Founding, and finding, Fort Crevecoeur

As we continue our series on the early history of Illinois, here’s a chance to read one of our old Local History Room columns, first published in January 2012 before the launch of this blog . . .

Founding, and finding, Fort Crevecoeur

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Among the earliest written records of Illinois and Tazewell County history are found in the journals of the French explorer Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle (1643-1687), who is best known in Tazewell County for building a fort at the future location of Creve Coeur in January of 1680. The Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room has resources that can help to bring that story to life.

This artist’s depiction of Fort Crevecoeur was printed in John Leonard Conger’s 1932 “History of the Illinois River Valley.”

No one can say for sure exactly where La Salle’s “Fort Crevecoeur” was, though La Salle described the general area in his journals. He wrote, “On January 15, toward evening a great thaw, which opportunely occurred, rendered the river free from ice from Pimiteoui as far as [the place chosen for the fort]. It was a little hillock about 540 feet from the bank of the river; up to the foot of the hillock the river expanded every time that there fell a heavy rain. Two wide and deep ravines shut in two other sides and one-half of the fourth, which I caused to be closed completely by a ditch joining the two ravines.”

“Pimiteoui” was the Native American name for the area where the Illinois River widens to become what we now know as Peoria Lake. It was also the name of a Native American village located at the future site of Peoria. In his 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” p.33, Charles C. Chapman locates the fort “at the lower end of the lake, on its eastern bank . . . The place where this ancient fort stood may still be seen just below the outlet of Peoria lake.”

This diagram of Fort Crevecoeur based on misreadings of La Salle’s description was printed in John Leonard Conger’s 1932 “History of the Illinois River Valley.”

As we saw last time, the purpose of Fort Crevecoeur and the other forts the French built in the Illinois Country was to help France control the fur trade. The most likely place where this fort stood is in the low areas of Creve Coeur or possibly East Peoria, between Peoria Lake and the bluffs. Others have argued the fort was much further up the river, or far down river in the area near Beardstown, but neither of those locations fits La Salle’s description very well.

In a 1902 essay, “Historic Pekin!,” Pekin’s early historian W. H. Bates tells how La Salle and his party “landed at what is now Wesley City, Pekin Township, five and a half miles due north from Pekin, and built a large stockade fort on the high bluff above which he named Creve Coeur. “ Wesley City later was renamed Creve Coeur in memory of La Salle’s fort, and until recently the community has looked back to those days every spring and fall with events at Fort Crevecouer Park.

The fort did not last long. La Salle had to return to Canada in February, leaving Henri de Tonti (1649-1704) and a small garrison at the fort. In April, Tonti departed to consider the possibility of building a fort on Starved Rock, but during his absence, most of the garrison mutinied and destroyed the fort. The story of La Salle’s explorations and the brief existence of Fort Crevecoeur is related in some detail in John L. Conger’s 1932 “History of the Illinois River Valley.”

As for La Salle himself, he later founded a French colony on Garcitas Creek, Texas, on the Gulf of Mexico, but La Salle’s men mutinied and he was murdered by one of the mutineers on March 19, 1687, near modern Navasota, Texas.

Rare, early maps of the area show both Lake Pimiteoui and Fort Crevecoeur, but not in enough detail to ascertain the precise location of the fort. One of the earliest of those maps was drawn up in 1688 by Jean-Baptiste Louis Franquelin, who had served as La Salle’s draftsman in France in 1684. Franquelin’s 1688 map was ultimately based on a lost map drawn up by La Salle himself. Fort Crevecoeur and Pimiteoui Lake are also noted on Marco Vincenzo Coronelli’s 1688 map of North America. Coronelli got his information about Fort Crevecoeur from La Salle’s own 1682 Relation Officielle of his discovery of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Reproductions of these and other early maps of Illinois and North America are included in “Indian Villages of the Illinois Country,” a remarkable atlas kept on file in the library’s local history room.

Fort Crevecoeur — also known as Fort de Crevecoeur — made its first appearance on a map in 1682, when the Abbe Claude Bernou drafted a map of the Americas. Shown here is a detail from Bernou’s map.

Fort Crevecoeur is marked in this detail from a 1688 map by Jean-Baptiste Louis Franquelin. This was one of the first maps to show the ephemeral Fort Crevecoeur.

Fort Crevecoeur is marked in this detail from a 1688 map by Marco Vincenzo Coronelli. This was one of the first maps to show Fort Crevecoeur.


#abbe-claude-bernou, #creve-coeur, #fort-crevecoeur, #franquelins-map, #henri-de-tonti, #illinois-bicentennial, #la-salle, #starved-rock, #vincenzo-coronelli, #wesley-city

Two generations of tragedy and loss

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s another chance to read this old Local History Room column, first published on 18 May 2013 before the launch of this blog and then posted here on 16 Nov. 2016. We’re re-posting it here to help draw attention to our upcoming program on the riverboat Columbia disaster. At 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 30, local author Ken Zurski, who published a book in 2012 entitled, “The Wreck of the Columbia,” will come to the Pekin Public Library to talk about the disaster which claimed the lives of 87 of the boat’s 500 passengers. Most of the victims were from Pekin. For Mr. Zurski’s program, the library will display articles and photographs of the disaster, along with the 48-star U.S. flag from the Columbia which was salvaged the day after the wreck by Columbia survivor Roscoe Maxey of Pekin. The flag was donated to the Pekin Public Library in 1986 by Roscoe’s son Justin Maxey.

