Pekin and Peoria Juneteenth-related events to spotlight Moffatt Cemetery, Nance Legins-Costley.

By Jared L. Olar

Local History Program Coordinator

As we mentioned here a little over two weeks ago, some special Juneteenth-related events are planned in Pekin and Peoria this month. The years of work to create a fitting memorial honoring more than 2,600 Peorians buried at the former Moffatt Cemetery are coming to fruition as Peoria’s new Freedom & Remembrance Memorial Park will be formally named and opened at 10 a.m. Flag Day, Wednesday, June 14.

That same week will see two very special events in Pekin.  on Friday, June 16, at noon, the Pekin Public Library will host a program about the life of Nance Legins-Costley (1813-1892) of Pekin and the new Moffat Cemetery memorial park in Peoria. Then on Saturday, June 17, at 10 a.m., the City of Pekin and Tazewell County will hold a dedication ceremony in the 400 block of Court Street to celebrate the Costley Monument which honors Nance and her son Pvt. William H. Costley (c.1840-1888) of Pekin, who was one of the original eyewitnesses of Juneteenth.

Nance Legins-Costley and her husband Benjamin Costley (c.1812-1883) and their son Leander Costley (c.1845-1886) are among those buried at the former Moffatt Cemetery in Peoria. She and her three eldest children (including her son William) are known to history as the first African-Americans to be freed from enslavement with the help of Abraham Lincoln, through the landmark Illinois Supreme Court case Bailey v. Cromwell (1841).

Peoria’s Event – Wednesday, June 14, 10 a.m.

The City of Peoria, Peoria Park District, Peoria Historical Society, and numerous other community organizations will gather for their event on Flag Day at West Montana and Griswold, across the street from Freedom & Remembrance Memorial Park. Street parking will be available. For more information about Peoria’s event, email Stacy Peterson, Peoria’s Strategic Communications Manager, at, or call her at (309) 494-8560. To learn the story of the F&RM Park Project and the history of Moffatt Cemetery, visit or .

Pekin Public Library Event – Friday, June 16, noon

The Pekin Public Library will host a program that will tell the story of Pekin’s Costley Monument and Peoria’s Freedom & Remembrance Memorial Park, with a major focus on Nance Legins-Costley and her spirited defense of her freedom and her rights. Speakers at the event will include 1) Robert Hoffer of the Peoria Historical Society, who with the help of a team of volunteers worked steadfastly to bring about creation of the Moffatt Cemetery memorial; 2) Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman, who has spearheaded the creation of the Costley Monument in Pekin; and 3) historian Carl Adams, whose research into the remarkable lives of Nance Legins-Costley and her family have been ground-breaking both metaphorically and literally.

The event is sponsored by the Coalition for Equality YWCA Pekin, the Pekin Public Library, the Tazewell County Clerk’s Office, the Tazewell County Historical and Genealogical Society, and the Peoria Historical Society.  The Coalition for Equality will provide refreshments, and guests are also welcome to bring lunch.

Costley Monument Dedication – Saturday, June 17, 10 a.m.

As mentioned above, during this event the City of Pekin and Tazewell County will jointly dedicate a monument in the 400 block of Court Street in honor of Nance Legins-Costley and her eldest son, Pvt. William Henry Costley, who served in the 29th U.S. Colored Infantry, Co. B., during the Civil War, and thus was one of Pekin’s and Tazewell County’s witnesses to the first Juneteenth in Galveston, Texas, June 1865. The monument honoring them and telling their stories will be placed in the “pocket park” on the north side of the 400 block of Court Street.

The keynote address will be presented by special guest Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lisa Holder White, who was the first African-American judge in the Sixth Judicial Circuit and the first African-American justice on the Illinois Appellate Court, Fourth District.

Pekin Mayor Mary Burress will preside over the ceremony in downtown Pekin. During the ceremony, Mayor Buress will present a city proclamation, and Illinois State Rep. Travis Weaver will present an Illinois House of Representatives proclamation.

Other event participants include historian Carl Adams, who will speak about the freedom lawsuits that Nance Legins-Costley brought during her years of struggle to secure the recognition of her freedom. I have also been asked to speak about the history of the Costley family in Pekin, highlighting Nance’s family and the life of her son Pvt. William H. Costley.

