Distillery workers, domestics, and war heroes: Pekin’s blacks in the Gilded Age

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Last week in this column, we surveyed the African-American population of Pekin in the period from the 1860s to the 1880s. This week we’ll pick up where we left off, starting with the 1880s and bringing the story of Pekin’s African-Americans up to the early 1900s.

As we saw last time, the 1880 U.S. Census returns for Pekin include two African-American men: William J. Ashby, born in Feb. 1837 in Fulton County, Ill., who is enumerated in 1880 with his wife Sarah and four children; and Alabama-born Allen Travis Davison, a distillery fireman who appears in the 1876 Pekin city directory and the 1870 and 1880 censuses of Pekin.

Another distillery fireman enumerated in the 1880 census of Pekin is George E. McElroy, 36, born in Illinois (son of James and Ann McElroy), who is listed in the census with his wife Ella, 32, and their son Jessie, 3. The McElroys then lived at No. 1 Cynthiana St. We first met this family in our March 20 column, when we surveyed the African-American families who lived in Pekin around the time of World War I. Interestingly, in the 1880 census record of this family the census-taker began to write their surname “McElr-” but then crossed that out and misspelled it “McRoy” instead. A few years later, the 1887 Pekin city directory has a double entry for George McElroy– the first entry says he was a fireman, the second one says he worked at Hamburg Distillery. George then resided at 502 S. First St. (i.e. Front St.). As we saw in the March 20 column, by 1908 the McElroys had moved to 201 Sabella St.

Probably the most remarkable African-American family living in Pekin at the time of the 1880 census was a mixed-race family headed by Thomas Offey, 33, a distillery fireman who was born in Alabama of North Carolina-born parents. The Offeys lived at No. 1 Susannah St. Most remarkably, the census record identifies Thomas as black, while his Virginia-born wife Sarah, 27, is identified as “Indian” (Native American). Their Illinois-born children, Kate, 12, George, 7, Thomas, 5, Nettie, 4, and Capprie, 3, are identified as “mulatto.” Also living with the Offeys was a Tennessee-born American Indian named Maria Williams, 44 (evidently Sarah’s mother), a 16-year-old “mulatto” named Ella Robison, Ella’s 1-year-old son Willard, and a 20-year-old white woman named Maggie Otterburn.

The only other African-American mentioned in the 1880 census of Pekin was Amanda Brents, 18, a household servant who lived and worked in the home of Ely M. Hoff at No. 1 Chestnut St. Amanda was born in Illinois, but her father was born in Kentucky and her mother was born in New Jersey.

Unfortunately most of the records of the 1890 U.S. Census were severely damaged or destroyed by a fire at the U.S. Commerce Department building in 1921. Consequently it is impossible to draw anything close to a complete picture of Pekin’s African-American population in 1890. However, judging from Pekin’s black and mulatto populations counted in the 1880 and 1900 census, it is safe to say that Pekin’s black population remained low in 1890. As noted here and previously, Pekin city directories from the 1880s and 1890s record the names of a few of Pekin’s blacks from those decades, but again, judging from the small numbers of “coloreds” in those directories, it is evident that not many blacks then lived in Pekin.

The 1887 Pekin city directory lists a man named Joseph Roach, employed as a driver for George W. Rankin. The directories by this time no longer identified the “colored” men of Pekin, but the 1900 census shows Joseph Roach, 48, born April 1852 in Alabama, as black, an unmarried janitor boarding with the Robert Corsuch family at 1117 Seventh St. We previously met Joseph Roach in the column of March 20, which noted that in the 1910 census, Joseph, then 60 and said to be Tennessee-born, was a porter working at the Tazewell Hotel.

Also listed in the 1900 census of Pekin was the abovementioned William J. Ashby, 63, widower, working as a coal miner. William was the last of the four Ashby brothers to live in Pekin. He apparently died between the 1900 and 1910 censuses. Another African-American living in Pekin at the time of the 1900 census was Alice Williams, 22, a domestic servant in the household of Alfred and Ida Rodecker at 343 S. Fourth St.

