‘Sherman, set the WABAC machine to 1939!’

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Only in the imaginary realms of science fiction, or the whimsical cartoon world of Mr. Peabody and Sherman, is it possible to hop in a time machine and leap back to 1939 – but Tazewell County’s Geographic Information System Coordinator Janna Baker and her assistant Shelly Farmer have created a remarkable map of our county that can serve as a substitute for Mr. Peabody’s WABAC machine.

Baker and Farmer’s cartographic creation is entitled the “Historic Aerial Imagery Comparison: 1939 and 2015.” It’s actually two maps in one: county-wide aerial maps of the whole of Tazewell County from 1939 and 2015.

The aerial map(s) may be conveniently accessed online at https://arcg.is/1iDObX. (The link has been added to the blogroll on the right of this webpage.) Clicking on the slider bar’s double arrows and dragging your mouse left and right will “unroll” each map, enabling the user to flip (or roll) back and forth, showing how much of our county has changed – and how much is still the same – in the 76 years from 1939 to 2015. There is even a “zoom” feature that makes it possible to magnify the maps’ images to allow for close inspection of specific locations in the county.

“This project began because I noticed Peoria County has something similar available. I had even used their imagery in a grad school project,” Baker wrote to me in a recent email.

Orbiting satellites created the 2015 county map. There were no satellites in 1939, but there were airplanes, dirigibles, and hot air balloons, making it possible to aerially photograph our county square mile by square mile. (Our satellites have much more powerful cameras than existed in 1939, though, so the 2015 images have a much higher resolution – more detail – than those from 1939.) To create an equivalent to the 2015 zoomable color satellite map, the 1939 black-and-white aerial images just needed to be assembled like a giant patchwork quilt: something that would be impossible without modern computer technology.

“The 1939 aerial imagery is freely available for all of Illinois at the Illinois Geospatial Data Clearinghouse. But, they are individual images that are not stitched together into a coordinate system,” Baker explained. She continued, “Shelly Farmer used her time in between her normal workload of projects to stitch the imagery together into one large image and matching the coordinate system of our current aerial imagery. This was done over two months using [geographic information system company] Esri’s GIS software.”

Baker then published the digitally-assembled imagery online as a public service, to be used in web mapping applications.

No grant was needed to fund the Historical Aerial Imagery Comparison website – all work was completed using free and/or already available resources, Baker said.

“Beyond general interest, the historical imagery has value to engineers and planners. In many cases, it can be used to prove the existence of structures or landmarks during that time. It can be used to monitor and analyze change over time,” she said.

An aerial view of the Pekin Public Library and its surrounding neighborhood can be seen in this composite image from the Historic Aerial Imagery Comparison Map of Tazewell County. At right is the 2015 aerial map, and at left is the area of Pekin and railyard to the west of the library as it appeared in 1939. The Tazewell County Courthouse is at the upper right corner. IMAGE COURTESY OF TAZEWELL COUNTY GIS COORDINATOR JANNA BAKER

An aerial view showing the shining dome of Pekin’s old Carnegie Library and its surrounding neighborhood in 1939 — with a sliver of the 2015 map — can be seen in this image from the Historic Aerial Imagery Comparison Map of Tazewell County. The Tazewell County Courthouse is at the upper right corner. IMAGE COURTESY OF TAZEWELL COUNTY GIS COORDINATOR JANNA BAKER

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#esri, #geographic-information-system, #gis, #historic-aerial-imagery-comparison, #illinois-geospatial-data-clearinghouse, #janna-baker, #mr-peabody, #mr-peabody-and-sherman, #wabac

Ehrlicher Brothers’ first prescription

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

Ehrlicher Brothers’ first prescription

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

When Pekin celebrated its centennial as an incorporated city in 1949, the Pekin Association of Commerce’s Centenary Committee assigned the task of compiling and publishing a souvenir book of Pekin’s history to a group of eight men and women.

The result was the 1949 “Pekin Centenary 1849-1949.” Chief among those who produced this book were Thomas H. Harris, chairman, Charles Dancey, who wrote the history, Bea Falkin and Charlotte Rau, who wrote other articles, and Marge Brenneman and June Wieburg, who were in charge of selling advertisements for the book.

