A mailbag full of spam

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

It has now been more than eight years since the Pekin Public Library launched “From the History Room,” beginning with the April 23, 2011 column “Glee club not just a modern phenomenon” by Reference Assistant Linda Mace (about the Girls Glee Club mentioned in the 1915 Pekin Community High School catalog).

“From the History Room” started as a weekly newspaper column published in the Saturday edition of the Pekin Daily Times. Since July 21, 2015, an expanded or augmented version of each week’s new column is also posted every Friday at the Pekin Public Library’s “From the History Room” weblog (Fromthehistoryroom.wordpress.com).

Over the years our “mailbag” has been filled with a great deal of positive responses from people interested in matters of Pekin’s and Tazewell County’s history. Sometimes it’s a simple message of gratitude or praise, but we’ve also benefited from the historical insight of our readers. Several of the “From the History Room” weblog posts/columns were prompted either by queries from readers or by fascinating information that has been provided.

Nevertheless, there is one drawback to running an internet blog: by far the greatest proportion of “responses” to our history columns don’t come from real human beings at all (which is to say, they’re not really responses at all). As the author of “From the History Room,” one of my responsibilities is to check the blog’s Spam Folder to see if any genuine comments were mistakenly sent there. I must admit that Word Press has provided an effective and accurate spam-catcher. It’s very rare for me to find a genuine comment trapped there, and only once in the past eight years have I had to delete a spam comment that somehow made it through the Word Press spam filter.

A wall of spam outside of the the Cannon Theatre in Littleton, Massachusetts, during the first day of ticket sales for Spamalot. PHOTO BY ‘FREEZELIGHT’ at https://www.flickr.com/photos/63056612@N00/155554663/

Scanning through the spam folder is usually a mild annoyance, but at times the emotion of annoyance yields to mild amusement as I read the bot-generated fake messages that spammers, hackers, and identity thieves hope to post in our weblog’s comment boxes. I thought I’d select a few so you might get an idea of what I get to read every week:

Probably our most prolific source of spam comes from “Tankli Tunkli,” which seems to be based in the nation of Georgia in the region of the Caucasus Mountains, between the Black and Caspian seas. I could understand if someone from the U.S. state of Georgia were interested in Tazewell County’s local history, but it’s highly unlikely that Georgian nationals care a whit about Nathan Cromwell, W. H Bates, or Everett Dirksen.

Many of Tankli Tunkli’s most recurrent spam messages sound pretty innocuous. Here are two examples that were sent using different Gmail accounts:

“I discovered your site from Google and also I need to say it was a fantastic find. Thanks!”

“Can you inform me what platform are you using on this website?”

I always have to roll my eyes at the thought that a spammer programmed a bot to spit out this question. But then, the bot is incapable of knowing that the Word Press blog it is spamming is a . . . Word Press blog.

We also get quite a lot of messages that are nothing but gibberish or a series of sentence fragments strung together. Here’s one that allegedly came from Buildyourownshedsite.wordpress.com:

“We were 3000 miles from your own home when my heart gave up as well as over 50% of it died and scarred over, put simply cannot pump ever again. As the latest member of Toy Story series, the movie tells the tale of how Woody leads his squad to obtain free of day-care center to obtain back to Andy. WHERE TO BUY Buying a guitar from your physical retail music store lets you.”

Then there’s the foreign-language gibberish, like this one from Udonax:

“Muito obrigado ao DEs artrite reumatГіide coceira e outros colaboradores neste fГіrum para informar turnГЄ cГ¬rculo maravilhoso da minha famГ¬lia do HavaГ¬ nos.”

The hard-working bots at Tankli Tunkli also spewed out a series of blessedly brief but unimaginatively dull spam messages, each one of them purportedly coming from different people, like so:

Chara: “Do you have any type of ideas for writing articles? That’s where I always battle and also I simply end up looking vacant screen for very long time.”

(Hey, Chara, I know the feeling . . .)

Isabell: “Your website has exceptional material. I bookmarked the website.”

(Thanks, Isabell – or should I say, “Tankli very much!”)

Percy: “I located your internet site from Google and I have to say it was a wonderful find. Thanks!”

