Caring for paupers in pioneer times

This is a reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in September 2014 before the launch of this weblog.

Caring for paupers in pioneer times

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Modern society has numerous private charitable organizations and public social welfare programs that provide assistance to those who are poor or in need. However, in the early years of Tazewell County, the poor – usually called by the older term, “paupers” – had few options. Those who were unable to work, and whose relatives could not or would not help them, could have their living expenses defrayed at public expense.

Often this form of assistance involved the county reimbursing private individuals for their expenses in providing for a pauper. This is what was done in the case of an elderly pauper of Tazewell County named Nicholas Miller, as explained on pages 246 and 253-254 of Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County.”

Chapman writes, “In June, 1832, John Summers was allowed $78 for keeping old man Miller. In the June previous Summers came into Court and explained that a certain Nicholas Miller, a pauper, was living at county expense while he had a well-to-do son named Joseph, who should, both in equity of the law and from filial affection, support his father. Thereupon the Sheriff was posted after the undutiful Joseph. It appears, however, that Joseph was not found at the time, nor until 1834, if we rely upon the records for information, for no mention is made of him until that time. He then appears and gives as his reason for not supporting his parent, ‘inability to do so.’”

This episode illustrates the public welfare system then in use. The expectation was that a pauper’s family would provide for him. If they couldn’t do so, or refused to do so, then the county would provide money – but it would not be given directly to the poor person, but rather to whoever was “keeping” the pauper, and his keeper would have to petition the county court for the reimbursement.

Today, of course, $78 would not be much money, but the sum that Tazewell County paid to Summers for his year’s worth of expenses was not a small sum for the year 1832. To get a better idea of how much money that was, Tazewell County’s entire budget for 1832 consisted of only $689.50 in expenses and $729.24 in revenue.

In fact, money for paupers living at the county’s expense made up a not insignificant portion of Tazewell County’s expenditures in 1832. That is probably why the county court that year tried to rid the county of the expense of caring for its paupers Sarah Stout and Nicholas Miller – by attempting to sell them into servitude. According to Chapman, during the same court session when Miller’s son Joseph claimed an inability to provide for his father, Stout’s relatives Hosea Stout and Benjamin Jones also said they couldn’t provide for her.

“Thus,” Chapman writes, “the veteran and venerable paupers were thrown back upon the county, whereupon the Court ordered ‘Nathan Dillon and Wm. McClure to dispose of said paupers at public sale or private contract.’ It seems that they were not regarded as valuable paupers and not one bid was made for them. But all through the records for years are bills allowed for their maintenance. In 1835 the Court, being worried with the many claims for bills for supporting Miller, lifted up its voice and peremptorily commanded the Sheriff to sell him. The poor old man had outlived his years of usefulness and even became a burden to the indulgent county.”

Miller would remain on the county’s pauper rolls for the next decade. This is how Chapman tells the story of “The Last of Poor Old Nic. Miller”:

“During the years 1840 and ’41 we find a remarkable increase in the number and amount of bills allowed for keeping paupers. Throughout the record during these two years are bills upon bills of this nature. The increase seemed surprising to the Commissioners themselves, and they made particular inquiry into the status of affairs before granting the bills. It seems the county was imposed upon in several instances by the unnatural actions of those who preferred that their relations should be kept at the county’s expense rather than their own. One Jane Morrill it was found had a husband living able to provide for her.

“Poor old Nic. Miller, the ancient pauper, was still on hand, but his bill these years was curtailed to nearly one-half. Year after year the customary bill for his support was handed in, until through familiarity the name of ‘Nic. Miller’ became a by-word. We doubt not that when the old veteran died, and no more bills for his care were presented to the Court, the generous, kind-hearted Commissioners dropped a tear, felt a pang of sorrow steal through the tender cords of their heart, and softly muttered, ‘Poor old Nic. Miller is no more!’ Death, the poor man’s best friend, called the old gentleman away during the year 1845. The poor old man who had been refused bread by his own son, and who had been buffeted about by many adverse winds, now returned to trouble them no more.”

