The day “Slammin’ Sammy” golfed at Pekin Country Club

By Jared Olar
Library Assistant

About nine years ago, “From the History Room” recalled the original Pekin Country Club nine-hole golf course, which was located at the present site of Pekin Community High School (“East Campus”). The new Country Club officially opened on Independence Day in 1962, the same year that construction began on East Campus at the site of the old Country Club.

The 1974 Pekin Sesquicentennial volume relates that “before the club moved, many notable social and golf events took place, including a golf match in which professional golfer Sam Snead played within two strokes of the course record — a 66 with a two-stroke penalty.Sam Snead (1912-2002) had attained great fame over the course of four decades as one of pro golf’s top players.

Surprisingly, the Sesquicentennial volume fails to mention when the Pekin Country Club played host to Snead. Long-time Pekin County Club member George Beres, who joined the club in 1945 when he was 17, recalled that the foursome who played the match included Snead, Ray Hall, the club’s golf pro; Dale Sarver, the club’s champion; and Bob Monge. Harry McClarence introduced Snead while Snead was hitting practice balls. “It was quite a sight to see him hit each ball, let me tell you,” Beres said.

To the best of his memory, Beres said he thought Sam Snead’s visit to Pekin was in the summer of 1961, the year before the club’s new golf course opened. On the other hand, Ray Hall’s son Michael, who shared his own memories of the golf match on his website in 2017, wrote that the match took place “around 1958.

Searching through the microfilms of the Pekin Daily Times did not turn up any articles about Sam Snead’s visit in either 1958 or 1961. In an email from March of this year, Michael Hall’s older brother Jack, who caddied for Snead during the golf match, told me, “I think it was July of 1959.” His recollection was very close to the correct date.

Shown are cherished mementos of Pekin’s “Sam Snead Day” in the possession of Jack Hall, who caddied for Snead on Pekin Country Club’s golf course on June 20, 1959. PHOTO COURTESY OF JACK HALL

It is thanks to Alan Harris, whose father Thomas was the club’s general chairman of “Sam Snead Day,” that I at last learned the date of Snead’s exhibition match in Pekin. In April of this year, Harris shared digital images of the pages of the match’s official score card in the Facebook group, “If you grew up in Pekin, you remember. . .” There on the front cover of the score card was the elusive date: June 20, 1959 — a Saturday. That, of course, made it very easy to find the Pekin Daily Times articles about “Sam Snead Day.”

The Daily Times sports page on “Sam Snead Day” featured an article by Times sports editor Lloyd Armstrong, headlined “It’s Sammy Snead Day: Sunny Skies Greet Slammer – It Rained For Sarazen, Babe.” Armstrong recalled that Snead’s visit was the first time in about 25 years that a professional golf star had come to Pekin. The previous occasion was a visit to the Country Club by Gene Sarazen and Mildred “Babe” Didrikson, but their exhibition match was rained out and everyone had to settle for some trick shots.

In Armstrong’s story, Olive Lohnes, one of the sponsors of the Sarazen-Didrikson event, said after waiting in vain for the rain to let up, “They finally went out to drive out some shots – I guess you’d call them trick shots – off the No. 1 tee. Everyone was disappointed but there was nothing we could do about the rain, and their schedule didn’t permit them to stay over until the next day.

Shown is the cover of the official score card for the Pekin Country Club’s “Sam Snead Day.” IMAGE COURTESY ALAN HARRIS

Thankfully the weather did not interfere with “Sam Snead Day.” A crowd of about 600 came to see “Slammer” play — a disappointing number, as the club had expected at least 3,000 to attend. In his “Scoreboard” column in the Monday, June 22, 1959 edition of the Pekin Times, Armstrong lamented the low turnout: “It is a major crime when sports fans of a city fail to support an appearance of the nation’s No. 1 golfer.

Besides that, Snead’s visit didn’t get off to the best start. According to Armstrong, Snead’s plane arrived with only minutes to spare, but as Harry McClarence rushed Snead to Pekin from the airport in Bartonville, they were pulled over by the Bartonville police. McClarence explained to the officer that he was speeding because he had Sam Snead with him.

“Snead? Who’s he?” the officer dismissively replied.

The insult had no apparent effect on Snead’s play. As Armstrong reported, the match went almost perfectly for Snead, with only one sour note: he bogied 548-yard hole No. 7 with a penalty due to an out-of-bounds shot.

This detail from page 6 of the official Sam Snead Day score card shows a map of Hole No. 7. Snead played almost a perfect game that day, but hit a sour note on No. 7, which he bogied due to an out-of-bounds shot that sent his ball onto the grounds of the high school stadium. IMAGE COURTESY ALAN HARRIS

“Snead had stepped up to the tee on No. 7 and simply asked ‘Where’s the green on this hole?’ Pro Ray Hall pointed south and said, ‘Straight down the middle.’ Then Snead showed why they called him ‘the slammer.’ He hit the ball with a ‘whoosh’ that sounded like a jet taking off. The ball sailed on a line some 300 yards down the fairway. His second shot, an iron, went into Memorial stadium.”

In his recollections of Sam Snead’s visit, Michael Hall said:

“Hole number 7 was a par five which bordered the PCHS football stadium. I had never seen anyone hit it in two. As Sam got ready to hit his second shot on the par five he seemed to be confused and was asking my brother [Jack] where the green was. My brother showed him and he lined up and hit a perfect shot straight out of bounds over the fence and onto the PCHS football stadium property to the right of #7 fairway.

“He seemed to think that was where he wanted to hit it as he started walking after the ball. I just stood there knowing he had to come back and hit another. Finally my brother called to him and told him he had hit it out of bounds. He seemed irritated to me. He said something like, ‘I asked you where the green was!’ He had misunderstood my brother and it cost him a two-stroke penalty.”

Snead birdied this same hole in four strokes the second time around, and he easily went on to win the match 33-33 (66), coming within two strokes of setting a new Pekin Country Club course record. Ray Hall’s final score was 35-37 (72), Bob Monge’s score was 42-35 (77), and Dale Sarver’s was 40-38 (78).

All hit some fine woods but with the exception of Hall, none was as consistent down the line as Snead,” Armstrong reported.

As a final thought, Jack Hall said to me in an email, “Sam lived near the Homestead Resort in West Virginia. When Lanae and I went up there to celebrate our wedding anniversary, Sam had passed away the week before and so we went to the wake. We met his son who I had talked to on the phone about his father wanting to build a golf course for Virginia Tech as a part of the Sam Snead Trail. Sam was laying in the casket with his straw hat on his belly and his 4 wood by his side.