While the Centenary’s historical narrative is naturally the heart and core of the book, the advertisements also in their own way help to tell of Pekin’s history. Often the ads take the form of tributes and congratulations to the community from its various businesses or social organizations, and many times the tribute ads include summaries of the history of the city’s businesses or utilities.

The tribute ad of Ehrlicher Brothers, on page 29 of the Centenary, is a perfect example of one of those historically informative ads. Not only did this long-established pharmacy take the opportunity to brag about their work — “All prescriptions entrusted to our care are filled as written — no substitution — which has gained us the confidence of the physicians who wrote them. All ingredients used are pure and fresh . . .” — but the ad also includes some fascinating historical details, making it of interest even today, long after Ehrlicher Brothers went out of business.

“We have just completed 85 years of continuous drug business in the same room. We feel we have a right to be proud of our record,” the ad says. Ehrlicher Brothers Co., Druggists, 328 Court St., was founded in 1864 by Henry M. and Otto D. Ehrlicher, sons of the German immigrant Johann Georg Ehrlicher (1824-1876) whom this column featured in October 2014. As we’ve noted before, Henry and Otto are recognized as Pekin’s first druggists, and along with their brother George and their wives they donated the land where the original Pekin Hospital was built in 1918.

The most fascinating detail of the Ehrlicher Brothers tribute ad, however, was that it includes “an exact reproduction of PRESCRIPTION No. ONE filled July 7, 1865, one year after the founding of our establishment. It was written by Dr. Samuel T. Maus for Mrs. James Haines Sr., two of Pekin’s earliest pioneers.” (In fact the prescription is clearly dated July 18, 1865, not July 7.)

Shown is a reproduction of Ehrlicher Brothers’ first prescription, from July 1865.

Regular readers of this column will recall that the Haines and Maus families were among the first settlers of Pekin. The life of Dr. William Maus, son of Samuel, was featured in Sept. 2013, while the life of pioneer settler William Haines, older brother of James Haines, was featured in May 2014. “Mrs. James Haines Sr.” was Annie, daughter of Dr. William Maus.

#annie-haines, #charles-dancey, #dr-samuel-t-maus, #dr-william-s-maus, #ehrlicher-brothers, #henry-ehrlicher, #james-haines, #johann-george-ehrlicher, #otto-d-ehrlicher, #pekin-centenary, #pekin-hospital, #pekin-pharmacies, #preblog-columns, #william-haines

Tazewell County Old Settler Joshua Wagenseller

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

Tazewell County Old Settler Joshua Wagenseller

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trolley cars on Pekin’s streets

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

Trolley cars on Pekin’s streets

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

In terms of public transportation in Pekin today, we have the Peoria-based CityLink bus system. But in the past, Pekin was served by its own bus lines — and before that, by street cars. Pekin’s trolley system began as an abortive private venture which was taken over and run by the city.

Here are excerpts from the 1974 Pekin Sesquicentennial volume’s account of Pekin’s old trolley system, on pages 24-26:

“A familiar song of many years ago begins ‘Clang, clang, clang went the trolley; ding, ding, ding went the bell . . .,’ and so it was in 1912 when the first street railway began in Pekin. Initially a private business, the line consisted of one battery-operated car that ran on track from Capitol Street near Court to the ‘Distillery Road.’ Each night the car batteries were charged to get ready for the next day’s run. The ill-fated line lasted but two years before financial problems forced it out of business.

“But all was not lost for trolley enthusiasts. The City of Pekin entered the public transportation field in July of 1914 with the passage of Ordinance Number 38: The Purchase, Rehabilitation, and Construction of a Municipal Street Railway. Voters passed a referendum which allowed the city to issue $48,000 in street railway bonds. . . .

“The city purchased the bankrupt line, including all track and equipment, for $8,500. The balance of the money was used to expand services and purchase new equipment. Very specific and demanding requirements were set forth in the law, for example: cars were required to be constructed of red cypress or cedar, 32 feet long, with one longitudinal seat on each side; gauge of the track had to be four feet, eight and one-half inches; steel poles along Court Street to Seventh Street, had to be in two sections totaling 27 feet in length, with the tops 22 feet above the pavement; the trolley wire had to be grooved, hard-drawn copper, with a minimum tensile strength of 51,000 pounds per square inch.

