The Old City Cemetery

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Last month we recalled the old pioneer burying ground formerly located at the corner of Broadway and 11th in Pekin. This week we’ll take a look at another of Pekin’s “lost” cemeteries — the Old City Cemetery that once stood in the industrial part of town at the foot of Koch Street.

The cemetery indexes in the Local History Room (most of them publications of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society) provide the following description and brief historical note of the Old City Cemetery:

“Cemetery moved from Quaker Oats Company ground on South Second Street, to the NE corner of Lakeview Cemetery in 1924. Now referred to as ‘Paupers Row.’ Stones are set so they are buried, many broken and parts missing.”

On another page the index says, “The so called city cemetery was situated in Sections three (3) four (4) nine (9) and ten (10) in township twenty four (24) north range five (5) west of the third principal meridian. (This is Cincinnati Addition to the City of Pekin).”

This detail from an 1872 plat map of Pekin shows the location of the Old City Cemetery, which existed from 1831 to 1924. The cemetery is marked by a gravestone, cross, skull, and cross bones at the bottom of the map.

Like the Tharp Burial Ground, the Old City Cemetery began in the very earliest years of Pekin’s existence. The earliest known interment there was of an infant of the Kohrell family who was born Feb. 9, 1831, and died two days later. That was not much more than a year after Pekin was formally platted and named. The cemetery would official remain in existence for another 93 years, but as time went on the industrial activities around the cemetery made it an undesirable place to bury loved ones, such that it became a paupers cemetery.

According to the cemetery index, on Jan. 29, 1924, the Pekin Daily Times published this legal notice:

“The city council passed an ordinance declaring the city cemetery a nuisance and provision for the removal of the bodies contained therein was also passed. The growth of the city has encroached on this burying ground until it is now entirely surrounded by manufacturing plants and is very hard of access. Persons who have relatives buried in this cemetery are given 60 days in which to remove the bodies of their dead. Provisions for the removal of bodies to the cemetery north of the city have been made.”

A follow-up notice at the Tazewell County Recorder’s Office, dated June 7, 1924, calls for the Association of Commerce to remove the rest of the bodies from the cemetery and transfer them to “some other suitable burying place.” A Sept. 14, 1925 deed at the Recorder’s Office conveyed the lots to Pekin Memorial Park Cemetery (now Lakeview Cemetery) for the transfer and maintenance of the former Old City Cemetery burials and grave markers.

As was later found in the case of the Tharp Burial Ground, it is likely that not all of the burials were found when the cemetery was dissolved and the bodies moved to Lakeview Cemetery. One of the main problems is that in many cases there was no longer any living next of kin in or near Pekin who could move the remains of their ancestors and kin to the new cemetery space.

In fact, the cemetery index opines, “It is doubtful that graves were ever moved, only markers, which now are fallen, broken and in total disarray.”

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