The first two pages of the official “Sam Snead Day” score card listed the members of the Sam Snead Day committee and the members of the Pekin Country Club board of governors, and displayed maps of the first two holes of the County Club’s old golf course located on the present site of Pekin Community High School. ALL SCORE CARD IMAGES COURTESY ALAN HARRIS

#alan-harris, #dale-sarver, #east-campus, #gene-sarazen, #george-beres, #harry-mcclarence, #jack-hall, #lloyd-armstrong, #michael-hall, #mildred-babe-didrikson, #olive-lohnes, #pekin-community-high-school, #pekin-country-club, #pekin-memorial-stadium, #ray-hall, #robert-monge, #sam-snead, #thomas-harris

A succession of high schools in Pekin

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 succession of high schools in Pekin

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

The demolition of the former Pekin Community High School West Campus has turned the thoughts of many Pekin residents to the history of Pekin’s high school buildings. In this column, let’s review what we can learn about Pekin’s succession of high schools from the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection.

As mentioned recently in this column, Pekin’s first high school was the Fourth Ward School, located where Washington School exists today. A brick structure built in 1867 at a cost of $20,000, the building housed grades one through 12. It was completely destroyed in a fire on Dec. 2, 1890.

Pekin’s first high school building, known as the Fourth Ward School, stood on the site of present-day Washington Intermediate. The Fourth Ward School stood from 1867 until it was destroyed in a fire in 1890.

A new and larger brick school, dubbed Washington School, was quickly built in 1891 on the site of the Fourth Ward School, at a cost of $28,000. While it was under construction, “classes were held in nearly every church basement and vacant building in town,” says the 1974 Pekin Sesquicentennial. It served as Pekin’s high school until 1916, after which it became the old Washington Junior High School. It was torn down and replaced by the current Washington School in 1930.

In 1916, Pekin built its third high school, the building that would become known as the “Old Building” of West Campus. Over the decades, the high school saw several expansions to accommodate the growing student population in Pekin. First came the “west wing” of the Old Main Building in 1926, followed by the “east wing” expansion in 1929 (including the theater). Next came the gymnasium, which was ready to use in 1936. The cafeteria and the shop building were added in 1949, and the English Building (or “Red Building”) and the Leeway were built in 1955.

High school football formerly was played on James Field, but that changed in 1948 with the construction of Memorial Stadium. As student population continued its steady rise, further needed expansion of the high school campus was proposed. However, in early 1959 the city announced it planned to widen Eighth Street, which made it impossible for District 303 to utilize the area needed for the expansion plans. Instead, the school district decided to build a second campus that could accommodate 2,000 students.

Construction on East Campus began in 1962, and classes began there in 1964. The new school was erected near Memorial Stadium, on the former grounds of the Pekin Country Club. “A humorous sidelight to this whole project is that from the time the purchase of the Country Club was made until the time the club house was razed, it could be stated that Pekin was the only high school district to own a bar,” says the Pekin Sesquicentennial. The total cost of the project was $4.6 million.

The next phase of expansion of Pekin high school was the construction of the vocational center. The high school had established a vocational center in 1968, but the vocational center building was not built until 1974, at a cost of $3.1 million.

In 1998, District 303 consolidated all high school operations at East Campus, which underwent a major expansion at that time. West Campus was auctioned off and was purchased for $60,000 by Merle Huff – and the sequel to that story is being written this year [2012].

This aerial view of West Campus from circa 1956, reproduced in “Pekin: A Pictorial History,” shows the high school complex soon after the completion of its final expansion projects.

#aerial-views-of-pekin, #fourth-ward-school, #old-washington-school, #pekin-country-club, #pekin-high-schools, #pekin-history, #west-campus

Pekin Country Club was once in a different location

Here’s a chance to read one of our old Local History Room columns, first published in September 2011 before the launch of this blog . . .

Pekin Country Club was once in a different location

By Linda Mace
Library assistant

The Pekin Country Club and its golf course is located between Broadway and Sheridan. But it wasn’t always.

The 1974 Pekin Sesquicentennial has much to say about this original club.

“The first of Pekin’s ‘country clubs’ was incorporated on March 25, 1916, as the Pekin Country Club by H.G. Herget, Ben P. Schenck, and William S. Prettyman, who was the first president. Other directors were John Fitzgerald, H.W. Hippen, D.H. Jansen, Franklin L. Velde, George P. Kroll, C.G. Herget and V.P. Turner. Total membership was 98.

“On April 1 of the same year, 60 acres was purchased from the Lemuel Allen estate on the East Bluff (think East Campus) for $15,000. The farm house which occupied the original site at the time of purchase was remodeled into the club house. This was remodeled many times over the years and in 1955, a swimming pool and pro shop were added. Additional land purchases were made in 1928 and 1932, totaling approximately 95 acres by 1960, on which the club maintained a nine-hole golf course for use by its 300 members.

“This property was sold by condemnation to the Pekin Community High School (a whole other story) and the East Campus was later built on the site, but before the club moved, many notable social and golf events took place, including a golf match in which professional golfer Sam Snead played within two strokes of the course record — a 66 with a two-stroke penalty.”

“Pekin: A Pictorial History” notes that the old country club’s hill – now East Campus hill – was a favorite spot for sleds and toboggans in the winter. Kind of nice knowing some things never change!

Shown is the old Pekin Country Club, which was on the site of what is now Pekin Community High School.

#ben-schenck, #carl-herget, #d-h-jansen, #franklin-velde, #george-kroll, #h-w-hippen, #henry-herget, #john-fitzgerald, #linda-mace-columns, #pekin-country-club, #pekin-history, #sam-snead, #v-p-turner, #william-s-prettyman

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

Traces of a past nearly forgotten

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Recently local historian Carl Adams brought to my attention the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society’s collection of portrait photographs of World War I soldiers who had lived in Tazewell County. The photographs were donated to the Society by the late L. Sidney Eslinger of East Peoria.

In most cases the identity of the soldiers is known. However, according to Connie Perkins, one group of portraits were scanned from smaller glass negatives that were in bad condition, and of that group only a few of the soldiers were identified. Perkins says it is not known where Eslinger had salvaged these negatives, but it is likely that all the soldiers had lived in either Tazewell or Peoria counties – of the unidentified photos, Charles Dancey was able to identify one soldier as an East Peoria man.

