Tazewell’s unincorporated communities: Life on Spring Lake’s shores

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Over the last two weeks we have taken a look at the Spring Lake Township communities of Talbott and Parkland. This week we will head down to the eastern shore of the eight-and-a-half-mile-long lake that gives the township its name, so we can spotlight the communities along Spring Lake’s shoreline.

Residences line much of the eastern shore of Spring Lake, as shown in this detail from the 2017 plat map of Spring Lake Township.

Spring Lake itself is under Illinois Department of Natural Resources management. Most of the land along the lake’s eastern shore, and a lot of the western shore, is a state park – the Spring Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area. In the alluvial plain of the Illinois River, the lake is relatively shallow, at depth of about 10 feet. It formed naturally long ago when the Illinois River changed its course, but is fed by springs (hence the name, Spring Lake) which keep the water from stagnating.

The western portion of Spring Lake Township in the vicinity of Spring Lake, as it appeared in the 1929 Tazewell County atlas. Note the three country schools, including one on the west side of the lake.

This detail of the 1967 plat map of Spring Lake Township shows the beginnings of Lakewood Terrace Subdivision in Section 2 of the township.

A string of subdivisions along the east shore of Spring Lake are shown in this detail of the 1982 plat map of Spring Lake Township.

Over time several communities have been established on or near Spring Lake’s eastern shore. Today there are two primary stretches of shoreline where people have made their homes. One of them is a grouping of homes that extends in the area along Maple Island Road and Hoff Subdivision Road. The other is further south down the eastern shore – the subdivisions of Lakewood Terrace and Smith Rakestraw. Though the Spring Lake area is chiefly devoted to fishing and hunting, in more recent times a vineyard, known as Mockingbird Vineyards, at 3511 Spring Lake Road in rural Manito, has been established on land approximately between Lakewood Terrace and Smith Rakestraw.

The first community to be established along Spring Lake was the eponymously named unincorporated town of Spring Lake, which once existed on land atop a bluff above the southernmost tip of the lake, along the Tazewell-Mason county line.

The plat of the vanished town of Spring Lake was published in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County.” The town failed not many years later, and the former town site has since been reclaimed by the forest.

The locations of the vanished towns of Spring Lake and Spring Garden are indicated in this detail of an 1864 wall plat map of Tazewell County.

The town of Spring Lake is shown in this detail of an 1873 plat map of Spring Lake Township. By the time the 1891 Tazewell County atlas was published, the town had failed and disappeared.

The late Fred Soady, in his 1979 “Preliminary Master List of Settlements in Tazewell County, Illinois,” describes the erstwhile town of Spring Lake as the “southern part of Sand Prairie settlement along Illinois River.” According to Soady, this settlement had its own post office from 1856 to 1864. In addition, Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” page 637, says, “The town of Spring Lake, which is located on sec. 16, 22 north, 7 west, was laid out May 15, 1862, by Thomas G. Conant.

The town of Spring Lake appears on old county plat maps of Spring Lake Township in 1864 and 1873, and a plat of the town itself was published in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County,” page 132. However, the town failed not long after the publication of Chapman’s Tazewell County history – the map of Spring Lake Township in the 1891 “Plat Book of Tazewell County” shows no trace of Spring Lake town. In that atlas, the land that had once been the town is shown as the property of the Pekin & Spring Lake Hunting & Fishing Club. Today the former site of Spring Lake town has been reclaimed by the forest – the only thing there now is a short winding stretch of State Park Road.

As we noted before, Spring Lake Township affords many opportunities for fishing and hunting. The old Pekin & Spring Lake Hunting & Fishing Club was established to take advantage of those opportunities. At one time most of the land around Spring Lake was the club’s property. The club’s main club house and hotel – which once hosted notables such as Presidents Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland, and, so it is reputed, even Chicago gangster Al Capone – was located at the northern end of Hoff Subdivision Road (County Road 4850E), as shown on the 1910 plat map of Spring Lake Township. The spot was originally called Marshall’s Landing. Betting on horses was another popular past time at Marshall’s Landing at the nearby Radville Racetrack – the track appears on the 1891 plat map of Spring Lake Township.

After the Pekin & Spring Lake Hunting & Fishing Club disbanded, the State of Illinois erected the Spring Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area in its place.