A trolley car heads up Court Street in downtown Pekin in the 1920s.

“Besides the route previously described, the street railway expanded from the corner of Court and Capitol Streets as far east on Court as the GM&O Railroad tracks (just west of the present hospital). The usual scheduled involved two cars, one leaving the east end of the line on Court Street, while the other would leave the west end of the line on South Second and Industry. The two cars would meet at the business district close to the Court House. There was a double track at this point, and one car would side-track until the other car passed, then proceed to its destination at the other end of the line. This operation ran seven days a week from early morning until late evening.

“Many Pekinites remember the trolley cars and the friendships which developed while riding to and from work or uptown to shop — all for a nickel fare. The street railway continued until 1935, when it was replaced by our present bus service . . . .

“The street cars went out fighting, though, with much City Council debate. C. F. Gehrig, one-time City Commissioner, appeared before the Council and urged that Court Street not be paved down the center so that the tracks could remain undisturbed because ‘we might want the street cars back.’ Many did, but the coming of the automobile was making travel too hazardous, with many auto/street car collisions. No more ‘clang, clang, clang’ — just some fond memories for many residents and a slice of nostalgia for the younger set.”

This following added detail is mentioned in “Pekin: A Pictorial History” (1998, 2004), page 17: “Also for 5 cents a day, local youth Roy Williams was paid to push the wooden seats back when the train reached the park so the passengers could face forward on the return trip.”

Roy Williams died just a year ago last month – but the old Pekin Municipal Street Railway garage is still there on South Second Street, the location of Walt’s Garage.

The old ‘home base’ of Pekin’s trolley cars at 1420 S. Second Street is today the home of Walt’s Garage — the building still sports the inscription “Pekin Municipal Street Railway.” Trolley rails are still visible in the garage floor.

#c-f-gehrig, #pekin-history, #pekin-municipal-street-railway, #preblog-columns, #roy-williams, #street-cars, #trolleys

F.M. Peterson, high school principal and superintendent

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

F.M. Peterson, high school principal and superintendent

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Pekin Community High School’s theater is named for and dedicated to F.M. Peterson. Older PCHS alumni will remember that Peterson was a longtime principal of the high school and superintendent of the high school district.

They might not remember, however, that he was also a veteran of both World Wars and a lieutenant colonel in the United States Air Force Reserves. These and other details of his life are mentioned in his Pekin Daily Times obituary.

F. M. Peterson, from the 1947 Pekinian yearbook

Born Franklin M. Peterson on Aug. 7, 1896, in Brownstown, Ill., a small town on Illinois Route 40 between Vandalia and Effingham, he was a son of William F. and Lillian (Starnes) Peterson. He was 20 years old when the United States entered the First World War on April 6, 1917. During the war, Peterson served in the American Expeditionary Force in France. He was 22 when the Armistice was signed on Nov. 11, 1918.

After the war, Peterson went into the field of public education, serving as chief administrator of the schools in Tolono, Monticello and Coffeen. Three years after the war’s end, in 1921, he married Olga Clotfelter. His obituary does not mention that they ever had any children, however.

In 1938, he became the principal of Pekin Community High School, a position he would hold until 1954. During World War II, however, he was called away from his duties as principal for the added responsibility of service in the Army Air Corps. After the war, Peterson continued his military service alongside his high school career, serving as an officer in the U.S. Air Force Reserves.

In 1954, the District 303 School Board appointed Peterson to the position of District 303 superintendent. Two years later, he retired from the USAF Reserves with the rank of lieutenant colonel. His work as an administrator in public education also brought involvement as well as leadership posts in related professional organizations such as the Illinois Secondary School Principals’ Association, the National High School Principals’ Association, the Illinois Curriculum Committee and the Illinois High School Association.