(Ah, that one again . . .)

Bessie (Tankli): “Do you have any type of ideas for composing articles? That’s where I constantly battle and also I just finish up gazing vacant display for lengthy time.”

(You and Chara seem to have the same problem . . .)

Jean: “Hi there! Such a nice short article, thanks!”

(This one is pretty funny, because anyone who has read my history columns knows very well that not too many of them could be called “short.”)

Here’s another gibberish message from Vegetta777 Skywars. I think it’s one of my favorites, as it appears from it that Vegetta777’s claims regarding the tale of the San Diego tiger have in fact been disproved by the fact that a head of hair is a good sun-shield:

“Based on the latest polls, we’ve got a statistical dead heat in Iowa on all parties of the aisle. Finally, currently has the tale of the San Diego tiger. FALSE: Head of hair acts being a shield with the sun.”

Here’s a sample spam message that is a common variation of a message that appears in our spam folder every week. This one comes from King4d (Valtrex.news):

“Hey there! I know this is kinda off topic but I’d figured I’d ask. Would you be interested in exchanging links or maybe guest authoring a blog article or vice-versa? My blog goes over a lot of the same subjects as yours and I believe we could greatly benefit from each other. If you happen to be interested feel free to shoot me an e-mail. I look forward to hearing from you! Fantastic blog by the way!”

Well, King4d, that’s really “kinda” you to say and all, but really, writing weekly posts for “From the History Room” is quite enough for me.

I’ll wrap this up with just a few words of advice courtesy of our regular spammers. “Wilhelmina” wanted the readers of “From the History Room” to know that, “The Tiller. This assists to improve its stability.” On the other hand, “Sherlene” wants you to remember, “Tolerance – Do not over-trade your accounts.

Got that?

It should surprise no one that “Sherlene” is merely the fake handle of someone or something called “Nigerianforex.”

Nigerian For Ex. Of course.

Learn more about Pekin and Tazewell County history, read past columns, view slideshows and photo galleries, post comments and suggestions, and keep up to date on the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection at https://fromthehistoryroom.wordpress.com/. We love hearing from you – real people, that is, not spambots.


#from-the-local-history-room-column-and-weblog, #mailbag-full-of-spam, #perils-of-blogging, #spam, #spamalot

Pekin’s pioneer teeth-pullers

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Where did Tazewell County’s pioneers go when they needed to have their teeth checked? The answer, somewhat surprisingly, is that they probably went to the nearest barber or wig-maker.

That fact can be gleaned by a book entitled, “Open Wide – This Won’t Hurt: The History of Dentistry in the Peoria Area,” published in 2000 a Peoria dentist named Curzio Paesani. A copy of Paesani’s book is included in the Local History Room collection of the Pekin Public Library.

Paesani traces the early history of dentistry in America to the landing of a fleet of ships on the shores of Britain’s American colonies on July 6, 1630. Among the English colonists who landed on that date were “three barber-surgeons who were known to treat teeth.” Long ago, barbers did a lot more than just haircuts. Paesani says colonial wig-makers were also known to work on teeth.

Barbers in America continued to wear several different hats even in the 1800s, though in that century formal standards of professionalism and training for dentists were developed. Directing our attention to our own neighborhood, Paesani relates on pages 2-3 that, “In the very early years, even before Peoria was a city, there was a barber pole at #8 Fulton Street, between Water and Washington streets, and on this pole was advertising for cupping and leeching. The owner of this shop was a barber by the name of Fredrich Buffie. He also did dentistry: pulling teeth, opening ‘gum boils’ and providing other services such as the use of leeches for general bleeding.”

The business listings of the 1861 Roots City Directory of Pekin, page 83, shows a single dentist: “DENNIS DR. J. W., Court, north side, 2d door west Capitol.” That means Dr. James Webster Dennis had his dentist office at about the spot that is today occupied by the western half of Pekin National Bank. Cross-referencing Dr. J. W. Dennis in the residential listing of the 1861 city directory, we find on page 22 that Dr. Charles J. Dennis worked in the same office as Dr. J. W. Dennis.