Only two other blacks are listed as Pekin residents in 1900: Sarah Smith, 18, born May 1882 in Illinois, a servant in the household of James and Cornelia Barrett at 705 S. Fifth St.; and John Gibson, 13, born Feb. 1887 in Kentucky, a servant in the home of the Nellie Munson family at 307 S. Sixth St. The abovementioned George McElroy family is not listed as residing in Pekin in 1900, but as noted above, the city directories show that they were living in Pekin by 1908.

One more African-American couple is known to have lived in Pekin in the early 1900s: a Spanish-American War hero named Lloyd James Oliver, born circa 1866, son of Willis and Fannie (Walker) Oliver, and his bride, Cora Foy, born circa 1882, daughter of Jacob and Becca (Nelson) Foy. As mentioned in the Local History Room column of March 20, the nuptials of Lloyd and Cora were witnessed by large crowds in the Tazewell County Courthouse Square during the 1902 Pekin Street Fair. The public wedding, which took place Oct. 16, 1902, was include in the Street Fair festivities as a way to recognize Oliver’s service in the war. Ben C. Allensworth described the event in his 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” pages 748-749 (although Allensworth misread Oliver’s Christian name as “Howard” instead of “Lloyd,” and misread Cora’s maiden name as “Hoy” instead of “Foy”):

“On Friday afternoon a wedding was performed uniting Howard J. Oliver and Miss Cora Hoy, colored people. The ceremony took place on the band-stand, and was performed by Squire W. F. Copes, in his usual happy manner. It is probably true that no greater assembly ever saw a wedding ceremony in Central Illinois than the one which witnessed this marriage. There was some trouble in getting the parties to the band-stand, so great was the crowd. The groom was six years in the United States Regular army, and was at El Caney, where his regiment relieved Roosevelt’s ‘Rough Riders’ at San Juan, during the Spanish-American War. He was one of six survivors of his company. [Street Fair] President [Thomas] Cooper was master of ceremonies and best man.”

Allensworth also comments that it is uncertain whether or not Cooper “saluted the bride in the usual manner allowable at weddings” – i.e., did Cooper, a white man, kiss the bride, a black woman? Allensworth says the witnesses closest to the bandstand reported that Cooper did not kiss Cora, but others in the crowd insisted that he had.

In his essay, “The Black ‘Immune Regiments in the Spanish-American War,” Lieut. Col. (Ret.) Roger D. Cunningham relates that, “The soldiers of the Regular Army’s four black regiments — the 9th and 10th Cavalry and 24th and 25th Infantry — performed their duty without question. They deployed to Cuba and made significant contributions to the speedy victory, earning five Medals of Honor and twenty-nine Certificates of Merit for their gallantry under fire.

This photograph of African-American Spanish-American War soldiers was originally printed with the caption, “Some of our brave colored Boys who helped to free Cuba.” Lloyd J. Oliver of Pekin served in the Regular Army during the war, his regiment suffering great casualties in the capture of San Juan Hill. PHOTO COURTESY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

Oliver served in one of those four regiments as just one of thousands of African-Americans who volunteered to serve their country in the Spanish-American War of 1898. According to Cunningham, many of America’s blacks hoped that their patriotic service might “gradually expand opportunities for racial equality.” Oliver’s heroic service evidently helped to endear him to Pekin’s white population, at least for the occasion of his wedding.

The year after his marriage, Oliver is listed in the 1903 Pekin city directory as “Oliver, Lloyd, porter Ed Joerger barber shop, r 116 Ann Eliza.” Two years later, the Pekin city directory lists him as “Oliver, Lloyd (colored), porter Joerger’s barber shop, r 120 Ann Eliza.” Oliver last appears in the Pekin city directory in 1907 as “Oliver, Lloyd, janitor Arcade bldg., r 120 Ann Eliza.” I have not found him in the 1910 U.S. Census, and it is unclear whether he had died by then, or rather that he and Cora had moved elsewhere seeking better opportunities than were afforded to African-Americans in early 20th century Pekin.

