The indomitable Jacob Funk

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

The indomitable Jacob Funk

By Jared Olar
Library Assistant

In the list of Tazewell County’s earliest pioneer settlers was Jacob Funk, whose name appears with relative frequency in the old county records and histories.

Born on Dec. 28, 1793, in Lexington, Kentucky, one of the children of Adam and Nancy Funk, Jacob married Susannah Popejoy (1798-1845) in 1813 in Ohio and had several children. He and his wife and children moved to central Illinois in the 1820s. On page 207 of his 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” Charles C. Chapman names “Jesse, Absalom and Jacob Funk” among those who arrived in 1825 and made their homes in what would soon become Fon du Lac Township, Tazewell County, “on the river bottom above and opposite Fort Clarke.”

On page 228 of Chapman’s history, Jacob Funk is named as one of three men appointed as election judges for Ten Mile precinct “at the house of Thomas Camlin.” Funk also served on Tazewell County’s very first grand jury, which was appointed in June 1827 to serve at the October term of the Circuit Court, according to page 231 of Chapman’s history.

In the following year, on March 3, 1828, we find Funk applying for and receiving a license to operate a tavern, for which he paid the county a fee of $2. At the same time, Funk sought to go into the ferry business – but found his ambitions blocked by his neighbor John L. Bogardus, who held exclusive rights to operate a ferry across the Illinois River in that area. Funk then filed a petition in court to challenge Bogardus. This is how Chapman tells the story of the case of Funk vs. Bogardus, on pages 232 and 234 of his Tazewell County history:

“At the March term, 1828, the County Treasurer came into court and settled his account with the county . . . . At this meeting Jacob Funk petitioned the Court to revoke the ferry license of John L. Bogardus for non-attendance to his duties. It appears that the fault-finding Jacob looked with covetous eyes upon Bogardus, and by pure selfishness was prompted to thus petition the Court. Bogardus was contentedly ferrying the people with their goods and chattels across the Illinois opposite Peoria, while Funk sat upon the bank and sought to find fault that would rob Bogardus of that right, which he would then himself seize. After summoning Bogardus before the Court and a careful investigation of the charges the petition was refused. Unable to gain his point in this way Funk applied for a license at or near the same point where Bogardus was engaged, but the Court desired no competition and so refused the application.

“On the 3rd day of March, 1828, Rufus North, Jacob Funk and Jonas Hittle applied for tavern licenses, which, upon filing good and sufficient bonds, and paying into the county treasury the sum of $2.00, were granted. . . . It now appears that while Funk was providing entertainment for man and beast, his neighbor Bogardus had his ferry license, which he had obtained from Sangamon county, proved and spread upon the records here. He also secured the passage of an act prohibiting any one to establish a ferry within one mile of his own.

“Bogardus was evidently an old and extensive operator in the ferry business, for we find he held his license granted while Tazewell county was under the jurisdiction of Sangamon, and further, we find on Sept. 5, 1828, he made application to this Court for another ferry. He selected, as the most remunerative place for his branch ferry, the Illinois at the mouth of Fox river. . . .”

Thwarted in his initial attempt to secure Bogardus’ ferry rights for himself, Funk tried again in 1831, as Chapman relates on page 245, in a section that Chapman titled, “The Irrepressible Funk”:

“If the Court thought to escape the importunities of their old petitioner, Jacob Funk, on making the move to Pekin, they soon found they were sadly mistaken. No sooner had they found a room wherein to convene in official capacity than the indomitable Jacob appeared and again importuned the Court to revoke Bogardus’ ferry license. A citation was immediately issued commanding the said Bogardus to appear and show cause why his license should not be taken from him. Promptly at the convening of the Court at the September term, Funk was on hand and requested that attention be given to the citation issued against Bogardus. The Court, however, let other matters take the precedence until Sept. 8, when Bogardus appears before the Court and is confronted by Funk and [Abner] Eads, and, in the language of the record, the ‘trial is gon into.’ After hearing the evidence pro and con the Court gravely decided ‘that the ferry license issued to John Bogardus by the Sangamon county Commissioners and confirmed by this Court is hereby revoked.’ Thus Funk had at last gained a victory over his enemy, Bogardus, and no doubt was content. Abner Eads, however, was not satisfied with having Bogardus ousted, but applied for a ferry at the same place; but this the Court promptly refused. Bogardus again petitioned for a ferry across the river at Fort Clark, but the Court not wishing more trouble, refused to grant it.”