Articles and photographs pertaining to the 1918 wreck of the riverboat Columbia are currently on display in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room. Local author Ken Zurski will give a lecture on the Columbia disaster at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, 30 March 2017, in the library’s upstairs Community Room.

Two generations of tragedy and loss

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

This weekend, the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society will conduct a cemetery walk remembering victims of the July 5, 1918, Columbia riverboat disaster. The cemetery walk will be from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, May 19 (with a rain date of Sunday, June 2), at Lakeside Cemetery in Pekin, where most of the 57 Pekin residents who died in the wreck of the Columbia are buried.

Local interest in the Columbia disaster was renewed last year [2012] with the publication of Ken Zurski’s “The Wreck of the Columbia,” the first book-length treatment of this tragic event that brought grief to a great number of families in Pekin and the surrounding areas. Eighty-seven people drowned when the Columbia struck a sandbar and collapsed and sank near Wesley City (Creve Coeur).

In his book, Zurski tells the stories of several of the victims and survivors, and of some who avoided falling victim to the disaster through unforeseen circumstances that prevented them from going on the fatal cruise. Among the stories not told in Zurski’s book is that of a Columbia victim named Hazel Marie Bowlby, who was 21 when she died.

The photograph of Hazel Marie Bowlby was taken the winter before she drowned in the wreck of the Columbia. PHOTO PROVIDED BY GAYLA ERLENBUSCH, LUCILLE'S GRANDDAUGHTER

The photograph of Hazel Marie Bowlby was taken the winter before she drowned in the wreck of the Columbia. PHOTO PROVIDED BY GAYLA ERLENBUSCH, LUCILLE’S GRANDDAUGHTER

In January, Hazel’s relatives supplied the Pekin Daily Times with copies of old photographs of Hazel, along with a copy of a letter that Hazel wrote to her sister about a year before the disaster. Copies of the photographs and letter have been forwarded to the Pekin Public Library to be added to the library’s Local History Room collection.

Hazel, born in 1897, was a daughter of John C. and Susie Wertz Bowlby. She had an older sister named Lucille and a younger brother named Elmer. “She was my grandmother’s only sister,” said Gayla Erlenbusch, Lucille’s granddaughter.

Shown are (back row) Lucille Bowlby and Hazel Marie Bowlby, and (front row) Susie Wertz Bowlby, Elmer Bowlby, and John C. Bowlby. PHOTO PROVIDED BY GAYLA ERLENBUSCH, LUCILLE'S GRANDDAUGHTER

Shown are (back row) Lucille Bowlby and Hazel Marie Bowlby, and (front row) Susie Wertz Bowlby, Elmer Bowlby, and John C. Bowlby. PHOTO PROVIDED BY GAYLA ERLENBUSCH, LUCILLE’S GRANDDAUGHTER

From the copy of the letter that Hazel’s relatives have supplied, we know that in the summer of 1917 Hazel worked for the Pekin Daily Times – writing to her sister Lucille, Hazel typed the letter on stationery bearing the newspaper’s letterhead, and mailed it in a Pekin Daily Times printed envelope. In her letter, Hazel says she may need to borrow $5 from Lucille, and indicates dissatisfaction that the Times’ general manager and managing editor Charles Utter had not given her any raises in pay.

Erlenbusch said that her grandmother Lucille could have ended up as one of the Columbia’s victims along with her sister, if it weren’t for a sisterly spat.

“Hazel and her sister were both supposed to go, but they got into an argument. Apparently they both wanted to wear the same blouse. So my grandmother got mad and decided to stay home,” Erlenbusch said. Hazel went alone, the last time any of her family saw her alive.

Hazel was one of the many victims who had been on the boat’s dance floor. Her body was one of the last to be recovered, according to Erlenbusch. “My great-grandparents sent my grandmother to identify her,” she said. Hazel was buried in Green Valley Cemetery.

Lucille Bowlby stands at the grave of her sister Hazel the day of her funeral, at Green Valley Cemetery. PHOTO PROVIDED BY GAYLA ERLENBUSCH, LUCILLE'S GRANDDAUGHTER

Lucille Bowlby stands at the grave of her sister Hazel the day of her funeral, at Green Valley Cemetery. PHOTO PROVIDED BY GAYLA ERLENBUSCH, LUCILLE’S GRANDDAUGHTER

We can well imagine how painful Hazel’s death was to her loved ones, but it must have been especially hard on her father, John C. Bowlby, as it was the second time death had shockingly struck someone close to him.

As told in Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” on Feb. 19, 1895, John’s first wife Belle Wallace Bowlby was shot to death by her own brother Albert Wallace, who was living with his sister and brother-in-law on the old Wallace homestead in Dillon Township. John and the Bowlbys’ hired man Lawrence Lyman also suffered very serious gunshot wounds in the incident.

What led up to the crime was the death of Belle’s and Albert’s father, Andrew Wallace, who was killed in 1890 by James Connell in self-defense. Andrew left his estate to Belle, which “led to bickering between Mr. and Mrs. Bowlby and Albert Wallace, who made frequent demands for money, and when refused, is said to have made threats against Mr. and Mrs. Bowlby,” Allensworth writes.

