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.”

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