Tazewell’s unincorporated communities: Midway

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Picking up once more on our series of profiles of Tazewell County’s unincorporated communities, this week we’ll move a few miles further down the road from Normandale to take a look at the village of Midway.

John Drury’s “This is Tazewell County, Illinois” (1954), page 97, briefly describes Midway Addition and explains the village’s name as follows: “On State 29, north of the Pekin Airport, lies the small village of Midway. It is about midway between the city of Pekin and South Pekin. Near it flows Lost Creek. The Chicago & North Western Railroad runs along its eastern border.”

Drury’s 1954 description is still pretty accurate today, the only difference being that the Chicago & North Western railroad on Midway’s eastern border is now the Union Pacific.

Like Normandale Addition to the north, Midway Addition took shape as a community in the years after World War II. Midway does not appear on the Tazewell County plat book in 1945 – at that time the land that would soon become Midway was owned by Catherine Fornoff and John M. Shade. Curiously, however, the 1955 plat map of Cincinnati Township – compiled only a year after Drury had included Midway in his book – designates Midway as an unnamed “SUBDIVIDED” parcel of land.

The land that is today the village of Midway formerly was owned by John Shade and Catherine Fornoff, as shown in this detail of a 1945 plat map of Cincinnati Township.

By the time this 1955 plat map of Cincinnati Township was drawn, Midway had been established on land formerly owned by John M. Shade. “Midway” is not named on this map, however, but is instead designated merely as “SUBDIVIDED.”

A comparison of county maps from the 1950s with current maps shows that Midway’s geographical extent has not changed since the village was established. Midway’s western boundary is Illinois Route 9, while the railroad tracks mark the eastern boundary. The village consists of a northern and southern section that are not linked with each other – one must use Route 29 to move between the northern and southern streets. The northern section has only three streets: Woodford Drive (east-west), First Street (north-south), and North Street (east-west). The southern section is larger, having seven streets – three east-west streets: Garman Road, Main Street, and South Street; and four north-south streets, numbered First, Second, Third, and Fourth. The only difference between Midway’s 1950-era street layout and today’s layout is that Third and Fourth streets are now linked at their northern ends, whereas originally both streets ended in cul-de-sacs.

The fact that both Pekin and Midway have streets numbered Second, Third, and Fourth sometimes leads to confusion, since Midway is designated by the U.S. Postal Service as “rural Pekin.” It’s easy to spot the difference between a Pekin and a Midway address, though, because the street numbers of Pekin’s Second, Third, and Fourth streets never have more than four digits, whereas Midway’s have five digits.

The households in Midway are in South Pekin School District 137. Fire protection is provided by the Cincinnati Fire Protection District, volunteer fire department whose 14 members operated out of a station is on Chester L Road a short jog south of Midway.

Midway is also the home of Crossroads Full Gospel Church, located at 13895 First St. In the way of businesses, Midway’s most well-known is Watkins Marine in the southern section of the village at 13950 Illinois Route 29. Across the road from Midway’s South Street is Becks Farm. In the northern section, a tavern, Stones Midway Tap, is located at 14202 Illinois Route 29. Just north of Stones Midway Tap is Mayberry Brothers Discount Truck & Van Accessories, at 14320 Illinois Route 29, and just north of that on the west side of Route 29 is the Pekin area’s Recycling Center.

This detail of a 1957 highway map of Tazewell County shows the village of Midway.

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Entertaining the Pekinese

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

The metropolitan areas and larger cities of the U.S. naturally serve as nation’s cultural centers. These are the kinds of places that can support a philharmonic orchestra, and that are always included on the itineraries of musical groups when they plan concert tours.

Smaller cities, however, or towns lacking a suitable venue for a concert, or that are unlikely to draw a sufficient audience to make a concert stop worthwhile, tend to get overlooked. Pekin is one of those cities. Pekin has never had its own philharmonic, but we do boast the Pekin Park Concert Band (successor of the Pekin Municipal Band) that presents summer concerts in Mineral Springs Park on Sundays. Further in the past, Pekinites were also entertained by Gehrig’s Band, and Pekin’s local theaters also regularly staged plays and hosted vaudeville acts.