Funk did not have long to enjoy his victory over Bogardus, however, because Funk died just one year later, in October 1832. Chapman mentions Funk’s death in a brief and tantalizing aside, on page 470 of his history, where he names “Jacob Funk, who was shot by the Sheriff.” Unfortunately Chapman does not say anything else about the circumstances of Funk’s death. Since it happened in October 1832, presumably the sheriff who shot Funk was James Scott, who served as sheriff from 1832 to 1835, or perhaps it was Scott’s predecessor Philip B. Miles, whose term as sheriff ended in 1832. Various family trees at say Jacob died in Groveland. He was buried in Deacon Street Cemetery in Morton.

Photograph of Jacob Funk’s grave marker in Deacon Street Cemetery, Morton, Illinois, uploaded to Funk’s Find-A-Grave memorial by “BR.”

#abner-eades, #absalom-funk, #adam-funk, #battle-of-the-wabash, #illinois-river-ferry, #jacob-funk, #jesse-funk, #john-l-bogardus, #preblog-columns, #sheriff-james-scott, #sheriff-philip-b-miles, #susannah-popejoy, #thomas-camlin

Tazewell’s first horse thief – and first jail break

This is an updated reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in June 2013, before the launch of this weblog.

Tazewell’s first horse thief – and first jail break

By Jared Olar
Library Assistant

The year 1829 was very eventful for the fledgling Tazewell County. Not even two years had elapsed since the county had been created by the Illinois legislature, but the need had already arisen for a jail.

Tazewell County’s first jail, according to Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 county history, “was a two-story structure, 16 feet square, made of solid hewn timber, and was one of the strongest and most costly jail buildings erected by the pioneers throughout Central Illinois.” It was erected at the county seat of Mackinaw at a cost of $325.75.

Appropriately, not long after the county got its first jail, it also got its first horse thief, William Cowhart – and its first jail break. Chapman recorded these memorable events on pages 236-241 of his county history. Most of Chapman’s account, however, was in fact a reprint of an 1853 newspaper article that had been printed in the Bloomington Pantagraph. The article’s author was none other than Tazewell County pioneer Nathan Dillon, traditionally but erroneously regarded as the county’s first permanent white settler (William Blanchard came a year before Dillon, and the French Catholic fur traders who lived at the future site of Wesley City/Creve Coeur arrived before Blanchard), and the namesake of Dillon Township.

Dillon recalled:

“James Willis and his brother were the first pioneers on Sandy, in the neighborhood of where the flourishing village of Magnolia, in Marshall county, now stands, they having located there as early as 1827 or ’28, their nearest neighbor at that time being William Holland, who had already settled at Washington, Tazewell county, where he still lives. One cold Friday in the winter James Willis, who had been boarding at William Hall’s, in Dillon settlement on the Mackinaw, started on a trip with a young man calling himself by the name of Cowhart, whom he had hired to go and work for him at his new location. The distance was fifty miles and Holland’s the only family on the road. Willis was mounted on a fine horse, well equipped. The day was very cold and when they got to Crow creek, eighteen miles north of Holland’s, Willis dismounted and let Cowhart have his horse, overcoat and equipage, and took the gun belonging to Cowhart, supposing it to be loaded.

“Cowhart mounted, but instantly took the other end of the road. Willis, thinking that a shot from the gun might bring the rogue to a sense of duty, brought it to bear upon him, but upon trial found that the touchhole had been plugged with a green stalk, and so the man, money and equipage disappeared without any hindrance.

“Willis was quite unwell eighteen miles from any house and it was snowing, but he beat his way back to Holland’s. It happened that Abraham Hiner, a neighbor of mine, was there, and Willis made out a description of the robber and sent it by Hiner to me, with the request that I should do what I could for him.

“We immediately called our neighbors together and it was agreed that Daniel Hodgson, my brothers Daniel, Walter and Joseph, and myself would give him a chase, though it still remained cold and it was thirty-six hours after the commission of the robbery, which occurred forty miles away,”

Over the course of several days, Dillon and his posse engaged in a prolonged pursuit of Cowhart that took them over the Illinois border into Indiana. Because it was winter and snow blanketed the ground, tracking Cowhart was not difficult. The posse captured him near Rockville, Ind.