The highlight of the event will be the formal unveiling of the Costley Monument and the presentation of two Illinois State Historical Markers by the Illinois State Historical Society. The stone monument itself is being created by Abel Vault & Monument of Pekin. The event will conclude with closing remarks and benediction by Rev. Marvin Hightower of the Peoria branch of the NAACP.

After the dedication and unveiling, the celebration of Juneteenth will continue downtown with live music and what is planned as a first-annual community picnic.

Event sponsors and organizers include Tazewell County Clerk John C. Ackerman, the City of Pekin, the Pekin Chamber of Commerce, Pekin Main Street, the Dirksen Congressional Center, YWCA Coalition for Equality, the Pekin Public Library, and the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society.

Pekin Community High School has also helped to shine a light on Nance Legins-Costley by incorporating her story in the studies and activities of the 2022-2023 school year. Students not only learned about Nance and the significance of the 1841 Bailey v. Cromwell ruling, but also created art, wrote poems and created a video biography inspired by her story.

Pekin Mayor Mary Burress and Tazewell County Clerk John C. Ackerman recognized the efforts of the PCHS students and staff during a press conference today, Thursday, June 1, the high school’s Holman Center.

The students’ “What Nance Means To Us” project may be viewed here:

Note: No photographs or contemporary portraits of Nance Legins-Costley and her son Pvt. William Henry Costley are known to exist. The students’ representations of Nance are therefore derived from a photograph of Selina Gray who had been a slave at Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Arlington Plantation. Discover Peoria had previously used Selina Gray’s image as a symbol of emancipated African-American womanhood to represent Nance Legins-Costley. The students’ video biography also incorporates a photograph of Pvt. William Henry Costley of Weldon (1845-1903), IIlinois, whom historian M. Scott Heerman in 2018 erroneously identified as Nance’s son Pvt. Willliam Henry Costley of Pekin (c.1840-1888).

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Formal opening nears for Freedom & Remembrance Memorial Park

By Jared L. Olar

Local History Program Coordinator

A formal opening ceremony is drawing nearer for a new memorial park honoring more than 2,600 people interred at the defunct Moffatt Cemetery in south Peoria. Among those being honored is a notable Pekin pioneer named Nance Legins-Costley (1813-1892), known to history as the first African-American enslaved person to secure her freedom with the help of Abraham Lincoln.

Nance Legins-Costley died in Peoria on 6 April 1892 and was buried in Moffatt Cemetery, where he husband Benjamin Costley (c.1812-1883) and their son Leander Costley (c.1845-1886) were also buried. They and the other Peorians interred in Moffatt Cemetery — including Pvt. Nathan Ashby of Pekin and Peoria, one of Pekin’s original eyewitnesses to the first Juneteenth in Galveston, Texas — will be “Forgotten No More” thanks to the creation of Freedom & Remembrance Memorial Park.

Storyboard for Freedom & Remembrance Memorial Park in Peoria. The storyboard and Illinois State Historical Markers were installed at the park on Friday, 12 May 2023.
A view of the storyboard, flag pole, and Illinois State Historical Markers after they were installed at Freedom & Remembrance Memorial Park by the Peoria Park District on Friday, 12 May 2023. A formal opening ceremony is tentatively set for Flag Day, Wednesday, 14 June 2023, at 10 a.m.

Nance Legins-Costley and her son, Pvt. William H. Costley (c.1840-1888), another of Pekin’s Juneteenth eyewitnesses, will also be celebrated in Pekin at a special Juneteenth celebration and dedication ceremony next month in downtown Pekin, where Pekin and Tazewell County will place the Costley Monument in their honor. Pekin’s celebration and ceremony will be at 10 a.m. Saturday, 17 June 2023, in the 400 block of Court Street. Pekin and county officials are scheduled to speak at the event, where Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lisa Holder White, first African-American to serve as a judge in the Sixth Judicial Circuit and first African-American justice on the Illinois Appellate Court, Fourth District, will deliver the keynote address. A community picnic with live music is also planned.

In addition, the Pekin Public Library will host a special program about Moffatt Cemetery, Nance Legins-Costley, and the Costley Monument at noon Friday, 16 June 2023, in the library’s Community Room, the day before the Costley Monument is dedicated.