For about seven decades, popular bands and singers and classical performers were also brought here by the Pekin Concert Association, which until it disbanded recently would book and finance an annual concert series. The decision to disband, according to former PCA member George Beres, was regrettably made due not only to declining membership but to difficulty in securing a suitable venue. In the past concerts would be presented in the Pekin Community High School theater – originally in the former West Campus, later in East Campus’ F. M. Peterson Theater. Within the past decade, though, reserving the PCHS theater became impractical, since acts had to be secured well in advance. In its final seasons the PCA sometimes hosted concerts at a local church.

PCA records kindly supplied to the Pekin Public Library by George Beres listed all of the musical acts in every concert series from the 1948-49 series until the 2006-07 series. The acts’ names, however, are usually abbreviated and not always easy to interpret for those not familiar with popular serious musicians of the past.

Thus, the records show that the first Pekin Concert Association concert series in 1948-49 featured “Templeton, Lloyd, Dilling, Col. Operatic Trio.” A notation on the record indicates that “Dilling” was Mildred Dilling (1894-1982), a renowned harpist. “Templeton” is probably the pianist and composer Alec Templeton (1909-1963), while “Lloyd” is possibly the British composer George Lloyd (1913-1998). “Col. Operatic Trio” refers to the Columbia Operatic Trio, whose members varied over the years.

Subsequent PCA concert series brought such musical performers to Pekin as the Tucson Arizona Boys Choir, the Angelaires, David Bar-Ilan, The DeCormier Folk Singers, Guy Lombardo, The New Christy Minstrels, Serendipity Singers, The Four Freshmen, Chanticleer, The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, The Brothers Four, and The Cornet Chop Suey Jazz Band. Several of the artists and groups made more than one return visit to Pekin courtesy of the Pekin Concert Association.

One of those musical groups that came to Pekin more than once during the PCA’s early concert series was the de Paur Infantry Chorus, an all-male, all-African-American choral group that was organized and conducted by Leonard E. de Paur (1914-1998), a gifted conductor and composer who founded the Lincoln Center Out of Doors programs in New York City. While serving in the U.S. Army infantry in World War II, de Paur was assigned to an all-male chorus – that experience led to de Paur’s founding the de Paur Infantry Chorus after the war. The chorus’ members initially were 35 men from the Army’s 372nd Glee Club, though later on men from other branches of the Armed Services and even civilians were included. The chorus performed a repertory of art songs, military songs, Caribbean folk music and traditional spirituals. Signing with Columbia Records in 1946, the chorus soon began a 10-year reign as Columbia’s top-performing group. Following that success, de Paur decided to discontinue the chorus in 1957, producing the de Paur Opera Gala in its place. In the early 1960s, however, de Paur formed the De Paur Chorus, which toured worldwide until it was disbanded in 1968.

Leonard de Paur, founder and conductor of the de Paur Infantry Chorus, directed his choruses in concert in Pekin three times, courtesy of the Pekin Concert Association.

Leonard de Paur brought his Infantry Chorus to Pekin twice – first during the PCA’s 1950-51 concert series, and again during the 1952-53 concert series. The de Paur Chorus also performed in Pekin during the PCA’s 1963-64 concert series. George Beres attended their concerts here and says they put on an extremely good show.

A number of fascinating and enlightening anecdotes of the de Paul Infantry Chorus’ visits to Pekin in 1950 and 1952-3 may be gleaned from an article from the Winter 1954 issue of “Etc.: A Review of General Semantics” (Vol. XI, No. 2, pages 144-147), a copy of which may be found in the archives of the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room. The article, entitled “Educating the Pekinese” and written by Clotye Murdock, associate editor of Ebony magazine, sheds a revealing and edifying light on the racial attitudes of the residents of the then-all-white city of Pekin. Included in Murdock’s article are the following excerpts from a letter by Leonard de Paur in which he sketched the chorus’ visits:

“We have a date coming up which suggests an interesting angle in the area of race relations. It involves a town highlighted by Life magazine about a year ago as a center of gambling and assorted other shocking vices. The town is Pekin, Illinois (near Peoria), where there is no discernible Negro population. Pekin has no decent hotel, and it is around this lack that the story revolves. We first performed in Pekin during 1950. In the routine booking of hotel accommodations it became evident that we would have to stay in Peoria, where we were housed at the Marquette Hotel when we earlier gave a concert for Bradley University. As a matter of general information, we advised the concert committee in Pekin of our plan to hotel in Peoria . . .

