Tazewell’s unincorporated communities: Winkel

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Having reviewed the history of Boynton Township last week, and spotlighted that township’s only community, the village of Boynton, this week we’ll move to another sparsely populated rural township in southern Tazewell County – Malone Township.

While Boynton Township has no incorporated communities and only one unincorporated community, Malone Township today no longer has any real, living communities at all, but continues to be dotted with farms. Current township plat maps continue to mark the site of Malone’s one unincorporated community, the hamlet of Winkel in Section 23, but Winkel – which was never very large – is now hardly more than a name on the map. Winkel is – or was – about a half-mile east of Illinois Route 29, but all that is left of the hamlet now are a few barns, two or three nearby farmsteads, and the name of the road it was on: Winkel Road.

This aerial view of Winkel was published in John Drury’s 1954 “This is Tazewell County.”

Things were very different some six or seven decades ago. This is how John Drury in his 1954 “This is Tazewell County,” page 227, described Winkel:

“A small hamlet in Malone Township is Winkel, located in the southern part of the county. It is on the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroad and near the hamlet is State 29. Winkel is served by the post office at Delavan. It is the only community in Malone Township, which has a population of 383. The township was first settled in 1850. One of its earliest residents was Dr. Hubbard S. Latham, who served as the township’s first justice of the peace.”

The 1864, 1873, and 1891 plat atlases of the county show no trace of Winkel. The hamlet first appears in old Tazewell County plat atlases in 1910, but the late local historian Fred Soady, in his 1979 “Preliminary Master List of Settlements in Tazewell County,” claimed the site was first settled about 1840, and noted that it became a station on the St. Louis, Peoria & Northern Railroad in 1879. (However, the date of 1840 is too early, as we shall see further on.) Winkel got its name because it was established on farmland owned by German settler Christopher Winkel (1833-1908), who is buried in St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery in rural Delavan.

The plat of the village of Winkel was published in the 1910 Tazewell County atlas. At the time, Winkel had a general store and post office, grain elevators, a railroad depot, and a few homes.

By the time Winkel first shows up in the 1910 plat atlas, the St. Louis, Peoria & Northern had become the Chicago & Alton. In 1910 the little hamlet had one north-south street, Ehret Street, and three east-west streets, Winkel Road, First Street, and Second Street. In the past Winkel had two grain elevators, a train depot, a general store, a grade school, and a few homes. According to Soady, from 1898 to 1913 Winkel had its own post office.

Eventually the days of passenger train service came to an end, and the Chicago & Alton Railroad became the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroad. With the loss of its train station, Winkel slowly withered away. By the early 1980s, however, the G M & O at Winkel had become the Illinois Central. Old plat books show that the tracks were pulled up between 1982 and 1987. Over time, Winkel’s country schoolhouse, general store, and grain elevators all closed down and have long since vanished, along with the homes of those who once lived there. The faint track of the old rail bed is still visible on Google Map’s satellite image, but nothing remains of Winkel’s streets.

The village of Winkel and the Malone Township hall are both shown in this detail of the plat map of Malone Township from the 1910 Tazewell County atlas.

As mentioned above, Malone Township was not settled until 1850, at which time the township’s land was still a part of Delavan Township. Charles. C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” page 526, explained that this part of the county took so long to be settled because most of the area was a marsh that had to be drained so pioneers could farm the land and build homes. But four years after receiving its first settler, in Nov. 1854, Malone was organized as a separate township.

Although Winkel was Malone Township’s only community, the township’s seat of government was never in Winkel. Rather, the township hall has been located at 3000 Shay Road, at the corner of Shay and Hamann roads, at least since 1910, the same year Winkel is first shown on the map in the old county atlases. The hall is still at that location today, and it serves as the polling place for the voters of Malone Township. The 2010 U.S. Census shows the township’s population has fallen to just 220 people in 95 households.

The Malone Township hall is located at 3000 Shay Road, at the corner of Shay and Hamann roads, a few miles northwest of the site of the former village of Winkel.

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Tazewell’s unincorporated communities: Stoehrs

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

As we continue our series on Tazewell County’s unincorporated communities, this week we return to Cincinnati Township to visit a location that is now little more than a name on the map: the former rural village of Stoehrs.

Stoehrs is only a ghost of its former self today, but it still appears on recent maps, such as this 2017 Cincinnati Township plat map.

Stoehrs today is the location of the grain elevators of Tremont Cooperative Grain. At one time Stoehrs was the location of a post office and a school.