To conclude this survey of Pekin’s black population during this period of time, I will note that the number of Pekin’s blacks in counted in the U.S. census dropped from 19 in 1880 to only five in 1900. The number rose to eight in 1910, and increased to 31 in 1920, after which social pressure and intimidation encouraged and perpetrated by the Klan drove almost every black person out of Pekin – a demographic situation that has only reversed in the last several decades.

#1890-u-s-census, #alice-williams, #allen-travis-davison, #amand-brents, #black-immune-regiments, #capprie-offey, #cora-foy, #cornelia-barrett, #ella-mcelroy, #ella-robison, #ely-m-hoff, #george-e-mcelroy, #george-offey, #ida-rodecker, #james-barrett, #jessie-mcelroy, #jessie-robison, #john-gibson, #joseph-roach, #judge-a-w-rodecker, #kate-offey, #ku-klux-klan, #lloyd-j-oliver, #maggie-otterburn, #maria-williams, #native-americans-in-pekin, #nellie-munson, #nettie-offey, #racism, #racism-in-pekins-past, #sarah-offiey, #sarah-smith, #spanish-american-war, #squire-w-f-copes, #theodore-roosevelt, #thomas-cooper, #thomas-offey, #thomas-offey-jr, #willard-robison, #william-j-ashby

The Civil War era: Pekin’s blacks in a time of transition

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Continuing our review of what historical records can tell us of 19th-century African-American residents of Pekin, this week we move on to the period from the 1860s to the 1880s — the decades of the Civil War and its aftermath, when slavery finally was abolished and civil rights for blacks first began to be enshrined in law.

As we have seen, the numbers of African-Americans in Pekin were already quite low at the time of the 1850 U.S. Census. Ten years later, on the eve of the Civil War, their numbers were even lower. Only 18 African-Americans were enumerated as Pekin residents at the time of the 1860 U.S. Census. The number of Pekin’s African-Americans dropped to 10 in the 1870 census, but increased to 19 in the 1880 census.

One of Pekin’s few African-Americans in 1860 was Malinda Cooper, 19, “mulatto” (i.e. mixed-race), born in Illinois, a servant in the household of Daniel and Mary Bastions. Also living with the Bastions at that time was a white girl named Mary or May Warfield, 11, born in Illinois – we’ll hear more about Mary Warfield further on.

Pekin in 1860 was also the home of the “mulatto” family of Virginia-born John Brown, 44, a barber, who is enumerated in the census with his wife Charlotte, 43, and children or grandchildren George W., 20, Caroline M., 20, and Amanda, 3.

The 1860 census also shows a black family living in Pekin, headed by Virginia-born Edward Hard, 29, “black,” a laborer, whose wife Elizabeth Hard, 28, “mulatto,” and one-month-old daughter Mary, are listed in the house with Edward. A year later, the 1861 Roots City Directory of Pekin lists “Howard Edward (colored), laborer, res. Market, ss. 1st d. e. Third” – apparently the same man as “Edward Hard” of the 1860 census. The 1870 U.S. Census for Pekin enumerates the family of Kentucky-born “Edwin Howard,” 45, black, a fireman in a distillery, with his wife Elizabeth, 49, and their daughters Melinda, 10, and Elizabeth, 6 months. “Edwin” is, again, apparently the same man as “Edward” Howard or Hard. Living in the Howard household at the time of the 1870 census was Alabama-born Allen T. Davison, 23, black, a fireman in a distillery, and his wife Sarah J. Davison, 18.

The same year, the 1870 Sellers & Bates City Directory of Pekin shows “Howard Ed., (colored), laborer, res ne cor Front and Isabella.” Six years after that, the 1876 Bates City Directory of Pekin shows “Howard Edwin, (col) fireman distillery, res ns Isabel 1d e Front,” and shows Allen T. Davison as “Davison Travis, foreman distil’ry, res ns Isabel 1d w Second” (“foreman” an error for “fireman”). Four years later, Allen Travis Davison is counted in the 1880 U.S. Census of Pekin as “Travis Davis-Son” (sic), 33, then rooming in the house of the white family of Edward and Mary Elster at 117 Court St. (the census taker erroneously read the “-son” of Travis’ surname to mean that Travis was a son of Edward and Mary).