A copy of the proof sheet for the Costley Monument’s stone inscription, provided courtesy of Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman. Abel Vault & Monument of Pekin is creating the stone for the downtown memorial honoring Nance Legins-Costley and her son Pvt. William Henry Costley. Besides the stone, two Illinois State Historical Markers will be installed at the memorial site telling the story of Nance Legins-Costley and her family’s 50 years in Pekin.

As for Peoria’s new memorial park, a formal opening ceremony is being planned for Flag Day, Wednesday, 14 June 2023, at 10 a.m. This spring saw major steps forward in the years’-long efforts to create Freedom & Remembrance Memorial Park. The first of those steps this year was on Tuesday, 28 Feb. 2023, when the Peoria City Council unanimously agreed to acquire the land at the intersection of South Adams and Griswold, which United Roofers Local #69 donated for the creation of the memorial site. The official transfer of the property took place 16 March 2023.

Then on Tuesday, 28 March, the posts for the storyboard and Illinois State Historical Markers were installed at the site in preparation for the installation of the park’s sign and markers. The memorial park’s historical markers have been on public display at the Peoria Riverfront Museum and the RiverPlex since last year, awaiting the preparation of the park site so they could be installed.

The next step in the creation of the park was the installation of a flag pole, lighting, and raising of flags, which were done by Peoria Flag & Decorating on Wednesday, 12 April. The U.S. flag and the Prisoners of War flag now fly over the memorial park to honor the 52 veterans — 49 Union Civil War veterans and one each from the Spanish-American War, the War of 1812, and the 1792 Virginia Militia — who are buried at the former Moffatt Cemetery just to the north of the park.

Then on Friday last week, 12 May, came the central pieces of Freedom & Remembrance Memorial Park, when Peoria Park District staff installed the park’s storyboard and the three state historical markers that tell the story of Moffatt Cemetery, list all of Moffatt Cemetery’s honored Civil War veterans, and tell the remarkable story of Nance Legins-Costley of Pekin’s strength of spirit that secured freedom for herself and her children.

Further updates on the Peoria and Pekin events will be posted here at the dates draw closer.

Note: Unlessed otherwise noted, all images in this post are graciously provided courtesy of the Freedom & Remembrance Memorial Park Project Team.

Peoria Flag & Decorating install the flag pole and flag lighting at the site of Freedom & Remembrance Memorial Park in Peoria on Wednesday, 12 April 2023.
Old Glory and the Prisoners of War flag fly from the newly installed flag pole at the site of Freedom & Remembrance Memorial Park at the intersection of South Adams and Griswold in Peoria. The flag pole and lighting were installed and the flags raised by Peoria Flag & Decorating on Wednesday, 12 April 2023.
The flags at Freedom & Remembrance Memorial Park are illuminated by a light atop the flagpole just after sunset on Wednesday evening, 12 April 2023.
Peoria Park District staff installed the Civil War veterans Illinois State Historical Marker at Freedom & Remembrance Memorial Park on Friday, 12 May 2023. The marker lists every Civil War veteran buried in the former Moffatt Cemetery just to the north of the park. Among those veterans was Pvt. Nathan Ashby of Pekin and Peoria, one of Pekin’s original Juneteenth eyewitnesses.
Peoria Park District staff posed for a group photo after a job well done of installed the Illinois State Historical Markers and storyboard at Freedom & Remembrance Memorial Park at the intersection of South Adams and Griswold.
United Roofers Local #69 Business Manager Steven Peterson, a major supporter of the Freedom & Remembrance Memorial Park project, is shown with the park’s storyboard, flag pole, and state historical markers on Friday, 12 May 2023, after the storyboard and markers were installed by the Peoria Park District. Local #69 donated the land at the intersection of South Adams and Griswold for the creation of the park.

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Lincoln in Pekin: What was ‘the Pekin Agreement’?

By Jared Olar

Local History Specialist

President Abraham Lincoln’s long road to the White House began in his days as a circuit-riding lawyer over the prairies of Illinois, leading him first to the Illinois General Assembly and then to the U.S. Congress. One of the stops on Lincoln’s road was Pekin, where Lincoln was involved in a political pact known as “the Pekin Agreement.”

