On the air in 1939

By Jared Olar
Library reprint

Long before people looked to the Internet and television as a convenient source of entertainment and news throughout the day, people tuned in their radios to their favorite stations to get local and international news, enjoy music and shows, listen to a religious program, or catch a broadcast of a baseball or basketball game.

While the Golden Age of Radio’s well-loved dramas, serials, and comedy shows are a thing of the past, radio stations are still important sources of news, music, sports, or talk shows.

In our area, the radio station that has been on the air longer than any other is 5,000-watt WMBD (1470 AM), which broadcasts day and night out of Peoria. WMBD began broadcasting in 1927. Long-time listeners will remember past announcers such as Milton Budd, Bob Carlton, and John Williams, while not all that long ago central Illinois farmers regularly tuned in at noon for Colleen Callahan’s farm news program.

1470 WMBD also has been the home of Bradley University basketball for more than six decades, with Dave Snell doing the play-by-play for a quarter of a century. WMBD also carried St. Louis Cardinals baseball games until 2014, when the Cardinals games were moved to WMBD’s sister station WIRL (1290 AM). As for news and news talk shows, WMBD was a CBS affiliate until 2001, when it became a Fox News Radio affiliate.

The station has had a news-talk format for several years, but those who are middle-aged and older will remember when WMBD played “adult contemporary” or “easy listening” music. But perhaps the best way to identify a true long-time WMBD listener is if you remember the morning news program announcer Bob Carlton reading the daily school lunch menu for the students – Carlton always concluded with the lilting tagline, “And you’re gonna get a cookie!”

The front cover of “WMBD Radio Station Personalities” from 199.

The introductory, dedicatory page of “WMBD Radio Station Personalities” (1939)

Those who wish for a glimpse into WMBD during the Golden Age of Radio may visit the Pekin Public Library and ask to see the library’s vintage archive copy of a printed album published in 1939, entitled “Radio Station WMBD Personalities – Peoria, Illinois.” Compiled in 1938, the album is filled with photographs detailing the radio station’s operations and facilities, and highlighting the station staff, guests, and celebrities whose voices were heard on WMBD back then. In those days the station’s studios were in the Alliance Life Building in downtown Peoria (now the Commerce Bank Building, one of the most beautiful buildings in Peoria’s skyline).

Among the photos in this album are two that recall the catastrophic tornado that wiped out much of South Pekin in 1938. One of those two photos shows WMBD news announcer Gomer Bath interviewing tornado survivor Verna Houston from her hospital bed at Pekin Hospital. Verna, who was only a child, had been orphaned by the tornado.

WMBD news commentator Gomer Bath interviews Verna Houston at Pekin Hospital following the 1938 South Pekin tornado which had killed Verna’s parents.

At left, Gomer Bath reports on the murder trial of James Crabb, accused of shooting his new bride to death in March 1938. At right, Jack Brickhouse interviews Tazewell County State’s Attorney Louis Dunkelberg, South Pekin Mayor S. C. Draper, and other officials following the devastating tornado that destroyed most of South Pekin in 1938.

Among the station’s personalities featured in this album was a man whose name is well known: Jack Brickhouse (1916-1998), who called play-by-play for both the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Cubs. A Peoria-native, Brickhouse began his radio career at WMBD in 1934, when he was only 18 years old. In 1940 he was hired by WGN in Chicago to broadcast the White Sox and Cubs games on the radio, then moved to WGN-TV in 1948.

The back cover of the Pekin library’s copy of “Radio Station WMBD Personalities” is covered with the signatures of station staff – Brickhouse’s John Hancock is in the upper left corner of the back cover.

Jack Brickhouse, best remembered for his broadcasts and telecasts of Chicago Cubs baseball games, got his start in the radio business at WMBD in Peoria in 1934, when he was only 18 years old.

The signature of WMBD sports broadcaster Jack Brickhouse is among those of WMBD staff found on the back cover of the Pekin Public Library’s copy of “Radio Station WMBD Personalities — Peoria, Illinois 1939.”

#1470-wmbd, #1938-south-pekin-tornado, #alliance-life-building, #bob-carlton, #chicago-and-illinois-midland-railroad, #chicago-cubs, #chicago-white-sox, #colleen-callahan, #jack-brickhouse, #james-crabb, #john-williams, #louis-dunkelberg, #milton-budd, #verna-houston, #wgn, #wmbd, #wmbd-radio

Tazewell’s unincorporated communities: Dillon

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

As we continue our series on Tazewell County’s unincorporated communities, this week we go to Dillon Township for a visit to one of the county’s oldest communities: the village of Dillon.