Travis Davison does not appear as a resident of Pekin after 1880, but his former neighbor Ed Howard appears one more time – in the 1887 Bates City Directory of Pekin, he is listed as “Howard Edwin, barber 233 Court, res. 101 Isabel.

Going back to the 1860 U.S. Census, besides the family of Benjamin and Nance Costley, the only other African-Americans of Pekin listed in that census are Moses “Mose” Ashby, 23, and his brother William Ashby, 21, both born in Illinois and identified as “mulatto.” Mose and William were then laborers living in the household of Peter and Margaret Devore. Besides Moses and William, records show two more of their brothers living in Pekin around this time: Nathaniel (or Nathan) Ashby and Marshall Ashby. The 1861 Roots City Directory of Pekin lists “Ashby Moses (colored), livery hand, Margaret, ns., 1st d. e. Front; res. Ann Eliza, ss., 1st d. w. Third” and “Ashby Nathan (colored), teamster, Ann Eliza, ss., 1st d. e. Second; res. river bank, foot of State.”

Their brother William is listed in the 1870 U.S. Census of Pekin as William J. Ashby, 27, born in Illinois, “mulatto,” a teamster, with his wife Sarah, 30, and children Lewis, 3, and Catharine, an infant. Living with them was a white girl named Laura Correl, 14. Ten years later, William is listed in the 1880 census at 172 Caroline St., as “William Asbey,” 37, black, with his wife Sarah, 45, and children Louis, 13, Catharine, 10, Sarah, 7, and Charles, 7. William next appears in Pekin in the 1887 city directory: “Ashby William J. lab. Res. 127 Caroline.” Listed right before William in that directory is “Ashby Charles, cigar mkr. Moenkemoeller & Schlottmann, res. 127 Caroline.” That seems to be William’s son Charles, who then would have been about 15. The last time William appears in Pekin is in the 1900 census, when he was listed as a 63-year-old coal miner, able to read and write, and a widower.

The four Ashby brothers were the sons of William H. Ashby, born in Kentucky. During the Civil War, the father William and his three sons William J., Marshall, and Nathan are known to have taken a stand in defense of human liberty by serving in the U.S. Colored Troops. Nathan and Marshall both registered for the Civil War draft on in June 1863 (but Nathan’s draft registration calls him “Nathaniel Ashley”). Nathan is listed in the 1870 Pekin city directory as “Ashby Nathan (colored), fireman, res ne cor Mary and Somerset.” The city directories and censuses do not show Nathan in Pekin after that – he later died at age 60 in Bartonville on July 31, 1899, and was buried in the defunct Moffat Cemetery on Peoria’s south side. Nathan had married a certain Elizabeth Warfield (perhaps related to Mary Warfield?) in Peoria County in 1860.

Two of the eight men from Pekin who registered for the Civil War draft in June 1863 were African-American — those two men were the brothers Marshall Ashby and Nathaniel Ashby.

Marshall’s and Nathan’s military records say they were born in Fulton County, Ill., and that they served in Company G of the 29th U.S. Colored Infantry, enlisting at Springfield on Aug. 21, 1864, and being mustered in there on Sept. 21, 1864, and being honorably discharged at the Ringgold Barracks in Texas on Sept. 30, 1865. Significantly, Marshall, Nathan, and their company were in Texas at the time of the first “Juneteenth,” so it is quite possible that they were present in Galveston for Juneteenth, as their fellow Pekin Civil War veteran Private William H. Costley, of the 29th U.S. Colored Infantry, Company B, certainly was. Nathan applied for a Civil War pension in 1890, and his widow Elizabeth applied for widow’s benefits on Sept. 18, 1899.