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#nathan-dillon, #nicholas-miller, #paupers, #tazewell-county-history

Ehrlicher Brothers’ first prescription

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

Ehrlicher Brothers’ first prescription

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

When Pekin celebrated its centennial as an incorporated city in 1949, the Pekin Association of Commerce’s Centenary Committee assigned the task of compiling and publishing a souvenir book of Pekin’s history to a group of eight men and women.

The result was the 1949 “Pekin Centenary 1849-1949.” Chief among those who produced this book were Thomas H. Harris, chairman, Charles Dancey, who wrote the history, Bea Falkin and Charlotte Rau, who wrote other articles, and Marge Brenneman and June Wieburg, who were in charge of selling advertisements for the book.

While the Centenary’s historical narrative is naturally the heart and core of the book, the advertisements also in their own way help to tell of Pekin’s history. Often the ads take the form of tributes and congratulations to the community from its various businesses or social organizations, and many times the tribute ads include summaries of the history of the city’s businesses or utilities.

The tribute ad of Ehrlicher Brothers, on page 29 of the Centenary, is a perfect example of one of those historically informative ads. Not only did this long-established pharmacy take the opportunity to brag about their work — “All prescriptions entrusted to our care are filled as written — no substitution — which has gained us the confidence of the physicians who wrote them. All ingredients used are pure and fresh . . .” — but the ad also includes some fascinating historical details, making it of interest even today, long after Ehrlicher Brothers went out of business.

“We have just completed 85 years of continuous drug business in the same room. We feel we have a right to be proud of our record,” the ad says. Ehrlicher Brothers Co., Druggists, 328 Court St., was founded in 1864 by Henry M. and Otto D. Ehrlicher, sons of the German immigrant Johann Georg Ehrlicher (1824-1876) whom this column featured in October 2014. As we’ve noted before, Henry and Otto are recognized as Pekin’s first druggists, and along with their brother George and their wives they donated the land where the original Pekin Hospital was built in 1918.

The most fascinating detail of the Ehrlicher Brothers tribute ad, however, was that it includes “an exact reproduction of PRESCRIPTION No. ONE filled July 7, 1865, one year after the founding of our establishment. It was written by Dr. Samuel T. Maus for Mrs. James Haines Sr., two of Pekin’s earliest pioneers.” (In fact the prescription is clearly dated July 18, 1865, not July 7.)

Shown is a reproduction of Ehrlicher Brothers’ first prescription, from July 1865.

Regular readers of this column will recall that the Haines and Maus families were among the first settlers of Pekin. The life of Dr. William Maus, son of Samuel, was featured in Sept. 2013, while the life of pioneer settler William Haines, older brother of James Haines, was featured in May 2014. “Mrs. James Haines Sr.” was Annie, daughter of Dr. William Maus.

#annie-haines, #charles-dancey, #dr-samuel-t-maus, #dr-william-s-maus, #ehrlicher-brothers, #henry-ehrlicher, #james-haines, #johann-george-ehrlicher, #otto-d-ehrlicher, #pekin-centenary, #pekin-hospital, #pekin-pharmacies, #preblog-columns, #william-haines

A pioneer physician of Pekin: Dr. William Maus

Here’s a chance to read again one of our old Local History Room columns, first published in September 2013 before the launch of this blog . . .

A pioneer physician of Pekin: Dr. William Maus

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

The first published history of Pekin, found in the 1870 Pekin City Directory, tells of a calamity that befell Pekin just a few years after its founding – a plague of cholera:

“With the opening of July, 1834, Pekin was visited by the Asiatic Cholera, and for a time the village was enveloped in a pall of gloom, sorrow and despondency. Quite a number of prominent citizens, among whom we find the names of Mr. Smith, Mrs. Cauldron, Thomas Snell, Dr. Perry, Mrs. Perry, Mrs. J. C. Morgan, and many others, fell victim ere the terrible malady took its departure.