The village and the township of Dillon bear the name of the Dillon family, who, as we have told before in this column space, were among the very first pioneers to arrive in the future Tazewell County during the years immediately after Illinois became a state in 1818. That year North Carolina native Nathan Dillon (1793-1868) brought his family overland from Ohio to Sangamon County, first dwelling on Sugar Creek south of Springfield. Dillon then struck out north, arriving in the future Tazewell County in 1823 and putting down roots in Section 1 of what later became Dillon Township.

Nathan Dillon has traditionally been called Tazewell County’s first white settler, but he arrived here a year after William Blanchard (1797-1883) of Fondulac Township and long after the French fur traders of Opa Post in Creve Coeur. The confusion over who was the first settler arose from the haste with which Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 Tazewell County history was compiled and edited – Chapman didn’t learn that Blanchard preceded Dillon until the printing of his book was underway, so Chapman’s book at first states that Dillon was the earliest, then later on corrects and apologizes for that error.

That error made it into John Drury’s 1954 “This is Tazewell County,” which includes this brief description of the village of Dillon on page 95:

“Another pioneer village of Tazewell County is Dillon, which today has a population of 60. It was platted in 1836 and at first was called Liberty. Dillon is the only community in Dillon Township, with a present population of 602. The first settler of the township, Nathan Dillon, was also the first settler of Tazewell County (sic). He arrived in 1821 (sic) and laid out a farm just north of the Mackinaw River.”

Situated on Springfield Road at the northern boundary of Dillon Township, the village of Dillon consists of about 30 homes in Section 3 of the township, a few miles to the west of where Nathan Dillon had built his homestead. According to late local historian Fred Soady, Dillon started out as a stage coach stop and a post office along Springfield Road, being known simply as Mackinaw Settlement from 1826 to 1828. Though formally platted as “Liberty” on June 18, 1836, people in the area preferred to call the village by the name of the Dillon family who were so numerous in the area, so Liberty was renamed and replatted as Dillon.

The unincorporated village of Dillon, seat of Dillon Township, was originally platted as “Liberty” in 1836. Shown here is a copy of the original plat of Liberty, recorded June 18, 1836. IMAGE COURTESY THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Plat of Dillon from the 1871 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County.” Note that it is identical to the 1836 plat of Liberty.

The original plat of Liberty was a neat grid of north-south and east-west streets: Farm, Locust, and Cherry streets run east-west, while Walnut, Main, and Apple streets run north-south. The plat of Dillon that was published in the 1873 Tazewell County atlas has the same layout of lots and streets, but the 1873 plat only identifies the north-south streets (with the same names as the 1836 plat of Liberty) and leaves the east-west streets unnamed. Dillon today has three east-west streets (Townline Road, Peach Street, and Washington Street) and three north-south streets (Springfield Road, Apple Street, and Peach Street). Peach Street starts at Springfield Road as an east-west street but curves northward – on the west side of Springfield Road, Peach Street becomes Dillon Road.

Plat of Dillon from the 1891 Tazewell County Atlas.

Plat of Dillon from the 1910 Tazewell County Atlas.

Plat of Dillon from the 1929 Tazewell County Atlas.

The plat of Dillon in the 1891 Tazewell County atlas shows that the village then had a school, general store, a blacksmith shop, a livery stable, and a Methodist Episcopal church. According to Soady, Dillon had a post office until 1901. By 1910 the village had added another blacksmith shop, lost its post office, but otherwise had not changed – but the 1929 plat of Dillon shows only the Methodist Episcopal church. The Methodist church isn’t there any longer, but today there is a congregation of the Church of God (Anderson, Ind.) denomination called New Hope Fellowship at 20639 Peach St. in Dillon.

Dillon is also the seat of township government. The township hall, which serves as the only polling place for the township, is located at 10680 Peach St. in Dillon.

The villages of Dillon and Danforth (Tullamore) are shown in this detail of an 1864 wall plat map of Tazewell County.

Dillon is shown near the northern border of Dillon Township in this detail of a map from the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County.”

Dillon is shown at the northern border of Dillon Township in the detail of a map from the 1891 Tazewell County Atlas.

Dillon is shown at the northern border of Dillon Township in the detail of a map from the 1910 Tazewell County Atlas.

