Rev. George W. Minier, founder of Minier

This is an updated reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in Oct. 2013, just before the launch of this weblog.

Rev. George W. Minier, founder of Minier

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

The largest community in Tazewell County’s Little Mackinaw Township is the village of Minier, which was founded nearly 146 years ago. Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” page 854, describes Minier’s founding and early years in this way:

“The village of Minier is located on Section 22 at the intersection of the Kansas City branch of the Chicago & Alton Railroad and the Illinois Midland. It was laid out October 18, 1867, by George W. Minier, Charles E. Boyer and others. The site where Minier was located up to the time of the building of the Chicago & Alton Railroad was a low flat prairie, and there were ponds of water within the present limits of the village that scarcely went dry during the entire season. Mr. J. M. Edmiston was the first resident of Minier, being employed by the Chicago & Alton Railroad Company as its agent, and his residence was the first house built in the city. Shortly afterwards the railway company erected a water-tank at that place which was visible for miles around, and the town was nicknamed ‘Tank,’ which name it wore for several years.”

The 1873 Atlas Map of Tazewell County shows that Minier’s founder and namesake, the Rev. George Washington Minier, then lived on a farmstead along the southern boundary of Minier. J. M. Edmiston, the first resident, was apparently Rev. Minier’s son-in-law James Edmiston, husband of Minier’s daughter Eliza Jane, who was one of the 12 children of Minier and his wife Sarah Ireland. That and other details can be gleaned from the published biography of Rev. Minier found on pages 237-38 of the 1894 “Portrait and Biographical Record of Tazewell and Mason Counties.”

The Rev. George Minier, a pioneer settler of Tazewell County, was the founder of the Tazewell County village of Minier in Little Mackinaw Township.

The biography calls Rev. Minier “one of the early settlers of Tazewell County, and a pioneer Christian preacher of western Illinois.” In 1894, he was living in Section 13 of Little Mackinaw Township. Rev. Minier was born in Ulster Township, Bradford County, Pa., on Oct. 8, 1813, one of the 10 children of John Minier, whose father Daniel Minier is said to have served under Gen. George Washington during the Revolutionary War. Born in Lycoming County, Pa., John Minier moved to Bradford County, where he worked as a farmer. In 1839, John moved to Bureau County, Ill., where he died around 1841.

The published biography goes on to say that John’s son George “was reared in Bradford County, and was educated in the public schools and Athens Academy. He often walked six miles to and from school. When his college course was completed he engaged in teaching in Chemung, N. Y., for three years, and in 1837 emigrated to Chicago, Ill., where he met ‘Long John Wentworth.’” — a Chicago newspaper editor who served two terms as mayor of Chicago.

The account continues:

“He then went to Bureau County and engaged in surveying the state road from Peru to Galesburg. In 1839 he was employed as a civil engineer on the main line of the Illinois Central Railroad, and aided in the survey of the Illinois River. His work along that stream brought on an attack of ague, which lasted for fourteen months, after which he resumed teaching near Princeton, Ill.

“Three years were spent as a teacher in Magnolia, Putnam County, after which he became a preacher of the Christian Church, and continued in the work of the ministry in McLean and Tazewell Counties for many years. He was also at the head of a female college in Bloomington, which he sold in 1850 to Dr. Finley. The following year he came to Tazewell County, and with a land warrant secured one hundred and sixty acres of Government land at eighty-three cents per acre. It was a tract of unbroken prairie, but he cleared and improved it, and has since made his home thereon. In connection with farming, he has also continued his work as a Christian minister.”

It was in 1842 that Rev. Minier was ordained a minister of the Christian Church. During his ministry, he pastored many churches throughout central Illinois, including churches in Lincoln, Atlanta, Armington, Washington, Concord, Minier, Delavan and Emden. Besides his religious endeavors, he also was active in politics. “In early life he was a Democrat in politics, but was a stanch (sic) Republican from the organization of the party until a short time since, when he joined the Prohibition party, and was the first man ever nominated in the United States for Congress on the Prohibition ticket. He was a warm personal friend of Abraham Lincoln,” the biography says.

As a proponent of the prohibition of alcohol, Minier spent most of his life as a member of the Sons of Temperance. He also spoke out against war. “He is a member of the Peace Congress of the United States and was elected a delegate to the World’s Convention in London, where he was to read a paper. Being prevented from going, he however sent the article which he had prepared, and which was read before that body,” according to the biography. Rev. Minier also was involved in the organizing and founding of Illinois State University.