Finally, one night Albert took a shotgun and, aiming through a window, fired at John’s head. “Bowlby, whose hand was on his forehead, had several fingers blown off and a number of shot entered his head. Mrs. Bowlby sprang and opened the door, when she was shot in the stomach. Lyman was shot twice in the leg, and was badly burned in the face by the powder,” according to Allensworth. Belle died two days later, while Lyman lost an eye. John eventually recovered and remarried.

After the shooting, Albert borrowed a neighbor’s horse and rode to Pekin, where he surrendered to the sheriff. Asking why he was turning himself in, he said, “You will find out later.” He was convicted of murder on Oct. 28, 1895, and sentenced to death by hanging. He was executed on March 14, 1896 – the last legal hanging in Pekin.

#albert-wallace, #charles-utter, #elmer-bowlby, #hazel-bowlby, #john-c-bowlby, #ken-zurski, #last-execution-in-pekin, #lawrence-lyman, #lucille-bowlby, #murder-of-belle-wallace-bowlby, #pekin-daily-times, #susie-wertz-bowlby, #wreck-of-the-columbia

Westerman’s Rose Villa and the Herget Mansion

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Recently we highlighted the somewhat tense and at times colorful relationship that noted Pekin distiller Henry P. Westerman (1836-1922) had with the local press. As we previously recalled, at one point Pekin editor and printer (and the city’s first historian) William H. Bates “was threatened at his very domicile by H. P. Westerman, the old head of the Pekin whiskey ring,” as the Peoria Journal mentioned on Nov. 3, 1881.

Westerman was of course known for much more than evading the federal whiskey tax and threatening the lives of newspaper editors. In fact, he and his wife Mary were prominent and influential members of the community, as one might gather from Westerman’s extensive and laudatory biography which was included in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County,” page 38, among that publication’s lives of the “Old Settlers” of the county.

Another unmistakable sign of the Westermans’ exalted status in Pekin’s society was their impressive place of residence, a large Victorian-style mansion known as “Rose Villa.” Their mansion was located on Washington Street at the head of Buena Vista, at the street address today designated 420 Washington St.  A lithograph engraving of Rose Villa as well as an engraved portrait of H. P. Westerman himself may be found in the 1873 “Atlas Map.”

Later in life Westerman moved to California, where he died. The block on which Rose Villa stood was acquired by a member of another of Pekin’s prominent German families, Carl Herget, who replaced the old Westerman frame mansion with his own brick Classical Revival structure, known today as the Herget Mansion, now 103 years old and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. The blueprints and specifications for the new building were drawn up on July 15, 1912, by the architectural firm of Hewitt & Emerson, 321 Main St., Peoria.

It should be noted that Rob Clifton’s “Pekin History: Then and Now” (2004) has an incorrect statement regarding the relationship between Westerman’s Rose Villa and the Carl Herget Mansion. “Then and Now” says, “Around 1912 George Herget bought and then converted the house to its current appearance.” George, founder of Herget National Bank and donor of the land on which the Pekin Public Library was built, was Carl Herget’s uncle. The 1912 construction of the Herget Mansion was the erecting of a new structure from the ground up, not merely a major remodel of a previously existing structure.


This engraving of Rose Villa, mansion of Henry P. Westerman, was published in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County.” The Carl Herget Mansion on Washington Street stands on the site today.

#carl-herget, #carl-herget-mansion, #george-herget, #h-p-westerman, #old-settlers, #pekin-history, #rose-villa, #w-h-bates, #william-h-bates

A succession of county courthouses

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

The Tazewell County Courthouse in downtown Pekin celebrated its 100th birthday just last month. Serving the county for as long as it has, the courthouse is neither the first such structure in Tazewell County history nor the first courthouse to be built at that location.
As told in Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” the first Tazewell County Courthouse was located in Mackinaw, which was originally the county seat, being located in the county’s center. The first courthouse, a log house 24 feet long and 18 feet wide, was built at a cost of $125 in the summer of 1827 on lot 1 of block 11. Improvements were made to the simple structure in 1830, but in the summer of 1831 the court relocated to the old Doolittle School at the corner of Elizabeth and Second streets in Pekin.

Pekin historian William H. Bates drew this representation of the first Tazewell County Courthouse, located in Mackinaw, for the "Historical Souvenir" that Bates published for the dedication of the new courthouse in 1916.

Pekin historian William H. Bates drew this representation of the first Tazewell County Courthouse, located in Mackinaw, for the “Historical Souvenir” that Bates published for the dedication of the new courthouse in 1916.

The court was relocated to Pekin because in Dec. 1830 the Illinois General Assembly had created McLean County out of the eastern portion of Tazewell County, which originally was much larger than it is today. With the redrawing of the border, Mackinaw was now toward the eastern edge of the county, and many county officials thought the new town of Pekin would make a better county seat than Mackinaw.
For the next few years, Pekin would function as the de facto county seat even though it had not been established as such by law. But in 1835 the state legislature appointed a commission to permanently fix Tazewell County’s seat, and the commission opted for Tremont rather than Pekin, because Tremont was close to the center of the county. The court moved to Tremont on June 6, 1836, and a temporary courthouse was promptly erected there at the cost of $1,150. Then in 1837 construction began on a permanent brick courthouse in Tremont for $14,450. That structure was completed in 1839 – the same year that the residents of Pekin formally began efforts to have the county seat transferred back to their town.