Though Marshall had fought honorably for the unity of his nation and the freedom of his people, it was not long after his return to Pekin that he was reminded the hard way that, even at that late date, Illinois still did not allow interracial marriage. On March 14, 1866, in Tazewell County, Marshall married a white woman named Mary Jane Luce (or Lewis). Marshall’s wife first appears in the 1850 U.S. Census as Mary J. Luce, 5, born in Ohio, living in Peoria with her baby brother Elias Luce in the household of Isaac and Mary Holiplain. Ten years later, the 1860 census shows Mary working in Pekin as a live-in servant in the household of Daniel and Barbara Clauser.

Marshall’s 1863 Civil War draft record says he was then married, but apparently Marshall’s then wife (whose name is unknown) had died before 1866 when he married Mary Luce. After the marriage, Mary Warfield (mentioned earlier in this column) informed the authorities that Marshall and his wife Mary were not the same race. A Tazewell County grand jury therefore indicted them for “marriage of black & white persons,” which Illinois state law then classified as a kind of adultery. Besides Warfield, the witnesses summoned to testify before the grand jury in this case were Mahala Ashby (perhaps Marshall’s mother, sister, or aunt), J. W. Glassgow, H. G. Gary, Benjamin S. Prettyman, Joshua Wagenseller (the noted Pekin abolitionist and friend of Abraham Lincoln), John L. Devore, Granville Edwards, Benjamin and Nance Costley, William A. Tinney (a past Tazewell County sheriff and friend of the Costleys who is remembered as an advocate for African-American voting rights), James A. McGrew, William Divinney, and Benjamin Priddy. Marshall and Mary were probably found guilty, and it is likely no coincidence that Marshall does not appear on record in Illinois after 1866.

In 1866, a Tazewell County grand jury indicted Marshall Ashby, black, and Mary Jane Luce, white, of interracial marriage — eight years before Illinois repealed its ban on the marriage of whites with blacks. IMAGE COURTESY OF CARL ADAMS

Despite what had happened to his brother, on June 1, 1870, Mose Ashby married an Illinois-born white woman, Ellen Woodworth, 24, resulting in a grand jury indictment that they lived “together in an open state of adultery” (i.e., he was black and she was white). The outcome of their case is uncertain, but exactly one month after their marriage the U.S. Census shows “Ellen Woodworth” working for Tazewell County Sheriff Edward Pratt as a domestic servant in the Tazewell County Jail – whether that was simply her job or she was serving her sentence for “adultery” is unclear.

Four years after his brother’s indictment, Moses Ashby also was indicted for marrying a white woman, Ellen Woodworth. IMAGE COURTESY OF CARL ADAMS

The state law under which Marshall and Mose were indicted was approved by the General Assembly in 1829 as a part of Illinois’ old “Black Code” restricting the rights of free blacks in Illinois. The ban on interracial marriage, last of the Black Code statutes, was finally repealed in 1874, just four years after Mose’s indictment.

Next time we’ll take a closer look at Pekin’s African-American residents in the period from about 1880 to the early 1900s.

#abraham-lincoln, #allen-travis-davison, #amanda-brown, #benjamin-costley, #benjamin-prettyman, #caroline-m-brown, #catharine-ashby, #charles-ashby, #charlotte-brown, #daniel-and-mary-bastions, #daniel-clauser, #ed-howard, #edard-elster, #elias-luce, #elizabeth-howard, #elizabeth-spearman, #elizabeth-warfield, #ellen-woodworth, #george-w-brown, #illinois-black-code, #interracial-marriage, #isaac-holiplain, #john-brown, #joshua-wagenseller, #juneteenth, #lewis-ashby, #malinda-cooper, #marshall-ashby, #mary-howard, #mary-jane-luce, #mary-warfield, #melinda-howard, #moses-ashby, #nance-legins-costley, #nathan-ashby, #peter-devore, #racism, #racism-in-pekins-past, #sarah-ashby, #sarah-ashby-dau, #sarah-j-davison, #sheriff-edward-pratt, #uncle-bill-tinney, #william-h-ashby, #william-j-ashby

A glimpse of Pekin’s non-white population in 1850

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Recently this column reviewed the known black families who lived in Pekin just before, during, and in the years after World War I. We saw that although some African-Americans lived and worked in Pekin during those years, their numbers were very small – the 1910 U.S. Census counted only eight, while the 1920 U.S. Census counted only 31.