On their return trip, the posse stopped briefly at a tavern in Newport, Ind., where they encountered some resistance from some of the locals, who attempted to help Cowhart escape from their custody. Dillon wrote:

“About the time we were ready to start the man at the writing-desk proved to be a lawyer, and presented a petition to our prisoner to sign, praying for a writ of habeas corpus. I snatched the petition from the prisoner’s hand, saw what it was, gave it to the lawyer and told him to keep it to himself or I would give him trouble; whereupon he grew saucy, but went back when I walked towards him until he reached the end of the room; told me, I believe, that I was ‘out of order’; not to touch him. I told him plainly that if I heard another word from him I certainly should slap his jaw, then left him pale as death and turned to the prisoner and took him by the collar. He attempting to get away, some of the men took hold of me to assist him, exclaiming that there should be no dragging out. I gave him a stout jerk, at the same time Hodson and my brothers Daniel, Joseph and Walter assisted him with a shove, and he went out in short order. We set him astride of one of our horses just as the landlord and another man approached, and said we had no business to come there in such a way. The prisoner begged for help. We told him that if he attempted to get off the horse, or if any man attempted to assist him, we would ‘blow him through.’ With that we left them and got into our own State the same night. Next day we started for home, which we reached with our prisoner, after being out nine days, some of which were as cold as I ever experienced.

“Willis recovered all that Cowhart had robbed him of except two dollars and fifty cents.

“It was the same winter that the jail at Mackinaw was being built; and the prisoner was guarded by old Jimmy Scott, Deputy Sheriff, until it was deemed sufficiently strong to keep him safely. Soon after he was put into it, however, somebody was friendly enough to let him out, and he escaped trial and the penitentiary.”

In the spring, a bounty of $20 was set “for the apprehension and delivery of William Cowhart who was let out of jail, and also the person who let him out.” But Cowhart had made a clean getaway, and no one ever collected the reward.

Chapman concludes his story with the observation, “Cowhart proved to be an expensive settler to the county, for, we find the Court gave James Scott $68 for keeping him. For guarding Cowhart, John Hodgson, William Davis, John Ford, A. Wright, William Sampson and F. Seward each received $2, Nathan Dillon $33.68; Daniel Hodgson $5, and Martin Porter $1, making a total of $119.68, within $5.32 as much as the court-house cost, and it would have paid the County Treasurer’s salary for three years.

#a-wright, #abraham-hiner, #daniel-dillon, #daniel-hodgson, #f-seward, #horse-theft, #james-scott, #james-willis, #jimmy-scott, #john-ford, #john-hodgson, #joseph-dillon, #martin-porter, #nathan-dillon, #preblog-columns, #walter-dillon, #william-blanchard, #william-cowhart, #william-davis, #william-hall, #william-holland, #william-sampson

Actress Susan Dey’s story began in Pekin

By Jared Olar
Library Assistant

In past decades, it was the practice for a community’s newspapers to collect and regularly publish birth announcements. Before changes in medical privacy laws, lists of daily births would be provided to newspapers by hospitals or public health departments. These announcements would often be printed on a specific page set aside for community or “society” news, but depending on the period of time and the place when the baby was born, a newspaper might run a birth announcement almost anywhere – even on the front page.

One such announcement provides us with the topic of this week’s “From the History Room” column. On Dec. 10, 1952, at the bottom of the rightmost column on the front page, the Pekin Daily Times published the following birth announcement, giving it the unusual and humorous headline, “Another Dey Today” —

“A baby girl, weighing six pounds, four ounces was born this morning in Pekin Public hospital to Mr. and Mrs. Robert Dey, 701 S. Sixth street. The baby is the second daughter of the couple. The father is the city editor of the TIMES, having joined the editorial staff about nine months ago. ‘No name yet,’ says Bob.”

The baby girl was given the name of Susan Hallock Dey. She is one of several entertainment celebrities whose stories began in Pekin.

Susan Dey’s first acting role was as Laurie Partridge in The Partridge Family (1970-1974). Dey, shown in this 1970 public domain ABC publicity photo, was born in Pekin in 1952, but her family moved to New York when she was very young.

The birth of actress Susan Dey was announced at the bottom of column eight on the front page of the Dec. 10, 1952 Pekin Daily Times.

Her father, Robert Smith Dey (1925-2016), was a native of New York State and son of an immigrant from Switzerland. With the help of the G.I. Bill, Robert graduated from the New York University School of Journalism and began a three-decade journalism career as a reporter in his home state, later taking a position at a paper in Pennsylvania before joining the staff of the Pekin Daily Times in March 1952. (The 1952 Polk City Directory of Pekin lists Robert as a newspaper reporter living at 701 S. Sixth St.) Her mother, Ruth Pyle (Doremus) Dey (1925-1961), was an Indiana native and a trained nurse. After Susan’s birth, Robert and Ruth had two more children.