William H. Bates reproduced this photograph of the old Tazewell County Courthouse in Tremont for the 1916 "Historical Souvenir" that he published for the dedication of the new courthouse.

William H. Bates reproduced this photograph of the old Tazewell County Courthouse in Tremont for the 1916 “Historical Souvenir” that he published for the dedication of the new courthouse.

The contentious rivalry between Pekin and Tremont continued throughout the 1840s, and Chapman relates that, in their efforts to retain the county seat and to slow or halt Pekin’s growing prosperity, Tremont is said to have lobbied the General Assembly several times to have portions of Tazewell County sliced off and assigned to neighboring counties. After the election of May 1843, Chapman writes, “a stop [was] made to this dividing up and cutting off of Tazewell’s territory. Had they continued it much longer there would have been nothing left of the county but Pekin and Tremont. Then, we doubt not, a division would have been made and both towns have at least gained a county-seat.”
Further on, Chapman comments, “During these twenty years of local war, of course bitterness of feeling was intense, and great injury was done to all parts of the county. Many of the older citizens attribute very largely the prosperity and commercial advantages by Peoria over Pekin to the bitter feuds engendered during this long and eventful strife.”
The conflict ended in 1849, when the citizens of Tazewell County voted to move the county seat to Pekin, where it has remained ever since. A new courthouse was then built in Pekin in 1850, at the site of the present courthouse. “The question [of the county seat’s location] having been finally and definitely decided the courthouse was immediately erected by the citizens of Pekin, in fulfillment of their promise. The last meeting of the Board of Supervisors . . . that was held at Tremont was Aug. 26, 1850, when it moved in a body to their new and more commodious quarters, and on the same day dedicated the edifice by holding therein their first meeting in Pekin,” Chapman writes.
The old Tremont courthouse remained in use as a high school for several years, later being used as a community center and dance hall, until at last the ground level was used as tenements before the dilapidated structure was razed around 1895. The old county histories note that Abraham Lincoln practiced law in both the Tremont courthouse and the 1850 courthouse in Pekin.
“Pekin: A Pictorial History” notes that for the construction of the Pekin courthouse, “Gideon Rupert (his residence is the current homesite of the Noel-Henderson Funeral Home) contributed $600 and with others’ generosity, raised the needed funds for the building. The cost was $8,000. Local products of sandstone, quarried five miles northeast of Pekin, and bricks, fired at the Jansen and Zoeller Brickyard on the East Bluff, were used.” The building also had white marble columns.

The layout of the Tazewell County Courthouse Block in November 1903 is shown in this detail from a Sanborn fire insurance map of downtown Pekin. In addition to the courthouse, the block also encompassed a band stand, the county jail and Sheriff's dwelling, and the county offices building. The courthouse, band stand, and offices building were demolished in 1914 to make way for a larger, even more grand courthouse.

The layout of the Tazewell County Courthouse Block in November 1903 is shown in this detail from a Sanborn fire insurance map of downtown Pekin. In addition to the courthouse, the block also encompassed a band stand, the county jail and Sheriff’s dwelling, and the county offices building. The courthouse, band stand, and offices building were demolished in 1914 to make way for a larger, even more grand courthouse.

Also helping to defray construction costs were prominent local landowners David and Elijah Mark, who each gave $500. The heirs of the Mark estate would eventually donate the land that would become James Field in Pekin.
The 1974 Pekin Sesquicentennial records the tradition that, “Older Pekinites claim that the columns of the old County Court House were painted black up to the height of the first floor doors because the white marble was marred by the hand and fingerprints of the loungers who leaned against them.”
The 1850 courthouse remained in use until 1914, when it was razed to make way for a new and larger edifice – the current structure, which was built over the next two years at a cost of $212,964.
“Wide marble steps and Italian-imported white marble banisters graced the ‘architecturally noteworthy’ interior of the courthouse dedicated on June 21, 1916,” according to “Pekin: A Pictorial History.”
“Thousands attended the dedication services with Illinois congressman and candidate for governor, W.E. Williams, as the featured speaker. According to the Pekin Daily Times, Congressman Williams, ‘spoke for an hour and fifteen minutes . . . .’”

This vintage photograph shows the laying of the new Tazewell County Courthouse's cornerstone in 1914. Standing next to scaffolding in the foreground is William H. Bates displaying the time capsule to the crowd before it was sealed in the cornerstone.

his vintage photograph shows the laying of the new Tazewell County Courthouse’s cornerstone in 1914. Standing next to scaffolding in the foreground is William H. Bates displaying the time capsule to the crowd before it was sealed in the cornerstone.

Shown is a key to the old 1850 Tazewell County Courthouse that was preserved in the 1902 Pekin Library Cornerstone time capsule. Another key to the old courthouse was included in the 1914 courthouse cornerstone time capsule.