During his tenure as superintendent, District 303 was faced with a booming student population. The school board originally had planned another expansion project at the high school campus, but in 1959 it was learned that the city planned to widen Eighth Street, which would take land the school board would have needed for an expansion. So the board instead decided to build a second high school campus at the site of the old Pekin Country Club golf course. Construction on the new East Campus began in 1962 and classes started there in the fall of 1963.

Peterson retired in 1965 after a combined 27 years as PCHS principal and superintendent. The high school theater at East Campus was christened in his honor.

After retirement, in 1966 he moved to Belleair, Fla., and remained in that area until his death at age 87. In Florida, Peterson was active in the American Legion as well as the Clearwater, Fla., Military Order of World Wars and the Clearwater retired officers association. He also volunteered for the American Red Cross, serving as treasurer of the Upper Pinellas Chapter of the Red Cross for nine years.

F.M. Peterson died Monday, Sept. 29, 1984, at the Bay-Pines Veterans Administration Center in Belleair, Fla., and his body was cremated. At the time of his death, he and his wife Olga were living in Belleair Bluffs. In addition to his wife, he was survived by his brother Forrest W. Peterson of Belleair.

#f-m-peterson, #franklin-m-peterson, #pekin-high-school, #pekin-history, #preblog-columns

Bowman and Herman sold shoes

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

Bowman and Herman sold shoes

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

In Feb. 2015, “From the History Room” first took a look at one of the advertisements in the 1949 Pekin Centenary volume that provided a summary of the history of the old Ehrlicher Brothers pharmacy which was located at 328 Court St. in Pekin. Afterwards we devoted a column to the Centenary’s Central House ad.

This week we’ll review another historically informative advertisement from the Pekin Centenary. Like the pharmacy ad, this one, found on page 130, also offers details on the Ehrlicher family whose members have played important roles in Pekin’s history. It’s a tribute advertisement for B & H Shoe Store, which operated out of 320 Court St., just a few doors down from the Ehrlichers Brothers drug store. The motto of B & H was “A Good Place to Buy Good Shoes.”

These two vintage photographs illustrated the Bowman and Herman shoe store’s tribute advertisement in the 1949 Pekin Centenary.

The shoe store’s proximity to the drug store was probably not a coincidence, because the shoe store was founded by another member of the Ehrlicher family, whose patriarch Johann Georg Ehrlicher had himself been a shoemaker.

“320 Court St. has been a shoe store location for almost sixty-five years,” the ad says. “The original store was known as Ehrlicher’s Shoe Store and in the 1880’s was operated by Fred W. Ehrlicher (an uncle to George and Arthur Ehrlicher of Schipper & Block Co.) and John J. Fink, partners.”

Fred was a brother of the pharmacists Henry and Otto of Ehrlichers Brothers drug store.

Continuing with the history of B & H Shoe Store, the ad says, “It was later sold to John G. Heisel and Wm. J. Lohnes and the name changed to Heisel & Lohnes. It remained under their management for fifteen or twenty years when Mr. Heisel dropped the name Lohnes from the firm name. (Mr. Lohnes subsequently joined with two business men from Peoria and bought the P. Steinmetz Dry Goods Store which became Lohnes, Merkle & Renfer, where he established a shoe department.)

“In its early years, when the repair department was part of the shoe store, Bart Jost, Sr. was the shoe maker and his teenage son Bartlin Jr., who through the span of his life spent over fifty years as a shoe salesman in the 300 block on Court St., was also an employee of Ehrlicher. To this day old customers reminisce about ‘good old Bart’ when they shop at the B & H where he spent the last active years of his life.

“The John G. Heisel Co. continued and after World War I it was remodeled and the present attractive front installed. Quality shoes were featured then as today.

“About 1924 it was sold to Sam Sandler, an old shoe merchant from Peoria, who shortly after sold it to two brothers-in-law, Ed Bowman and Sid Herman, who changed the name to the B & H Shoe Store, the name it has carried for the past twenty-three years.

“Ed Bowman bought out Herman a few years later. A short time after, his son Mort joined the firm and took over active management. The store has tried to establish a reputation for honest dealings in business and a quality line of merchandise at all times, while keeping pace with the times in modern conveniences and methods.”