Among these unidentified portraits is one of an African-American Army soldier. Considering the black population in Tazewell and Peoria counties during World War I, most likely this man was from Peoria or East Peoria. He may even have come from Pekin, for Pekin in those days – before the advent of the Ku Klux Klan – had a small population of black families, most of whom lived in downtown Pekin or in the area of South Second Street. As we’ve noted before, a few African-American Civil War soldiers came from Pekin. Later, in Oct. 1902 large crowds filled the Tazewell County Courthouse square during the Pekin Street Fair to witness the public wedding ceremony of a notable African-American couple: a Spanish-American War hero named Lloyd J. Oliver and his bride, Cora Foy.

This portrait of an unidentified World War I soldier comes from a collection of glass negatives salvaged by the late L. Sidney Eslinger of East Peoria, who donated the negatives to the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society. The soldier most likely was from Tazewell or Peoria counties. PHOTO REPRINTED BY PERMISSION OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Although this World War I soldier may not have come from Pekin, a review of the known black families who lived in Pekin around that time could help identify him, or can help rule out some candidates. Another benefit of such a review is that it would uncover the traces of a past nearly forgotten: a time when African-Americans made homes and found jobs in Pekin despite the common racism of that period – before racist animus stoked by the KKK in the early 1920s drove almost all of them away.

To begin, we see that the 1910 U.S. Census for Pekin shows two black men, Edward Reaves, 49, and William Gaines, 33, rooming together at the Tazewell Hotel on Elizabeth Street. The Kentucky-born Reaves was the hotel’s head chef, while the Georgia-born Gaines was a porter and worked in the hotel’s barbershop. Reaves does not appear as a Pekin resident in any records after 1910, but Gaines appears as a Pekin resident and Tazewell Hotel porter in both the U.S. Census and Pekin city directories until 1932.

On Sept. 12, 1918, Gaines registered for the World War I draft. His draft card says he was then 40, being born April 3, 1878, and that his “nearest relative” was his mother, Mary T. Gaines of Washington, Ga. Gaines could not sign his name on his card, so he instead made his mark, which was witnessed by the draft registrar W. G. Fair.

A July 24, 1933 Pekin Daily Times story refers to Gaines as “William Gaines, one of our two black men, who is porter at the Tazewell hotel and who has been here for 30 years . . .” Gaines, who was 55 in 1933, is not listed in the Pekin city directories after 1932, so he may have moved from Pekin, but probably died here later in 1933. He does not appear in the 1940 U.S. Census.

Besides Reaves and Gaines, the 1910 U.S. Census lists another African-American porter working at the Tazewell Hotel – Joseph Roach, 60, who was born in Tennessee. Given his age, it is clear that Roach could not be the World War I soldier in the photograph.

Pekin city directories and the U.S. Census show an African-American family who were named McElroy, living in a house at 201 Sabella St., at the northeast corner of Second Street and Sabella. (The author of this column and his family lived in the same house from 1985 to 1994.) Tazewell County marriage records show that George E. McElroy, 35, son of James and Ann McElroy, married Ellen Clark on Jan. 5, 1879. The 1908 Pekin city directory shows Mrs. Ellen McElroy, her husband George McElroy, laborer, and their daughter “Mrs.” Emma McElroy all living at that address. In the 1910 U.S. Census, we find at that address Ellen McElroy, 69, widow, born in Michigan, house mortgaged, with her daughter Emma Jones, 22, widow, born in Illinois, and granddaughter Della Jones, 1, born in Illinois.

The McElroys – George, laborer, and Miss Emma – appear in the Pekin city directories at the same address in 1913 and 1914 (though George presumably died before 1910). It would seem that Emma reverted to her maiden name a few years after the death of her husband, whose name is unknown. There was an African-American man named Henry Jones, born Aug. 16, 1882, who lived at 227 Sabella St. and worked at Keystone Steel & Wire – Henry registered for the draft in 1918. He may have been Emma’s husband, but Henry’s draft card says his “nearest relative” was his wife “Eva Jones.”

Another black family who lived in Pekin in the 1910s was headed by William M. Young, born Oct. 11, 1889, in Du Quoin, Ill. William registered for the World War I draft on June 5, 1917, and his draft card says he lived in the Rosenburg Flats at 200 Court St. with his wife and two children. The 1920 U.S. Census shows William, 30, a steel mill laborer, with his wife Anna, 21, a hotel maid, renting an apartment on Court Street, but does not list any children with them. Their children may have died by then, or perhaps were living with relatives elsewhere.

The same census shows another African-American family living in the Rosenburg Flats next door to the Youngs: the family of Philon Strong, born June 14, 1882, in Mississippi, who is listed (his name misspelled as “Thealon”) with his wife Henrietta, 22, born in Tennessee, and their daughters Orene, 5, and Cathelene, 2. About two years earlier Philon had registered for the World War I draft, at which time he and Henrietta were living at 227 Sabella St. Like several other black men in Pekin in that period, Philon worked at Keystone Steel & Wire.

The 1920 U.S. Census shows an African-American extended family living at 611 Second St. in Pekin, headed by two brothers, Douglass Keys, born Feb. 12, 1890, in Franklin County, Miss., and Norman Keys, born Aug. 10, 1892, in Brookhaven, Lincoln County, Miss. Living with Douglass was his wife May, 22, and children Fanny May, 4, and Troy R., 2, as well as Norman and his wife Elva, 24, and their son Elisha, 11. Also boarding with them was a 4-year-old boy named Floyd Tilmon.

Douglass registered for the World War I draft on June 5, 1917, while he and his wife were farming in Mississippi. Douglass and Norman and their families moved from Pekin during the 1920s, probably during the heyday of the Pekin KKK. Norman is later found living in Peoria. Since the Keys family was still living in Mississippi during World War I, neither Douglass nor Norman are likely to be the soldier in the mystery photograph.

Another African-American extended family living in Pekin at this time were the Robisons, who lived at 227 Sabella St. Jessie Robison, born Aug. 1, 1882, in Mississippi, registered for the World War I draft on Sept. 12, 1918. On the same day, Cammie Robison, born April 1, 1878, probably Jessie’s older brother, also registered for the draft. Both Jessie and Cammie worked at Keystone Steel & Wire. Cammie lived in Peoria in the early 1920s. The 1920 U.S. Census for Pekin spells the surname “Robinson,” and shows Jessie, 35, with his wife New Orleans, 26, their children Teaja, 10, Myrtle M., 7, Ora Nell, 5, Anna Lee, 3, and Mable, 1, and Jessie’s nephew Albert Robinson, 17, and Albert’s wife May W. Robinson, 17.