He died on Feb 18. 1902, and is buried with his wife Sarah in Glenwood Cemetery, Mackinaw.

#eliza-jane-minier, #james-m-edmiston, #long-john-wentworth, #minier, #preblog-columns, #rev-george-w-minier, #sarah-ireland-minier, #tank

Some pre-1914 obituaries from Tazewell County

This is an updated reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in May 2014, just before the launch of this weblog.

Some pre-1914 obituaries from Tazewell County

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Of the resources available in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room, perhaps it is the online obituary index that gets the most use, since obituaries are excellent sources of information for genealogists. The library’s index covers obituaries published in the Pekin Daily Times from Oct. 3, 1914 to the present year – but also includes a handful of obituaries from the Daily Times and other Tazewell County newspapers from prior to 1914.

Until a few years ago, the library’s obituary index was a large file of typed index cards, but the index has been completely digitized and is accessible on the internet through the library’s homepage, at www.pekinpubliclibrary.org, under the “Research” tab, on “Local History Room” page.

The obituary index entries provide the date that each obituary was published in the Pekin Daily Times, along with the page and column numbers. Using that information, an obituary can then be retrieved from the library’s microfilm reels of the Pekin Daily Times.

As said above, the Daily Times microfilm collection begins with the issue published on Oct. 3, 1914, and continues to the present year. The index, however, is even more current, as the library updates it almost daily, whereas the microfilms are current up to the end of 2018 (when all microfilming ceased worldwide). Print editions of the Pekin Daily Times may be consulted for obituaries published since the end of February.

Sadly, there is little recourse for those looking for obituaries that were published in the Pekin Daily Times prior to Oct. 3, 1914. Most copies of Pekin Daily Times issues prior to that date have perished, many having been destroyed in a fire at the newspaper building about a century ago, while other bound volumes of the paper reportedly “disappeared” during and soon after the years in the early 1920s when the newspaper was owned by three members of the Ku Klux Klan.

However, a number of stray issues of the Daily Times from prior to Oct. 3, 1914, have survived, and in fact the library has one of them – the Aug. 16, 1902, edition of the Pekin Daily Times that was preserved in the cornerstone time capsule of the former Pekin Carnegie Library that was built in 1902. Also included in the time capsule were copies of an 1896 Pekin Daily Evening Post, an 1896 Pekin Daily Tribune, and a 1902 Pekin Daily Post-Tribune.

Besides those pre-1914 newspapers, the library archives also include a single issue of the April 13, 1860 edition of the Tazewell Republican, which was donated to the library a few years ago by Timothy Williams of Pekin. There are no formal obituaries in that newspaper, because the custom of publishing biographical tributes of “ordinary” community members who had died was only then starting to catch on. The only thing even remotely like an obituary or death notice in the April 13, 1860 Tazewell Republican was the following short paragraph on page 2:

“The body of the man drowned off the steamer Gaty, something like a month ago, was found on the banks of Spring Lake yesterday or the day previous. The body was identified by the hands, the forefinger of one having been cut off. – Peoria Union.”

The April 13, 1860 edition of the Tazewell Republican newspaper ran this advertisement for the steamboat Sam Gaty on page 3. On the facing page of the same edition was a news brief on the recovery of the body of a Sam Gaty passenger who had fallen overboard and drowned.

On page 3 of the same newspaper is an advertisement that lists the schedule of the trips that the steamboat “Sam Gaty” made between Pekin and Peoria – but while we know the steamer’s full name, the newspaper doesn’t breathe of word of the name of the drowned man. His name probably had appeared in previous issues of the paper, and so the editor, seeking to economize on space on the page, must have decided it wasn’t necessary to repeat the victim’s name.

Unlike the 1860 copy of the Tazewell Republican, the time capsule’s 1896 and 1902 newspapers do include a few obituaries and death or funeral notices, which were added to the library’s online obituary index for the benefit of genealogical researchers in 2014. To each of these index entries have been added research notes indicating that they were printed in newspapers from the Library Cornerstone.

The library’s reference staff will assist genealogists who would like to obtain copies of these pre-1914 obituaries and death and funeral notices, which are listed below. (Note that three individuals had their obituaries published in more than one newspaper.)