“The medical profession was at that time represented by Dr. Perry, (one of the victims,) Dr. Pillsbury, and Dr. Griffith. Dr. W. S. Maus, although not then residing in Pekin, was also present the greater portion of the time, lending his aid to the terror-stricken and suffering people.” (Sellers & Bates Pekin City Directory, 1870, page 13)

On the preceding page, we read that Dr. Maus was among the pioneer settlers of Tazewell County and the Pekin area who had arrived in 1831 and 1832, prior to the Black Hawk War. The 1870 Pekin City Directory also notes that Dr. Maus was elected a few times as a Pekin town trustee in the 1840s. The 1873 Atlas Map of Tazewell County, page 7, says he served on the committee appointed in 1849-50 to oversee the construction of a new Tazewell County courthouse in Pekin, and on page 51 says he was elected to the Tazewell County Board in 1850.

The 1870 City Directory, on page 12, also provides this glimpse into the early state of affairs in the governance of Tazewell County:

“During the time intervening between the removal of the County Seat from Mackinaw to Pekin in 1831 and its removal from Pekin to Tremont in 1836, the offices of Circuit Clerk, County Clerk, Recorder, and Master in Chancery were held by Joshua C. Morgan, who was also post-master. He lived with his wife and four children, a brother and a young lady, and transacted the business of all his offices, in two rooms of the house now occupied by Dr. W. S. Maus. His house was also a great resort for travelers, and our informant says: ‘I have spent the evening at his house when the entire court and bar were there with many others.’”

An extended biography of Dr. Maus was included in the 1873 Atlas Map of Tazewell County, on pages 51 and 54. That account says he was born in Northumberland County, Pa., on Aug. 5, 1817, the sixth child of Samuel and Elizabeth Maus and a grandson of a German immigrant to Philadelphia named Philip Maus.

“Dr. William S. Maus was educated in the common schools of Pennsylvania. When about eighteen years of age he engaged in the drug business and the study of medicine with Dr. Ashbel Wilson, a leading physician of Berwick, Columbia county, Pa. He attended medical lectures at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating and receiving a diploma from that institution in 1830. Immediately thereby he commenced the practice of his profession in Luzerne county, Pa.”

He had married Mary Barton in 1829, and they had seven children, the eldest of whom, Annie, married an early and somewhat prominent resident of Pekin named James Haines.

The biography continues, “In the spring of 1831 Dr. Maus started with a horse and buggy for the west, traveling over the mountains to the mouth of Beaver river, where he took passage on board a steamboat, and traveled on it as far as Madison, Indiana. Here he purchased a horse, and made the balance of the trip overland to Tazewell county, locating in practice in the town of Mackinaw. In June, 1832, he brought out his wife and eldest child, who was then an infant, to Tazewell county, that time making the trip by land.”

Dr. Maus’ brothers Samuel and Joseph also came out to Tazewell County and settled in Pekin. Dr. Maus moved from Mackinaw to Pekin in 1838, and that fall he was elected to the Illinois General Assembly as representative for Tazewell County. He was a member of the last state legislature to convene in the former state capital of Vandalia and of the first legislature to convene in the new capital of Springfield. Around these years, in addition to his medical practice and his state office, Dr. Maus also was a contractor for several railroads, building five sections of the Pekin & Bloomington branch of the Central Railroad (later the I. B. & W.).

“Upon his return from the legislature,” the biography says, “the Doctor engaged in practicing medicine; he also carried on merchandising with his nephew, Jacob Maus. Dr. Maus enjoyed a lucrative and extensive practice up to 1851, at which time he discontinued the practice of medicine, and devoted his time and attention to a variety of business, and subsequently improved a large farm in Mackinaw township. In December, 1858, Mrs. Maus died at the residence of her daughter, Mrs. James Haines.”

He remarried in 1862 to Elizabeth Batterson of Pekin. The following year he moved to his farm, but returned to Pekin in 1864. “Since 1865 his attention has been largely devoted to Horticulture,” the biography says. He died in Pekin in 1872, but the biography in the 1873 Atlas Map of Tazewell County was not updated before going to print.