The old club house of the Pekin & Spring Lake Hunting & Fishing Club hosted notables such as President Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland, and was also, it is said, one of Chicago gangster Al Capone’s favorite places to visit. PHOTO FROM THE TAZEWELL COUNTY HISTORICAL STORYMAP

This detail from the 1910 plat map of Spring Lake Township shows the location of the old Spring Lake Club House and hotel.

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Tazewell’s unincorporated communities: Talbott

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Continuing our series on the unincorporated communities in Tazewell County, this week we’ll look at another of the communities of Spring Lake Township. As we noted last time, Spring Lake Township is a large, sparsely populated area – it’s long been known for farming, fishing, and hunting – with no incorporated municipalities. However, there are several unincorporated communities (subdivisions, rather) in the township.

While Parkland is the oldest surviving community in Spring Lake Township, it’s also the smallest. The largest community in Spring Lake Township is Talbott, a subdivision on both sides of the Manito Blacktop in Section 21 in the northern part of the township. Bordering Talbott Subdivision on the east is Winfield Estates (25 homes on the Winfield Drive cul-de-sac), while not quite a mile to the northeast on the north side of Manito Road is the Country View Estates subdivision.

The lots in the subdivisions of Talbott, Winfield Estates, and Country View Estates are shown in this detail of a 2017 plat map of Spring Lake Township.

The subdivisions of Talbott, Winfield Estates, and Country View Estates are shown in this detail of a 1993 plat map of Spring Lake Township.

Taken together, the subdivisions and homes in Sections 21, 22, and 15 along this stretch of the Manito Blacktop virtually make up an unincorporated village, and might even have enough population to officially incorporate if a majority of their residents voted to do so. Talbott Subdivision is the home of Spring Lake Elementary School (Spring Lake Central Consolidated School District 606), located at 13650 N. Manito Road.

Talbott’s southern border is Sky Ranch Road, which runs east-west. The other east-west streets in Talbott are Spruce and Myrtle streets, while Walnut, Laurel, and Cedar streets, and of course Manito Road, all run north-south. Most of Talbott’s streets have “tree” names, and those names can serve as a clue to the reason the subdivision is named Talbott. The origin of those street names might be guessed by any family in the area who has ever taken a drive down Illinois Route 29 a little way past South Pekin to 14143 Christmas Tree Road, to select a Christmas tree at Talbott’s Christmas Tree Farm.

One of the members of the Talbott family, which has operated their Christmas Tree Farm since 1947, was the owner of the land on which Talbott Subdivision was platted and laid out. According to the Talbott Christmas Tree Farm’s official website, the tree farm was established by Earl Talbott, who planted pine trees on a stretch of barren, sandy soil on land owned by his father Glen Talbott. “When Earl’s brother, Bob, returned from the Navy, the brothers began to cultivate the trees into Christmas trees with help from their cousin, Lacey Talbott,” the website says.

The future site of Talbott Subdivision is indicated as the land of “R. V. Talbot” on the west side of the Manito Blacktop in this detail from a 1955 plat of Spring Lake Township. The site of the grade school at Talbott is also shown.

Talbott Subdivision is marked off on both sides of the Manito Blacktop in this detail of a 1967 plat of Spring Lake Township.

An old 1955 Tazewell County plat book in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection shows “R. V. Talbott” – i.e. Ray Verne Talbott (1890-1987) – as the owner of the Talbott Subdivision land, along with the farmland on the south side of Sky Ranch Road. Ray was one of Glen Talbott’s brothers. It wasn’t too long after 1955 that the subdivision of Talbott was established. The next plat book in our collection, from 1967, shows the subdivision in existence with just two streets, and a sliver of land on the north side of Sky Ranch Road still in Ray’s name. By the 1990s, however, after Ray’s death, that land too had been subdivided to allow for more homes to be built.

As Spring Lake Township’s largest community and the location of a grade school, one might expect Talbott to be the home of the township’s offices. To find the Spring Lake Township town hall, however, one must drive another two miles south down the Blacktop, then turn right on Townline Road. The town hall and other township facilities are a group of whitewashed buildings on the south side of the road, and a just little further up the road is Spring Lake Missionary Church – the Spring Lake Township Cemetery is located right behind the church.

Even though Spring Garden was gone by 1910, the Tazewell County atlas that year included this plat of the former town. Lot 1 is the location of Spring Lake Township Cemetery, and Oak Street is today’s Spring Garden Road.