“Shortly thereafter, we received an invitation from the committee to stay in Pekin as house guests of some of the town’s leading citizens. We wanted to decline at first, because the routine of the road is designed for hotel living. We avoid house-guesting, because of the headaches involved in dispersal and collection, so we tried a gentle demurrer. They persisted, and assured me that all we need to do would be to arrive in the town. They would take over from that point. And they did just that.

“Our bus pulled up to the site of the concert to find a fleet of cabs ready to taxi us to our respective homes. A leading lawyer [Note: this was Grace United Methodist Church member Bernard F. Hoffman, 1912-1972, a founding member of the Pekin Concert Association who for most of his life was one of Pekin’s most active community leaders] had organized things and hovered by making sure things moved on schedule. Supper found us the guests of the Methodist Men’s Club. The post-concert reception was held at the YWCA. Next morning, it developed we were truly ‘guests’ – our money was absolutely no good, breakfast, lunch, and the like for 34 men notwithstanding. Along the streets we were lionized to the hilt, so much so that my curiosity boiled over. This was too good, too organized. I sought the answers.

“They were simple and enlightening. Peoria has had, as you know, its racial difficulties (schools, restaurants, etc.), and Pekin had them in even more virulent fashion. There was an organized effort made, some years ago, to keep Negroes out of Pekin, and the one family which dared move to the town finally gave up and fled. There have been no Negro residents since that time.

“But God bless ’em, there are people of conscience in Pekin, and this racial ‘void’ had obviously troubled them. Our appearance proved to be an opportunity for them to use our visit as a ‘demonstration of democracy’ project. I also suspect they wanted to see some colored folk close-up.

“The result was that this year when we were asked to return to Pekin, housing needs were oversubscribed. And the people involved are the ‘leadership’ element in the town – the thinking and acting and policy-forming group. As a symptom of what may well be an ever-widening turn of mind, I find it heartening . . . .”

The de Paur Infantry Chorus’ experiences of Pekin serve to illustrate what popular singer Billy Joel once said about some of the most beneficial qualities of music: “I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.

#bernard-f-hoffman, #clotye-murdock, #de-paur-chorus, #de-paur-infantry-chorus, #de-paur-opera-gala, #ebony-magazine, #educating-the-pekinese, #gehrigs-band, #george-beres, #leonard-de-paur, #pekin-concert-association, #pekin-municipal-band, #pekin-park-concert-band, #pekins-racist-reputation, #racism-in-pekins-past, #sundown-towns

A mailbag full of spam

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

It has now been more than eight years since the Pekin Public Library launched “From the History Room,” beginning with the April 23, 2011 column “Glee club not just a modern phenomenon” by Reference Assistant Linda Mace (about the Girls Glee Club mentioned in the 1915 Pekin Community High School catalog).

“From the History Room” started as a weekly newspaper column published in the Saturday edition of the Pekin Daily Times. Since July 21, 2015, an expanded or augmented version of each week’s new column is also posted every Friday at the Pekin Public Library’s “From the History Room” weblog (Fromthehistoryroom.wordpress.com).

Over the years our “mailbag” has been filled with a great deal of positive responses from people interested in matters of Pekin’s and Tazewell County’s history. Sometimes it’s a simple message of gratitude or praise, but we’ve also benefited from the historical insight of our readers. Several of the “From the History Room” weblog posts/columns were prompted either by queries from readers or by fascinating information that has been provided.

Nevertheless, there is one drawback to running an internet blog: by far the greatest proportion of “responses” to our history columns don’t come from real human beings at all (which is to say, they’re not really responses at all). As the author of “From the History Room,” one of my responsibilities is to check the blog’s Spam Folder to see if any genuine comments were mistakenly sent there. I must admit that Word Press has provided an effective and accurate spam-catcher. It’s very rare for me to find a genuine comment trapped there, and only once in the past four years have I had to delete a spam comment that somehow made it through the Word Press spam filter.