Further details of his life, and his horticultural activities, can be gleaned from an “Odds and Ends” column published in the Pekin Daily Times on Sept. 23, 1930:

“Quite a number of folks remember Dr. William Maus, who during his residence in Pekin lived in a locality which is now one of the finest residence sections of Park avenue. The Dr. William Maus home was situated, north of and close to the home now occupied by Fred Epkens on Park avenue. . [Note: the 1930 Pekin City Directory says Fred and Eugenia “Epkins” lived at 1031 Park Ave.] In addition to being a doctor of medicine, William Maus was a pioneer nurseryman of this section.

“The home as many recall it was of southern colonial type and stood well back from the street (now Park avenue). Two rows of evergreen trees bordered the east and west sides of the wide drive which led up to the home and circled around it on each side.

“. . . [O]n the south side of the street [Note: in the 1100 block of Park Avenue] William Maus had a large orchard, which kids of those days often visited. Dr. William Maus was a kindly and generous man, one of our old timers said this morning, and the boys did not have to raid the orchard, for the doctor always gave them all the apples, pears and other fruit they wanted to eat.”

#cholera-epidemic, #dr-maus-orchard, #dr-william-s-maus, #james-haines, #pekin-history

Over a century of Pekin Hospital history

This is a revised version of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in May 2013 before the launch of this weblog, republished here as a part of our Illinois Bicentennial Series on early Illinois history.

Over a century of Pekin Hospital history

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

The occasion of the Illinois Bicentennial is an ideal time to recall that Pekin’s hospital celebrated its own centennial just a little over five years ago. The history of this hospital – redubbed by its current corporate owners as “UnityPoint Health-Pekin” – began in 1913, when the community’s need for a public hospital led to the formation of a non-profit Pekin hospital corporation.

That is not the year Pekin Hospital opened its doors, however. Rather, that year the hospital’s board, headed by Presidents G. A. Kuhl and J. M. Rahn, commenced fundraising campaigns to raise money for the construction of a hospital. Those efforts enabled the construction of a hospital building in 1918, which therefore would be 100 years old if it still existed.

Shown is the original Pekin Hospital, built in 1918, photographed in 1928 from a path in the Sunken Gardens. Eventually this structure was torn down, but the main entrance was salvaged and is now attached to the north side of the 1931-2 addition, beneath a large clock.

The original hospital as seen from Park Avenue and 14th Street.

A closeup of the south end of the original Pekin Public Hospital building as seen from the area of 14th Street and Park Avenue about 1938.

Built by Ed F. Lampitt & Sons building contractors, the 1918 facility was erected on 14th Street between Court Street and Park Avenue on land donated by three Ehrlicher brothers and their wives, George Jr. and Mary, Henry and Amelia, and Otto D. and Minnie. (Henry and Otto were Pekin’s first pharmacists.) It should be noted that “Pekin: A Pictorial History” (1998, 2004), p.142, mistakenly substitutes the surname of “Herget” for George Jr.’s real surname.

The new edifice was formally dedicated Sunday afternoon, June 2, 1918, in ceremonies that were attended by a crowd of about 5,000. In its front page story on June 3, 1918, the Pekin Daily Times estimated that about 10,000 people toured the newly opened hospital that day.

This detail from the front page of the 3 June 1918 Pekin Daily Times shows the first part of the story about the formal dedication of Pekin’s new hospital.

The standard historical publications on Pekin’s history offer differing figures on the first hospital’s capacity. The 1949 Pekin Centenary says in one place that the hospital had a capacity of 20 beds, but elsewhere in the same book it says the capacity was only 18 beds, while the 1974 Pekin Sesquicentennial says the hospital had a capacity of 30 patients. The Pekin Daily Times story of the dedication ceremonies says the hospital had “18 patients’ rooms, fully equipped.”

Whatever the correct figure was, within a few years the need was evident for a larger hospital. “In 1931, a $150,000 fundraising drive (no small feat during a depression) resulted in additional construction and remodeling which boosted the capacity to 75 beds. This portion of the hospital is on Park Avenue, and for many years the main entrance was from that street,” says the 1974 Sesquicentennial.

Pekin Public Hospital in a view looking across Park Avenue, from the 1949 “Pekin Centenary” volume.