Lincoln’s first political campaign was 28 years before he became president. In 1832, he was one of 13 men seeking a Sangamon County seat in the Illinois House of Representatives. Lincoln only garnered 657 votes, however, for his service in the Black Hawk War had limited his ability to campaign.

Two years later, Lincoln again sought the same seat in the Illinois House, coming in second and losing by only 14 votes. In that election, Lincoln ran as a member of the Whigs, a conservative party that was one of the predecessors of the Republican Party. Trying a third time for the same seat in 1836, Lincoln was victorious, defeating 16 other candidates (including four of his fellow Whigs). Lincoln was reelected to the Illinois House in 1838, but came in fifth in a very crowded field in 1840, losing to another member of the Whig Party.

Three years after that, Lincoln first began to set his sights on a national office, hoping to win his party’s nomination for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives for the 7th Congressional District of Illinois (which then encompassed the counties of Sangamon, Morgan, Scott, Cass, Menard, Tazewell, Logan, Putnam, Woodford, Marshall, and Mason).

It was Lincoln’s political ambitions in 1843, and those of two other prominent Illinois Whigs, that led to “the Pekin Agreement.”

The agreement was a pact arranged at the convention of the Illinois Whig Party, which was held in Pekin on 1 May 1843. At the Pekin convention, the Illinois Whigs were divided among the supporters of Lincoln, Gen. John J. Hardin, and Edward Dickinson “E. D.” Baker, each of whom hoped to be the candidate for the 7th Congressional District seat. For the sake of party unity, it was apparently agreed that the three men would serve only one two-year term in Congress. Hardin got their party’s nomination coming out of this convention, while Lincoln’s resolution was approved that Baker should be the party’s nominee in the 1844 Congressional election.

In this detail from the front page of The Illinois Gazette of Lacon, 6 May 1843, are found the substance of ‘the Pekin Agreement’ that members of the Illinois Whig Party approved during their party convention in Pekin five days earlier.

After Baker’s term, however, the Pekin Agreement collapsed. This is how the “Papers of Abraham Lincoln” database describes the agreement, how it fell apart, and the affect it had on Lincoln’s career in politics:

“At a Whig convention in Pekin in May 1843, an agreement was made between Lincoln, Edward D. Baker, and John J. Hardin that seemed to establish a one-term limit on the prospective Whig congressmen. Hardin and Baker having each served one term, Lincoln believed that the 1846 nomination should have been his. While Lincoln set out to solidify his support in the district, Hardin proposed that the convention system for the nomination be thrown out in favor of a primary election. Lincoln rejected Hardin’s proposal on January 19, 1846, and Hardin subsequently declined the nomination entirely.”

That paved the way for Lincoln’s election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1846. He served a single term in Congress, from 1847 to 1849. Five years later, Lincoln was elected to the Illinois House in 1854, but chose not to take his seat because by then he had his eyes on a seat in the U.S. Senate. But neither in 1854 nor in 1858 (the year of the famed Lincoln-Douglas debates) was Lincoln able to win a Senatorial seat.

In the end, Lincoln’s single terms in the Illinois House and U.S. House, his network of friends and supporters, and the chaotic, tumultuous political climate in a nation torn by the slavery question were enough for him to win the presidential election of 1860. Among other factors, the Pekin Agreement of 1843 played a role in helping him get to Congress in 1847.

The proceedings of the 1843 Illinois Whig Convention were published 6 May 1843 in The Illinois Gazette of Lacon. A transcription of the Gazette’s text is available at the “Papers of Abraham Lincoln” site and is reposted here for convenience:

Proceedings of Whig Convention at Pekin, Illinois regarding Candidates for Congress, 1 May 1843