A front page story in the July 24, 1933 Pekin Daily Times attempted to explain the extremely low numbers of blacks, suggesting that Pekin was not as economically desirable to blacks as Peoria, which was larger and offered more and better jobs than Pekin. The story indicated that Pekin’s black population had always been very low and implied that Pekin had long had a reputation for being a place where blacks were unwelcome.

That Pekin’s population of African-Americans had always been very low is borne out by a review of 19th-century U.S. Census records and Pekin city directories, which show that 1850 was the year when Pekin had its highest population of blacks prior to recent decades (both in terms of numbers and proportionally). In this column, we will review the black or mixed-race families and individuals who lived in Pekin at the time of the 1850 U.S. Census, 11 years before the Civil War which resulted in the abolition of slavery. All of the people in this review were free, not indentured servants.

Probably the most prominent and best-known black family of Pekin in the 1800s was the family of Benjamin Costley and his wife Nance Legins-Costley, who have been the subject of several “From the History Room” columns over the years. Ben and Nance and their family of five daughters and three sons are enumerated as Pekin residents in the U.S. censuses of 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880 (although the 1880 Pekin census entry for this family is obviously spurious, as the Costleys are known to have moved to Peoria in the 1870s).

In addition to the Costleys, the 1850 census of Pekin lists an African-American married couple named Lewis and Eliza Woods, both age 30, enumerated between the families of Robert Stickley and George A. Hamilton. Lewis, a barber, identified as “black,” was born in New York, while Eliza, identified as “mulatto” (an old, offensive term for a person partly of African descent) was born in Virginia. Neither Lewis nor Eliza appear in Pekin in any later censuses.

Also counted in the 1850 census of Pekin was the family of Missouri-born Levi and Laura Williams, ages 30 and 25, who shared a home with Rachael Williams, 70, born in Virginia (probably Levi’s mother), Napolean Williams, 10, born in Louisiana (probably Levi’s son), and Emiline Williams, 27 (probably Levi’s sister). Also living with the Williamses were Charles Neal, 21, born in Louisiana, and his wife Julia Ann Neal, 18, born in Missouri. Like Lewis Woods, Levi Williams was a barber. The census identifies everyone in Levi’s household as “mulatto” except for Rachael, identified as “black.”

Another African-American married couple living in Pekin in 1850 were Daniel and Elizabeth Stephens, ages 25 and 20, both born in Kentucky. Daniel was a teamster. Living with the Stephenses were a young woman named Levin Shoving, 19, born in Illinois, and an Ohio-born barber named William C. Sell, 26, and Williams’ Illinois-born wife Martha, 16. William Sell is identified in the census as “black,” while everyone else in the Stephens household is identified as “mulatto.”

Another black family living in Pekin in 1850 were South Carolina-born Simon Wheeler, 40, laborer, his wife Catherine, 20, born in Illinois, and their one-month-old daughter Adelia, born in Illinois. The Wheelers do not appear as Pekin residents after 1850, and by the 1870 U.S. Census they were living in Randolph County, Illinois.

The “mulatto” family of Ohio-born Jefferson Frizzel, 44, a teamster, was also enumerated in the 1850 census of Pekin, which shows Jefferson with his wife Isabel, 42, and his children John, 19, a laborer, Isaac, 17, Rachal, 15, Jerusha, 13, Lorinda, 11, and Sarah Jane, 5. Isabel and John were born in Ohio, Isaac was born in Illinois, Rachal and Jerusha were born in Iowa, and Lorinda and Sarah were born in Illinois. Unlike most Tazewell County blacks and people of mixed race in those days, Jefferson and Isabel could read and write and their children went to school. Significantly, Jefferson, who had come to Tazewell County about 1833, is shown in federal and state land records to have purchased land in Tazewell County on June 29, 1836, March 18, 1837, and Nov. 1, 1839. That makes Jefferson the only non-white Pekin resident in the 1850 census known to have ever owned land.