A wall of spam outside of the the Cannon Theatre in Littleton, Massachusetts, during the first day of ticket sales for Spamalot. PHOTO BY ‘FREEZELIGHT’ at https://www.flickr.com/photos/63056612@N00/155554663/

Scanning through the spam folder is usually a mild annoyance, but at times the emotion of annoyance yields to mild amusement as I read the bot-generated fake messages that spammers, hackers, and identity thieves hope to post in our weblog’s comment boxes. I thought I’d select a few so you might get an idea of what I get to read every week:

Probably our most prolific source of spam comes from “Tankli Tunkli,” which seems to be based in the nation of Georgia in the region of the Caucasus Mountains, between the Black and Caspian seas. I could understand if someone from the U.S. state of Georgia were interested in Tazewell County’s local history, but it’s highly unlikely that Georgian nationals care a whit about Nathan Cromwell, W. H Bates, or Everett Dirksen.

Many of Tankli Tunkli’s most recurrent spam messages sound pretty innocuous. Here are two examples that were sent using different Gmail accounts:

“I discovered your site from Google and also I need to say it was a fantastic find. Thanks!”

“Can you inform me what platform are you using on this website?”

I always have to roll my eyes at the thought that a spammer programmed a bot to spit out this question. But then, the bot is incapable of knowing that the Word Press blog it is spamming is a . . . Word Press blog.

We also get quite a lot of messages that are nothing but gibberish or a series of sentence fragments strung together. Here’s one that allegedly came from Buildyourownshedsite.wordpress.com:

“We were 3000 miles from your own home when my heart gave up as well as over 50% of it died and scarred over, put simply cannot pump ever again. As the latest member of Toy Story series, the movie tells the tale of how Woody leads his squad to obtain free of day-care center to obtain back to Andy. WHERE TO BUY Buying a guitar from your physical retail music store lets you.”

Then there’s the foreign-language gibberish, like this one from Udonax:

“Muito obrigado ao DEs artrite reumatГіide coceira e outros colaboradores neste fГіrum para informar turnГЄ cГ¬rculo maravilhoso da minha famГ¬lia do HavaГ¬ nos.”

The hard-working bots at Tankli Tunkli also spewed out a series of blessedly brief but unimaginatively dull spam messages, each one of them purportedly coming from different people, like so:

Chara: “Do you have any type of ideas for writing articles? That’s where I always battle and also I simply end up looking vacant screen for very long time.”

(Hey, Chara, I know the feeling . . .)

Isabell: “Your website has exceptional material. I bookmarked the website.”

(Thanks, Isabell – or should I say, “Tankli very much!”)

Percy: “I located your internet site from Google and I have to say it was a wonderful find. Thanks!”

(Ah, that one again . . .)

Bessie (Tankli): “Do you have any type of ideas for composing articles? That’s where I constantly battle and also I just finish up gazing vacant display for lengthy time.”

(You and Chara seem to have the same problem . . .)

Jean: “Hi there! Such a nice short article, thanks!”

(This one is pretty funny, because anyone who has read my history columns knows very well that not too many of them could be called “short.”)

Here’s another gibberish message from Vegetta777 Skywars. I think it’s one of my favorites, as it appears from it that Vegetta777’s claims regarding the tale of the San Diego tiger have in fact been disproved by the fact that a head of hair is a good sun-shield:

“Based on the latest polls, we’ve got a statistical dead heat in Iowa on all parties of the aisle. Finally, currently has the tale of the San Diego tiger. FALSE: Head of hair acts being a shield with the sun.”

Here’s a sample spam message that is a common variation of a message that appears in our spam folder every week. This one comes from King4d (Valtrex.news):

“Hey there! I know this is kinda off topic but I’d figured I’d ask. Would you be interested in exchanging links or maybe guest authoring a blog article or vice-versa? My blog goes over a lot of the same subjects as yours and I believe we could greatly benefit from each other. If you happen to be interested feel free to shoot me an e-mail. I look forward to hearing from you! Fantastic blog by the way!”

Well, King4d, that’s really “kinda” you to say and all, but really, writing weekly posts for “From the History Room” is quite enough for me.

I’ll wrap this up with just a few words of advice courtesy of our regular spammers. “Wilhelmina” wanted the readers of “From the History Room” to know that, “The Tiller. This assists to improve its stability.” On the other hand, “Sherlene” wants you to remember, “Tolerance – Do not over-trade your accounts.