Stoehrs, sometimes called Stoehrs Station, is straight west of Midway, being situated adjacent to the intersection of Wagonseller and Garman roads in northwestern Cincinnati Township. John Drury’s 1954 “This is Tazewell County,” page 61, offers this brief comment on Stoehrs:

“Another community in Cincinnati Township is Stoehrs. It is a small village on the Chicago & Illinois Midland Railroad and lies just northwest of the Pekin Airport. The village is served by the post office at Pekin.”

In his 1979 “Preliminary Master List of Settlements in Tazewell County, Illinois,” the late Fred Soady tersely described Stoehrs as “station J. – S. E. next south of CRESCENT – P.O. 1882-1887 (north of Hainesville).” This means Stoehrs had its own post office from 1882 to 1887. Stoehrs originated as a depot on the old Peoria, Pekin & Jacksonville Rail Road (which became the Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis before it became the Chicago & Illinois Midland).

By 1874 the railroad already crossed George Stoehr’s property in Section 20 as shown in this detail of a Tazewell County wall plat map from that year. Note that the map misspells his name “Steohr.”

This detail of an 1873 plat map of Cincinnati Township shows a railroad switch on the northern boundary of George Stoehr’s land. That switch later became a railroad depot.

Stoehrs got its name because it was established on the farm of George Stoehr (1852-1911), whose homestead was about a quarter of a mile south of the Wagonseller-Garman Road intersection. The site of George Stoehr’s homestead is still the location of the home place of a farm, on land owned by Robert Cupi.

In the past a country schoolhouse (Cincinnati Township’s School House No. 1) was a quarter mile east of the intersection on Garman Road. The children of farming families in the vicinity of Stoehrs would attend that school. Today there are a few farm homes just to the east of Stoehrs on Garman Road, near where the school used to be, while a very short jog west of Stoehrs on Garman is the Marine Corps League.

By 1891 the farm of George Stoehr had passed to the Bailey family. Note that the map does not indicate that there was a railroad station near the Stoehrs intersection.

Stoehrs Station first appears in the 1910 Tazewell County atlas.

This detail from a 1929 plat map of Cincinnati Township shows Stoehrs Station, a former rural village that grew up near a train depot, a post office, and a country school near the intersection of Garman and Wagonseller roads.

That about does it in the way of residences near the Stoehrs Station intersection. The railroad still runs through, but the train station, the post office, and the school are long gone. The spot today is chiefly an area for agriculture and industry. Tremont Cooperative Grain’s elevators on Wagonseller Road are on the north side of the Stoehrs railroad crossing. Just a bit further north up Wagonseller are Superior Industries Inc. and Excel Foundry & Machine.

Two pioneer cemeteries are located close to Stoehrs. Southwest of Stoehrs, at the northeast corner of Fuelberth and Bluebird Hill roads, is King Cemetery, a burying ground where members of the King, Clark, and Shaw families were interred from 1843 to 1881.

Off to Stoehrs’ northwest is Bequeath Cemetery (also called Bequaith or Bequeaith Cemetery) on the meandering country road that more recently has been known as Excel Way (because it connects with Wagonseller where Excel Foundry & Machine is located). Bequeath Cemetery was established on the land of a pioneer farmer named John Bequeath (1820-1893), and he and many of his kin are buried there.

Incidentally, the reason that Excel Way meanders is because the road originally tracked the bends and curves of the Mackinaw River. The winding creek to the west of the road formerly was the channel by which the waters of the Mackinaw River found their way to the Illinois River from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s, until the Mackinaw changed its course and made itself a new river mouth (as it has done in the past).

#bequeath-cemetery, #chicago-and-illinois-midland-railroad, #chicago-peoria-and-st-louis-railroad, #excel-foundry-and-machine, #george-stoehrs, #john-bequeath, #king-cemetery, #mackinaw-river, #pekin-peoria-and-jacksonville-railroad, #stoehrs, #stoehrs-station, #superior-industries, #tazewell-county-unincorporated-communities, #tremont-cooperative-grain

Tazewell’s unincorporated communities: Life on Spring Lake’s shores

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Over the last two weeks we have taken a look at the Spring Lake Township communities of Talbott and Parkland. This week we will head down to the eastern shore of the eight-and-a-half-mile-long lake that gives the township its name, so we can spotlight the communities along Spring Lake’s shoreline.