The Deys did not remain in Pekin – about a year or two after the birth of their daughter Susan, Robert was hired as a city editor for the Gannett Company in Westchester, New York. He later became the editor of the Standard-Star in New Rochelle, New York. His daughter Susan was only eight years old when his wife Ruth died. Robert later married Gail Shellenberger (1920-2008), who had been born in Ohio.

In 1968, when Susan was 15, her stepmother Gail sent Susan’s photo to a New York modeling agency. Susan Dey did not work as a model very long, for in 1970, at the age of 17, she was hired to play the role of Laurie Partridge in the television series The Partridge Family – one of her best-remembered roles, even 46 years after the show was cancelled at the end of its fourth season. Her role of Laurie Partridge launched a very successful career both in television and in movies, with her greatest success due to her award-winning role of Grace Van Owen on the 1980s television drama L.A. Law.

Susan Dey has been retired from acting since 2004. The house at the corner of Sixth and McLean streets in Pekin, where she lived as a baby and toddler, is still there.

The Dey family lived at this home in Pekin when actress Susan Dey was born at Pekin Hospital in Dec. 1952.

#gail-shellenberger-dey, #grace-van-owen, #l-a-law, #laurie-partridge, #pekin-daily-times, #robert-smith-dey, #ruth-pyle-doremus-dey, #susan-dey, #the-partridge-family

Thomas C. Reeves, Tazewell County Old Settler

By Jared L. Olar
Library Assistant

One of the most valuable and useful features of Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County” is that it includes chronological lists and even election vote tallies of the counties elected officials and appointed office holders. In those lists, the name of one particular early settler of Tazewell County appears several times: the Hon. Thomas C. Reeves (1813-1896).

Reeves first appears on page 615 of Chapman’s history, in the “Officials of Pekin City” list, where we find him as Fourth Ward Alderman in 1859, and then in 1864 as the 11th Mayor of Pekin (the city mayor served single-year terms in those days). On pages 616-617, Reeves is listed as Pekin’s City Assessor in 1857 and 1864. Further on in Chapman’s book, on page 713 we find Reeves serving four times as Tazewell County Sheriff, first from 1854 to 1856, then from 1858 to 1860, and finally two consecutive terms from 1870 to 1874.

Sheriff Reeves last appears in Chapman’s history on page 716, in the tally of Tazewell County election returns. On that page we find the vote tallies for the election of Nov. 5, 1872, when Reeves, a Republican, defeated his opponents J. S. Briggs, a Liberal Republican, and William Knott, the Democrat. The Republican Party had suffered a split that year resulting in the formation of a third party, the Liberal Republicans, but despite the split in the Republican vote, the county was so solidly Republican that Knott garnered a mere 262 votes, while Reeves handily defeated Briggs by a vote of 2,545 to 1,941. (Incidentally, as we shall see further on, Reeves was himself the very first member of the Republican Party in Tazewell County.)

Reeves’ successful career in Pekin and Tazewell County politics would indicate that he was a highly accomplished and capable man. That is borne out by the biographical sketch of his life that was included in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County,” which features laudatory biographies and genealogies of the “Old Settlers” of Tazewell County. Reeves’ biography is found on page 43 of the Atlas Map volume, which also, on page 121, shows the location of Reeves’ extensive farmstead in Sections 11 and 12 of Spring Lake Township, due east of the town of Hainesville (today known as Parkland).

This detail from an 1873 map of Spring Lake Township shows the farm of Tazewell County Sheriff Thomas C. Reeves, located due east of Hainesville (today called Parkland).

The biographical sketch identifies Reeves as “a native of Rowan county, North Carolina. He was born December 15, 1813, and is the sixth of a family of twelve children of James and Deborah (Chum) Reeves.” The father, James Reeves, had been born near Salisbury, Maryland, but moved to Rowan County as a young man. In the spring of 1815, James led his family “over the Cumberland mountains to middle Tennessee, and settled on Stone river, where he improved a large farm near the town of Murfreesboro.”

The sketch explains that, although James Reeves relied on slave labor for his farm work, his conscience as an Episcopalian Christian was troubled by slavery, so he freed his slaves and took his family to the free state of Illinois, “not being desirous of raising his large family under the influence of slavery.” The Reeves family – including the son Thomas – arrived in Springfield on Christmas Day 1829, wintering in Sangamon County, then heading north to Tazewell County, where they arrived on March 3, 1830. James established their farmstead on the Mackinaw River near Wagenseller’s Bridge. James’ wife Deborah died in 1831, and James died in the spring of 1856.