Old county plat atlases show that the Spring Lake town hall has been at the same spot since about 1870, back when the church and cemetery were in the (now defunct) unincorporated town of Spring Garden. The cemetery, the church, and the town hall are almost the only trace today of Spring Garden – except for the name of the north-south road that meets Townline Road at the church: Spring Garden Road. Lacking a railroad depot in those days, Spring Garden never really took off as a town, and was completely bypassed with the construction of the Manito Blacktop, a new road that enabled Talbott to take root and grow after Spring Garden had dried up and withered.

This detail from an 1864 wall plat map of Tazewell County shows the vanished town of Spring Garden in Section 5. Talbott Subdivision would later be established in Section 21.

This detail of a 1910 plat of Spring Lake Township shows the area where Talbott Subdivision later would be established in Section 21, as well as the former site of Spring Garden in Section 5. A church, the cemetery, and the Spring Lake Township hall are still at the same site today.

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Tazewell’s unincorporated communities: Parkland

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Tazewell County’s westernmost township, Spring Lake Township, is the largest township in the county – but is also among the most sparsely populated. In fact, Spring Lake Township is one of the few townships in the county to have no incorporated communities – no incorporated cities, towns, or even villages.

Spring Lake Township today has a number of unincorporated communities or subdivisions, including Parkland, Talbott, Lakewood Terrace, and Smith-Rakestraw. The oldest of them, Parkland, has the smallest population of the four, having dwindled to a farm and a few homes.

Hainesville, later renamed Parkland, is shown in this detail of an 1864 wall plat map of Tazewell County. The village was established as a railroad station on land owned by Benjamin S. Prettyman, and therefore was originally known as “Prettyman.”

The plat of Hainesville, showing a store, school, and nine homes, was published in the 1891 atlas of Tazewell County.

John Drury’s “This is Tazewell County, Illinois” (1954), page 297, offers this description of Parkland:

“Only community of Spring Lake Township is Parkland, which in 1950 had a population of 20. It is located southwest of Pekin on the Chicago & Illinois Midland Railroad and is served by the post office in nearby Manito (Mason County). Among the first settlers of Spring Lake Township were the McLeashes, Hibbards and Claytons. Another early settler was Joseph Offut, who built a log cabin on the border of Spring Lake in the southwest corner of the township.”

In this detail of an 1873 plat map of Spring Lake Township, Hainesville is shown to be the location of Spring Lake School House No. 6.

By 1891 the former land of Benjamin S. Prettyman had passed to the ownership of A. Bateson, as shown in this detail of an 1891 plat map of Spring Lake Township.

Parkland started out in the 1800s as the small pioneer farming settlement of Prettyman, named for Benjamin S. Prettyman on whose farmland the settlement had been established. However, on Sept. 7, 1860, the settlement, which by then was designed as a railroad depot, was formally platted as “Hainesville.” Both the Prettyman and Haines families were early pioneer settlers of Pekin, and Benjamin S. Prettyman, who held great swaths of land in Tazewell County, served Pekin as city attorney and was later elected mayor of Pekin.

Even though the community’s name was Hainesville, the settlement’s Post Office address throughout the latter 1800s continued to be designated as “Prettyman.” In 1899, however, Hainesville was renamed “Parkland” – and this time the U.S. Postal Service went along with the name change. Parkland had its own post office until 1918.

Hainesville was renamed Parkland in 1899. This plat of Parkland from the 1910 atlas of Tazewell County two grain elevators, a train depot, a post office and general store, and the old Hainesville school house.

Parkland, formerly Hainesville, and its environs are shown in this detail of a 1910 plat map of Spring Lake Township.

The official plat of Hainesville (Parkland) resembles a checkerboard, with four streets going northwest to southeast (Prairie, Main, Highland, and South) and four intersecting streets going southwest to northeast (First, Second, Third, and Fourth, with the numbers starting at the street along the railroad). There is no trace of most of those streets today. Third Street is today called Parkland Road, while Prairie Street is Spring Lake Road. Aerial photographs today show evidence of a faint trail along what was, or would have been, Fourth Street, and an unpaved footpath exists today along the track of South Street.

The railroad on Parkland’s southeast border still operates today, but it has been long since Parkland has had a depot.

Parkland and its environs, from a 1929 Spring Lake Township plat map.

Parkland, shown here in this 1954 aerial photograph, is the oldest unincorporated community in Spring Lake Township. Originally named Prettyman, it was formally platted as a railroad depot in 1860 and named Hainesville, then renamed Parkland in 1899.