Residences line much of the eastern shore of Spring Lake, as shown in this detail from the 2017 plat map of Spring Lake Township.

Spring Lake itself is under Illinois Department of Natural Resources management. Most of the land along the lake’s eastern shore, and a lot of the western shore, is a state park – the Spring Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area. In the alluvial plain of the Illinois River, the lake is relatively shallow, at depth of about 10 feet. It formed naturally long ago when the Illinois River changed its course, but is fed by springs (hence the name, Spring Lake) which keep the water from stagnating.

The western portion of Spring Lake Township in the vicinity of Spring Lake, as it appeared in the 1929 Tazewell County atlas. Note the three country schools, including one on the west side of the lake.

This detail of the 1967 plat map of Spring Lake Township shows the beginnings of Lakewood Terrace Subdivision in Section 2 of the township.

A string of subdivisions along the east shore of Spring Lake are shown in this detail of the 1982 plat map of Spring Lake Township.

Over time several communities have been established on or near Spring Lake’s eastern shore. Today there are two primary stretches of shoreline where people have made their homes. One of them is a grouping of homes that extends in the area along Maple Island Road and Hoff Subdivision Road. The other is further south down the eastern shore – the subdivisions of Lakewood Terrace and Smith Rakestraw. Though the Spring Lake area is chiefly devoted to fishing and hunting, in more recent times a vineyard, known as Mockingbird Vineyards, at 3511 Spring Lake Road in rural Manito, has been established on land approximately between Lakewood Terrace and Smith Rakestraw.

The first community to be established along Spring Lake was the eponymously named unincorporated town of Spring Lake, which once existed on land atop a bluff above the southernmost tip of the lake, along the Tazewell-Mason county line.

The plat of the vanished town of Spring Lake was published in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County.” The town failed not many years later, and the former town site has since been reclaimed by the forest.

The locations of the vanished towns of Spring Lake and Spring Garden are indicated in this detail of an 1864 wall plat map of Tazewell County.

The town of Spring Lake is shown in this detail of an 1873 plat map of Spring Lake Township. By the time the 1891 Tazewell County atlas was published, the town had failed and disappeared.

The late Fred Soady, in his 1979 “Preliminary Master List of Settlements in Tazewell County, Illinois,” describes the erstwhile town of Spring Lake as the “southern part of Sand Prairie settlement along Illinois River.” According to Soady, this settlement had its own post office from 1856 to 1864. In addition, Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” page 637, says, “The town of Spring Lake, which is located on sec. 16, 22 north, 7 west, was laid out May 15, 1862, by Thomas G. Conant.

The town of Spring Lake appears on old county plat maps of Spring Lake Township in 1864 and 1873, and a plat of the town itself was published in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County,” page 132. However, the town failed not long after the publication of Chapman’s Tazewell County history – the map of Spring Lake Township in the 1891 “Plat Book of Tazewell County” shows no trace of Spring Lake town. In that atlas, the land that had once been the town is shown as the property of the Pekin & Spring Lake Hunting & Fishing Club. Today the former site of Spring Lake town has been reclaimed by the forest – the only thing there now is a short winding stretch of State Park Road.

As we noted before, Spring Lake Township affords many opportunities for fishing and hunting. The old Pekin & Spring Lake Hunting & Fishing Club was established to take advantage of those opportunities. At one time most of the land around Spring Lake was the club’s property. The club’s main club house and hotel – which once hosted notables such as Presidents Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland, and, so it is reputed, even Chicago gangster Al Capone – was located at the northern end of Hoff Subdivision Road (County Road 4850E), as shown on the 1910 plat map of Spring Lake Township. The spot was originally called Marshall’s Landing. Betting on horses was another popular past time at Marshall’s Landing at the nearby Radville Racetrack – the track appears on the 1891 plat map of Spring Lake Township.

After the Pekin & Spring Lake Hunting & Fishing Club disbanded, the State of Illinois erected the Spring Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area in its place.

The old club house of the Pekin & Spring Lake Hunting & Fishing Club hosted notables such as President Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland, and was also, it is said, one of Chicago gangster Al Capone’s favorite places to visit. PHOTO FROM THE TAZEWELL COUNTY HISTORICAL STORYMAP

This detail from the 1910 plat map of Spring Lake Township shows the location of the old Spring Lake Club House and hotel.

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Tazewell’s unincorporated communities: Lilly

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Among Tazewell County’s older unincorporated communities is the tiny and quiet farming hamlet of Lilly, located about two miles from Mackinaw’s village limits and less than two miles from the eastern border of Tazewell County.