Shown is a key to the old 1850 Tazewell County Courthouse that was preserved in the 1902 Pekin Library Cornerstone time capsule. Another key to the old courthouse was included in the 1914 courthouse cornerstone time capsule.

Though the old 1850 courthouse is long gone, some of the marble was claimed by Pekin’s pioneer photographer Henry Hobart Cole for use in the home he built in Tuscarora Heights in Peoria County.
Other surviving mementos of the 1850 structure are two courthouse keys. One was placed in a cornerstone time capsule at the construction the old Pekin Public Library in 1902. That time capsule was opened when the old library was razed in 1972, and that courthouse key and the other contents of the cornerstone, which were found to be in a very good state of preservation, are kept in the library’s historical archives. Another courthouse key was found in the recently opened 1916 courthouse time capsule.

The layout of the Tazewell County Courthouse Block in September 1925 is shown in this detail of a Sanborn fire insurance map of downtown Pekin. The courthouse's cornerstone was laid in 1914.

The layout of the Tazewell County Courthouse Block in September 1925 is shown in this detail of a Sanborn fire insurance map of downtown Pekin. The courthouse’s cornerstone was laid in 1914.

#courthouse-key, #mackinaw-courthouse, #pekin-history, #pekin-library-cornerstone-time-capsule, #sanborn-maps, #tazewell-county-courthouse-time-capsule, #tazewell-county-history, #tremont-courthouse, #william-haines

A big riot at a Little Mine

Here’s a chance to read one of our old Local History Room columns, first published in June 2012 before the launch of this blog . . .

A big riot at a Little Mine

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

In his 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” Ben C. Allensworth called it “the most serious riot ever known in Tazewell County.” It was the Little Mine Riot of June 6, 1894, which took place at the Hilliard Mine near Creve Coeur (then known as Wesley City). This event didn’t get its name because the riot or the mine were little, but because the Hilliard Mine was leased by the brothers Peter and Edward Little, coal-mine operators of Peoria County.

The Pekin Public Library’s local history room collection has only Allensworth’s account of this incident. Local historian Fred W. Soady, however, went into greater depth in his master’s thesis, “Little Mine Riot of 1894: A Study of a Central Illinois Labor Dispute.”

Shown in this photo reproduced in “Pekin: A Pictorial History” is the entrance to a Pekin coal mine that was located off Broadway Road at the former location of the Herget Bank Parkway/Broadway branch. Coal mining was once big business in Tazewell County, but was also the occasion of the county’s biggest civil disturbance, the Little Mine Riot of 1894.

“Labor” and “management” sometimes have differences that lead to a falling out, and workers go on strike. Such disputes usually don’t involve exchanges of gunfire and people shot to death, as happened in the Little Mine Riot, but relations between the Littles and their miners had deteriorated drastically.

The miners’ immediate and primary grievance, according to Allensworth, was that the Littles had installed new machinery that meant fewer men were needed to work the mine. In addition, “The miners in Peoria County had been on a strike for some time, and the fact that coal was being taken daily from the Hilliard Mine seemed to be a source of aggravation,” Allensworth wrote. Local historian Dale Kuntz, however, has observed that ethnic and racial tensions also contributed to their unhappiness – the Littles employed Italian Catholic immigrants and African-Americans, .

As Allensworth told the story, “The result was that threats by the strikers to close their mine came to the ears of the Littles, and they prepared for trouble by storing guns and ammunition in the tower which overlooked the valley below. On June 15th (sic), Sheriff J.C. Friederich received the following telegram from Ed. Little: ‘The miners are coming tomorrow, five hundred strong, and armed. Be on hand early.’ Sheriff Friederich and Deputy Frings swore in about thirty deputies. They could secure no weapons worthy of mention, and, consequently, went up unarmed. In the meantime about three hundred miners assembled on the opposite side of the river, and nearly all armed with guns, pistols and other deadly weapons. They crossed the river in boats, and under the leadership of John L. Geher, an ex-member of the Legislature, marched to the mine. The sight of the mine in operation seemed to enrage them beyond control, and they started on a run for the works. They were met by the Sheriff, who asked them to abstain from violence, and commanded them to disperse. They brushed the sheriff and his deputies aside, and began firing in the tower. The assault was replied to by the Littles, striking a miner by the name of Edward Flower, who fell dead.”

Unsurprisingly, some details of this incident are unclear and disputed. The miners claimed the Littles shot first, and Ed Little is reported to have admitted as much, and to have said Geher had done all he could to avoid violence. The miners also protested that they were provoked by the proud and domineering attitude of one of Little brothers.

Allensworth’s account continues, “In the tower were the Little brothers, William Dickson, colored, Charles Rockey and John Fash. Seeing that resistance was useless, they ran out a flag of truce. Both the Littles and James Little, a son, were wounded. Dickson attempted to escape but was followed and shot several times, was taken to a Peoria hospital and died there. The miners completed the work of destruction by pouring coal oil down the shaft and setting fire to it. Some eleven men were working in the mine at the time, but all succeeded in making their escape.”

When news of the riot reached the ears of Gov. John P. Altgeld, two companies of the state militia were sent to Tazewell County, which was virtually placed under martial law for about a week. Residents of Pekin also organized a company of guards to defend the city, because the striking miners had threatened to come to Pekin and break their friends out of the county jail.