Dillon is shown at the northern border of Dillon Township in the detail of a map from the 1929 Tazewell County Atlas.

#dillon, #liberty, #mackinaw-settlement, #nathan-dillon, #new-hope-fellowship, #tazewell-county-unincorporated-communities, #william-blanchard

Tazewell’s unincorporated communities: Winkel

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Having reviewed the history of Boynton Township last week, and spotlighted that township’s only community, the village of Boynton, this week we’ll move to another sparsely populated rural township in southern Tazewell County – Malone Township.

While Boynton Township has no incorporated communities and only one unincorporated community, Malone Township today no longer has any real, living communities at all, but continues to be dotted with farms. Current township plat maps continue to mark the site of Malone’s one unincorporated community, the hamlet of Winkel in Section 23, but Winkel – which was never very large – is now hardly more than a name on the map. Winkel is – or was – about a half-mile east of Illinois Route 29, but all that is left of the hamlet now are a few barns, two or three nearby farmsteads, and the name of the road it was on: Winkel Road.

This aerial view of Winkel was published in John Drury’s 1954 “This is Tazewell County.”

Things were very different some six or seven decades ago. This is how John Drury in his 1954 “This is Tazewell County,” page 227, described Winkel:

“A small hamlet in Malone Township is Winkel, located in the southern part of the county. It is on the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroad and near the hamlet is State 29. Winkel is served by the post office at Delavan. It is the only community in Malone Township, which has a population of 383. The township was first settled in 1850. One of its earliest residents was Dr. Hubbard S. Latham, who served as the township’s first justice of the peace.”

The 1864, 1873, and 1891 plat atlases of the county show no trace of Winkel. The hamlet first appears in old Tazewell County plat atlases in 1910, but the late local historian Fred Soady, in his 1979 “Preliminary Master List of Settlements in Tazewell County,” claimed the site was first settled about 1840, and noted that it became a station on the St. Louis, Peoria & Northern Railroad in 1879. (However, the date of 1840 is too early, as we shall see further on.) Winkel got its name because it was established on farmland owned by German settler Christopher Winkel (1833-1908), who is buried in St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery in rural Delavan.

The plat of the village of Winkel was published in the 1910 Tazewell County atlas. At the time, Winkel had a general store and post office, grain elevators, a railroad depot, and a few homes.

By the time Winkel first shows up in the 1910 plat atlas, the St. Louis, Peoria & Northern had become the Chicago & Alton. In 1910 the little hamlet had one north-south street, Ehret Street, and three east-west streets, Winkel Road, First Street, and Second Street. In the past Winkel had two grain elevators, a train depot, a general store, a grade school, and a few homes. According to Soady, from 1898 to 1913 Winkel had its own post office.

Eventually the days of passenger train service came to an end, and the Chicago & Alton Railroad became the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroad. With the loss of its train station, Winkel slowly withered away. By the early 1980s, however, the G M & O at Winkel had become the Illinois Central. Old plat books show that the tracks were pulled up between 1982 and 1987. Over time, Winkel’s country schoolhouse, general store, and grain elevators all closed down and have long since vanished, along with the homes of those who once lived there. The faint track of the old rail bed is still visible on Google Map’s satellite image, but nothing remains of Winkel’s streets.

The village of Winkel and the Malone Township hall are both shown in this detail of the plat map of Malone Township from the 1910 Tazewell County atlas.

As mentioned above, Malone Township was not settled until 1850, at which time the township’s land was still a part of Delavan Township. Charles. C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” page 526, explained that this part of the county took so long to be settled because most of the area was a marsh that had to be drained so pioneers could farm the land and build homes. But four years after receiving its first settler, in Nov. 1854, Malone was organized as a separate township.

Although Winkel was Malone Township’s only community, the township’s seat of government was never in Winkel. Rather, the township hall has been located at 3000 Shay Road, at the corner of Shay and Hamann roads, at least since 1910, the same year Winkel is first shown on the map in the old county atlases. The hall is still at that location today, and it serves as the polling place for the voters of Malone Township. The 2010 U.S. Census shows the township’s population has fallen to just 220 people in 95 households.

The Malone Township hall is located at 3000 Shay Road, at the corner of Shay and Hamann roads, a few miles northwest of the site of the former village of Winkel.