Listed in the 1861 Roots City Directory of Pekin were the brothers James and Charles Dennis, two of Pekin’s earliest dentists. They and their older brother Robert also practiced dentistry in Peoria.

A decade later, the business listings of the Sellers & Bates 1870-71 City Directory of Pekin now showed two dentist offices: those of C. J. Dennis and Albert H. Day. Day’s office was at the “nw cor Court square, over Steiner & Marx’ millinery story.” That’s very close to the former office of the Dennis dentistry practice, which has moved to “ss Court 3 d e Third (upstairs)” – that is, 309 Court St., approximately where the Pekin Times offices are today. The directory shows that Charles (“C. J.”) and J. W. Dennis were still working together as dentists. Six years later, however, Dr. James W. Dennis is listed at 309 Court St. without Charles, while Dr. Albert H. Day is still practicing dentistry at the same spot. A year after that, a third dentist, Dr. Henry H. Fitch, had set up his practice at 427 Court St.

Paesani provides the following survey of Pekin’s earliest dentists on page 77 of his book:

“In an 1870 business directory, an ad for dentists C.J. and J.W. Dennis promoted ‘artificial teeth.’ Pekin had a number of early dentists; one of the first was Dr. H.H. Fitch. He was born in Moor’s, New York, on April 10, 1846. He practiced dentistry in Lee, Massachusetts, moved to Pekin in December 1876, and opened his office. He died suddenly on May 2, 1895. Dentists in Pekin in 1905 included Drs. R.C. Horner, Albert Van Horne and R.C. Willett. Dr. Horner was president of the Peoria County Dental Society in 1906. Dr. Willett moved to Peoria to limit his practice to orthodontia. Other dentists who followed were Drs. C.E. Reed, W.A. Thrush and C.G. Cleveland. Dr. Horner retired in 1933 and moved to Washington, D.C. Dr. Cleveland practiced in Pekin until he was 80 years old.”

It should be noted, however, that the 1870 Pekin city directory has no Dennis dentistry advertisement for “artificial teeth.” Paesani was rather referring to an ad in the 1870 Peoria city directory, reproduced on page 7 of Paesani’s book, in which Dr. Robert G. Dennis advertised artificial teeth made of vulcanized rubber. The ad says the teeth would be made “to the beautiful style of work of which he and C. J. & J. W. DENNIS, Dentists, of Pekin, are the only manufacturers in Central Illinois.” Dr. Robert Dennis first appears in the Peoria city directories in 1859. Robert, Charles, and James were brothers, sons of Thomas James and Martha (Webster) Dennis of Pennsylvania.

#curzio-paesani, #dr-albert-h-day, #dr-albert-van-horne, #dr-c-e-reed, #dr-c-g-cleveland, #dr-charles-j-dennis, #dr-henry-h-fitch, #dr-james-w-dennis, #dr-r-c-horner, #dr-r-c-willett, #dr-robert-dennis, #dr-w-a-thrush, #fredrich-buffie, #pekin-dentists

Tazewell’s unincorporated communities: Normandale

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Last week we took a look at the community of Schaeferville, situated just outside the city limits on Pekin’s south side. Another community in a similar situation is Normandale Addition, located at the southwest corner of Pekin right outside the city limits.

Normandale Reformed Church and a part of Normandale Addition is shown in this aerial photograph from John Drury’s 1954 “This is Tazewell County.”

Normandale is several decades older than Schaeferville. There’s no trace of Normandale in the 1910 Tazewell County plat book and atlas, but it’s there on the 1927 Pekin Zoning Plan map. Two years later, “NORMANDALE ADD. TO PEKIN” is drawn on the map of Cincinnati Township that appears on page 42 of the 1929 Tazewell County play book and atlas, where it is shown south of the old cemetery and the Quaker Oats plant. The same volume features a close-up map of Normandale Addition.

Normandale Addition is shown in this 1927 Zoning Map of Pekin.

In those days, Normandale consisted of two east-west streets, Fleischmann and Insull, connected by three short north-south streets, American, Quaker, and Karo. In 1927 the Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis Railroad tracks, making a northeasterly path toward Pekin, formed Normandale’s western boundary, while South Second Street was the eastern boundary. By 1929 the Chicago, Peoria & St. Louis tracks had become the Chicago-Midland Railroad – the tracks are still there, now the Illinois Midland Railroad.