As Pekin continued to grow, Pekin Public Hospital again had to be expanded. In the early 1950s, $750,000 was raised locally and was matched by a federal grant, enabling the construction of a six-story $1.5 million addition on Park Avenue that increased the hospital’s capacity to 150 beds. The expansion was formally dedicated on June 19, 1955.

“But Pekin’s growth continued, and some of the older parts of the hospital became outmoded, so in the early 1960s another drive was undertaken,” says the Sesquicentennial. “This one succeeded in raising $1 million locally, and hospital officials borrowed another $1.5 million from a firm in Wisconsin, thus providing the necessary funding for the most recent expansion on Court Street. The main entrance once again was moved, and presently leads into this new six-story addition. Total capacity is now over 230, and plans call for the erection of a sixth and seventh floor on this newest addition which will house an intensive care unit and the obstetrics ward. As these floors are made ready, other areas of the older parts of the hospital will be closed (in fact, at least two floors are not in use now), and the total capacity will be around 250.”

Pekin Memorial Hospital as photographed in 1966 by Ralph James Goodwin. Note that the original hospital building is still there, though wood paneling covers the north wall indicating construction work under way. The old building was torn down subsequently, but its entrance was salvaged and later installed on the north wall of the Park Avenue addition.

It was in 1976 that those additional two stories were built, housing intensive and coronary care as well as obstetrics and pediatrics. Then, from 1979 to 1981, areas of the 1932 and 1954 additions were renovated to make room for pharmacy, medical records, a medical library, electrocardiography, respiratory therapy and radiology.

On June 23, 1985, ground was broken on a $10.1 million addition that would include surgery and radiology as well as a lobby, pharmacy, gift shop, restaurant and Park Court Medical Center. The building program moved the main entrance from Court Street to 13th Street, where it is today.

In Jan. 2018, Pekin Hospital completed the process of affiliation with Des Moines, Iowa-based UnityPoint Health, joining a system that now includes Methodist Medical Center (“UnityPoint Health-Methodist”) and Proctor Hospital (“UnityPoint Health-Proctor”) in Peoria. A year later a state-of-the-art Pekin physicians center opened at Griffin and Veterans Drive on Pekin’s east end – a building project initiated by Pekin Hospital in 2015, before the hospital affiliated with UnityPoint Health.

#amelia-ehrlicher, #ed-f-lampitt-sons, #g-a-kuhl, #george-ehrlicher-jr, #henry-ehrlicher, #illinois-bicentennial, #j-m-rahn, #mary-ehrlicher, #minnie-ehrlicher, #otto-d-ehrlicher, #pekin-hospital, #pekin-memorial-hospital, #pekin-public-hospital, #preblog-columns

Dietrich Jansen and the railroad bridge

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Older Pekin residents will remember the old railroad bridge that once spanned the Illinois River just to the north of the old Pekin lift bridge. Both bridges were removed in the 1970s and 1980s to make way for the John T. McNaughton Bridge.

The current bridge’s advantage over the old bridges is, of course, that it is high enough to allow barge traffic to pass beneath without regular and frequent interruptions of automobile and rail traffic. Formerly, when barges had to pass Pekin, the old Pekin bridge had to be raised while the railroad bridge had to use its swingspan to open a passage.

While the railroad bridge is remembered by many, probably not many remember who oversaw its construction. Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” page 1030, informs us that Dietrich H. Jansen (1872-1951), Pekin city engineer and Tazewell County surveyor, “had charge of the construction of the Peoria & Pekin Terminal Railroad bridge across the Illinois River at Pekin” in 1899 and 1900.

Allensworth’s history provides the following brief biography of Dietrich Jansen:

“Dietrich H. Jansen, City Engineer, Pekin, Ill., was born in the city where he now resides, August 8, 1872. His early education, obtained in the public and high schools of Pekin, was supplemented by a course in civil engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana. After completing the latter course of study, he returned to Pekin and occupied the position of Assistant City Engineer for two years and that of City Engineer from 1896 to 1900. From 1898 to 1902 he was Surveyor of Tazewell County, and in the latter year was again appointed City Engineer, his term of office expiring in 1906. In 1901 he was admitted to the firm of Jansen & Zoeller, of which his father was the senior partner. . . . He is the son of John D. and Anna (Steen) Jansen, and his paternal great-grandparents were Dietrich and Anna (Steen) Jansen, while on the maternal side they were John and Theresa (Wineberg) Jacobs, his grandparents being Dietrich and Addie (Jacobs) Jansen, all natives of Germany. In social affiliation Mr. Jansen is a member of the Tazewell Club, while politically he casts his vote with the Republican party. In November, 1900, he was united in marriage at Pekin to Miss Norma Roos, and they have one child, James Nathan, born February 9, 1902.”