John Drury’s “This is Tazewell County, Illinois” (1954), page 210, offers this brief description of Lilly: “Near the eastern border of the county lies Lilly, still another community in Mackinaw Township. It has a population of 90. Lily (sic) is on the New York Central System and is served by the post office at nearby Mackinaw.”

The land of William Lilly, from whom the village of Lilly got its name, is shown just west of town in this detail of an 1873 Tazewell County plat map of Mackinaw Township.

Today the railroad is no more, and Lilly’s population is even lower than it was in 1954. Lilly chiefly owes its existence to the railroad, having started out as a stop along the old Indianapolis, Bloomington & Western Railway, whose tracks connecting Pekin with Indianapolis were laid down in 1869.

That the construction of the railroad is what brought Lilly into being is reflected on old plat maps of the county. There’s no trace of Lilly on an 1864 wall plat map of Tazewell County, the spot then being designated as undifferentiated “Lots.” But Lilly was there by the time the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County” was published. The railroad was built between those dates.

Lilly and environs in 1891.

The hamlet apparently was named after William Lilly (1822-1894), a Maryland-born settler of Welsh descent whose farm is shown about a half-mile west of Lilly on the 1873 plat of Mackinaw Township. No one with the name of Lilly owned any farms in Mackinaw Township in 1864, but that year “W. Lilly” (i.e., Lilly’s namesake) and a “J. Lilly” are shown owning adjoining farms about six miles south of Lilly in Little Mackinaw Township. A short biographical sketch of William Lilly may be found on page 518 of Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County, Illinois.” A longer sketch is on page 1039 of the “Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Tazewell County.” William Lilly is buried with his wife Elizabeth and sons Joseph and William in Lilly Cemetery, located at the southeast corner of the intersection of Fast Ave. and Lilly Road (in the southeastern extremity of Lilly).

This 1891 plat shows the small hamlet of Lilly, named for Tazewell County pioneer William Lilly (1822-1894) and established circa 1870 as a train depot near William Lilly’s farm. The spot first attracted travelers — such as Abraham Lincoln — in the 1830s, who would overnight at an inn there on the Old Peoria Road.

Pioneer farmers lived in and near the future site of Lilly well before the arrival of the railroad. Until a tragic fire in May 2014, Lilly’s most famous landmark was the old Lilly Inn, first erected in the 1830s to serve travelers on the Old Peoria Road that linked Peoria, Mackinaw, Danvers, and Bloomington. Lawyers and judges in the Eighth Judicial Circuit – including Abraham Lincoln – would sometimes stop overnight at that inn, some two or three decades before Lilly was founded and named.

Lilly and environs as of 1910.

An enlarged plat of Lilly in an 1891 atlas of the county shows the hamlet with only two east-west streets (William and Broadway – today, roughly, Killion and Winkler) and two north-south streets (Lindsey and Hay – today, roughly, Killion and Lilly). The plat also shows the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad (formerly the I. B. & W) slicing east-west through the heart of Lilly, with the depot on the north side of the track and a mill and grain elevator on the south side. A 1910 plat of Lilly looks much the same as the 1891 plat, the only differences being the addition of a second railroad track – that of the Illinois Traction System – and the Zorn Grain Co. on the sound end of the hamlet. By 1929, however, the Zorn Grain Co.’s property had become the location of the Lilly Christian Church.

This 1929 plat of Lilly shows further changes in the village.

Lilly had always benefited from the traffic and commerce that moved between Mackinaw and Bloomington, and the coming of the railroad was an even greater boon. With the advent of the automobile in the early 20th century, however, as well as the shift of traffic from Old Peoria Road (Fast Ave. and Runyon Road) to Illinois Route 9, traffic and trade bypassed Lilly, which consequently has remained small and out of the way. No churches or businesses are currently located in Lilly, but the Mackinaw Valley Vineyard on Route 9 is just a mile from Lilly to the south.

Lilly and environs in 1929.

#abraham-lincoln, #lilly-inn, #tazewell-county-unincorporated-communities, #william-lilly, #zorn-grain-co

Where is Nance Legins-Costley’s final resting place? (Redux)

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

“To rescue a name worthy to be remembered and honoured
To recall great events,
To look back upon the deeds of those gone before us,
Are objects worthy of all consideration.”