“Normandale Addition to Pekin” is the shaded area just south of the Quaker Oats Company’s land in the 1929 plat map of Cincinnati Township in Tazewell County.

This map of Normandale Addition was included in the 1929 Plat Atlas of Tazewell County.

Since 1929, the community of Normandale has expanded to include Thornton Avenue as its northern boundary and Midland Street as its southern boundary, with and additional street, Virginia, linking Insull and Midland at the western boundary. Pekin today has expanded so that the city borders Normandale on the community’s north, east, and south sides, but Normandale still remains separate from the city (although a few lots along Second Street just south of Fleischmann are now within the city limits). Interestingly, for a while Normandale Addition bore the name of “Crescent,” as shown on the maps in Drury’s 1954 “This is Tazewell County” as well as later plat maps in the 1950s and 1960s — but that name apparently didn’t stick and the community is known as Normandale today.

Many of Normandale’s streets bear names that are derived from the community’s location adjacent to Pekin’s industrial district. Fleischmann was named for the old Fleischmann Yeast plant, Quaker was named for the Quaker Oats plant, American was named for American Distillery, Karo was named for Karo syrup which used to be made at the Corn Products Refining plant, and Midland was named for the railroad. Insull was named in honor of Commonwealth Edison’s founder Samuel Insull (1859-1938), because of the Commonwealth Edison plant at nearby Powerton.

Five businesses currently operate in Normandale: KDL Machining at 1917 S. Second St., Precision RC Hobbies at 1901 S. Second St., Herbal Soap Supples at 403 Midland, MacDuff’s tavern at 1703 S. Second St., and perhaps the best known of Normandale’s business, Cranwill’s Drive In at 1713 S. Second St., which originally was an A & W Drive In.

The community is also the home of Normandale Reformed Church at 2001 S. Second St. The church was established in 1945 as a daughter church of Pekin’s Second Reformed Church.

#american-distillery, #commonwealth-edison, #corn-products, #cranwills-drive-in, #crescent, #fleischmann-yeast, #illinois-midland-railroad, #karo-syrup, #normandale, #normandale-addition, #normandale-reformed-church, #pekin-a-w, #powerton, #quaker-oats, #samuel-insull, #tazewell-county-unincorporated-communities

Tazewell’s unincorporated communities: Schaeferville

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Among the communities described in John Drury’s “This is Tazewell County, Illinois” (1954), we find the following brief comment on page 97:

“Another hamlet in Elm Grove Township is Shaferville. It is located just south of Pekin city and near it is Meyer’s Lake. A highway, State 9, runs through the community.”

Remarkably, most of what Drury says here is wrong. “Shaferville” is Drury’s misspelling of “Schaeferville,” an unincorporated community right outside the Pekin city limits. “Meyer’s Lake” was originally named Bailey’s Lake and is more commonly known as Lake Arlann – the community of Schaeferville is situated between Lake Arlann on the east and South 14th Street on the west. It is puzzling, however, why Drury thought Schaeferville was in Elm Grove Township, for it has always been in Cincinnati Township — and in fact a map in Drury’s book shows Schaeferville in Cincinnati Township, albeit on East Court Street rather than South 14th Street. It’s less of a puzzle why he thought Illinois Route 9 ran through Schaeferville – a 1945 Tazewell County plat book shows South 14th Street was then designated as Route 98, and Drury apparently confused Route 98 with Route 9.

Judge Charles Schaefer’s land on the west side of Bailey’s Lake, shown in this detail of a 1945 Cincinnati Township plat map, was soon to become the community of Schaeferville.

At the time Drury wrote, Schaeferville had only existed for a few years, having been platted out on land to the south of Pekin’s Fisher Addition — the land having been owned by the Schaefer family. The two most notable members of that family were Charles Schaefer (1875-1953), a former Tazewell County judge and Mayor of Pekin, and Judge Schaefer’s brother Fred Schaefer (1860-1948), who had been a partner in the Jansen & Zoeller Brick Company, later shifting to coal mining in 1939, when he bought one of the old Grant mines. Known at first as the Schaefer Mining Company, then as the Pekin Mining Company, the Schaefers’ mine closed around 1951, the last of Pekin’s coal mines.