The biographical sketch then turns to James’ son Thomas:

“Thomas C. Reeves, the subject of this sketch, received his early education in the schools of Tennessee, what at that time were rather meagre. He assisted in carrying on the farm until the death of his mother, after which he became an apprentice to learn the carpenter trade, which business he followed about twenty-six years. . . . Mr. T. C. Reeves also learned the millwright trade.

“In 1835 he returned from Springfield to Tazewell county, which has since been the arena of his career. In February, 1840, he was married to Miss Mary Jane, the only daughter of Benjamin N. Doolittle. By that union they had four children, one of whom died in infancy; their second daughter is the wife of William Delany. Mr. Reeves assisted to build some of the first houses in the town of Tremont. Mrs. Reeves died in the spring of 1861. Mr. R. was subsequently married to Miss Caroline Jones, of Peoria county. Said marriage occurred in December, 1865. By that union they had one son.

“In speaking of the political record of Mr. Reeves, we find him, from his earliest youth, a supporter of the principles of the whig party. His first vote for president was for General Harrison in the contest of 1836. He voted for every whig candidate for president up to the dissolution of that party. In 1854 Mr. Reeves was elected, by a large majority, sheriff of Tazewell county, and re-elected to the same office in 1858. After the expiration of the latter term, Mr. Reeves retired for awhile to private life.

“In October, 1852, he commenced keeping hotel at the Tazewell House, and kept the same up to the time of being elected to the sheriff’s office in 1858. In the spring of 1860 he bought out a dry goods store in Pekin, and besides carrying on the store he turned his attention to grain buying, closing up that business after one year’s trial, and devoted his attention to the grocery business. Two years after he opened a boot and shoe store, and did considerable business in the way of manufacturing those articles. He subsequently devoted his attention to merchant tailoring and the drug business. It is said that he kept the two largest establishments of the latter class of business ever kept in Pekin.

“On the formation of the republican party he was the first to identify himself with its principles in Tazewell county. He voted twice for Abraham Lincoln, with whom he was personally acquainted; and during the war Mr. Reeves was a firm supporter of the Union cause. In the fall of 1870, the people of Tazewell county, for the third time, elected Mr. Reeves to the office of sheriff, and re-elected him to the same office in 1872. He is still the present incumbent. He is the only man whom the citizens of Tazewell county have honored with four terms of the sheriff’s office. Since his residence in the city of Pekin he has, at different times, served as alderman, marshal, and assessor of the city. In 1864 he was elected mayor of Pekin, filling that office with ability and general satisfaction to all. The many official positions to which he has been called by the franchises of his fellow-citizens, will of itself attest the warm appreciation in which he is held by the people with whom he had been so long associated.”

The sketch concludes with a very positive description of Reeves’ appearance, personality, and character. We must turn to other sources to learn about the remainder of Reeves’ life. Despite his long and successful career in local business and politics, for an unknown reason at some point in the latter 1870s Reeves decided to leave Illinois and strike out west. The 1880 U.S. Census shows him as a farmer in Fremont, Kansas, with his second wife Caroline, 33, and their son James T. Reeves, 13.

Reeves died in Kansas in 1896 at the age of 82. His son James died at the age of 44 on Jan. 22, 1911, and his widow, James’ mother, survived them both until 1922. All three are buried in Rosean Cemetery in Emporia, Kansas.

For more information on the genealogy of Thomas C. Reeves and other branches of the Reeves family, see The Reeves Project.

#abraham-lincoln, #benjamin-n-doolittle, #caroline-jones-reeves, #deborah-chum-reeves, #hainesville, #j-s-briggs, #james-reeves, #james-t-reeves, #mary-jane-doolittle, #old-settlers, #parkland, #tazewell-county-republican-party, #thomas-c-reeves, #wagensellers-bridge, #william-delany, #william-knott

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

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two Pekin service clubs to mark their centennials

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#carl-herget, #gary-gillis, #jesse-black, #louis-c-moschel, #pekin-kiwanis-club, #pekin-rotary-club, #william-s-prettyman

Rev. George W. Minier, founder of Minier

This is an updated reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in Oct. 2013, just before the launch of this weblog.