Jansen and his wife Norma later had a second son named Norman Roos Jansen in 1907, when Norma died. Jansen passed away on Oct. 22, 1951, and he is buried in Lakeside Cemetery, Pekin, where his sons, who both died in 1980, are also buried.

As for Jansen’s bridge, a 1987 historical calendar of Pekin published by Herget Bank says, “Built in 1899 to bring the Peoria & Pekin Traction Company tracks into Pekin, this steel swingspan structure became the ‘Terminal Bridge’ through the 1906 name change of that company. It later served the Peoria Terminal Company as part of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific system.”

Over the decades, the Terminal Bridge was struck several times by barges. Among the final collisions was one in the early 1970s that left the swingspan drooping sadly into the river. No longer usable or needed, a few years later the bridge finally was spectacularly dynamited and its steel ruins hauled away as preparations began for the construction of the new Pekin bridge.

image0000

This vintage photograph shows the old Terminal Bridge at Pekin, a swingspan railroad bridge built in 1899-1900 under the direction of Pekin City Engineer Dietrich H. Jansen (1872-1951).

#dietrich-jansen, #john-t-mcnaughton-bridge, #pekin-bridges, #pekin-history, #pekin-railroads, #terminal-bridge

Ben C. Allensworth, Tazewell County historian

This is a reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in August 2012 before the launch of this weblog.

Ben C. Allensworth, Tazewell County historian

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Over the years this columns has from time to time spotlighted a few of the scribes who played important roles in recording the early history of Pekin and Tazewell County: writers and researchers such as William H. Bates, Charles C. Chapman, and Fred Soady, or Pekin’s pioneer photographer Henry H. Cole. This week we’ll take a closer look at the life of another important Tazewell County historian, Ben Campbell Allensworth of Pekin.

Allensworth’s chief contribution to local history was as the editor of the 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” which updated Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 history. Allensworth’s history was published in the “Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Tazewell County.” The first volume and part of the second volume, the encyclopedia, were edited by Newton Bateman and Paul Selby, while Allensworth was in charge of the Tazewell County history in volume two.

Allensworth was well suited to his task, because he was a school teacher and superintendent as well as an experienced and accomplished journalist. As the old saying goes, journalism gives us the first draft of history — but Allensworth had a hand in both a first and second draft of Tazewell County’s history.

This portrait and signature of Ben C. Allensworth was included in the 1905 “History of Tazewell County” of which Allensworth was the editor.

Included in Allensworth’s Tazewell County history, on pages 968-970, is his own biography, written by his friend, Judge A. W. Rodecker. “Ben C. Allensworth, the editor of the History of Tazewell County, having, from some cause, failed to furnish his own biography to the publishers of this work, they asked me to write it,” Rodecker apologetically explains. Allensworth’s portrait also is interleaved between pages 682 and 683.

Rodecker’s biography of Allensworth says, “Ben C. Allensworth was born in Little Mackinaw Township, one-half mile southeast of Tazewell, in Tazewell County, Ill., October 27, 1845. His parents were William P. and Arabel Waggener Allensworth. William P. Allensworth was born in Muhlenberg County, Ky., September 25, 1820, and died in Minier, Ill., May 8, 1874. He was a kind hearted and courtly gentleman, and highly esteemed by all who knew him. He held the office of Clerk of the Circuit Court for four years, and was an efficient and popular officer. The mother of B. C. Allensworth was born in Christian County, Ky., July 9, 1827, and died in Galesburg. Ill., March 25, 1902. She was a woman of culture and refinement, anxious for the success of her children, and labored with her husband in his every endeavor to educate and make them good and useful citizens.