Parkland today, shown in this Google Maps satellite view, has only two streets, a farm, and a few homes.

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Tazewell’s unincorporated communities: Lilly

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Among Tazewell County’s older unincorporated communities is the tiny and quiet farming hamlet of Lilly, located about two miles from Mackinaw’s village limits and less than two miles from the eastern border of Tazewell County.

John Drury’s “This is Tazewell County, Illinois” (1954), page 210, offers this brief description of Lilly: “Near the eastern border of the county lies Lilly, still another community in Mackinaw Township. It has a population of 90. Lily (sic) is on the New York Central System and is served by the post office at nearby Mackinaw.”

The land of William Lilly, from whom the village of Lilly got its name, is shown just west of town in this detail of an 1873 Tazewell County plat map of Mackinaw Township.

Today the railroad is no more, and Lilly’s population is even lower than it was in 1954. Lilly chiefly owes its existence to the railroad, having started out as a stop along the old Indianapolis, Bloomington & Western Railway, whose tracks connecting Pekin with Indianapolis were laid down in 1869.

That the construction of the railroad is what brought Lilly into being is reflected on old plat maps of the county. There’s no trace of Lilly on an 1864 wall plat map of Tazewell County, the spot then being designated as undifferentiated “Lots.” But Lilly was there by the time the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County” was published. The railroad was built between those dates.

Lilly and environs in 1891.

The hamlet apparently was named after William Lilly (1822-1894), a Maryland-born settler of Welsh descent whose farm is shown about a half-mile west of Lilly on the 1873 plat of Mackinaw Township. No one with the name of Lilly owned any farms in Mackinaw Township in 1864, but that year “W. Lilly” (i.e., Lilly’s namesake) and a “J. Lilly” are shown owning adjoining farms about six miles south of Lilly in Little Mackinaw Township. A short biographical sketch of William Lilly may be found on page 518 of Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County, Illinois.” A longer sketch is on page 1039 of the “Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Tazewell County.” William Lilly is buried with his wife Elizabeth and sons Joseph and William in Lilly Cemetery, located at the southeast corner of the intersection of Fast Ave. and Lilly Road (in the southeastern extremity of Lilly).

This 1891 plat shows the small hamlet of Lilly, named for Tazewell County pioneer William Lilly (1822-1894) and established circa 1870 as a train depot near William Lilly’s farm. The spot first attracted travelers — such as Abraham Lincoln — in the 1830s, who would overnight at an inn there on the Old Peoria Road.

Pioneer farmers lived in and near the future site of Lilly well before the arrival of the railroad. Until a tragic fire in May 2014, Lilly’s most famous landmark was the old Lilly Inn, first erected in the 1830s to serve travelers on the Old Peoria Road that linked Peoria, Mackinaw, Danvers, and Bloomington. Lawyers and judges in the Eighth Judicial Circuit – including Abraham Lincoln – would sometimes stop overnight at that inn, some two or three decades before Lilly was founded and named.

Lilly and environs as of 1910.

An enlarged plat of Lilly in an 1891 atlas of the county shows the hamlet with only two east-west streets (William and Broadway – today, roughly, Killion and Winkler) and two north-south streets (Lindsey and Hay – today, roughly, Killion and Lilly). The plat also shows the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad (formerly the I. B. & W) slicing east-west through the heart of Lilly, with the depot on the north side of the track and a mill and grain elevator on the south side. A 1910 plat of Lilly looks much the same as the 1891 plat, the only differences being the addition of a second railroad track – that of the Illinois Traction System – and the Zorn Grain Co. on the sound end of the hamlet. By 1929, however, the Zorn Grain Co.’s property had become the location of the Lilly Christian Church.

This 1929 plat of Lilly shows further changes in the village.

Lilly had always benefited from the traffic and commerce that moved between Mackinaw and Bloomington, and the coming of the railroad was an even greater boon. With the advent of the automobile in the early 20th century, however, as well as the shift of traffic from Old Peoria Road (Fast Ave. and Runyon Road) to Illinois Route 9, traffic and trade bypassed Lilly, which consequently has remained small and out of the way. No churches or businesses are currently located in Lilly, but the Mackinaw Valley Vineyard on Route 9 is just a mile from Lilly to the south.

Lilly and environs in 1929.

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