#christopher-winkel, #malone-township, #malone-township-hall, #tazewell-county-unincorporated-communities, #winkel

Tazewell’s unincorporated communities: Boynton

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

In highlighting Tazewell County’s unincorporated communities, recently we saw that, despite its size, Spring Lake Township has no incorporated communities but instead has several unincorporated communities and subdivisions. Boynton Township, in great contrast, not only has no incorporated communities but has only one unincorporated community: the tiny village of Boynton.

The Boynton town hall, in the village of Boynton, as it appeared in 1954.

John Drury’s 1954 “This is Tazewell County,” page 27, had this to say about the village and township of Boynton:

“In the south portion of the county lies the small village of Boynton, only community in Boynton Township. It is served by the post office at nearby Delavan. Boynton Township has a population of 450. It was organized in 1854 and an old historical work says that it ‘derived its name from an individual in the East, a personal friend of one of the pioneer settlers.’ Recorded as the first settler of the township is Joseph Grout (sic), who came in 1839.”

In fact, the township’s first settler was Joseph “Grant,” not “Grout.” Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” page 398, presents this overview of the early history of Boynton Township:

“This township is situated in the southern portion of Tazewell county. In point of acres under cultivation it is not surpassed by neighboring townships, and when we take into consideration the fact that Boynton, but a quarter of a century ago, contained but little tillable land, the result is marvellous. It was attained only through unflagging energy on the part of its enterprizing citizens and an admirable system of tile drainage. The first settlement was made by Joseph Grant on Section 9, in 1839; the first birth, in 1842, was Albert, son of Robert Houston, who settled here about the year 1840. Benjamin Roe also came during that year, G. W. Clamon located 6 years later. Among those who settled prior to 1852, we find Samuel Falor, John Blair, Andrew Kerr, and Wm. Benton. In 1850 Wm. Milner, Charles and Richard Holden and John T. Scates, Wm. and Peyton Alexander, John Jacobus and others. In 1854 the township was organized and the following persons, some of whom are now prominent in the affairs of the township, met at the residence of James Huston as a committee on organization: James Crawford, Wm. Wooters, Daniel Bennett, Ira Judy, Wm. Burton, John T. Scates, John Jacobus, Philip Wade and others were present. The majority of the citizens assembled on this occasion declared in favor of township organization. Many were the names suggested with which to christen their township, in consequence of which a ballot was taken. After the lapse of considerable time spent in discussion, it finally received the name of Boynton, in honor of an Eastern gentleman of that name.

“There is a post-office kept in the center of the township. Mail is received three times a week. The character of the schools and school-houses are good, and every improvement in the township adds its testimony to the enterprise, thrift and culture of the people. . . .”

The seeds of the village of Boynton — a grocery store and four residences — are shown in this detail of an 1864 Tazewell County wall plat map.

Regarding the origin of the township’s name, the Illinois State Archives’ online “Tazewell County Fact Sheet” mentions that the township was organized in Nov. 1854 as “Boyington Township,” but at some unknown later date the name was shortened to “Boynton.”

Dotted with farms, this rural township’s population has fallen since 1954 – the 2010 U.S. Census found only 275 souls living in 94 households in Boynton Township. The population being low, the entire township has but one voting precinct. The township’s polling place is Boynton Township’s town hall – the seat of township government – located in the village of Boynton at 1979 Townhall Road, at the southwest corner of the intersection of Townhall and Boynton roads.

The village of Boynton did not yet not exist at the time that the 1864 and 1873 plat maps of Boynton Township were drawn. The 1864 wall plat map, however, does show a grocery store and four other structures at or very close to the Boynton-Townhall Road intersection.

That was the seed of the village of Boynton, which is shown on the 1891 Boynton Township plat map. By that time the village boasted not only the town hall but also a school, a post office, a grocery store, a black smith shop, a Methodist Episcopal church, and three or four residences.

These days, however, Rawlings Trailer Sales, Rawlings Arena, and H G & N Fertilizers are probably the most noticeable establishments for travelers through Boynton Township, on account of their location at the Route 122 interchange on Interstate 155.

At the time that the 1891 Tazewell County atlas was published, the village of Boynton boasted a grocery store, a post office, a blacksmith shop, a Methodist church, a school, the township hall, and three or four residences.

#boyington-township, #boynton, #boynton-township, #h-g-and-n-fertilizers, #joseph-grant, #rawlings-arena, #rawlings-trailer-sales, #tazewell-county-unincorporated-communities

Tazewell’s unincorporated communities: Stoehrs

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

As we continue our series on Tazewell County’s unincorporated communities, this week we return to Cincinnati Township to visit a location that is now little more than a name on the map: the former rural village of Stoehrs.