Got that?

It should surprise no one that “Sherlene” is merely the fake handle of someone or something called “Nigerianforex.”

Nigerian For Ex. Of course.

Learn more about Pekin and Tazewell County history, read past columns, view slideshows and photo galleries, post comments and suggestions, and keep up to date on the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection at https://fromthehistoryroom.wordpress.com/. We love hearing from you – real people, that is, not spambots.

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Pekin’s pioneer teeth-pullers

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Where did Tazewell County’s pioneers go when they needed to have their teeth checked? The answer, somewhat surprisingly, is that they probably went to the nearest barber or wig-maker.

That fact can be gleaned by a book entitled, “Open Wide – This Won’t Hurt: The History of Dentistry in the Peoria Area,” published in 2000 a Peoria dentist named Curzio Paesani. A copy of Paesani’s book is included in the Local History Room collection of the Pekin Public Library.

Paesani traces the early history of dentistry in America to the landing of a fleet of ships on the shores of Britain’s American colonies on July 6, 1630. Among the English colonists who landed on that date were “three barber-surgeons who were known to treat teeth.” Long ago, barbers did a lot more than just haircuts. Paesani says colonial wig-makers were also known to work on teeth.

Barbers in America continued to wear several different hats even in the 1800s, though in that century formal standards of professionalism and training for dentists were developed. Directing our attention to our own neighborhood, Paesani relates on pages 2-3 that, “In the very early years, even before Peoria was a city, there was a barber pole at #8 Fulton Street, between Water and Washington streets, and on this pole was advertising for cupping and leeching. The owner of this shop was a barber by the name of Fredrich Buffie. He also did dentistry: pulling teeth, opening ‘gum boils’ and providing other services such as the use of leeches for general bleeding.”

The business listings of the 1861 Roots City Directory of Pekin, page 83, shows a single dentist: “DENNIS DR. J. W., Court, north side, 2d door west Capitol.” That means Dr. James Webster Dennis had his dentist office at about the spot that is today occupied by the western half of Pekin National Bank. Cross-referencing Dr. J. W. Dennis in the residential listing of the 1861 city directory, we find on page 22 that Dr. Charles J. Dennis worked in the same office as Dr. J. W. Dennis.

Listed in the 1861 Roots City Directory of Pekin were the brothers James and Charles Dennis, two of Pekin’s earliest dentists. They and their older brother Robert also practiced dentistry in Peoria.

A decade later, the business listings of the Sellers & Bates 1870-71 City Directory of Pekin now showed two dentist offices: those of C. J. Dennis and Albert H. Day. Day’s office was at the “nw cor Court square, over Steiner & Marx’ millinery story.” That’s very close to the former office of the Dennis dentistry practice, which has moved to “ss Court 3 d e Third (upstairs)” – that is, 309 Court St., approximately where the Pekin Times offices are today. The directory shows that Charles (“C. J.”) and J. W. Dennis were still working together as dentists. Six years later, however, Dr. James W. Dennis is listed at 309 Court St. without Charles, while Dr. Albert H. Day is still practicing dentistry at the same spot. A year after that, a third dentist, Dr. Henry H. Fitch, had set up his practice at 427 Court St.

Paesani provides the following survey of Pekin’s earliest dentists on page 77 of his book:

“In an 1870 business directory, an ad for dentists C.J. and J.W. Dennis promoted ‘artificial teeth.’ Pekin had a number of early dentists; one of the first was Dr. H.H. Fitch. He was born in Moor’s, New York, on April 10, 1846. He practiced dentistry in Lee, Massachusetts, moved to Pekin in December 1876, and opened his office. He died suddenly on May 2, 1895. Dentists in Pekin in 1905 included Drs. R.C. Horner, Albert Van Horne and R.C. Willett. Dr. Horner was president of the Peoria County Dental Society in 1906. Dr. Willett moved to Peoria to limit his practice to orthodontia. Other dentists who followed were Drs. C.E. Reed, W.A. Thrush and C.G. Cleveland. Dr. Horner retired in 1933 and moved to Washington, D.C. Dr. Cleveland practiced in Pekin until he was 80 years old.”