“The subject of this sketch was the eldest of nine children, all of whom, with the exception of two, are living. He was reared on a farm, but, when he could be spared, attended the country schools and was a diligent pupil. It was easy for him to master the studies taught, and he early evinced a purpose to be more than a common school scholar. At the age of twenty he entered the State University at Normal. He ranked high in his studies, and when he graduated in 1869, left a record in the school which gave him a high standing with the school men of the State. Soon after his graduation, he was appointed to the position of Superintendent of Schools in Elmwood, Peoria County, which place he held until the spring of 1872. . . .

“In April, 1872, Mr. Allensworth bought of W. T. Meades a half-interest in ‘The Tazewell Register,’ and connected therewith John F. Mounts, a printer and writer of some considerable reputation. In September of that year, Meades purchased Mounts’ interest in the paper. The partnership of Meades and Allensworth, in the publication of the Register, continued until January 1873, when, on account of failing health, Mr. Allensworth sold out to Meades. Then retiring from the newspaper business, he went to farming in Little Mackinaw Township. He taught school in the winter time until 1877, when he was nominated by the Democratic party for Superintendent of Tazewell County Schools, being twice elected to this position. . . .

“For a portion of the time during which he was Superintendent of Schools, Mr. Allensworth carried on farming, and was just farmer enough to be compelled to use all the salary he made out of his office to keep up the farm — or rather make an attempt at it. . . . He dropped his farming venture in 1884 and moved to Pekin, where he has since resided. In May, 1885, he took editorial charge of ‘The Pekin Times,’ but owing to a disagreement with its proprietor, J. B. Irwin, as to the policy to be pursued by the paper, he gave up this position in the following September. In 1886, Irwin having sold the paper, Mr. Allensworth accepted the position of editor and business manager for the Times Publishing Company, which position he relinquished January 14, 1894, to take charge of the Pekin Postoffice (sic), to which place he had been appointed December 21, 1893, by Grover Cleveland. After the expiration of the four-year term in the postoffice, he went into the insurance business, in which he is now engaged. For a number of years he has been a member of the Pekin Board of School Inspectors, and has served one term as President of the Board.”

Rodecker also states that Allensworth married Charity A. Tanner in Minier on Oct. 7, 1875. He and Charity had three daughters and two sons. Charity died in 1912, and Allensworth died at Pekin Hospital on the morning of Sept. 3, 1929, being survived by three of his children and four grandchildren. His lengthy obituary — which is mostly a somewhat abridged version of Rodecker’s biography — was published at the top of the front page of that day’s edition of the Pekin Daily Times. He was buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Little Mackinaw Township.

#ben-c-allensworth, #charity-a-tanner, #j-b-irwin, #john-f-mounts, #judge-a-w-rodecker, #preblog-columns, #tazewell-county-history, #tazewell-register, #w-t-meades

William H. Bates of Pekin, ‘the historian of the city’

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Note: Archivists and historians in Missouri recently contacted the Pekin Public Library with information on a fascinating project they’re working on – a project that is related to the life of Pekin’s pioneer historian William H. Bates (1840-1930). Keep an eye on this column in the coming weeks to learn about their project. In the meantime, here’s a reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column on William H. Bates that was first published March 17, 2012.

*****

It’s simply impossible to study the early history of Pekin and Tazewell County without running across the name, and relying on the publications, of William H. Bates of Pekin. Regular readers of this column will recall that Bates was the first to publish a history of Pekin, which was included in the old Bates Pekin City Directories starting in 1870. But just who was William Bates, and how did he become Pekin’s pioneer historian?

The Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room files hold the answers to those questions, specifically in the lengthy obituary of William H. Bates published the day after his death in the Nov. 12, 1930, edition of the Pekin Daily Times.

“Few men had contributed as much of their time and means for the betterment of Pekin as Col. Bates,” the obituary says. “He gave the city its first daily newspaper, back in the early seventies, the Bulletin, but the venture did not pay and the paper was discontinued after nine months. He was one of the publishers of the Weekly Republican, printed numerous city directories containing much historical data and issued the souvenir booklet at the dedication of the court house, Wednesday, June 21, 1916. He was the historian of the city and knew more of the story of its early history and growth to its present population than any living man.”