Shown is a detail from the federal letters patent signed by President Martin Van Buren confirming Jefferson Frizzel’s purchase of land in Tazewell County on March 18, 1837. Of the non-white Pekin residents in the 1850 U.S. Census, Frizzel is the only one known to have ever owned land.

Jefferson married Isabel (or Isabella) Huddleston on 3 July 1850 in Tazewell County. The date of their marriage indicates that Jefferson’s children may have been born of a prior marriage (unless they were born to Isabel out of wedlock). Ohio records show the marriage of a Jefferson Frizzel and Elmina Broughton on 6 Sept. 1829 in Clark County, which fits the ages of the Frizzel children listed in the 1850 census in Pekin. However, other researchers identify Elmina as the first wife of a Jefferson Frizzel who was born 1808 in Massachusetts and settled in Louisa County, Iowa – the names of that Jefferson Frizzel’s children do not match the names of the Jefferson Frizzel of Tazewell County. Be that as it may, Jefferson Frizzel and his family are not listed as Tazewell County residents after 1850.

The only other black or mulatto person listed as a Pekin resident in the 1850 U.S. Census records is Levina Snooks, 22, born in Illinois, “mulatto,” listed as living with a white family surnamed Freman, headed by a Pekin merchant named George W. Freman, 32. Levina may have been the Fremans’ servant or perhaps one of their relatives. She does not appear in Tazewell County after 1850.

That completes our review of the black and mixed-race persons living in Pekin in 1850: a total of 35 souls, at a time when Pekin’s population was about 1,500. Next time we’ll review the known African-American residents of Pekin during the 1860s and 1870s.

#adelia-wheeler, #benjamin-costley, #catherine-wheeler, #charles-neal, #daniel-stephens, #eliza-woods, #elizabeth-stephens, #elmina-broughton-frizzel, #emiline-williams, #george-a-hamilton, #george-w-freman, #isaac-frizzel, #isabella-huddleston-frizzel, #jefferson-frizzel, #jerusha-frizzel, #john-frizzel, #julia-ann-neal, #laura-williams, #levi-williams, #levin-shoving, #levina-snooks, #lewis-woods, #lorinda-frizzel, #martha-sell, #nance-legins-costley, #napolean-williams, #pekins-racist-reputation, #rachael-williams, #rachal-frizzel, #racism-in-pekins-past, #robert-stickley, #sarah-jane-frizzel, #simon-wheeler, #william-c-sell

Two Pekin service clubs to mark their centennials

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Two of Pekin’s community service organizations – the Pekin Rotary and Pekin Kiwanis clubs – will reach their centennial milestones this month.

Undaunted even by COVID-19, during this time of “shelter in place” and quarantines both clubs have conducted their regular meetings online using the Zoom app.

Enthusiasm for social clubs and service organizations was very high in Pekin in 1920, only two years out of the First World War. Several social clubs then active in Pekin (such as the Tazewell Club) no longer exist, but the Pekin Rotary Club and the Pekin Kiwanis Club, which both were christened in the spring of 1920, are still going strong today.

The Pekin Rotary Club – one of tens of thousands of clubs that belong to Rotary International – was organized in April 1920, and held its first meeting Wednesday night, May 12, 1920. Consequently, Pekin Rotary is able to boast that it is the longest serving community organization in Pekin.

Pekin Rotary’s debut was reported in the following day’s Pekin Daily Times, in a story headlined, “Pekin Rotary Club formed last night.” The story announced, “At a meeting and banquet held at the Tazewell Hotel last night the Pekin Rotary Club was formed, L. C. Moschel elected president and Phil H. Sipfle, secretary.” The meeting’s keynote speaker was James Graig of Chicago, former governor of Rotary’s 12th district.