This detail of the map of Cincinnati Township from the 1929 Tazewell County plat atlas shows the land of Judge Charles Schaefer on the west side of Bailey Lake (Lake Arlann or Meyer’s Lake) that later became Schaeferville.

By 1955 the new unincorporated community of Schaeferville was nestled snugly between Meyer’s Lake (Lake Arlann) and the Pekin city limits. Schaeferville is not, however, marked in this detail from the 1955 plat map of Cincinnati Township.

The detail of a map of Pekin from circa 1960 shows the unincorporated community of Schaeferville just outside of the Pekin city limits. The community was named for the Schaefer family who formerly owned much of the land on which Schaeferville’s residences were built.

The “hamlet” of Schaeferville is made up of 10 streets: South 14th, Norman, Hillview, Everett, Stout, Hazel, Gehrs, Mitchell, Martin, and Fredrick. The southern segment of West Shore Drive ending in Beachcomber Place is also outside of the Pekin city limits, but Schaeferville’s streets do not connect with West Shore or Beachcomber.

Schaeferville is also the home of Gethsemane Church, a non-denominational church located at 1601 Fredrick Drive. Formerly known as the Schaeferville General Baptist Church, the church was organized around 1960 at 901 Fredrick Drive (the lots on Fredrick later being renumbered, so that 901 is now 1601). The church’s long-time pastor, Rev. Frank G. Noyes, died at the age of 74 a little over a year ago after serving the church for more than 40 years.

As an unincorporated community of Tazewell County, Schaeferville is served by the governments of Cincinnati Township and Tazewell County, as well as the Schaeferville Fire Protection District under which the community operates its own 18-man volunteer fire department. The Schaeferville Fire Department’s station is at 1501 Hillview Drive.

Gethsemane Church, formerly Schaeferville General Baptist Church, is located at 1601 Fredrick Drive in Schaeferville, rural Pekin.

The Schaeferville Fire Protection District’s station is at 1501 Hillview Drive in Schaeferville, rural Pekin.

#charles-schaefer, #cincinnati-township, #fred-schaefer, #gethsemane-church, #rev-frank-g-noyes, #schaefers-mining-company, #schaeferville, #schaeferville-general-baptist-church, #tazewell-county-unincorporated-communities

The Civil War’s ‘rough draft of history’

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

In an essay entitled, “The Educational Value of ‘News,’” published in the Dec. 5, 1905, edition of The State of Columbia, S.C., George Helgesen Fitch wrote, “The newspapers are making morning after morning the rough draft of history. Later, the historian will come, take down the old files, and transform the crude but sincere and accurate annals of editors and reporters into history, into literature. The modern school must study the daily newspaper.”

For those who would like to study the Civil War’s “rough draft of history,” a very useful resource is “The Civil War Extra – From the Pages of The Charleston Mercury & The New York Times” (1975, Arno Press, New York), edited by Eugene P. Moehring and Arleen Keylin. A copy of Moehring and Keylin’s tome recently was added to the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection.

“The Civil War Extra” is a compilation of facsimile reprints of the front pages of the Pro-Union New York Times and the Pro-Confederacy Charleston (S.C.) Mercury, beginning with The New York Times issue of Jan. 16, 1861 (on page 4), and the 13 April 1861 issue of The Charleston Mercury, and carrying the newspapers’ account of the tragic conflict up to the Feb. 11, 1865, edition of The Charleston Mercury (on page 287) and the April 18, 1865, edition of The New York Times (page 309). Moehring and Keylin also selected various Civil War-era photographs, drawings, lithographs, and engravings to illustrate the pages of “The Civil War Extra.”

The leading headlines of the April 13, 1861 New York Times (a Pro-Union newspaper) announced the Confederacy’s bombardment of Fort Sumter, S.C., the beginning of hostilities in the Civil War. This New York Times front page was reprinted in “The Civil War Extra.”