A black man named Walter Lee, born July 10, 1884, in Greenville, Ill., the son of Jim Lee and Jane Merifield, registered for the World War I draft on Sept. 12, 1918. His draft card says Lee’s employment was “Dr & Turkish Bath” working for the Pekin Park Board at Mineral Springs Park. Lee was disqualified from military service due to a spinal injury. The 1920 U.S. Census says Lee, then 35 and unmarried, lived on Park Avenue and was a masseur working at a bath house (i.e. the park’s bath house). His death record gives his date of birth as July 4, 1895 (contradicting his draft card), identifies his employment as “Turkish Bath Owner,” and says he died at the Peoria State Hospital on 1 Oct. 1947. Lee was probably the other “one of our two black men” mentioned in the Pekin Daily Times on July 24, 1933.

To complete our review of Pekin’s African-American residents during this early period, we note that Illinois death records mention an African-American named Joseph Howaloway, born in Tennessee, son of James Howaloway, a laborer who died in Pekin on May 27, 1938 and was buried in Lakeside Cemetery. He does not appear to have lived in Pekin during World War I, however.

Anyone with information that could help identify the unidentified soldier may contact the Pekin Public Library at (309) 347-7111 or the TCGHS at (309) 477-3044, or leave a comment here below.

#albert-robison, #anna-lee-robison, #anna-young, #cammie-robison, #carl-adams, #cathelene-strong, #charles-dancey, #cora-foy, #della-jones, #douglass-keys, #edward-reaves, #elisha-keys, #ellen-clark-mcelroy, #elva-keys, #emma-mcelroy-jones, #fanny-may-keys, #floyd-tilmon, #george-e-mcelroy, #henrietta-strong, #henry-jones, #jessie-robison, #joseph-howaloway, #joseph-roach, #keystone-steel-wire, #kkk, #ku-klux-klan, #l-sidney-eslinger, #lloyd-j-oliver, #mable-robison, #mary-t-gaines, #may-keys, #may-w-robison, #mineral-springs-park-bath-house, #myrtle-m-robison, #new-orleans-robison, #norman-keys, #ora-nell-robison, #orene-strong, #pekins-racist-reputation, #philon-strong, #racism-in-pekins-past, #tazewell-hotel, #teaja-robison, #troy-r-keys, #w-g-fair, #walter-lee, #william-gaines, #william-m-young, #world-war-i

Ninety years of CILCO history

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Although it has been 13 years since CILCO – the Peoria-based Central Illinois Light Company – was acquired by Ameren, for many long-time Pekin residents it may still seem strange to speak of paying “the Ameren bill.”

For them, the monthly gas and electric utility bill will probably always be “the CILCO bill.” With a corporate history that began in 1913, the name of “CILCO” – and the old R.S. Wallace Station which for decades was a landmark on the Illinois River in East Peoria – will likely linger on in local memories for years to come.

One of the items recently donated to the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection is a 1988 brochure published to mark the CILCO’s 75th anniversary.

Titled, “CILCO and Central Illinois: Growing Together for 75 Years,” the 15-page brochure reviews the company’s history using narrative and photographs. The story begins with the merger of seven area companies to create a larger company to provide Peoria and 26 area communities, including Pekin, with gas, electric and steam power.

The brochure also tells of the formation in 1923 of the Illinois Electric Power Company of East Peoria, of which CILCO was a part. The new company built the R.S. Wallace Station as a steam electric plant, located where East Peoria’s Super Walmart stands today. In January 1958 came the addition of the company’s familiar mascot, the lightning-bolt-bodied and light-bulb-nosed Reddy Kilowatt, who displayed the time and temperature for drivers over the Murray Baker Bridge.

Cilcogram March 1955

CILCO’s company mascot Reddy Kilowatt, “Your Electric Servant,” is featured in the pages from the March 1955 Cilcogram that was sent out to CILCO customers with their monthly electric bills.

Also recently donated to the Local History Room collection are several old “Cilcograms” from the early to mid-1950s. These small pamphlets, often featuring Reddy Kilowatt on the front cover, used to be sent out with the monthly CILCO bill. Cilcograms provided information on electricity and wiring for homes, along with promotions of local charitable activities and sponsored advertisements.

Those who would like to learn of, or refresh their memories about, CILCO’s history may stop by the Local History Room.

#cilco, #cilcograms, #east-peoria, #pekin-history, #r-s-wallace-station, #reddy-kilowatt, #tazewell-county-history

Memories of Pekin’s lost hotels

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

Memories of Pekin’s lost hotels

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Modern travelers passing through Pekin or staying for a few days have a few hotels to choose from out on the east end of town, but in the past downtown Pekin had an array of hotels where visitors to “the Celestial City” could find food and a place to lay their heads at night. Following are some of the interesting details about the history of Pekin’s lost hotels may be gleaned from the files of the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room.

Gideon H. Hawley opened the first hotel in Pekin in 1830, but little is known about his venture. In 1839, the Columbia Hotel was opened at Margaret and Fourth streets, where the Windsor Hotel later was built. Another prominent hotel of early Pekin was the American, which was torn down in 1874.

In 1848, two ‘first class’ hotels were established in Pekin. One of them, the Eagle, was on the riverfront at the foot of Court Street. The Eagle’s keeper was Seth Kinman, who later achieved notoriety as a hunter and trapper, presenting Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson with buckhorn and bearclaw chairs that he had made. The other hotel was the Taylor House, later called the Mansion House, whose keeper was “Uncle Bill” Tinney, a veteran of the Mexican-American War who was one of the American soldiers who captured General Santa Ana’s wooden leg (the general leaving it behind during his escape on the back of a mule).

The late former Pekin resident Charles B. Smith in 1946 related the following anecdote he’d heard from those days, when Pekin still had much of the character of a wild frontier town:

“A traveler came off an Illinois river boat one day and went to the Eagle Hotel. There had been a little western scrimmage at the Eagle the night before and, though things had not yet been put in order, the proprietor, Seth Kinman, was sitting in front of the door playing his favorite tune, the Arkansas Traveler, with the greatest self-satisfaction. The stranger stopped and asked Seth: ‘Are you the proprietor here?’ Seth, without resting his bow, replied: ‘Wal, I reckon I be, stranger.’ ‘Do you keep tavern?’ ‘Of course I do, keep tavern like hell’ said Seth fiddling away with all his might, ‘Just pile in, hang your freight on the floor and make yourself at home.’ ‘The boys,’ continued Seth, ‘have been having a little fun but if there’s a whole table or plate in the house I’ll get you some cold hash toward night.’

“The stranger didn’t like the place and took his departure leaving the proprietor still enjoying his violin.

“Late in the afternoon the stranger presented himself at the Taylor House. Uncle Bill Tinney met him outside with his most austere expression. His greeting was: ‘Good morning, good morning, sir. Walk in, sir, and take a seat. Shave you as soon as water gets warm.’ The stranger, not requiring the services of a barber, walked away in haste and amazement and Uncle Bill swore audibly: ‘Some infernal Yankee come out west to steal honest people’s money.’