— U.S. Secretary of State and Illinois historian E. B. Washburne, 1882

It’s not every day that historical researchers discover new facts that solve long-standing mysteries – but today is one of those days.

Several times in recent years, “From the History Room” has had the opportunity to tell of the life and family of one of Pekin’s most notable historical figures – Nance Legins-Costley, remembered as the first African-American slave freed by Abraham Lincoln. Most of what we know of Nance is the fruit of the research of local historian Carl Adams. Only two weeks ago we took another look at the lives of Nance and her son Private William Henry Costley.

Following close upon the heels of that column, we now return once more to the subject of Nance in order to announce that the answer has been found to the three-fold question, “When and where did Nance die and where was she buried?

We previously addressed that question here in Aug. 2015. At that time we noted the speculation of late Pekin historian Fred Soady, who thought Nance died circa 1873 in Pekin and had probably been buried in the old City Cemetery that formerly existed at the southwest corner of Koch and South Second streets. We also considered a May 29, 1885 Minnesota State Census record of “Nancy Cosley,” identified in the record as age 72, black, born in Maryland, and living in Minneapolis with James Cosley, 32, born in Illinois. This record is a perfect match for Pekin’s Nance Costley and her son James Willis Costley, especially considering that Nance’s son William was then living in Minneapolis and died three years later in Rochester, Minn.

Lacking any further information, I wondered if Nance may have died in Minneapolis and was buried there or nearby.

We now know the answer to that question is, “No.” Although the 1885 census record shows Nance in Minneapolis, she later returned to central Illinois (presumably after her son William’s death in Rochester in 1888). A few years later, Nance died and was buried in Peoria.

Those facts were discovered by Debra Clendenen of Pekin, a retired Pekin Hospital registered nurse and local genealogical researcher who has been engaged in a project of creating Find-A-Grave memorials for deceased individuals whose names are recorded in the old Peoria County undertakers’ records.

While engaged in that project, Clendenen came across the burial records of Nance Legins-Costley, her husband Benjamin Costley, their son Leander “Dote” Costley, their daughter and son-in-law Amanda and Edward W. Lewis, and Amanda’s and Edward’s sons Edward W., William Henry, Ambrose E., Jesse, and John Thomas. Clendenen has created Find-A-Grave memorials for all of those members of Nance’s family. She added Benjamin’s memorial on March 8 this year, and then added Nance’s memorial on March 12.

Clendenen described her discoveries earlier this month in an email dated June 6, 2019:

“The heroes of this tale are the undertakers who kept such remarkably detailed records and the Peoria County Clerks who have housed their records for nearly 150 years.

“The records began in 1872 and were discovered in the basement of the Peoria Courthouse a few years ago by Bob Hoffer of Peoria. He photographed the records and gave them to the Peoria County Genealogical Society who transcribed and published them.

“I have been photocopying pages of the books at the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society in Pekin and creating Find-A-Grave memorials from them. I am ‘blessed’ with an enormous curiosity gene. I use Ancestry.com to research the folks I create memorials for. I have created 35,000 memorials over an eight-year period.

“So that is the journey Nance’s burial took from the undertaker to my hands.”

The Peoria County undertaker’s report for Nance says she was born in Maryland and died of old age at the remarkable age of 104, on April 6, 1892. The report lists her residence at 226 N. Adams St., which means she was living with her daughter Amanda and son-in-law Edward. According to the report, Nance was buried in Moffatt Cemetery in Peoria.

Moffatt Cemetery, as shown on an 1896 plat map of Peoria, from the “Illinois Ancestors Presents Peoria County” website.

Her husband Ben had died nine years earlier. His undertaker’s report says he died at the age of 86 on Dec. 4, 1883, with the cause of death listed as unspecified “injuries.” His residence was 517 Hale St., and he was, according to the report, buried in Springdale Cemetery.

Clendenen has expressed doubt about whether or not Benjamin and Nance were really buried in different cemeteries. The undertaker’s reports for their children Amanda and Leander are similar, showing Amanda buried in Springdale and Leander buried in Moffatt. Even though Benjamin is said to have been buried in Springdale, Springdale Cemetery has no record of his burial, so Clendenen thinks it is possible he may have really been buried in Moffatt Cemetery.