The leading headlines of the April 13, 1861 Charleston Mercury (a Pro-Confederate newspaper) announced the Confederacy’s bombardment of Fort Sumter, S.C., the beginning of hostilities in the Civil War. This Charleston Mercury headline was reprinted in “The Civil War Extra.”

Then as now, newspapers published stories and editorial essays that were colored by spoken and unspoken political biases. The advantage of a compilation of issues from leading Northern and Southern newspapers is that the reader can examine news reports of major Civil War events from both sides of the conflict. The difference in perspective is evident from the first reports of the bombardment of the Union’s Fort Sumter by Confederate forces. Where The New York Times announced, “THE WAR COMMENCED – The First Gun Fired by Fort Moultrie Against Fort Sumpter” (sic), making sure to mention the “Spirited Return from Major Anderson’s Guns,” for its part The Charleston Mercury heralded the “BOMBARDMENT OF FORT SUMTER! – Splendid Pyrotechnic Exhibition,” adding the boasts, “FORT MOULTRIE IMPREGNABLE” and “‘Nobody Hurt’ on Our Side.”

The war dragged on over the next four years, claiming 600,000 casualties – among them United States President Abraham Lincoln, felled by a Confederate assassin’s bullet. The Charleston Mercury continued to publish throughout the war until, the tide having turned decisively in favor of the Union, the Confederate forces in South Carolina were vanquished. In its final three issues, The Charleston Mercury reprinted the desperate but futile call-to-arms of South Carolina Governor A. G. Magrath: “The doubt has been dispelled. The truth is made manifest, and the startling conviction is now forced upon all. The invasion of the State has been commenced; . . . I call now upon the people of South Carolina to rise up and defend, at once, their own rights and the honor of their State . . .”

From that point “The Civil War Extra” carries on the story from the perspective of The New York Times, through the surrender of the Confederate forces up to the announcement of Lincoln’s assassination by John Wilkes Booth in the edition of Sunday, April 16, 1865 – “OUR GREAT LOSS – Death of President Lincoln. – The Songs of Victory Drowned in Sorrow.” The final front page tells of the capture of Mobile, Ala., by Union forces, and the manhunt for Lincoln’s assassin and Booth’s co-conspirators. The book concludes with a drawing of President Lincoln’s funeral procession in Washington, D.C.

#abraham-lincoln, #charleston-mercury, #civil-war, #fort-sumter, #george-helgesen-fitch, #john-wilkes-booth, #lincoln-assassination, #new-york-times, #the-civil-war-extra

The Tazewell County Poor Farm

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

The Tazewell County Poor Farm

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Previously, this column told of the means by which the poor of Tazewell County were provided for during the early years of the county’s history, before the establishment of private charitable organizations and public social welfare programs. Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County” devoted several pages to the subject of how Tazewell’s pioneers cared for their “paupers.”

The next chapter in that story may be read in Ben C. Allensworth’s updated 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” pages 739-742, where we find an extended account of the Tazewell County Poor Farm, which was located at the site of the Tazewell County Emergency Managament Agency, the Tazewell County Health Department and other county facilities off Illinois Route 9 near Tremont.

This is how Allensworth tells of how the Poor Farm came to be established:

“Prior to the purchase of the present Poor Farm site and the erection of the buildings thereon, the paupers of the county had been ‘let out’ for their ‘keep’ to the lowest bidder in the respective townships where they resided. It occurred to the authorities that the expense was greater than it would be should the county itself provide a home for its unfortunate poor. The feeling at this time was expressed by a resolution offered at the January term of the Board of Supervisors, in 1864, when Mr. Wenger presented the following preamble which was received, read and adopted:

“‘Whereas, the present system of supporting the poor of the townships of Tazewell county is very expensive and inefficient, and only tends to make pauperism fashionable; therefore,

“‘Resolved, that the chairman of the Board of Supervisors appoint a committee of three, to take into consideration the subject of purchasing a Poor Farm for the use of the county poor, and report to the next meeting of the Board of Supervisors.’

“Whereupon Messrs. Elias Wenger, W. S. Mans and Dillon were appointed said committee.