At a meeting of the delegates, representing the counties composing the seventh Congressional District of Illinois, held in Pekin on the first Monday of May inst., the following persons appeared as delegates from their respective counties, to wit:
Sangamon—A. Lincoln, N. W. Edwards, A. T. Bledsoe, S. T. Jones, Benj. A. Watson, Walker Davis, James H. Maxy, and James H. Matheny.
Morgan—Ranson Vanwinkle Jr., E. T. Miller, Francis Arnze, James Berdan, Cornelius Hook, William Brown, James Harkness and J. D. Rawlings.
Scott—William Gillham, Samuel R. Simms, James M. Ruggles, and E. B. Kirby.
Cass—Harvy O’Neil, and Edward R. Saunders.
Menard—Francis F. Reignier, and Geo. U. Miles.
Tazewell—Josiah L. James, Philo H. Thompson, Catsby Gill and John Durham.
Logan—Peter G. Cowardin.
Putnam—William Everett.
Woodford—William R. Bullock.
Marshall—Robert Boal.
Mason—Francis Low.
The convention was organized by the appointment of Josiah L. James Esq. President, and E. B. Kirby Secretary.
On motion of Mr. Edwards,
Resolved, That the convention now proceed to the choice of a candidate for Congress.
Mr. Lincoln stated that he was requested to withdraw the name of Mr. Baker from before the convention; after which the convention proceeded to ballot, when it was ascertained that there was a unanimous vote for GEN. JOHN J. HARDIN of Morgan county.
E. D. BAKER Esq. was unanimously appointed the Delegate from this District to the National Convention, and FRANCIS ARNZE his substitute. It was voted that in case neither of them were able to attend that they be empowered with authority to appoint a substitute.
On motion of Mr. Durham, it was unanimously
Resolved, That our Delegate to the National Convention be instructed to vote for HENRY CLAY for President.
The following preamble and resolutions were introduced by Dr. Robert Boal, and passed by ayes 18—nays 15, to wit:
The delegates now convened, anxious to avoid any possible mischief which may originate amongst Whig friends by adopting, as a precedent, the system of instructing the delegates to Congressional Conventions to vote for particular men—and believing, this practice, if permanently adopted, will induce aspirants for office to press their claims, (personally, or through their friends) at local meetings in such a manner as greatly to embarrass the action of such conventions, and to distract the Whig party, and believing further that a convention, instead of being an electoral college to count votes, and making proclamation of the name receiving the highest number, should be a deliberative assembly, which after full consultation amongst its members, should proceed to select that man (from all the men of the District) the most likely to harmonize the whole party, and render the most efficient service to the country.
Therefore, to avoid all collision betwixt political friends, and to secure harmony.
Resolved, That for the future, we advise our political friends to avoid efforts to procure public manifestations of local preference, as such manifestations will always embarrass the deliberations of a convention, before which every man should appear as his character and talents may entitle him.
Resolved, That for the future, we recommend to the Whigs of the 7th Congressional District, that primary assemblies, be held in the several precincts of each county to designate the individuals who shall compose the county convention to select delegates to the District convention; which delegates shall not be instructed to go for any particular man, but shall be left free to choose that man as the candidate, who shall upon full consultation, be esteemed the most likely to render useful service to the country and give satisfaction to the District.
Mr. Lincoln introduced the following resolution, which on motion of Mr. Ruggles was adopted, ayes, 18—nays, 14, to wit:
Resolved, That this convention, as individuals, recommend E. D. Baker as a suitable person to be voted for by the whigs of this district, for Representative to Congress, at the election in 1844, subject to the decision of a District Convention, should the whigs of the district think proper to hold one.
Mr. Brown introduced the following resolution, which was adopted, to wit:
Resolved, That the whigs of this district be requested to hold their next convention for the nomination of a candidate for Congress, at Tremont, in the county of Tazewell, on the first Monday of May next.
On motion of Mr. Durham it was
Resolved, That William H. Wilmot, B. F. James, John Durham, Alden Hull, and C. Gill, of Tazewell county, be appointed a district committee for the district, to call conventions when necessary, and to attend to such other matters as concern the whigs of the whole district.
On motion of Mr. Ruggles, the Chair appointed Messrs. A. Lincoln, E. D. Baker, J. J. Hardin, Wm. Brown and A. T. Bledsoe, a committee to prepare and publish an Address to the Whigs of the Seventh Congressional District.
It was Resolved, That the proceedings of the meeting be signed by the President and Secretary, and published in the several Whig papers of the district.
On motion, the convention adjourned.
J. L. JAMES, President. E. B. Kirby, Secretary.

[Note: The Gazette’s reference to “S. T. Jones” of Sangamon County is apparently a mistake either for Strother G. Jones or Stephen T. Logan. Likewise, “William Everett” of Putnam County is probably a mistake for “Wilson” Everett.]