“The next steamboat that came along found the discomfited traveler on the river bank, awaiting passage for anywhere out of Pekin.”

Tinney later became Pekin’s Justice of the Peace and police magistrate, and also served terms as Tazewell County Sheriff and Coroner, acquiring the nickname “Five Dollars and Costs” because that was the fine he would hand down except in major cases. He was even better known for his stance in support of the voting rights of blacks — after the Civil War, he made a name for himself locally when he, a white man, escorted an African-American man of Pekin to the polls to exercise his newly-won right to vote.

The old Tazewell House hotel, owned and operated by Tazewell County Sheriff “Uncle Bill” Tinney, as depicted in the 1873 Atlas Map of Tazewell County

In 1859, Tinney also became the manager of the Eagle, which he renamed “Tazewell House.” Both Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas stayed at the Eagle or Tazewell House when they were in town on lawyerly business at the Tazewell County Courthouse.

Even so, business at the Tazewell House wasn’t very good, so the property passed in 1867 to Thomas K. Bemis, who rechristened the hotel “Bemis House.” Under his direction, as Charles B. Smith recalled from his own youth, Bemis House became Pekin’s preeminent hotel and the center of Pekin’s social life until the 1880s, when it suffered major damage during a tornado. The structure was repaired, but after Bemis’ death it became a boarding house and finally was razed during the 1940s.

Bemis House, at one time Pekin’s preeminent hotel, is shown in this early 20th-century photograph. Under its original name of Tazewell House, the hotel once hosted Abraham Lincoln and other notable local attorneys when they came to Pekin on legal business at the Tazewell County Courthouse. The site at the corner of Court and Front streets is now a part of Gene Miller Park, adjacent to Pekin’s Riverfront Park. PHOTO COURTESY THE TAZEWELL COUNTY CLERK’S OFFICE

In 1879, Mrs. E. Barber converted a building into a hotel on Elizabeth Street across the street from the courthouse. This was Woodard House or Woodard’s, which burned down in 1899. The Tazewell Hotel was built in its place. In 1962, the building was sold to Herget National Bank, which razed it to make way for a parking lot. At the time, the Tazewell was the only remaining major hotel in downtown Pekin.

Woodard’s Hotel on Elizabeth Street across the street from the courthouse was opened by Mrs. E. Barber in 1879. It burned down in 1899 and was later replaced by The Tazewell Hotel.

The Tazewell Hotel stood until 1962, when it was purchased by Herget Bank and demolished to make space for a parking lot.

Around the turn of the century, the Tazewell was one of seven hotels in the city. One of them, the Illinois Hotel (formerly called Sherman House), outlived the Tazewell by little more than a year, being torn down in the spring of 1963. Sherman House was built in 1874 by John Weber at the corner of Second and St. Mary streets. The Union House was opened in 1881 by Leonhard Dietrich. Two others, the Central House and the Columbia (opened in 1893), were torn down in the 1950s. By then, however, the era of Pekin’s grand downtown hotels was already past.

The Illinois Hotel, originally called Sherman House in the 1800s, was located at the northeast corner of Second and St. Mary streets. It was torn down in the spring of 1963. The block of St. Mary Street between Second and Third streets no longer exists, now occupied by public housing.

Central Hotel, or Central House, was operated by the Rossi family at 333 Margaret St. It was demolished in the 1950s.

The Columbia Hotel, at the corner of N. Fourth and Margaret streets, was opened in 1893 by William H. Lauterbach. It was demolished in the 1950s.

#bemis-house, #central-hotel, #central-house, #gideon-hawley, #illinois-hotel, #john-weber, #leonhard-dietrich, #mrs-e-barber, #preblog-columns, #rossi-family, #seth-kinman, #sherman-house, #taylor-house, #tazewell-hotel, #tazewell-house-hotel, #the-american-hotel, #the-columbia-hotel, #the-eagle-hotel, #thomas-k-bemis, #uncle-bill-tinney, #union-house-hotel, #william-h-lauterbach, #windsor-hotel, #woodards-hotel

Lincoln’s speech in Pekin

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

This month in which we have observed President Abraham Lincoln’s 211th birthday is an ideal time to take a look back to the life of the 16th president of the United States, with a special focus on one of Lincoln’s local connections in Tazewell County.

In this column space, we have previously reviewed some of the places and events in Tazewell County to which Lincoln had a connection. Often these connections are relatively minor or obscure, some are mundane, and some are more significant, such as Lincoln’s involvement in the 1841 case of Bailey vs. Cromwell, that secured the freedom of “Black Nance” Legins-Costley and her three eldest children.

At times local memories of Lincoln’s connections to Tazewell County have been garbled with the passage of time. One such garbled memory has to do with the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858: namely, whether or not – and when or where – Lincoln gave a speech in Pekin in the context of the famous debates during the U.S. Senatorial campaign of 1858, when the anti-slavery Lincoln, a Republican, attempted to unseat incumbent Sen. Stephen Douglas, who was a pro-slavery Democrat.

Pekin, of course, was not one of the seven sites where Lincoln and Douglas debated issues related to the institution of slavery and whether or not black Africans should have civil equality with Americans of white European origin. However, the old Pekin Centenary volume, on pages 15 and 17, says Lincoln and his fellow abolitionist politician, U.S. Senator Lyman Trumbull, came to Pekin on Wednesday, Oct. 6, 1858, and addressed a large crowd in the court house square.

That would have been toward the end of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. In fact, it would have been just one day before Lincoln and Douglas debated in Galesburg, which was the fifth of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. It is highly unlikely that Lincoln could have spoken in Pekin one day and then traveled to Galesburg to take part in a debate the very next.

Other recollections of Lincoln’s 1858 speech in Pekin give a different date. For example, Ernest East in his “Abraham Lincoln Sees Peoria” (1939), page 33, says, “The Peoria House again on the night of Tuesday, Oct. 5, 1858, was a stopping place for Lincoln. He occupied room No. 16 which five days earlier had been occupied by Stephen A. Douglas. Lincoln spoke in Pekin in the afternoon . . . Lincoln left Peoria on the morning of October 6. His movements for the day are not fully known but he reached Knoxville in the evening in a violent storm.