Moffatt Cemetery, at 3900 S.W. Adams St. (the corner of Adams and Griswold), was one of Peoria’s oldest cemeteries, starting as early as 1836 as a burying ground for the family of Peoria pioneer Aquila Moffatt (1802-1880). The cemetery has long been defunct, however, being officially closed in 1905 after burial space ran out. Eventually the cemetery sank into decrepitude and neglect, overgrown and the gravestones crumbling and fallen. As Bob Hoffer discovered in his research, the Peoria City Council finally voted in 1954 to rezone the property as light industrial, after which it appears that most of the burials were relocated – but many burials are probably still there, at the site that is now the location of a roofers union office, muffler shop, an electrician, and a parking lot. (See the story of Hoffer’s research efforts in “Peoria searching for Civil War grave finds forgotten cemetery,” in the May 27, 2017 edition of the Peoria Journal Star)

A large part of the site of Peoria’s defunct Moffatt Cemetery, at the corner of Griswold and Adam streets, is today paved over as a parking lot, as shown in this Google Maps Street View image. Nance Legins-Costley was buried in Moffatt Cemetery in April 1892.

Although study of the Peoria County undertaker’s reports for Benjamin and Nance Costley has at last revealed when and where Nance and her husband Ben died, their reports do raise some questions. First of all, in both Nance’s and Ben’s reports their stated ages at death are obviously erroneous. Earlier U.S. and state census records indicate that Nance was born circa 1813 while Ben was born circa 1811 or 1812. In fact even those earlier census records give varying ages. Knowing that Nance and Ben were illiterate, and that Nance had been born in slavery, most likely they themselves were unsure of when they were born.

Carl Adams, leading expert on Nance’s life, has identified Nance as a daughter of the slaves Randall and Anachy Legins, who are known to have had a daughter in Kaskaskia, Illinois, in December 1813 – this matches Nance’s age from the census records, and thus we can narrow down Nance’s birth to that month and year. Their owner Nathan Cromwell was born in Maryland. Nance may have appropriated that as her place of birth, either because she was confused or because, given the grave injustices that Illinoisans had inflicted upon her in her younger days, she disavowed the place of her birth. Or, as Adams suspects, it may have been a census-taker’s error, attributing to the slaves the place of the birth of their master. Be that as it may, Nance was 78 when she died, not 104. Nance’s daughter Amanda was likely the one who supplied the undertaker with her mother’s age, and Amanda herself likely did not know how old her mother really was. Unfortunately we’ll never know how Nance’s age came to be inflated from 78 to 104. As for Nance’s husband Ben, based on census records he probably died at the age of 70 or 71, not 86.

There is still doubt regarding the disposition of the burials that were removed from Moffatt Cemetery. Were they moved to another cemetery, and if so which one? Were the remains of Nance and Leander among those that were removed, or are they still in situ, covered over by a parking lot? There’s no way to be sure at this time.

Even so, with Clendenen’s discovery of the undertaker’s reports for Nance and her family, and her creation of online memorials for them at Find-A-Grave, we can finally write the final chapter of Nance’s remarkable life. Memory eternal!

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Tazewell’s unincorporated communities: Groveland

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

One of the oldest unincorporated communities in Tazewell County is the village of Groveland, located between Pekin and Morton in Groveland Township. Groveland’s beginnings are coeval with the founding of Tazewell County in 1827, but the village proper, in Sections 26 and 27 of Groveland Township, was first laid out by Isaac Roberts on May 30, 1836.

Notable persons in American history with a connection to Groveland include the abolitionist and feminist writer Eliza Farnham (1815-1864), whose biography “Life in Prairie Land” is available in the Pekin Public Library’s main collection. Another early feminist with a link to Groveland was Catherine Amanda Coburn (1839-1913), an activist in the women’s suffrage movement and a pioneer settler of the Oregon Territory.

The village of Groveland is shown in this detail from an 1864 wall plat map of Tazewell County.

The early history of Groveland, and of the township that is named after it, is told in Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” pages 475-486. (Other details of Groveland’s early history are scattered throughout Chapman’s book.) Chapman’s account is replete with colorful anecdotes of the township’s pioneers. Following are several excerpts from Chapman’s history of Groveland Township:

“This township received its name from the village of Groveland, and it from the beautiful groves in the neighborhood. A visit to the township at this late day shows it to have been very appropriately christened. The first settler to locate here was James Scott. He built his cabin in the timber on section 35, as early as 1827. Others who came in shortly afterwards were Milton Shurtleff, John O’Brien, Daniel and John Mooberry, John Anderson, Joseph Landes, Benjamin Dobsone, Alexander Caldwell and George Dupree. The only ones of these pioneers now living are John Mooberry, Joseph Landes and John O’Brien. The first school in the township was taught by John McGinnis, in a little log cabin built for that purpose on the southwest quarter of sec. 11, in the winter of 1834-35. Some claim that Mathew Kingman was the first ‘master.’