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Tazewell County’s ‘Historical Hall’

By Jared L. Olar

Local History Specialist

The late Christal Dagit (1943-2019) was long-time president of the Tazewell County Historic Places Society, and also served as long-time director of the Tazewell County Museum and Education Center. In the four years since her passing, however, the museum to which she devoted so many years has had to close and its collection be placed in storage, with the Tazewell County Board now making plans to demolish the historic Arcade Building where the museum had been housed.

Many years before the Tazewell County Museum and Education Center was established, however, artifacts and mementos of the history and heritage of Pekin and Tazewell County were displayed in a “Historical Hall” within the Tazewell County Courthouse. A part of this old collection is displayed at the courthouse still today, even as monuments on the grounds outside the courthouse help to commemorate the county’s military veterans and the numerous visits that Abraham Lincoln to Pekin and Tremont.

In the years from 1914 to 1916, when plans were made for a larger and grander Neo-Classical edifice to replace the 1850 county courthouse, the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors made provisions to establish and maintain what it said would be a permanent museum in a room of the new courthouse.

The Historical Hall’s collection was under the care of the long-defunct Tazewell County Historical Society, which was among other things a museum board appointed by the Tazewell County Board. In the 1950s, however, the collection was moved to rooms in the courthouse basement and the former Historical Hall room became the County Assessor’s Office.

In the latest issue of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society “Monthly” (March 2023), page 555-557, are presented the Tazewell County Board’s proceedings related to the courthouse Historical Hall, from 1914 to 1968. Since these proceedings are sure to be of interest to many in our area who wish to learn more of our local history, I will transcribe them here:

12 Sept. 1914 – The permanent building committee would recommend that the historical step formerly at the entrance of the Bemis House, but now at the north-west corner of the Court House block be placed in the historical room of the new Court House in a place to be selected by the Architects.

This early 20th century Pekin postcard shows the threshold of the former Tazewell House hotel displayed at the northwest corner of the Tazewell County Courthouse grounds. The threshold was moved inside the new courthouse during construction from 1914 to 1916. PHOTO COURTESY OF KIP SNYDER
Bemis House, at one time Pekin’s preeminent hotel, is shown in this early 20th-century photograph. Under its original name of Tazewell House, the hotel once hosted Abraham Lincoln and other notable local attorneys when they came to Pekin on legal business at the Tazewell County Courthouse. The site at the corner of Court and Front streets is now a part of Gene Miller Park, adjacent to Pekin’s Riverfront Park. PHOTO COURTESY THE TAZEWELL COUNTY CLERK’S OFFICE

14 March 1916 – On motion of Supervisor Strubhar the rules were suspended and . . .  Mr. Allensworth, Miss Gaither and Mr. Prettyman addressed the Board in reference to having an historical association in Tazewell County; and Mr. Cole in reference to preserving the photographs of deceased and old residents of Tazewell County; and Mr. Bates in reference to issuing a souvenir containing historical facts of Tazewell County and distributing same when court house is dedicated and urged the appointment of a committee to confer with him in regard to the matter.

16 March 1916 – Supervisor Quigg suggested that the Board take up the matter of what the Historical room is to contain, Mr. H. H. Cole addressed the Board in reference to the matter. Resolution offered by Supervisor Birkenbusch was read. Supervisor Gulon moved as an amendment to the resolution that Mr. H. H. Cole be granted the privilege of using the North, East and part of the South wall of the historical room for placing photographs of deceased and old residents of Tazewell County. The amendment was carried.

Resolved, That the Public Printing Committee be authorized to confer with W. H. Bates in reference to souvenir issue in connection with the dedication of the Tazewell County Court House, also to take up the matter with H. H. Cole of placing our Art Gallery in the Tazewell County Court House. Offered by Henry Birkenbusch, Supervisor Quigg moved that the first room, opening on the East and West Corridor and East of the South entrance be designated as the historical room; Supervisor Porter moved as an amendment that the room be designated as the Historical and Soldiers Rest Room of Tazewell County. Supervisor Quigg accepted the amendment, and the motion as amended was on vote declared carried. On motion of Supervisor Reardon each Member of the Board was urged to present the names of at least three persons residing in their township, who would interest themselves in reference to historical matters pertaining to Tazewell County not later than the next adjourned meeting.