Rev. George W. Minier, founder of Minier

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

The largest community in Tazewell County’s Little Mackinaw Township is the village of Minier, which was founded nearly 146 years ago. Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” page 854, describes Minier’s founding and early years in this way:

“The village of Minier is located on Section 22 at the intersection of the Kansas City branch of the Chicago & Alton Railroad and the Illinois Midland. It was laid out October 18, 1867, by George W. Minier, Charles E. Boyer and others. The site where Minier was located up to the time of the building of the Chicago & Alton Railroad was a low flat prairie, and there were ponds of water within the present limits of the village that scarcely went dry during the entire season. Mr. J. M. Edmiston was the first resident of Minier, being employed by the Chicago & Alton Railroad Company as its agent, and his residence was the first house built in the city. Shortly afterwards the railway company erected a water-tank at that place which was visible for miles around, and the town was nicknamed ‘Tank,’ which name it wore for several years.”

The 1873 Atlas Map of Tazewell County shows that Minier’s founder and namesake, the Rev. George Washington Minier, then lived on a farmstead along the southern boundary of Minier. J. M. Edmiston, the first resident, was apparently Rev. Minier’s son-in-law James Edmiston, husband of Minier’s daughter Eliza Jane, who was one of the 12 children of Minier and his wife Sarah Ireland. That and other details can be gleaned from the published biography of Rev. Minier found on pages 237-38 of the 1894 “Portrait and Biographical Record of Tazewell and Mason Counties.”

The Rev. George Minier, a pioneer settler of Tazewell County, was the founder of the Tazewell County village of Minier in Little Mackinaw Township.

The biography calls Rev. Minier “one of the early settlers of Tazewell County, and a pioneer Christian preacher of western Illinois.” In 1894, he was living in Section 13 of Little Mackinaw Township. Rev. Minier was born in Ulster Township, Bradford County, Pa., on Oct. 8, 1813, one of the 10 children of John Minier, whose father Daniel Minier is said to have served under Gen. George Washington during the Revolutionary War. Born in Lycoming County, Pa., John Minier moved to Bradford County, where he worked as a farmer. In 1839, John moved to Bureau County, Ill., where he died around 1841.

The published biography goes on to say that John’s son George “was reared in Bradford County, and was educated in the public schools and Athens Academy. He often walked six miles to and from school. When his college course was completed he engaged in teaching in Chemung, N. Y., for three years, and in 1837 emigrated to Chicago, Ill., where he met ‘Long John Wentworth.’” — a Chicago newspaper editor who served two terms as mayor of Chicago.

The account continues:

“He then went to Bureau County and engaged in surveying the state road from Peru to Galesburg. In 1839 he was employed as a civil engineer on the main line of the Illinois Central Railroad, and aided in the survey of the Illinois River. His work along that stream brought on an attack of ague, which lasted for fourteen months, after which he resumed teaching near Princeton, Ill.

“Three years were spent as a teacher in Magnolia, Putnam County, after which he became a preacher of the Christian Church, and continued in the work of the ministry in McLean and Tazewell Counties for many years. He was also at the head of a female college in Bloomington, which he sold in 1850 to Dr. Finley. The following year he came to Tazewell County, and with a land warrant secured one hundred and sixty acres of Government land at eighty-three cents per acre. It was a tract of unbroken prairie, but he cleared and improved it, and has since made his home thereon. In connection with farming, he has also continued his work as a Christian minister.”

It was in 1842 that Rev. Minier was ordained a minister of the Christian Church. During his ministry, he pastored many churches throughout central Illinois, including churches in Lincoln, Atlanta, Armington, Washington, Concord, Minier, Delavan and Emden. Besides his religious endeavors, he also was active in politics. “In early life he was a Democrat in politics, but was a stanch (sic) Republican from the organization of the party until a short time since, when he joined the Prohibition party, and was the first man ever nominated in the United States for Congress on the Prohibition ticket. He was a warm personal friend of Abraham Lincoln,” the biography says.

As a proponent of the prohibition of alcohol, Minier spent most of his life as a member of the Sons of Temperance. He also spoke out against war. “He is a member of the Peace Congress of the United States and was elected a delegate to the World’s Convention in London, where he was to read a paper. Being prevented from going, he however sent the article which he had prepared, and which was read before that body,” according to the biography. Rev. Minier also was involved in the organizing and founding of Illinois State University.

He died on Feb 18. 1902, and is buried with his wife Sarah in Glenwood Cemetery, Mackinaw.

#eliza-jane-minier, #james-m-edmiston, #long-john-wentworth, #minier, #preblog-columns, #rev-george-w-minier, #sarah-ireland-minier, #tank

Some pre-1914 obituaries from Tazewell County

This is an updated reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in May 2014, just before the launch of this weblog.