On this subject, the Feb. 2020 issue of Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society “Monthly”, page 2717, reprints a short article from the Bloomington Pantagraph (Tuesday, March 17, 1896), entitled, “Mr. Lincoln’s Pekin Speech.” That 1896 article reads as follows:

“In the controversy about when Hon. Abraham Lincoln spoke in Pekin and whether in joint debate, Mr. Edward Roberts, an old settler at Mackinaw, says he feel sure it was the last of October, 1858, and that he spoke from the front porch of Mr. Joyce Wagonseller’s (sic – Joshua Wagenseller) dwelling, and was introduced and entertained by Mr. Wagonseller. It was not a joint debate but Mr. Lincoln spoke one day and Mr. Douglas the next.

“Mr. George Patterson, another old settler, corroborates this statement. They both went to Pekin purposely to hear this speech and heard it from beginning to end. He also spoke in Tremont the last of August the same year. Mr. Roberts heard this speech also, and had the honor of eating at the same table with Mr. Lincoln. He remembers Mr. Lincoln making the remarks when he went to get up from the table, that he could hardly get his long legs from under it, the table being quite low. The bench they sat on, rather high, made the sitting posture very uncomfortable for a long-legged person.”

This account of Lincoln’s Pekin speech provides a different date – Sunday, Oct. 31, 1858, rather than Wednesday, Oct. 6, 1858 – and a different location – the front steps of Joshua Wagenseller’s dwelling, not the court house square. In these recollections there is also no reference to Trumbull speaking with him.

The 1861 Root’s City Directory of Pekin, page 60, says Joshua Wagenseller then lived at the southwest corner of Broadway and “Market.” At first glance, the description of that location is nonsensical, because present-day Market Street does not intersect with Broadway. During the 1870s, however, present-day Market Street did intersect with Broadway approximately where Broadway and 14th Street intersect today — more specifically, the corner of Sycamore and Broadway. That would seem to place Lincoln’s Pekin speech at the far eastern end of town, almost the opposite of what the 1949 Pekin Centenary reported.

That, however, is not where the Wagenseller house was located. In those early days, Pekin very confusingly had TWO Market Streets. Besides the one we’re familiar with today, there was a completely different Market Street in Cincinnati Addition, running south from Broadway — that stretch of roadway is today part of Second Street. It was there, at the southwest corner of Broadway and Second, that Joshua Wagenseller’s grand house was situated. The house is long gone, and today that spot is at or near the parking lot of Wieland’s Lawn Mower Hospital, which itself is next-door to the former Franklin Grade School. (My thanks to Wagenseller’s descendant Dan Toel and to Connie Perkins for their assistance in clarifying and correcting this matter.)

Why did Pekin have two different Market Streets? Probably because Cincinnati Addition had originally been platted to be a separate, rival town to Pekin, and only became a part of Pekin later. Cincinnati’s Market Street kept its old name for a few decades even after Cincinnati was annexed by Pekin, which had its own Market Street.

The circle on this detail from an 1872 map of Pekin shows indicates the location where Broadway and Market streets formerly intersected, in the days when the stretch of present-day Second Street was known as Market Street — not to be confused with present-day Market Street, which followed an old rail bed in a generally east-west direction through town. Joshua Wagenseller’s homestead was located at the southwest corner of Broadway and “Market” (Second), which is today is at or near the parking lot of Wieland’s Lawn Mower Hospital. According to tradition, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech from the front steps of Wagenseller’s house in Oct. 1858 and was a frequent visitor there.

Joshua Wagenseller’s house at the southwest corner of Broadway and “Market” is depicted in this detail of an 1877 aerial map of Pekin. The view looks in a southerly direction. At the western edge of the detail, marked “26,” are the old gas works. Across Main Street from the gas works are two small homes at the location of Jonathan Tharp’s 1824 log cabin, today the site of the former Franklin School. Wagenseller’s home is the grand edifice next to the two small homes.

The circle on this detail from an 1872 map of Pekin shows indicates the location where Broadway and present-day Market Street formerly intersected, in the days when Market Street followed an old rail bed through town. Joshua Wagenseller’s homestead was located at the southwest corner of Broadway and “Market” — but that was a different Market Street. Confusingly, at one time Pekin had two entirely different streets named “Market,” one of them still extant today, the other in Cincinnati Addition and now a part of Second Street. Wagenseller’s house was at the southwest corner of Broadway and Second.

The recollections of Roberts and Patterson would place this speech 16 days after the seventh and final of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and just two days before Election Day. This is may be more plausible than the statement in the Pekin Centenary, but East’s account placing the speech on Oct. 5 rather than Oct. 6 is also geographically and chronologically plausible. The Centenary’s statement would seem to be off by only one day, and appears to be a garbling of Lincoln’s Pekin speech of 1858 with his more famous Peoria speech of 1856, when Lincoln was indeed joined by Sen. Trumbull.

In fact, we can confirm that East’s date is the correct one, because a news report in the Oct. 5, 1858 Peoria Transcript (reprinted in the 6 Oct. 1858 Chicago Press & Tribune) tells us that Lincoln’s speech in Pekin was on Oct. 5, 1858:

“Mr. Lincoln was welcomed to Tazewell county and introduced to the audience by Judge Bush [John M. Bush, probate judge in Pekin] in a short and eloquently delivered speech, and when he came forward, was greeted with hearty applause. He commenced by alluding to the many years in which he had been intimately acquainted with most of the citizens of old Tazewell county, and expressed the pleasure which it gave him to see so many of them present. He then alluded to the fact that Judge Douglas, in a speech to them on Saturday, had, as he was credibly informed, made a variety of extraordinary statements concerning him. He had known Judge Douglas for twenty-five years, and was not now to be astonished by any statement which he might make, no matter what it might be. He was surprised, however, that his old political enemy but personal friend, Mr. John Haynes [sic – James Haines] — a gentleman whom he had always respected as a person of honor and veracity—should have made such statements about him as he was said to have made in a speech introducing Mr. Douglas to a Tazewell audience only three days before. He then rehearsed those statements, the substance of which was that Mr. Lincoln, while a member of Congress, helped starve his brothers and friends in the Mexican war by voting against the bills appropriating to them money, provisions and medical attendance. He was grieved and astonished that a man whom he had heretofore respected so highly, should have been guilty of such false statements, and he hoped Mr. Haynes was present that he might hear his denial of them. He was not a member of Congress he said, until after the return of Mr. Haynes’ brothers and friends from the Mexican war to their Tazewell county homes—was not a member of Congress until after the war had practically closed. He then went into a detailed statement of his election to Congress, and of the votes he gave, while a member of that body, having any connection with the Mexican war. He showed that upon all occasions he voted for the supply bills for the army, and appealed to the official record for a confirmation of his statement.