Shown here is a detail from the May 13, 1920 Pekin Daily Times story
on the organizing meeting of the Pekin Rotary Club which had taken
place the evening before.

The very first Rotary Club had been founded by Paul P. Harris and three of his friends in Chicago on Feb. 23, 1905, only 15 years before Rotary came to Pekin. The name “rotary” was chosen because the club’s meetings would rotate among the members’ business offices.

Pekin’s Rotary Club was started by five businessmen: Harry Wilmot, Walton T. Conover, Frank Beyer, Carl E. Kraeger, and Louis C. Moschel. The club began with 25 charter members, and Moschel served as the club’s first president for four consecutive annual terms before he was succeeded by Carl G. Herget in 1924. For much of its early history, Pekin Rotary met weekly in the old Tazewell Hotel located at the corner of Fourth and Elizabeth streets near the courthouse.

In its early years, the Pekin Rotary Club held its regular meetings in the old Tazewell Hotel on Elizabeth Street in downtown Pekin.

According to Rotary member Gary Gillis, the club has planned a Rotary Centennial Week this month, which includes a 6 p.m. May 12 gathering of members at the Busey Bank parking lot, where the Tazewell Hotel used to be. The plans, of course, depend on public health considerations and whether or not the Illinois governor’s “shelter in place” order is still in force.

With a motto of “Service Above Self,” the purpose of Rotary is to encourage business persons, professionals, and community leaders to be active in works of service and charity. Its service projects and programs over its history have included tree planting, fishing derbies, the Pekin Mobile Diner, scholarship awards, and the sponsoring and hosting of foreign exchange students.

The Pekin Kiwanis Club was organized about the same time as Rotary, but had their first meeting 11 days after Rotary’s first meeting. The Pekin Daily Times printed a story in its May 20, 1920 edition with the title, “Pekin Men Put Kiwanis Club Over the Top,” in which it was reported that “The Kiwanis Club of Pekin is in progress of formation with a membership of over fifty representative men of this city.” According to that news story, Pekin’s Kiwanis Club was the 19th Kiwanis Club in Illinois. Kiwanis was founded in 1915 in Detroit, Mich. – the name is derived from a Native American phrase, Nunc Kee-wanis, meaning “We trade [our talents].}

Pekin Kiwanis held its organizing meeting on May 24, 1920, and a story reporting that meeting appeared on page 8 of the following day’s Pekin Daily Times. “With over forty men present last night the Kiwanis Club of Pekin was formerly (sic – formally) organized in the circuit court room of the Tazewell court house,” the story said. W. S. Prettyman was elected temporary chairman for the organizing meeting.

Shown here is a detail from the May 25, 1920 Pekin Daily Times story on the organizing meeting of the Pekin Kiwanis Club which had taken place the evening before.

At the meeting, Dan Wentworth, lieut. governor of the Illinois and Eastern Iowa districts, explained the club’s purposes and aims, “declaring that the organization stood for the square deal, for service ‘to the other fellow,’ for the Golden Rule in business, and for the building up of the community, the state and the nation.” Kiwanis and Rotary thus have much the same purpose and aims.

At the first meeting, the following officers were unanimously elected: Jesse Black Jr., president; J. C. Aydelott, vice president; Ben P. Schenck, treasurer; and seven directors, W. S. Prettyman, H. J. Rust, Nelson Weyrich, R. E. Rollins, Louis Albertsen, O. W. Noel, and J. T. Conaghan.

The first regular meeting, where the club charter was presented, was then set for Wednesday evening, June 2, 1920, at the Pekin Country Club house (then located where Pekin Community High School is today), with plans made for weekly luncheon sessions.

The long years of service to the community of Rotary and Kiwanis are memorialized by the Pekin Park District, which oversees Rotary Park at the former site of Garfield School and Kiwanis Park near L. E. Starke School.

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