Some pre-1914 obituaries from Tazewell County

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Of the resources available in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room, perhaps it is the online obituary index that gets the most use, since obituaries are excellent sources of information for genealogists. The library’s index covers obituaries published in the Pekin Daily Times from Oct. 3, 1914 to the present year – but also includes a handful of obituaries from the Daily Times and other Tazewell County newspapers from prior to 1914.

Until a few years ago, the library’s obituary index was a large file of typed index cards, but the index has been completely digitized and is accessible on the internet through the library’s homepage, at, under the “Research” tab, on “Local History Room” page.

The obituary index entries provide the date that each obituary was published in the Pekin Daily Times, along with the page and column numbers. Using that information, an obituary can then be retrieved from the library’s microfilm reels of the Pekin Daily Times.

As said above, the Daily Times microfilm collection begins with the issue published on Oct. 3, 1914, and continues to the present year. The index, however, is even more current, as the library updates it almost daily, whereas the microfilms are current up to the end of 2018 (when all microfilming ceased worldwide). Print editions of the Pekin Daily Times may be consulted for obituaries published since the end of February.

Sadly, there is little recourse for those looking for obituaries that were published in the Pekin Daily Times prior to Oct. 3, 1914. Most copies of Pekin Daily Times issues prior to that date have perished, many having been destroyed in a fire at the newspaper building about a century ago, while other bound volumes of the paper reportedly “disappeared” during and soon after the years in the early 1920s when the newspaper was owned by three members of the Ku Klux Klan.

However, a number of stray issues of the Daily Times from prior to Oct. 3, 1914, have survived, and in fact the library has one of them – the Aug. 16, 1902, edition of the Pekin Daily Times that was preserved in the cornerstone time capsule of the former Pekin Carnegie Library that was built in 1902. Also included in the time capsule were copies of an 1896 Pekin Daily Evening Post, an 1896 Pekin Daily Tribune, and a 1902 Pekin Daily Post-Tribune.

Besides those pre-1914 newspapers, the library archives also include a single issue of the April 13, 1860 edition of the Tazewell Republican, which was donated to the library a few years ago by Timothy Williams of Pekin. There are no formal obituaries in that newspaper, because the custom of publishing biographical tributes of “ordinary” community members who had died was only then starting to catch on. The only thing even remotely like an obituary or death notice in the April 13, 1860 Tazewell Republican was the following short paragraph on page 2:

“The body of the man drowned off the steamer Gaty, something like a month ago, was found on the banks of Spring Lake yesterday or the day previous. The body was identified by the hands, the forefinger of one having been cut off. – Peoria Union.”

The April 13, 1860 edition of the Tazewell Republican newspaper ran this advertisement for the steamboat Sam Gaty on page 3. On the facing page of the same edition was a news brief on the recovery of the body of a Sam Gaty passenger who had fallen overboard and drowned.

On page 3 of the same newspaper is an advertisement that lists the schedule of the trips that the steamboat “Sam Gaty” made between Pekin and Peoria – but while we know the steamer’s full name, the newspaper doesn’t breathe of word of the name of the drowned man. His name probably had appeared in previous issues of the paper, and so the editor, seeking to economize on space on the page, must have decided it wasn’t necessary to repeat the victim’s name.

Unlike the 1860 copy of the Tazewell Republican, the time capsule’s 1896 and 1902 newspapers do include a few obituaries and death or funeral notices, which were added to the library’s online obituary index for the benefit of genealogical researchers in 2014. To each of these index entries have been added research notes indicating that they were printed in newspapers from the Library Cornerstone.

The library’s reference staff will assist genealogists who would like to obtain copies of these pre-1914 obituaries and death and funeral notices, which are listed below. (Note that three individuals had their obituaries published in more than one newspaper.)

Franklin E. Myers, 28, of rural Green Valley, died Feb. 12, 1896 in Pekin, in the Feb. 13, 1896 Pekin Daily Evening Post
Frank Myers, 28, of rural Green Valley, died Feb. 12, 1896 in Pekin, in the Feb. 13, 1896 Pekin Daily Tribune
William Schaumleffel of Pekin, died Feb. 1896, burial Feb. 13, 1896, in the Feb. 13, 1896 Pekin Daily Evening Post
William Schaumleffle of Pekin, died Feb. 1896, burial Feb. 13, 1896, in the Feb. 13, 1896 Pekin Daily Tribune
Samuel Russell, 74, of Pekin, died Aug. 17, 1902, in the Aug. 18, 1902 Pekin Daily Post-Tribune
Bryan George, 6, of Pekin, died Aug. 18, 1902 in Pekin, in the Aug. 18, 1902 Pekin Daily Post-Tribune
George J. Breaden, died Aug. 1902, in the Aug. 18, 1902 Pekin Daily Post-Tribune
George Joseph Breaden, died Aug. 16, 1902 in Pekin, in the Aug. 16, 1902 Pekin Daily Times
Mrs. George H. Youngman, 26, died Aug. 13, 1902, in the Aug. 16, 1902 Pekin Daily Times

