Meeker arrived in Pekin during his tour on July 3.

This photograph, reproduced from a microfilm image of the July 3, 1916, edition of the Pekin Daily Times, shows the Pathfinder “Schooner” that Oregon Trail pioneer Ezra Meeker drove on his 1916 tour of the country promoting a proposed national highway called Pioneer Way. Meeker arrived in Pekin during his tour on July 3.

The proposed Pioneer Way was to be a national highway starting in the nation’s capital and tracing 3,500 miles across 14 states, incorporating the old Cumberland Road in the eastern U.S. as well as the Oregon Trail that begins in Independence, Mo. On his promotional tours in 1916, Meeker drove “a duplicate of the old and primitive prairie schooner body fitted on a powerful Twin Six Pathfinder chassis,” the Pekin Daily Times article says. (Later he drove a Model A Ford outfitted as a prairie schooner.)

As a leading settler of the Northwest, in 1877 Meeker platted the town of Puyallup, Washington, which was incorporated in 1890. Meeker was elected the town’s first mayor, and his Puyallup residence, the Meeker Mansion, is on the National Register of Historic Places. In those decades, Meeker was active in attracting settlement and promoting development of the Pacific Northwest.

Meeker was 76 years old when he decided to try to retrace the old Oregon Trail from Oregon back to Missouri in 1906, taking a wagon and a team of oxen to find the route he’d first taken in 1852. Along the way, he placed stone markers to ensure that the route would be remembered by future generations. This grand trek began Jan. 29, 1906, and concluded June 6, 1908. One of his stops along the way, just as on his 1916 trip, was Pekin, which he visited on Nov. 23-24, 1906, according to Kent Mohr, a descendant of the Meeker family.

Mohr says Meeker didn’t come to Pekin only to promote the Oregon Trail and Pioneer Way, but also took the opportunity to call on his cousins, the Samuel Meeker family. Samuel was one of the sons of Moses Robinson Dewey Meeker (1822-1891), who with his brother Daniel Baldwin Meeker (1819-1904) were among the pioneer settlers of Tazewell County. Moses and Daniel were sons of Benjamin Meeker (1793-1857), who was born in Essex County, New Jersey, and died in Delavan, Illinois. Benjamin and his son Daniel are buried in Prairie Rest Cemetery, Delavan, while Moses is buried in Green Valley Cemetery. Benjamin’s older brother Manning Meeker (1785-1820), was the grandfather of Ezra Meeker.

This lithograph from the 1873 Atlas Map of Tazewell County shows the stock farm of Moses R. D. Meeker in Sand Prairie Township. Ezra Meeker of Oregon Trail fame was a first cousin once removed of Moses Meeker.

This lithograph from the 1873 Atlas Map of Tazewell County shows the stock farm of Moses R. D. Meeker in Sand Prairie Township. Ezra Meeker of Oregon Trail fame was a first cousin once removed of Moses Meeker.

The 1873 Atlas Map of Tazewell County shows Daniel B. Meeker’s homestead in Delavan Township, a few miles east-northeast of Delavan, while the homestead and stock farm of Moses R. D. Meeker is shown in Section 30 of Sand Prairie Township, several miles west of Green Valley. The 1873 Atlas Map also includes a short biography of Moses R. D. Meeker on page 82 as well as a lithograph drawing of his residence on page 133.

Moses’ 1873 biography, which mistakenly gives his middle initial as “B.” (elsewhere correctly showing “R.”), describes Moses as “one of the heavy farmers and successful stock raisers of Tazewell county” – but in this case “heavy” refers to the output of his farm, not the weight of his body. Moses first came to Tazewell County around 1846, settling near Tremont for six years before acquiring his stock farm in Sand Prairie Township. The 1880 U.S. Census lists Moses and his family as residents of Pekin, where his son Samuel was still living in 1916 when their cousin Ezra stopped for a few days to promote Pioneer Way.

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