Stoehrs is only a ghost of its former self today, but it still appears on recent maps, such as this 2017 Cincinnati Township plat map.

Stoehrs today is the location of the grain elevators of Tremont Cooperative Grain. At one time Stoehrs was the location of a post office and a school.

Stoehrs, sometimes called Stoehrs Station, is straight west of Midway, being situated adjacent to the intersection of Wagonseller and Garman roads in northwestern Cincinnati Township. John Drury’s 1954 “This is Tazewell County,” page 61, offers this brief comment on Stoehrs:

“Another community in Cincinnati Township is Stoehrs. It is a small village on the Chicago & Illinois Midland Railroad and lies just northwest of the Pekin Airport. The village is served by the post office at Pekin.”

In his 1979 “Preliminary Master List of Settlements in Tazewell County, Illinois,” the late Fred Soady tersely described Stoehrs as “station J. – S. E. next south of CRESCENT – P.O. 1882-1887 (north of Hainesville).” This means Stoehrs had its own post office from 1882 to 1887. Stoehrs originated as a depot on the old Peoria, Pekin & Jacksonville Rail Road (which became the Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis before it became the Chicago & Illinois Midland).

By 1874 the railroad already crossed George Stoehr’s property in Section 20 as shown in this detail of a Tazewell County wall plat map from that year. Note that the map misspells his name “Steohr.”

This detail of an 1873 plat map of Cincinnati Township shows a railroad switch on the northern boundary of George Stoehr’s land. That switch later became a railroad depot.

Stoehrs got its name because it was established on the farm of George Stoehr (1852-1911), whose homestead was about a quarter of a mile south of the Wagonseller-Garman Road intersection. The site of George Stoehr’s homestead is still the location of the home place of a farm, on land owned by Robert Cupi.

In the past a country schoolhouse (Cincinnati Township’s School House No. 1) was a quarter mile east of the intersection on Garman Road. The children of farming families in the vicinity of Stoehrs would attend that school. Today there are a few farm homes just to the east of Stoehrs on Garman Road, near where the school used to be, while a very short jog west of Stoehrs on Garman is the Marine Corps League.

By 1891 the farm of George Stoehr had passed to the Bailey family. Note that the map does not indicate that there was a railroad station near the Stoehrs intersection.

Stoehrs Station first appears in the 1910 Tazewell County atlas.

This detail from a 1929 plat map of Cincinnati Township shows Stoehrs Station, a former rural village that grew up near a train depot, a post office, and a country school near the intersection of Garman and Wagonseller roads.

That about does it in the way of residences near the Stoehrs Station intersection. The railroad still runs through, but the train station, the post office, and the school are long gone. The spot today is chiefly an area for agriculture and industry. Tremont Cooperative Grain’s elevators on Wagonseller Road are on the north side of the Stoehrs railroad crossing. Just a bit further north up Wagonseller are Superior Industries Inc. and Excel Foundry & Machine.

Two pioneer cemeteries are located close to Stoehrs. Southwest of Stoehrs, at the northeast corner of Fuelberth and Bluebird Hill roads, is King Cemetery, a burying ground where members of the King, Clark, and Shaw families were interred from 1843 to 1881.

Off to Stoehrs’ northwest is Bequeath Cemetery (also called Bequaith or Bequeaith Cemetery) on the meandering country road that more recently has been known as Excel Way (because it connects with Wagonseller where Excel Foundry & Machine is located). Bequeath Cemetery was established on the land of a pioneer farmer named John Bequeath (1820-1893), and he and many of his kin are buried there.

Incidentally, the reason that Excel Way meanders is because the road originally tracked the bends and curves of the Mackinaw River. The winding creek to the west of the road formerly was the channel by which the waters of the Mackinaw River found their way to the Illinois River from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s, until the Mackinaw changed its course and made itself a new river mouth (as it has done in the past).

#bequeath-cemetery, #chicago-and-illinois-midland-railroad, #chicago-peoria-and-st-louis-railroad, #excel-foundry-and-machine, #george-stoehrs, #john-bequeath, #king-cemetery, #mackinaw-river, #pekin-peoria-and-jacksonville-railroad, #stoehrs, #stoehrs-station, #superior-industries, #tazewell-county-unincorporated-communities, #tremont-cooperative-grain