#b-h-shoe-store, #bowman-and-herman, #ed-bowman, #ehrlicher-brothers, #ehrlichers-shoe-store, #fred-w-ehrlicher, #heisel-lohnes, #johann-george-ehrlicher, #john-g-heisel-co, #pekin-history, #preblog-columns, #sid-herman

One hundred Tremont telegrams

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

One hundred Tremont telegrams

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Before the invention and the popularity of the telephone, the telegraph was the way to send important (albeit brief) messages quickly over a great distance. Cities and communities both large and small were connected by thousands of miles of telegraph wires that carried the messages from one telegraph office to the next — and almost every community had a telegraph office.

A glimpse into the heyday of the telegram is offered by Donald Nieukirk’s 36-page book, “One Hundred Telegrams Sent or Received at Tremont, Illinois, 1912,” published in 2001 by the Tremont Historical Society and Museum. It’s one of the books in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection.

To prepare his book, Nieukirk collated, edited and annotated a collection of Western Union telegrams from September and October 1912 that had been donated by Keith A. Toepfer of Tremont. The telegrams had come into Toepfer’s possession as a result of his mother Evalyn’s 1965 purchase of the old “Big Four” railway depot on West Pearl Street in Tremont — with the purchase of the building came all of its contents, including a large number of old telegrams. From that collection, Nieukirk selected 100 for his book, adding explanatory comments and notes.

“Now nearly ninety years later,” Nieukirk wrote in 2001, “they make a fascinating reading for local history buffs and afford revealing glimpses of the daily routine in an age gone by.”

Shown is a reproduction of one of the Western Union telegrams featured in Donald Nieukirk’s “One Hundred Telegrams Sent or Received at Tremont, Illinois, 1912.” The telegrams were found in the old “Big Four” railway depot on West Pearl Street in Tremont.

Here are a few of them:

Nieukirk starts off with a business telegram sent at 10 a.m. Sept. 3, 1912, from the G. W. Shemel Grain Co. to the Evans Elevator Co. in Decatur. The text of the telegram is nothing but a string of five words: “Stagger – chest – afforded – affixing – boundless.”

“What a confusing message with which to start!” Nieukirk writes. “Obviously it is a code of some sort. The reply was received in just a few hours.” The reply was, “Acceptance too late — will wire later if have good bids.” A similar encoded exchange is found on pages 33-34.

Another telegram, sent at 5:07 p.m. Sept. 5 by J. W. Lindeburg of Peoria to W. C. McQueen of Tremont, says, “Will call on you in the morning with the Cowell trunk line — new goods.” Nieukirk comments that in 1912 McQueen operated a furniture, carpet, wallpaper and paint business in the City Hotel Building. McQueen was elected mayor of Tremont in 1927 and served in that office for 20 years.

Sometimes the telegrams dealt with news of death or funeral arrangements. A “Night letter” sent at 8:07 p.m. Sept. 5 by Mrs. Martin Robison to the Rev. Lawther of Fairbury says, “Will you preach Martin Robison funeral sermon Sunday at ten A.M. — will take you to Washington to one o’clock train Sunday — answer if you will come to Morton or Allentown on Interurban — if you do not answer by return message – call on telephone.”

An urgent telegram, sent on Sept. 5 by Fred A. Johnson to Mary Phillips of Marblehead, Ind., reads, “Tell your mother that her sister not expected to live — come at once.”

Other telegrams are rather mundane, such as one sent on Oct. 13 from “Harry” to D. C. St. Clair of Pekin, which says, “Left comb and brush at saloon this morning — get it.”

Nieukirk’s telegrams also include a somewhat entertaining series of gossipy messages involving a number of residents of Tremont; Duncan, Miss.; and Memphis, Tenn., who wanted to find out if a young woman named “Maude” had gotten married.

The series begins with an inquiry from a Clara Tibbs on Sept. 21, 1912, and continues over the next two weeks through early October, but, frustratingly, we never get an answer to Clara’s initial question, and neither was Nieukirk able to find out who Maude was.

#big-four-railway-station-in-tremont, #donald-nieukirk, #dunkelberg-telegrams, #preblog-columns, #telegrams, #tremont