“Mrs. James Scott, wife of the first settler, gave each new comer into the settlement a hen with her chickens. This was her mode of welcoming them to their new homes. Austin Harding, when a lad of ten, remembers well the circumstances attending the gift of his hen and chickens. With a light heart he carried them home from Mrs. Scott’s, but the hen managed to get out of her place of confinement, the chickens scattered, and his present, which was so highly prized, was lost to him. The good motherly Mrs. Scott, however, replaced it by another hen and her brood. James Scott moved to El Paso in 1859, where, in 1860, he died. George, son of Joseph Landes, bought the original Scott farm, being the southeast corner of section 35 (not 33, as has been recorded) in 1858, of Mr. Elijah Brown, Mr. Scott’s son-in-law, who accompanied Mr. S. to El Paso. . . .

Groveland’s size noticeably increased in the nine years since the 1864 wall plat map, as seen in this detail of the Groveland Township map from the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County.”

“Alexander McKnight had a horse mill here, where the settlers could get all kinds of grain ground, but the bolting had to be done by hand. This mill was located on section 1, Elm Grove township, three-quarters of a mile from the south line of Groveland. There was another mill in Elm Grove, driven by tread-wheel power, using horses or oxen. Bolting was also done by hand here. Both mills did good work. The latter, Mr. Shipman’s mill, was running in 1830, how long previous, not known. A negro by the name of Mose was the miller. . . .

“The streams of the township are the South, Middle and North forks of Lick creek, named from the Deer licks of salt springs. At the lick on the Middle Fork, Mr. B. J. Montgomery found the skeleton of two large bucks, that had locked their horns together, and unable to separate themselves died. He kept these horns for many years. . . .

“The oldest house in Groveland is owned by Thomas Hancock, section 27. Some twenty years ago it was moved from the bottoms near Wesley City, and is said to be over fifty years old. It is made of logs and looks quite pioneer-like, as also the present owner, who believes in old-time ways and customs, and has never been on a railway car. Although he does not believe in sewing machines and many other modern improvements, yet we see he has a modern mowing machine. Still he is of that liberal turn of mind which leaves every one, without let or hindrance, to enjoy his own chosen ways.

“The first sermon, it is said, was preached in 1834, by Rev. Neele Johnson, but Joseph Landes tells us he heard Rev. Wm. Brown preach a sermon in 1831, on a farm on section 25, near where the cemetery now is. The first church organization was by Mormons, in 1831 or ’32. There are five churches now in the township. . . .”

Springfield Road runs north-south through the middle of Groveland, dividing the village into two equal halves in this 1910 plat map.

Those other four churches, as Chapman recorded, were the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church, Zion’s Church of the Evangelical Association of North America, and the Mennonite Church. The village of Groveland today is the home of Groveland Missionary Church, at 5043 E. Queenwood Road, a congregation established in 1898 at a site a block west of its present location. In 1911 the congregation bought the former Groveland Methodist Church building and relocated there, where it has been ever since. Eastward out at 5324 E. Queenwood Road is Groveland Bible Church, a congregation of the Fellowship of Evangelical Churches. Heartland Christian Fellowship is at 18603 Springfield Road. The Old Towne Grove Chapel at 18856 Springfield Road is also available for services and weddings.

Groveland’s businesses include Woody’s Family Restaurant at 18706 Springfield Road, Kuchie’s Corner at 4980 Edgewater Drive, The Treasure Barn at 17963 Springfield Road, Moyer Electronics at 5058 Edgewater Drive, Casey’s General Store at 19416 Springfield Road, and Tri-County Cleaning Systems at 18881 Springfield Road.

Groveland as it appeared on the Groveland Township plat map from 1891.

With a population of about 1,400 people, Groveland has the legal right to become an incorporated village if the residents so choose – by state law, a community must have at least 600 persons to incorporate as a village governed by its own elected village board. However, Groveland has always been unincorporated, and therefore is served by the county and township governments. The Groveland Township Office is located in Groveland at 173 Washington St., which is also the location of the Groveland Community Library. Groveland has its own U.S. Post Office at 18769 Springfield Road.

In this 1929 plat map, Groveland is little changed from 1910.