A brief genealogical note about this last death notice – according to the Find-A-Grave website, “Mrs. George H. Youngman” was Cora A. (Buck) Youngman, born July 18, 1876, daughter of Oliver and Hannah (Hammitt) Buck, married George H. Youngman on June 7, 1899, and buried in McLean Cemetery, McLean, Ill.

#bryan-george, #cora-a-buck, #cora-a-youngman, #franklin-e-myers, #george-joseph-breaden, #ku-klux-klan, #mrs-george-h-youngman, #pekin-daily-evening-post, #pekin-daily-post-tribune, #pekin-daily-times, #pekin-daily-tribune, #pekin-library-cornerstone-time-capsule, #pekin-public-library-obituary-index, #preblog-columns, #sam-gaty, #samuel-russell, #tazewell-republican, #timothy-williams, #william-schaumleffel

A Catholic church in Tremont

This is an updated reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in July 2015, just before the launch of this weblog.

A Catholic church in Tremont

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” pages 822-823, provides a brief overview of the history of three churches in Tremont Township up to that time, including two paragraphs on Tremont’s two Protestant churches.

Tremont then had two Protestant churches – the Tremont Baptist Church, built around 1888, and the Methodist Episcopal Church, whose members then gathered for worship in the church of a defunct Universalist congregation, but were preparing to build their own new church.

It’s somewhat remarkable, however, that Allensworth’s history devotes four informative paragraphs on the history of Tremont’s Catholic church, more words than were used to describe the two Protestant churches. This might seem surprising today, for, while Catholics still live in Tremont, it has been a long time since the Catholic religion has had a visible presence there with its own place of worship.

Allensworth account said Tremont got its first Catholic priest in 1863 – the Rev. Jeremiah Murphy, an Irish priest who, with his assistant and fellow Irishman, the Rev. Peter Corcoran, had the care of Irish Catholics in Pekin and Tremont. Tremont was a mission church of the Pekin parish, and Father Murphy celebrated Mass every Sunday in both places.

In 1863, the Catholics of Tremont collected $800 to buy an old school house – a small building near the old Tremont Seminary – and turned it into a mission chapel. At the time, about 70 people would assist at Father Murphy’s Masses in Tremont. Most of Tremont’s Catholics had come over from County Waterford, Ireland.

In 1875 an attempt was made to build a church, as the congregation had outgrown the old one,” Allensworth’s history says. “A committee was appointed, meetings were held and a subscription raised, but before the work was well begun Father Healy” – then pastor in Pekin and Tremont – “was recalled, and was succeeded by Father Halpin. Nothing further was done toward a new church until 1879, during Father W. O’Reilly’s pastorate, which began on the first Sunday in August, 1879.

After mass a committee was appointed, whose names were as follows: Richard Lillis, William Connell, John Cullinane, James Cooney, Patrick Ryan, Michael Morrisey, John Fitzgerald and Nick Menard. A site was selected northeast of the old Court House. The committee began its work in earnest, and had the church ready for its first mass on Christmas morning in 1880. Adding to the height of the steeple, and placing a bell therein in 1882, completed the work of the entire church at a cost of nearly $3,000.

The location of the long-vanished St. Joseph Church of Tremont is indicated at the bottom of this detail from an 1891 map of Tremont.

The church, dedicated to St. Joseph, was located at the northeast corner of James and Washington streets. It served Tremont’s Catholic community until June 1902, when a storm severely damaged the church, requiring it to be repaired and remodeled. “It is now out of debt and had a congregation of about one hundred and twenty members, with Rev. D. L. Sullivan as pastor,” Allensworth’s 1905 account concludes.

As time went on, however, the membership of the small mission church dwindled in number, until it was closed and merged with St. Joseph’s Parish in Pekin. One of the surnames of the 1879 committee members, however, continues to be well known in Tremont, Pekin and the surrounding area – the Tremont-based construction company of R.A. Cullinan and Son was founded by one of Tremont’s old Catholic families, and a park in Tremont bears the family name, while Cullinan Properties owns East Court Village I & II on Pekin’s east end.

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