In the end, cooler heads prevailed and the rule of law was restored. In September 1894, Geher, Daniel Caddell, John Heathcote, and a man named Jones, were sentenced to be imprisoned for five years in the state penitentiary in Joliet, but Gov. Altgeld pardoned them after they had served about a year of their sentences.

The Littles also filed a claim for damages to their business and were awarded $7,710.60, and to ensure that Tazewell County would not again be caught unprepared for major civil disturbances, the county purchased 100 Remington rifles.

#edward-flower, #gov-john-peter-altgeld, #john-l-geher, #little-mine-riot, #sheriff-j-c-friederich, #tazewell-county-history, #tazewell-county-mining, #william-dickson

Pekin inaugurates Illinois Bicentennial Year 2017-2018

Cities, towns, and counties across the state of Illinois held ceremonies today to formally inaugurate the Illinois Bicentennial Year, which officially began yesterday, 3 Dec. 2017. The City of Pekin’s ceremony took place this morning at 11:45 a.m. at the foot of the Pekin Municipal Building’s front steps in downtown Pekin, presided over by Pekin Mayor John McCabe and concluding with the raising of the Bicentennial Flag by the Pekin Fire Department Honor Guard. Meanwhile Tazewell County had a simultaneous ceremony nearby on the Tazewell County Courthouse lawn that included a choir, bagpiper, and a 21-gun salute (since Illinois is the 21st state) by the County Sheriff’s Department Honor Guard.

The official logo of the Illinois Bicentennial was officially unveiled at the Old State Capitol in Springfield on Jan. 12 of this year.

Pekin Public Library staff member Jared Olar was invited by Mayor McCabe to talk for a few minutes about Illinois history at the city’s Bicentennial Year inaugural ceremony. Following is the gist of Olar’s remarks:

I’m honored that the Mayor has invited me to talk about the history of our state. As we take the time today to remember our state’s history, I’d like to talk about what NAMES can tell us about our history.

The history of Illinois can be traced in the names of its rivers, towns, and cities. Place names such as Chicago, Peoria, Mackinaw, Kankakee, Wabash, Kewanee, Kaskaskia (Illinois’ first state capital), Ottawa, Cahokia, Winnebago, Macoupin, and the very name of our state are Native American in origin — relics of the original inhabitants of our state. The name of our state, “Illinois,” is the French version of the designation of the confederation of Native American tribes who inhabited this region when the French first arrived here in the 1600s. In 1640, Father Paul LeJeune, a Jesuit missionary priest, was the first to tell of a nation called the Eriniouai — a name that eventually would be changed into forms such as “Illini” and “Illiniwek,” said by the early French missionaries and colonists who had dealings with them to mean “the men,” but today some linguists speculate that it may have derived from a Miami-Algonquin term that means “one who speaks the normal way.”

Other place names, such as La Salle, Joliet, Marquette Heights, Menard, Bureau, and Creve Coeur, are reminders of the time when Illinois was explored and claimed by France as a part of France’s colonial empire. Illinois passed to British control in 1763 at the end of the French and Indian War, but the French settlers here remained. Here in Tazewell County there was a French fur trading house at the future site of Creve Coeur, existing from about 1775 to the 1830s. The French traders at the house, Tromly and Besaw, who had married American Indian women, were there when Jonathan Tharp built his cabin here in what was soon become Pekin. When Illinois became a state, the trading house was already there — six years before Tharp built his cabin in 1824, twelve before Pekin was founded in 1830.

But, naturally enough, the vast majority of Illinois’ place names testify to the fact that Illinois was established as a territory and state of the United States of America in the early decades of the 1800s by the arrival of vast numbers of people whose ancestors had come from England, Scotland, and Ireland. By far most Illinois place names are English — named for men of English descent, or named after towns and places in Britain.

Occasionally we come across Illinois place names such as New Salem, Zion, and Loami that testify to the Christian faith of Illinois’s pioneers. But sometimes we encounter names that arose from Americans’ old romance or fascination with the exotic, ancient, noble culture of far-off China — names like Canton, and, yes, Pekin.

The Illinois Bicentennial offers everyone in the state a whole year of opportunities to recall our past: but it’s also a perfect opportunity for us to remember the history of our city and our county — even if Tazewell County didn’t come along until nine years after statehood and Pekin wasn’t founded until three years after that.

Events to celebrate the bicentennial will continue in our area up until Dec. 3 next years. The County Bicentennial Committee chaired by Christal Dagit of the Tazewell County Museum is helping to coordinate celebrations for the coming year, and if you hear of something in the works or have an idea, let Christal know and she’d be happy to help you.

The Pekin Public Library has also been making plans for the Illinois Bicentennial, and working for the library I’d like talk a little about that. The library is commemorating the bicentennial all year long with an Illinois Bicentennial Movie Series that will run January to December 2018. On the first Friday of each month at 11 a.m., the library will show a historical video dealing with an aspect of the history of Illinois, Tazewell County, or Pekin. The movies will be shown in the Community Room on the second floor of the library, and admission is free. The movie series commences on Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, with a video on Pekin history.