Franklin E. Myers, 28, of rural Green Valley, died Feb. 12, 1896 in Pekin, in the Feb. 13, 1896 Pekin Daily Evening Post
Frank Myers, 28, of rural Green Valley, died Feb. 12, 1896 in Pekin, in the Feb. 13, 1896 Pekin Daily Tribune
William Schaumleffel of Pekin, died Feb. 1896, burial Feb. 13, 1896, in the Feb. 13, 1896 Pekin Daily Evening Post
William Schaumleffle of Pekin, died Feb. 1896, burial Feb. 13, 1896, in the Feb. 13, 1896 Pekin Daily Tribune
Samuel Russell, 74, of Pekin, died Aug. 17, 1902, in the Aug. 18, 1902 Pekin Daily Post-Tribune
Bryan George, 6, of Pekin, died Aug. 18, 1902 in Pekin, in the Aug. 18, 1902 Pekin Daily Post-Tribune
George J. Breaden, died Aug. 1902, in the Aug. 18, 1902 Pekin Daily Post-Tribune
George Joseph Breaden, died Aug. 16, 1902 in Pekin, in the Aug. 16, 1902 Pekin Daily Times
Mrs. George H. Youngman, 26, died Aug. 13, 1902, in the Aug. 16, 1902 Pekin Daily Times

A brief genealogical note about this last death notice – according to the Find-A-Grave website, “Mrs. George H. Youngman” was Cora A. (Buck) Youngman, born July 18, 1876, daughter of Oliver and Hannah (Hammitt) Buck, married George H. Youngman on June 7, 1899, and buried in McLean Cemetery, McLean, Ill.

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A Catholic church in Tremont

This is an updated reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in July 2015, just before the launch of this weblog.

A Catholic church in Tremont

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” pages 822-823, provides a brief overview of the history of three churches in Tremont Township up to that time, including two paragraphs on Tremont’s two Protestant churches.

Tremont then had two Protestant churches – the Tremont Baptist Church, built around 1888, and the Methodist Episcopal Church, whose members then gathered for worship in the church of a defunct Universalist congregation, but were preparing to build their own new church.

It’s somewhat remarkable, however, that Allensworth’s history devotes four informative paragraphs on the history of Tremont’s Catholic church, more words than were used to describe the two Protestant churches. This might seem surprising today, for, while Catholics still live in Tremont, it has been a long time since the Catholic religion has had a visible presence there with its own place of worship.

Allensworth account said Tremont got its first Catholic priest in 1863 – the Rev. Jeremiah Murphy, an Irish priest who, with his assistant and fellow Irishman, the Rev. Peter Corcoran, had the care of Irish Catholics in Pekin and Tremont. Tremont was a mission church of the Pekin parish, and Father Murphy celebrated Mass every Sunday in both places.

In 1863, the Catholics of Tremont collected $800 to buy an old school house – a small building near the old Tremont Seminary – and turned it into a mission chapel. At the time, about 70 people would assist at Father Murphy’s Masses in Tremont. Most of Tremont’s Catholics had come over from County Waterford, Ireland.

In 1875 an attempt was made to build a church, as the congregation had outgrown the old one,” Allensworth’s history says. “A committee was appointed, meetings were held and a subscription raised, but before the work was well begun Father Healy” – then pastor in Pekin and Tremont – “was recalled, and was succeeded by Father Halpin. Nothing further was done toward a new church until 1879, during Father W. O’Reilly’s pastorate, which began on the first Sunday in August, 1879.

After mass a committee was appointed, whose names were as follows: Richard Lillis, William Connell, John Cullinane, James Cooney, Patrick Ryan, Michael Morrisey, John Fitzgerald and Nick Menard. A site was selected northeast of the old Court House. The committee began its work in earnest, and had the church ready for its first mass on Christmas morning in 1880. Adding to the height of the steeple, and placing a bell therein in 1882, completed the work of the entire church at a cost of nearly $3,000.

The location of the long-vanished St. Joseph Church of Tremont is indicated at the bottom of this detail from an 1891 map of Tremont.