“Mr. Lincoln then proceeded to notice, successively, the charges made against him by Douglas in relation to the Illinois Central Railroad, in relation to an attempt to Abolitionize the Whig party and in relation to negro equality.

“After finishing his allusions to the special charges brought against him by his antagonist, Mr. Lincoln branched out into one of the most powerful and telling speeches he has made during the campaign. It was the most forcible argument against Mr. Douglas’ Democracy, and the best vindication of and eloquent plea for Republicanism, that we ever listened to from any man.”

One question yet remains: Did Lincoln deliver his 5 Oct. 1858 speech at Wagenseller’s home, or at the courthouse square as the Centenary claims. Unfortunately the above-quoted contemporary report does not explicitly say where the speech took place. The courthouse square would seem a more logical place for such an event. Even so, the “History of the Wagenseller Family,” compiled by George R. Wagenseller Sr., says that Lincoln was frequently a houseguest of Joshua Wagenseller – who was one of Pekin’s ardent abolitionists – and that Wagenseller even invited Lincoln to treat his home as his Pekin headquarters.

This 1896 photograph from the collection of Dan Toel shows the old Wagenseller home, formerly located at about the southwest corner of Broadway and present-day Second Street. Among those shown in the photo are members of the Toel and Wagenseller families. PHOTO COURTESY DAN TOEL

The same history asserts that Lincoln gave several speeches at different times from the second-floor balcony of the Wagenseller house. Thus, it would make sense that he might address a gathered crowd in that place on 5 Oct. 1858. Nevertheless, the recollections of pioneers sometimes grew hazy with time, and that is what happened in this case — Roberts and Patterson probably confused another talk Lincoln gave at the Wagenseller house with Lincoln’s Pekin speech of 1858, which did take place in the Tazewell County Courthouse square, as we may read in the following article from The Tazewell Register, Thursday, Oct. 7, 1858 (reprinted in the TCGHS Monthly, Oct. 2007, pages 1449-1451 (emphasis added):

The “Lincoln Rally”

Mr. Lincoln met with a very cordial reception from his friends on Tuesday [Oct. 5], and if they are satisfied with the demonstration, we see no reason why democrats should not be. The procession, numbering about one hundred teams, averaging six persons to a team — one third of whom however, were not voters — passed through the streets several times, and finally brought up at the court-house square, where Mr. Lincoln, accompanied by his abolition friend Webb and others, mounted the stand. T. J. Pickett gave the cue for “three cheers;” after which Judge Bush delivered an address of welcome suitable to the occasion. Mr. Lincoln spoke for about two hours, and then left for Peoria on his way to Galesburg, where he has a discussion today with Judge Douglas.

The crowd in town was easily estimated, and we think we are liberal enough allowing three thousand, including men, women, and children. Of course, besides the democrats, there was a large number of old line whigs present who have no idea of amalgamating with abolitionists, even to oblige Mr. Lincoln.

Trumbull was not here to take the place assigned in the bills, but Judge Kellogg was on hand, and spoke in the courthouse at night. We were not present, but understand he appeared as the peculiar advocate and representative of Lyman Trumbull, and repeated the charges for which Judge Douglas had branded Trumbull as “an infamous falsifier.”

We have conversed with a number of democrats who were in town on Tuesday and Saturday, and they assure us that the two meetings demonstrate beyond a doubt that the county is sure to go for Douglas.

From this report, it is clear that the the 1949 Pekin Centenary’s statements regarding Lincoln’s speech in Pekin were mistaken not only in the date (Oct. 5, not Oct. 6) and in stating that Trumbull was present on the occasion. The mistake regarding Trumbull’s presence was perhaps due to the fact that printed handbills advertising the planned speech had said Trumbull would be there. The author of the Centenary text have have based his statement on what was said in the handbills.

NOTE: The day after publication, this article was updated, augmented and corrected with additional information and images. The assistance of Dan Toel and Connie Perkins is especially appreciated.

#abolitionism, #abraham-lincoln, #edward-roberts, #ernest-east, #george-patterson, #george-r-wagenseller-sr, #john-m-bush, #jonathan-haines, #joshua-wagenseller, #lincoln-speech-in-pekin, #lyman-trumbull, #market-street, #stephen-a-douglas, #thomas-j-pickett

Tazewell County Old Settler Joshua Wagenseller

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

Tazewell County Old Settler Joshua Wagenseller

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Among the biographies of the Old Settlers of Tazewell County featured in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County” is an extended account of the life of a Tazewell pioneer named Joshua Wagenseller. Joshua’s family is commemorated today in the name of Wagonseller Road south of Pekin. Following are excerpts of Joshua’s biographical essay — omitting most of the remarkably florid prose in which this and the other biographies in the 1873 “Atlas Map” were written.

“Joshua Wagenseller is a native of Montgomery county, Pennsylvania, born July 5, 1813. He is the fifth child of Peter and Susanna (Longaker) Wagenseller. Mr. W., father of Joshua, was a native of Montgomery county, Pa., and his parents were of German descent. He followed farming as the vocation of his life. He emigrated to Ohio about the year 1832, and settled in Columbus, Franklin county, where he resided until his death, which occurred about two years after. His wife, mother of Joshua, subsequently removed to Pekin, Ill., terminating a useful life in 1866, while residing with her son Joshua. . . .

“The subject of this biography acquired his early culture mostly at Green Tree Seminary, in his native country, where he acquired a knowledge of the rudiments of a good, practical, business education. His first business engagement after completing his course was in a wholesale dry goods house in the city of Philadelphia, where he obtained a position as bookkeeper and accountant. The next business engagement was with his brother in Union county, Pa., where he remained about two years. We would remark that these experiences of his early life laid the foundation for that successful business career which in after life distinguished him in his subsequent mercantile transactions.

“He was now of age, and, looking westward for a richer field in which to enlarge and develop his energies, he went to Columbus, Ohio, and erected a saw mill on Elm creek, and was engaged in the manufacture of lumber about three years, or until the spring of 1837, when he removed to Illinois, and settled in Pekin, Tazewell county. . . .

“Mr. Wagenseller formed a partnership with his brother Benjamin, and, under the firm name of ‘B. & J. Wagenseller,’ he began, in Pekin, a course of mercantile life, which business he has since followed. This original firm ceased in 1844, by the death of his brother. They went through the financial crash of 1840 unscathed. . . . Since the dissolution of this firm, Mr. Wagenseller has been at the head of subsequent business houses, and although he has been identified with other business largely in life, merchandising has been his leading vocation. He has been engaged in milling covering an aggregate of nearly ten years. He rebuilt and owned the first good grist mill propelled by water in Tazewell county. . . .