Bates was born in New London, Ohio, on April 28, 1840, the son of Truman and Elizabeth Bates. The Bates family settled in Lafayette, Ind., in 1848, and it was there that William went to school and learned the printer’s art. He got a job on Sept. 15, 1853, in the Lafayette Daily Argus print shop, and the next year he transferred to the Lafayette Daily Courier. There he would compose a column of type and feed one end of an old-fashioned wood-framed Adams press. In 1855 he joined the staff of the Daily Morning Journal at Lafayette.

Fate brought him to Pekin in 1858. Desiring to visit some of America’s larger cities, he “packed his carpet-bag and took the train for Chicago,” his obituary says. He was only in Chicago for three weeks, however, when he received a letter from a sister who was living in Pekin, urging him to come and visit her. His visit was extended, and apart from his three years of Civil War service in the Union army, he remained in Pekin until the end of his life.

Bates volunteered for the U.S. Army from 1861 to 1864, serving in Companies C and H, 8th Missouri Infantry, 15th Army Corps. He “took part in twenty-six engagements, his regiment having the distinction of never losing a battle. He and other printers in his regiment issued a paper from a print shop they took over at Mexico, Mo., printing the edition on manila wrapping paper, the only kind available, the owner having secreted the print paper at the approach of the troops.”

To give his daughter Teena an idea of what he looked like as a Union soldier in the Civil War, Pekin historian and printer William H. Bates got out his old uniform and had Pekin's pioneer photographer Henry Hobart Cole take this photograph of him in 1892. "In your imagination," Bates told his daughter, "remove the chin whiskers, add a little flesh to the cheeks, and you have your father's picture of 1861-1864." The photo is from the collection of Missouri historian Bill Winters.

To give his daughter Teena an idea of what he looked like as a Union soldier in the Civil War, Pekin historian and printer William H. Bates got out his old uniform and had Pekin’s pioneer photographer Henry Hobart Cole take this photograph of him in 1892. “In your imagination,” Bates told his daughter, “remove the chin whiskers, add a little flesh to the cheeks, and you have your father’s picture of 1861-1864.” The photo is from the collection of Missouri historian Bill Winters, courtesy of Steven Schmit of Richmond, Va.

Prior to the war, Bates happened to meet Abraham Lincoln in Metamora. “During the time he worked at his trade in Peoria he was sent to Metamora to overhaul a print shop there that was badly run down. During his short stay the young printer stopped at the local hotel or tavern, and Abraham Lincoln, who was later to become president and a world figure, was there attending court. For a week the gaunt railsplitter entertained the crowd around the office stove with his stories, and he had no more attentive listener than young Bates. The latter remembered some of the stories Lincoln told and delighted in retelling them. In Lincoln he saw one of the future great men of the republic, became one of his ardent admirers and was always a consistent republican.”

Bates played a central role in many of the affairs of his community. Active in local politics, he was Fourth Ward alderman in 1887-88, was elected city treasurer in 1903 for two years, and made an unsuccessful bid for the mayor’s office in 1914. He also supervised Pekin’s Memorial Day celebrations until 1929.

“He was at the fore in all public demonstrations and old-timers still talk about ‘Giasticutus,’ a mechanical elephant Mr. Bates constructed for the Fourth of July parade of 1876,” says his obituary.

“Patriotic to the last, he said only a few days ago: ‘I don’t care what there is on the casket so there is a flag.’ And a flag covers him as he reposts at his home on Haines avenue.” The obituary also commented how fitting it was that, “While the nation paused for Armistice day, marking the end of the world’s greatest war, an heroic figure in civil war history, William H. Bates, passed out of life into that realm of eternal peace. . . . “ Daily Times publisher F.F. McNaughton went to the trouble of making sure Bates received a grand military funeral, the first one in Pekin’s history.

Bates never retired from his trade. At the time of his death, Bates was said to be the third oldest printer in the U.S., and perhaps the oldest active printer in the country.

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