The church, dedicated to St. Joseph, was located at the northeast corner of James and Washington streets. It served Tremont’s Catholic community until June 1902, when a storm severely damaged the church, requiring it to be repaired and remodeled. “It is now out of debt and had a congregation of about one hundred and twenty members, with Rev. D. L. Sullivan as pastor,” Allensworth’s 1905 account concludes.

As time went on, however, the membership of the small mission church dwindled in number, until it was closed and merged with St. Joseph’s Parish in Pekin. One of the surnames of the 1879 committee members, however, continues to be well known in Tremont, Pekin and the surrounding area – the Tremont-based construction company of R.A. Cullinan and Son was founded by one of Tremont’s old Catholic families, and a park in Tremont bears the family name, while Cullinan Properties owns East Court Village I & II on Pekin’s east end.

#cullinan-properties, #father-halpin, #father-healy, #father-w-oreilly, #james-cooney, #john-cullinane, #john-fitzgerald, #michael-morrisey, #nick-menard, #patrick-ryan, #preblog-columns, #r-a-cullinan-and-son, #rev-jeremiah-murphy, #rev-peter-corcoran, #richard-lillis, #st-joseph-catholic-church, #st-joseph-catholic-church-in-tremont, #tremont-seminary, #william-connell

Tazewell County’s first woman deputy

This is an updated reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in March 2015 before the launch of this weblog.

Tazewell County’s first woman deputy

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

The year 1916 saw two historical milestones in Tazewell County history. The better remembered milestone is that in the summer of that year, the new county courthouse was completed and formally dedicated. It has served the county ever since.

But it’s also worth remembering that 1916 was when the first woman was sworn in as a Tazewell County Sheriff’s deputy.

Tazewell’s first female deputy was Frances C. Wilson, a native of Mackinaw, born April 27, 1896 – so she was 20 years old when she became a deputy. Two years after her swearing in, she married a Pekin carpenter named Ben B. Jurgens on July 20, 1918, in Bloomington. She and Ben had a daughter named Carolyn. Ben, a World War I veteran, would later serve as secretary of Pekin’s Police and Fire Commission and regional vice president of the Illinois Association of Police and Fire Commissions.

The significant development of the appointment of a woman deputy is recorded on page 85 of the 1974 Pekin Sesquicentennial volume, where a photograph of a young Frances Wilson Jurgens is printed along with the caption, “Pictured at left is Pekin’s pioneer in women’s liberation – and the first woman Deputy Sheriff in this area. Francis (sic) Wilson Jurgens was sworn in by Sheriff John Wilson in 1916. The fact that he was her father had nothing to do with the appointment, of course.

Frances Wilson Jurgens, shown here, was Tazewell County’s first woman deputy.

A reproduction from microfilm of the photograph of Frances Wilson Jurgens that ran with her obituary in 1954.

As the caption’s jocular tone indicates, the fact that the sheriff was her father had quite a lot to do with her appointment. While a woman serving as a deputy was highly unusual for that time, a sheriff had very wide discretion in his choice of deputies.

Furthermore, citizens then had different expectations of the county sheriff than we do today. Although the law does not require it, today it is expected that the sheriff will be a professional with significant law enforcement training and experience, but in the past the fact that almost anyone could be elected sheriff sometimes meant the sheriff had no prior police experience. On at least one occasion, the Tazewell County Sheriff was a retired school principal and superintendent.

Again, since one of the sheriff’s primary duties was operating the county jail, in past decades a newly elected sheriff and his family would move into the county jail, a building that included the sheriff’s residence. The sheriff’s wife would prepare the daily meals for the jail inmates. Since the job then had something of a “home-y” feel, it’s perhaps not as surprising that Sheriff John L. “Jack” Wilson would appoint one of his own daughters as a deputy.

After her stint as a deputy, Frances Wilson Jurgens did not disappear into married life and motherhood, but remained active in the community and in her church, Grace United Methodist Church of Pekin. She also was the first district committee-woman elected from her local unit of the American Legion Auxiliary after the Legion had been organized in September 1919.

Her life was cut short by illness at the age of 57 on March 19, 1954, when she died at her home, 617 S. 12th St., Pekin. She was buried in Lakeside Cemetery. The fact that her published obituary includes a single-column photograph, at a time when obituary photographs were still uncommon in the Pekin Daily Times, indicates that she was well-known and somewhat prominent in her community. Her husband Ben survived by another 17 years, dying on June 17, 1971, at the age of 78.

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