In addition to the movie series, the libraries “From the History Room” blog is featuring a yearlong series of special articles on Illinois, Tazewell, and Pekin history. The first in the series, “Illinois as the French found it,” was just posted online on the History Room blog on Friday and then published in the Pekin Daily Times on Saturday. New articles in the series will appear each week, first online on Friday and then in the paper on Saturday. The articles will generally follow the historical timeline that you’ve been given, starting with Illinois at the time of the arrival of the French and coming down to the founding of Pekin in Jan. 1830.

We hope the article series will be interesting, informative, and above all, accurate , and everyone is more than welcome to join us for our movie series. Thank you!

#eriniouai, #father-paul-lejeune, #illiniwek-confederation, #illinois-bicentennial

Free State of Illinois: Gov. Coles calls for emancipation

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Previously in our ongoing Illinois Bicentennial series, we saw how the controversy over slavery affected the history and development of Illinois from the formation of the Northwest Territory in 1787 right up to Illinois statehood in 1818. In fact, the dispute between Illinois’ pro-slavery and anti-slavery settlers played a role both in the breaking off of the Illinois Territory from the Indiana Territory in 1809 and in the race to achieve statehood for Illinois prior to Missouri.

This week we’ll recall how the issue flared up again during the tenure of Illinois’ second state governor Edward Coles (1786-1868).

About two years after Illinois became a state, the U.S. Congress agreed to admit Missouri and Maine to the Union simultaneously under the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which sought to defuse tensions between America’s pro-slavery and abolitionist parties by keeping the numbers of new “slave states” and “free states” balanced. The Missouri Compromise stipulated that slavery would be illegal in any new states formed from the areas of the Louisiana Purchase north of Parallel 36°30′ North.

Looking ahead, we can see that although the issue of slavery continued to simmer in the next three decades, at the national level the Missouri Compromise had moved the issue to the back burner. This arrangement endured until 1854, when Congress passed Illinois Sen. Stephen A. DouglasKansas-Nebraska Act, which repealed the Missouri Compromise and made slavery possible north of Parallel 36°30′ North.

Douglas’ rival Abraham Lincoln sharply criticized the Kansas-Nebraska Act in his Peoria speech on Oct. 16, 1854, an important step on the road that would take Lincoln to the White House. The resulting outrage over the act on the part of the free states and the abolitionists led to the dreadful violence of “Bleeding Kansas” and, ultimately, to the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 and the final abolition of slavery in 1865.

In the great conflict over slavery, Illinois was ranged with the free states. As noted before, Article 6 the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 had outlawed slavery in any territories or states that later would be formed from the Northwest Territory. But in its early history Illinois’ place among the slave states was somewhat dubious and precarious. Most of Illinois’ early settlers came from slave states and territories, and from 1796 to 1806 there were repeated attempts to legalize slavery in the Indiana and Illinois territories.

Although the pro-slavery forces in Illinois failed to legalize slavery, effectively the practice of slavery still went on in Illinois due to an indentured servitude law that made it possible for slave owners to pressure their slaves to agree to continue to serve their masters after coming to Illinois. In Jan. 1818, the Illinois Territorial Legislature sought to emphasize to Congress that Illinois would be a free state by approving a bill that would have reformed labor contracts to eliminate the practice of indentured servitude. However, Gov. Ninian Edwards (1775-1833), himself a wealthy aristocratic slave-owner, vetoed the bill, claiming it was unconstitutional – the only time Edwards ever exercised his veto power as territorial governor.

After Illinois achieved statehood, pro-slavery forces continued to strive to legalize it. In anticipation of Illinois’ admission to the Union, the territory framed a state constitution in Aug. 1818 – but it is significant that Illinois’ first constitution had a “loophole” of which pro-slavery leaders soon tried to avail themselves in order to legalize slavery. On the question of slavery, the 1818 constitution said, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall hereafter be introduced into this state otherwise than for the punishment of crimes.

In his 1933 history, “Illinois: the Heart of the Nation,” former Ill. Gov. Edward Dunne explained the loophole in Illinois’ first constitution in these words (pp. 240, 260, 262, emphasis added):

“The section of the constitution relative to slavery and prohibiting it in the state, as amended and finally passed, was a compromise between the pro-slavery and anti-slavery members of the convention. In effect, it practically admitted that the former indentured laws of the territory practically amounted to slavery, but provided that the children of indentured persons were to become free. Under that provision, no indentures made outside the state could be enforced within the state, but the constitution failed to bind the state not to make a revision of the constitution which would admit slavery. Notwithstanding that the constitution failed to have any provision in strict accordance with the Ordinance of 1787 relative to slavery, it was accepted and approved by Congress, . . .

“Slavery had already been introduced into the state. Slaves and indentured servants, who were in almost as abject a condition of service as slaves, were numerous in Illinois at the time this constitution was adopted and, noting the word ‘hereafter’ in the constitution, there was a rush to have indentured articles approved before the constitution went into effect. . . .

“To have framed a constitution favoring slavery, or one making no declaration on the subject, would have invited a denial by Congress of the application for statehood. Therefore, some declaration against slavery was necessary, but reserving a method of reopening the question, was devised and carried in the convention . . . .”

As expected, Dunne wrote, “That opportunity soon arose and was promptly seized by the pro-slavery element in the state.