Communication from Joe Hanna Post No. 1176 G.A.R. of Pekin, Illinois in reference to Historical Room was read.

Mr. H. H. Cole stated that he desired to have a group photograph of the Members of the Board, the same to be placed in the historical room.

29 March 1916 – Supervisor Gulon inquired whether or not the Spanish American War Veterans would be permitted to hold their meetings in the Historical Room. On motion of Supervisor Reardon, the Spanish American War Veterans were granted permission to use the Historical Room for their meetings.

26 April 1916 – Resolution offered by the Permanent Building Committee, in reference to the Historical and G.A.R. rooms was read. On motion of Supervisor Nixon the resolution was adopted. Be it resolved by the Building Committee of the Board of Supervisors of Tazewell County, that the two rooms situated in the southeast corner on the first floor of the court house shall be designated “Historical Hall” and that there shall be placed therein the photographic exhibits heretofore made and now being made by H. H. Cole and that the placing of said exhibits shall be under the personal supervision of H. H. Cole and the Public Building Committee of the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors. Resolved, that the room on the first floor of the court house on the south side and immediately west of Historical Hall shall be designated Grand Army Hall; that it shall be used and occupied by the Grand Army of the Republic, The Sons of Veterans, The Spanish-American War Veterans and the Women’s Relief Corps, and all similar organizations of Tazewell County that may hereafter be organized. Resolved, that the three rooms designated in the preceding sections of this resolution as a whole shall be known as the Memorial Section of the court house in the County of Tazewell and State of Illinois. Peter Sweitzer, C. C. Reardon, B. F. Quigg, J. S. Nixon.

15 Sept. 1916 – Mr. W. H. Bates addressed the Board in reference to having cases made of the walnut benches which were in the Old Court House, for the G.A.R. and Historical room. On motion of Supervisor Porter the matter was referred to the Committee on Public Buildings.

13 June 1916 – Order #26338 to H. H. Cole for labor and materials furnished for Historical Photograph Room.

10 June 1918 – The report of the committee on the claim of H. H. Cole was read. Your committee to whom was referred the adjustment of the claim of H. H. Cole for portraits, cases etc. placed in Historical Room in Court House . . .  . we allow H. H. Cole the sum of $450 in full payment for same and it is further agreed that any more work done, for which he expects payments from the County, must be authorized by someone with authority before proceeding.

7 Dec. 1920Judge W. R. Curran was granted permission to address the Board in reference to the memorial services of the Tazewell County Historical Society, commemorating the organization of the Union League of America, to be held in the Circuit Court room at 2 P.M. December 7th, 1920.

13 June 1949 – Mr. Canaday, Representative from State Historical Society, Springfield, was introduced by Chairman McClarence, who stated that he had been sent to Pekin in regard to the matter of transferring original records signed by Abraham Lincoln, now in Tazewell County files to Springfield Library. Chairman McClarence appointed Supervisors J. A. Henderson of Little Mackinaw, D. H. Snell of Washington and Clark Barton of Tremont to serve on the Lincoln Records Special Committee.

8 March 1955 – It is recommended after a special meeting between the Building Committee and representative of the Women’s Relief Corps and the Grand Army of the Republic that the Building Committee be authorized to obtain the services of an architect and lay plans for the creation of a suitable room in the basement to be occupied by the Women’s Relief Corps, Grand Army of the Republic and Historical Society. The room on the main floor which presently is occupied by the Women’s Relief Corps and Grand Army of the Republic will be taken over by the Supervisor of Assessments after the establishment of the basement quarters.

25 April 1955 – Supervisor Condon of Pekin moved that the Chairman appoint a committee of six to confer with the Fair and Park Boards in regard to having Historical Rooms, Veteran Rooms and Museum in the Fair Buildings.

13 June 1955 – Chairman Mooberry stated there was a delegation present representing the Womens Relief Corps and the Spanish American War Veterans. Mrs. Minnie Stockert was their spokesman and addressed the Board in respect to the Historical or G.A.R. room, and brought up the question of what would become of the war relics as the law stated that, if they were moved from their present location, they would have to be returned to the State Museum.