An initial proposal in August 1866 to purchase Lemuel Allen’s farm for $7,000 for use as a Poor Farm was rejected by the Tazewell County Board. After further investigation and deliberation, by May 1871 the county had agreed to the purchase of the 211 ½-acre farm of James Smith in Elm Grove Township and to prepare it for occupancy for a total price of $4,550.10. Allensworth writes, “There were at that time nineteen paupers in the home in the care of Mrs. E. Hall, who had been engaged as matron, with Dr. Bumstead as physician. . . . Not all the paupers in the County were lodged at the Poor Farm. In 1872, at a May meeting of the Board, it was shown that since the building of the Poor House, the sum of $1,624.07 had been paid out by the county on account of the poor. For the same time — that is, from the August term, 1871, to the February term, 1872 — the county had paid the current expenses of the Poor Farm $5,997.31, and had sold property from the farm to the amount of $1,097.85. The net expense of the Poor Farm was, therefore, $4,899.46, from which cost must be deducted the improvements made, making a net cost of the paupers at the Poor Farm $2,344.56.”

The Poor Farm was operated by a superintendent appointed by the County Board, which originally would let out the superintendency to the lowest bidder. The farm’s first superintendent, appointed in March 1873, was J. B. Cooper of Washington. A few months later, Allensworth writes, the county committee on the Poor Farm reported to the County Board that “they had visited the Poor Farm and, by observation and conversation with the paupers, they found the inmates without exception as happy and well contented as any class of like persons could be expected to be.”

From Allensworth’s account can be gleaned a hint of the social stigma that was attached to poverty, as he writes, “The education of the minor inmates of the Poor Farm has been constantly a source of agitation since the beginning of the institution. Some of the resident patrons of the school district object to the presence of the pauper children in the public school, and it became a matter of some importance to the school district on the ground that the school quite frequently became overcrowded; and it was held by some that a sufficient amount was not paid as tuition for these children, as they were not recognized as being legally entitled to the privileges of the school.” At the time of publication of Allensworth’s 1905 history, the issue of whether or not poor children should be permitted to receive an education in Tazewell County’s public schools, and how the community should pay for their education, was still unresolved.

By the 1890s, the facilities at the Poor Farm were no longer adequate, and the County Board moved to finance the construction of new buildings. To find out how to improve the Poor Farm, a county committee toured poor farms in other Illinois counties that had more modern facilities. The county opted for a plan modeled closely on Ford County’s Poor Farm, and the new buildings were completed on May 18, 1900, at a total cost of $18,377.74.

Shown in this 1954 aerial photograph from “This is Tazewell County, Illinois,” is the former Tazewell County Poor Farm. The site, now the location of the Tazewell County Health Department and Emergency Management Agency, was then the location of a nursing home.

Allensworth concluded his account with a list of the Poor Farm’s superintendents. “The present Superintendent of the Farm is J. l. Hollingsworth, who has had charge since February, 1898. The first Superintendent was Sarah C. Hall, who was succeeded by a Mr. Brown, who had charge from March, 1873, when J. B. Cooper was elected Superintendent, and remained until March, 1882. Following him was Jefferson Ireland, who was succeeded in 1885 by Milton Kinsey. Mr. Kinsey died suddenly, after nearly two years at the farm, when S. H. Puterbaugh, of Mackinaw, was elected Superintendent, and held the position until February 13, 1898. This institution has, in the main, been well managed from the very start, and owes its prosperity almost altogether to Superintendents Cooper, Puterbaugh and Hollingsworth.”

Eventually changes in how society provides for the underprivileged led to the closing of the Poor Farm, which was turned into a children’s home and a later a nursing home before the old structures were replaced with the current county facilities. The Poor Farm cemetery still exists, however, in a grove about a half-mile behind the TCEMA and TCHD facilities, where one may find a monument erected in 1910 “In Memory of the Unfortunate of Tazewell County.”

This photograph of the Tazewell County Poor Farm Cemetery was taken by Linda T. and uploaded to the Find-A-Grave website.

#paupers, #preblog-columns, #tazewell-county-ema, #tazewell-county-health-department, #tazewell-county-history, #tazewell-county-poor-farm, #tcema, #tchd

Caring for paupers in pioneer times

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

Caring for paupers in pioneer times

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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