It happened following the election of Virginia-born Edward Coles as Illinois’ second governor. In Virginia, Coles held a large estate and owned at least 20 slaves, and he served as President James Madison’s private secretary from 1809 to 1815 with a special assignment as ambassador to Russia. By 1814, Coles had come to oppose slavery, corresponding with ex-President Thomas Jefferson on the subject that year.

Edward Coles, 2nd Illinois governor, 1822-1826

After returning from his diplomatic work in Europe, Madison appointed Coles registrar of the federal land office in Edwardsville, Ill. After arranging matters at his Virginia estate, Coles struck out west for Illinois. On the way down the Ohio River, Coles made the decision to set his slaves free. “He promised them each emancipation from slavery,” Dunne wrote, “and 160 acres of land and help for farming, and they, of course, joyfully accepted their freedom and every one of them agreed to accompany him to Edwardsville. Before landing in Illinois Coles gave each of his slaves a written certificate of freedom and all settled around his home near Edwardsville.

Two years later, Coles and three other men entered the race to succeed Shadrach Bond as governor of Illinois. The other gubernatorial candidates were Illinois Supreme Court Justice Joseph Phillips, Associate Justice Thomas C. Brown, and Gen. James B. Moore – Phillips and Brown ran on pro-slavery platforms, while Coles and Moore were anti-slavery. Even though pro-slavery voters outnumbered those opposed to slavery, Coles managed to secure his election because the pro-slavery vote was split almost equally between Phillips and Brown, while Moore only won a few hundred votes.

Coles decided to force the issue of slavery on his very first day as governor in 1822, calling in his inaugural address before the Illinois General Assembly in Vandalia for the immediate emancipation of all slaves or indentured servants in Illinois. The pro-slavery members of the General Assembly responded by making plans to call for a new constitutional convention, with the unstated intention of crafting a constitution that would enshrine slave-owning as a right.

The resolution to put the question of calling a new convention to the people for a vote narrowly passed the Illinois House of Representatives by the slimmest of margins, and under extremely questionable circumstances. Initially the resolution failed by one vote when Nicholas Hansen of Pike County switched sides and voted against the resolution. But Hansen’s own election to the House had been marred by a vote-counting dispute – so his outraged pro-slavery colleagues expelled Hansen from the House and replaced him with his opponent in the election, John Shaw, who then obediently voted in favor of the resolution.

Even though the majority of Illinois voters and members of the General Assembly favored slavery, Dunne observed that, “The high-handed, arbitrary and unfair methods pursued by the House in evicting Hansen and securing thereby a two-thirds vote for the convention, disgusted many fair-minded citizens who had been tolerant of slavery.” Furthermore, although those who sought a new constitutional convention had the goal of turning Illinois from an officially free to an officially slave state, they were not forthright about their intentions, and that cynical approach probably cost them support.

Consequently, despite the numerical advantage and the initial momentum of those who wanted to call a constitutional convention, in the end their effort was resoundingly defeated on Aug. 2, 1824, by a vote of 6,640 to 4,972, “after a campaign of exceeding violence, lasting about eighteen months,” Dunne wrote. It had been an ugly fight, but Gov. Coles and his anti-slavery allies, including the influential journalists Morris Birkbeck and Daniel P. Cook (eponym of Cook County), managed to prevent the prospect of a pro-slavery constitution.

In retrospect, it can be seen that the very fate of the nation hung upon the outcome of Illinois’ convention battle – for if Illinois had switched from free to slave, the proponents of slavery would have gained permanent control of the U.S. Senate, “and no law thereafter could have been passed by Congress limiting or restricting slavery in the United States,” Dunne wrote.

The 1818 constitution limited governors to a single term, so Coles left office in 1826. Though he was able to defeat the convention movement, he was otherwise impotent against the pro-slavery General Assembly, which rejected all of his nominees to state office and ignored his legislative recommendations. Afterwards Coles was sued by the State for freeing his slaves without paying bonds of $200 to vouch for the good behavior of each freed slave. Even though he’d free his slaves before entering Illinois, the State initially won the politically-motivated suit – Coles would have had to pay $2,000, a great financial blow, but Coles appealed to the state Supreme Court and won on appeal.

Wearied by his bitter political experiences in Illinois, Coles returned to the East, finally settling in Philadelphia. His was gravely disappointed by his son Robert, who became a slave-owner and fought for the Confederacy – but he did live to see the abolition of slavery and emancipation of all slaves in the U.S. in the 1860s.

In 1929, a bronze portrait of Gov. Coles was erected in his memory in Valley View Cemetery in Edwardsville. Also, in recognition of Coles’ commitment to the abolition of slavery, the State of Illinois Human Rights Commission offers the Edward Coles Fellowship, a scholarship for law students.

#abolitionism, #abraham-lincoln, #daniel-pope-cook, #gen-james-b-moore, #gov-edward-coles, #illinois-bicentennial, #illinois-constitution, #joseph-phillips, #kansas-nebraska-act, #missouri-compromise, #morris-birkbeck, #ninian-edwards, #northwest-ordinance, #northwest-territory, #peoria-speech, #rep-john-shaw, #rep-nicholas-hansen, #shadrach-bond, #slavery, #stephen-a-douglas, #thomas-c-brown