It should be noted, however, that the 1870 Pekin city directory has no Dennis dentistry advertisement for “artificial teeth.” Paesani was rather referring to an ad in the 1870 Peoria city directory, reproduced on page 7 of Paesani’s book, in which Dr. Robert G. Dennis advertised artificial teeth made of vulcanized rubber. The ad says the teeth would be made “to the beautiful style of work of which he and C. J. & J. W. DENNIS, Dentists, of Pekin, are the only manufacturers in Central Illinois.” Dr. Robert Dennis first appears in the Peoria city directories in 1859. Robert, Charles, and James were brothers, sons of Thomas James and Martha (Webster) Dennis of Pennsylvania.

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Tazewell’s unincorporated communities: Normandale

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Last week we took a look at the community of Schaeferville, situated just outside the city limits on Pekin’s south side. Another community in a similar situation is Normandale Addition, located at the southwest corner of Pekin right outside the city limits.

Normandale Reformed Church and a part of Normandale Addition is shown in this aerial photograph from John Drury’s 1954 “This is Tazewell County.”

Normandale is several decades older than Schaeferville. There’s no trace of Normandale in the 1910 Tazewell County plat book and atlas, but it’s there on the 1927 Pekin Zoning Plan map. Two years later, “NORMANDALE ADD. TO PEKIN” is drawn on the map of Cincinnati Township that appears on page 42 of the 1929 Tazewell County play book and atlas, where it is shown south of the old cemetery and the Quaker Oats plant. The same volume features a close-up map of Normandale Addition.

Normandale Addition is shown in this 1927 Zoning Map of Pekin.

In those days, Normandale consisted of two east-west streets, Fleischmann and Insull, connected by three short north-south streets, American, Quaker, and Karo. In 1927 the Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis Railroad tracks, making a northeasterly path toward Pekin, formed Normandale’s western boundary, while South Second Street was the eastern boundary. By 1929 the Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis tracks had become the Chicago-Midland Railroad – the tracks are still there, now the Illinois Midland Railroad.

“Normandale Addition to Pekin” is the shaded area just south of the Quaker Oats Company’s land in the 1929 plat map of Cincinnati Township in Tazewell County.

This map of Normandale Addition was included in the 1929 Plat Atlas of Tazewell County.

Since 1929, the community of Normandale has expanded to include Thornton Avenue as its northern boundary and Midland Street as its southern boundary, with and additional street, Virginia, linking Insull and Midland at the western boundary. Pekin today has expanded so that the city borders Normandale on the community’s north, east, and south sides, but Normandale still remains separate from the city (although a few lots along Second Street just south of Fleischmann are now within the city limits). Interestingly, for a while Normandale Addition bore the name of “Crescent,” as shown on the maps in Drury’s 1954 “This is Tazewell County” as well as later plat maps in the 1950s and 1960s — but that name apparently didn’t stick and the community is known as Normandale today.

Many of Normandale’s streets bear names that are derived from the community’s location adjacent to Pekin’s industrial district. Fleischmann was named for the old Fleischmann Yeast plant, Quaker was named for the Quaker Oats plant, American was named for American Distillery, Karo was named for Karo syrup which used to be made at the Corn Products Refining plant, and Midland was named for the railroad. Insull was named in honor of Commonwealth Edison’s founder Samuel Insull (1859-1938), because of the Commonwealth Edison plant at nearby Powerton.

Five businesses currently operate in Normandale: KDL Machining at 1917 S. Second St., Precision RC Hobbies at 1901 S. Second St., Herbal Soap Supples at 403 Midland, MacDuff’s tavern at 1703 S. Second St., and perhaps the best known of Normandale’s business, Cranwill’s Drive In at 1713 S. Second St., which originally was an A & W Drive In.

The community is also the home of Normandale Reformed Church at 2001 S. Second St. The church was established in 1945 as a daughter church of Pekin’s Second Reformed Church.

#american-distillery, #commonwealth-edison, #corn-products, #cranwills-drive-in, #crescent, #fleischmann-yeast, #illinois-midland-railroad, #karo-syrup, #normandale, #normandale-addition, #normandale-reformed-church, #pekin-a-w, #powerton, #quaker-oats, #samuel-insull, #tazewell-county-unincorporated-communities