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Tazewell’s unincorporated communities: Allentown

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

One of Tazewell County’s older unincorporated communities has a history that reaches back to the county’s pioneer days: the farming hamlet of Allentown, situated at the intersection of Allentown Road (County Road 1600N) and Uhlman Road (County Road 2825E) in northeastern Tremont Township.

John Drury’s “This is Tazewell County, Illinois” (1954), page 210, offers this brief, partly erroneous, description of Allentown: “A village in Mackinaw Township is Allentown, with a population of 83. It is on the Pennsylvania and Illinois Terminal railroads. The village is located northwest of Mackinaw.

Edward James Allen (1810-1889), after whom Allentown is named, is shown in this old portrait posted to an Ancestry.com family tree by user “mljon09.”

In fact Allentown has always been in Tremont Township, though it is much closer to Mackinaw than to Tremont. The hamlet takes its name from a pioneer farmer of Tremont Township named Edward James Allen (1810-1889), whose impressive grave monument may be seen in Mackinaw Township Cemetery. Allen is buried there along with his wife Henrietta (Brown) Allen (1809-1906) and their sons, U.S. Army Corporal Harrison “Harry” Allen, who fell sick in 1863 while stationed with his regiment at Cairo, Ill., during the Civil War, and Harry’s younger brother Seth L. Allen, who inherited the Allen place after his father’s death.

Old Tazewell County plat maps mark the Allen farm as early as 1864. Prior to his migration to Tazewell County, Edward Allen, a New Jersey native, settled for a while in Miami County, Ohio, where his son Harry was born. Charles C. Chapman’s “History of Tazewell County,” page 661, shows that Edward Allen served as Tremont Township Supervisor from 1863 to 1865, then was re-elected Township Supervisor in 1867.

The farm of Edward J, Allen, namesake of Allentown, is shown in this detail of an 1864 wall plat map of Tazewell County.

An 1864 wall plat map indicates that a country school house was located adjacent to Allen’s Tremont Township farm, at a spot now close to the center of Allentown. The 1873 Atlas Map of Tazewell County shows that school as the township’s School House No. 3.

The track of a proposed railroad is shown as a dashed line heading southeast through Edward J. Allen’s farm in this detail of the Tremont Township plat map in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County.”

The same map shows that a railroad had been laid down next to the school house, tracking northwest to southeast diagonally through the middle of Edward Allen’s farm. The existence of the “Allentown” railroad depot near the school made the spot an ideal place to live, and very soon a little village had sprung up – the 1873 map shows 14 homes located near the railroad and the school, and more were soon to come. The village’s name, “Allentown,” first appears on the Tremont Township plat map found in the 1891 Tazewell County atlas. The following year the residents of Allentown built a community hall, called the Union Hall, where community celebrations, church services, club meetings, local elections, and performances by traveling musicians and vaudevillians were held. The Allentown Union Hall, now 127 years old, is still in use today, and a preservation group is devoted to maintaining the old building. The hall was added to the National Register of Historic Places on Aug. 12, 1988.

On the National Register of Historic Places, the Allentown Union Hall, now 127 years old, is still in use today, and a preservation group is devoted to maintaining the old building.

By 1910 Allentown had its own post office, and a second set of railroad tracks had been laid down – one set were the tracks of the Illinois Traction Co. and the other set were for the Vandalia Rail Road. Speaking personally, I first “discovered” Allentown while bicycling out in the countryside in the latter 1980s. Not having a map, I was curious to find out why the road was called “Allentown Road” and pedaled east from Pekin to see where the road led. “Aha! To Allentown, of course! Well, that makes sense.” At the time the railroad tracks were still there, but the prominent old depot and grain elevator was no longer in use – the elevator is still there but the tracks – once key to Allentown’s farming economy — have been pulled up. Traces remain of the old rail bed – a reminder of the village’s past.

Allentown Road cuts through the middle of Allentown in this aerial view looking eastward, published in John Drury’s 1954 “This is Tazewell County, Illinois.” The old grain elevator, by the railroad tracks in the upper right quarter of the photo, still stands today, though no longer in use.

The railroad had been laid through Allentown and past the school house by the time this 1890 plat map of Tremont Township was drawn.

By 1910, two railroads were in operation through Allentown — the Illinois Traction Co. and the Vandalia Railroad — as shown in the detail of a Tremont Township plat map.

Curiously, Allentown’s name is left off the 1929 plat map of Tremont Township.

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