This drawing of the downtown Pekin store of J. Wagenseller & Son was printed in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County.”

“Mr. Wagenseller was married May 7, 1840, to Miss Harriet, daughter of Henry and Naomi Rupert, of Pekin, — formerly of Virginia. As the fruits of this union, they have had a family of six children. Two of his sons are now engaged with him in his present mercantile operations. Two of his sons are married, and all of his family are at this time (1873) residents of Pekin. Mr. Wagenseller and wife are both members of the Congregational Church of Pekin, and are among the original members of that church.

“Mr. W., in addition to his mercantile business, owns and carries on a farm near Pekin. He also owns a large area of land located in Iowa. . . . Politically, in early life, Mr. Wagenseller became a whig. His first vote for president was cast for Gen. Wm. H. Harrison, in 1836. He was anti-slavery in his sentiments, and the following circumstance, as related by himself, opened his eyes to the inhumanity of the slave traffic. While on a trip to New Orleans, on a steamboat, a slave owner came on board with a woman and six children. He witnessed the revolting spectacle of a slave girl sold on the block. ‘The scene,’ said Mr. W., ‘made me ever afterward an abolitionist.’ On the disorganization of the whig party, in 1856, he became identified with the republican party, to which he has since been strongly attached. He voted twice for the immortal Lincoln and twice for the valiant Grant, who so ably assisted in firmly planting the stars and stripes on the bulwark of American freedom. . . .

“Mr. Wagenseller has been required to represent the interests of his ward for several years in the common council of the city, and was vice president of the Peoria, Pekin, & Jacksonville Railroad Company. He has been one of the active, public-spirited citizens of Pekin for thirty-six years.”

#abolitionism, #joshua-wagenseller, #pekin-history, #preblog-columns, #slavery, #tazewell-county-history, #wagonseller-road

Who was Benjamin S. Prettyman?

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

Who was Benjamin S. Prettyman?

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

On the shelves of the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room is the 1864 edition of the “City Charter and Revised Ordinances of the City of Pekin, Ill.,” a relatively slim volume that comes to only 154 pages counting the index.

Perhaps most people would say the 1864 city charter generally makes for some dry reading, since it is only a collection of laws and regulations, with no narrative or characters or plot. In all its pages, this book mentions but one person by name, on page 29, at the start of the section on the charter’s amendments.

The first amendment to the charter was approved by the Illinois General Assembly on Feb. 10, 1849, a few months before the town of Pekin would be incorporated as a city. The amendment ratified the town board’s decision granting and confirming title to “the ferry across the Illinois river within the corporate limits of said town of Pekin” to “Benjamin S. Prettyman, his heirs and assigns.”

Who was this Benjamin S. Prettyman who had the distinction of being the only individual named in the 1864 Pekin City Charter? The answer is readily available in another book in the Local History Room collection, the 1893 “Portrait and Biographical Record of Tazewell and Mason Counties,” pp.457-461. Prettyman’s biography which appears in that volume is longer than most, indicating his prominence in the early history of Pekin and Tazewell County. An even lengthier biography of B.S. Prettyman was published in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County, Illinois,” pp.30-31, and his portrait adorns the title page of the atlas.

This portrait of Benjamin S. Prettyman was printed in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County.”

Benjamin Stockley Prettyman was born Nov. 21, 1819, in Smyrna, Delaware, the only son and second child of Lewis and Harriet (Mason) Prettyman. Lewis brought his wife and five children to Tazewell County in 1831, “journeying up the Delaware to Philadelphia, thence to Pittsburgh, and from there down the Ohio and up the Mississippi. The boat upon which they journeyed from St. Louis to Pekin was the second that made the passage up the Illinois.”

Lewis Prettyman settled on land by the Mackinaw River that had never been broken by a plow. He built a fort at the river bank – this was the year before the Black Hawk War – and later built a log cabin at the forest’s edge “and broke the prairie soil with the first wooden mold-board plow introduced into the neighborhood.”

His son Benjamin was intellectually gifted, but had the common experiences of growing up in a pioneer family on the American frontier, which including being mostly self-educated since there was little access to formal schooling. Benjamin’s father served twice as County Surveyor, which led Benjamin to serve four years as Deputy Surveyor. It was during those years that Tazewell County, which formerly extended from the Illinois River to Sangamon County and included the city of Chicago, was reduced to its present boundaries. As deputy surveyor, Prettyman was one of the commissioners who divided the smaller county into townships around 1841.

Prettyman’s duties led him to begin legal studies in 1844 under Judge Robbins of Springfield. “He went to the office of Logan & Lincoln, but it was crowded with law students, and Logan advised him to get some legal books, adding that he would loan him such volumes as he desired. In March, 1845, he was admitted to the Bar of Illinois, at Springfield, and afterward settled in Pekin, which then had a population of four hundred.”

Prettyman’s connection to Pekin dates to as early as April 1840 – it was in Pekin at that time that he married Sarah A. Haines, daughter of William Haines, one of Pekin’s founders. He and Sarah had a large family, and one of their sons-in-law, Daniel Sapp, later became mayor of Pekin. Benjamin’s father-in-law “owned a mercantile establishment, a distillery, as well as the ferry and other important interests here.” That is how Prettyman came to be mentioned in connection with the Pekin ferry in the 1864 city charter.

Besides the family interest in the ferry, Prettyman also played a prominent role in bringing the railroad to Pekin and helping to extend rail lines throughout central Illinois. In addition, Prettyman was elected Mayor of Pekin in 1862. His 1893 biography says, “During the war he was twice elected mayor of Pekin, and served in the same capacity several times afterward.” Other published lists of Pekin’s mayors show only his 1862 term in office – during the other times he apparently served temporarily as acting mayor.

Prettyman’s 1893 biography notes that he then had “the distinction of being the oldest attorney in Tazewell County.” He died April 8, 1895, and is buried in Lakeside Cemetery in Pekin. His home in the 1100 block of North 11th Street still stands today.

Benjamin S. Prettyman’s home on 11th St. as it appeared in 1872 is shown in this lithograph from the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County.”

Last month a descendant of Prettyman’s daughter Nellie donated to the Pekin Public Library Prettyman’s own copy of “Pekin and Environs,” a late-nineteenth-century compilation of photos of Pekin homes and locales. Prettyman signed his name in the book twice. Some of the images from “Pekin and Environs” appear in Rob Clifton’s 2004 “Pekin History: Then and Now.”

Shown here is Benjamin S. Prettyman’s signature from his copy of “Pekin and Environs,” a compilation of photographs published circa 1890.

#benjamin-prettyman, #pekin-history, #william-haines