Motion was made by Supervisor Lowry of Spring Lake, seconded by Supervisor McKenzie of Fondulac that letters received by the Board in regard to the G.A.R. and Historical Room be read. Motion carried.

Twelve letters from individuals and organizations of Tazewell and Peoria Counties were read by the Clerk. Motion was made by Supervisor Robins of Washington, seconded by Supervisor Schilling of Pekin that the letters be received and placed on file. Motion carried.

8 Sept. 1959 – A letter from George H. Iftner in regard to Items of Historical Value now in the Historical Room in the basement. Motion was made by Supervisor Snell of Washington that the Chair appoint three to act as Trustees of the Historical Society . . . to take care of the items of Historical Value.

8 Dec. 1959 – Motion was made by Supervisor Snell of Washington that the Chair appoint a nine member committee to act as Trustees for the Tazewell County Historical Society. Motion was seconded by Supervisor VanderHeyden of Pekin. Motion carried and Chairman Schilling of Pekin appointed the following Committee:


Vera Dille, Gary Planck, Dale Sarver, William Hoffman, Dr. R. K. Taubert and Gene Sangalli all of Pekin, Thomas Pinkham of East Peoria, Forrest Altine of Morton, and Howard Simpson of Mackinaw.

21 Feb. 1968 – Moved by Supervisor Urish of Malone, seconded by Supervisor Hoffman of Mackinaw, that the Building Committee investigate the Historical items in the basement of the Court House. The Committee is to make plans of what to do with said items.

15 Aug. 1968 – Be it resolved by the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors that, whereas, the Tazewell County Historical Society, the G.A.R.’s and D.A.R.’s have for past years held their meetings in rooms provided them in the Court House and, Whereas, a great collection of articles, antique furniture, relics, documents, pictures, etc. have been housed in these rooms, and Whereas, during the past few years these items have not had proper care and protection in the present basement room, with the end result that valuable pieces have been removed and other articles have been broken, damaged or defaced and Whereas, each item in this collection is of great value as such and can never be replaced, but should be preserved for the benefit of future generations, now therefore BE IT Resolved, by the Tazewell County Board of Supervisors that the Building Committee be authorized to have the contents of this room sorted, packed, and stored in a bonded warehouse, at County expense, until such time as arrangements can be made to have this collection placed where it can be properly displayed and protected.

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A Pekin Union Army soldier in a Confederate Army cemetery?

By Jared L. Olar

Local History Specialist

An undated article clipping from the Pekin Daily Times in the files of the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room tells of a Civil War soldier from Tazewell County who was buried in a Confederate Army cemetery.

The article, headlined “Confederate cemetery holds Tazewell County soldier,” was probably published about 20 years ago [NOTE: It was published 13 April 2001]. It tells of how the newspaper was contacted by a photographer from the Griffin Daily News in Griffin, Ga., seeking information on Corp. Nathan Kellogg, who was one of four Union soldiers to be buried in Griffin’s Stonewall Cemetery, a city cemetery with a large burial section for soldiers of the Confederate States of America. To find a gravestone for a Union soldier in a Confederate cemetery is highly unusual.

Corp. Kellogg’s headstone is shown in Stonewall Cemetery in this Find-A-Grave photo submitted by Michael Dover.
Corp. Nathan Kellogg’s headstone in Stonewall Cemetery is shown in this Find-A-Grave photo submitted by Michael Dover.

The Pekin Times article provides fascinating information, but is incomplete and somewhat inaccurate, for, as we shall see, it is incorrect about where Corp. Kellogg’s remains are now buried.

Kellogg belonged to a family of pioneers who lived on land that was then outside of Pekin but is now within Pekin’s city limits. Two brothers of this family are notable figures in the early history of Pekin and Tazewell County: Nathan Benjamin Kellogg Sr. (1793-1853) and Benjamin Kellogg Jr. (1806-1855).

They were among the 14 children of Benjamin Kellogg Sr. (1761-1821) and Luranah Spaulding (1766-1834), natives of Massachusetts who had settled in New York. Both Nathan and Benjamin Jr. were born in Kinderhook, New York, and came to Tazewell County in the early 1830s.

Nathan is listed on page 713 of Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” where it says he served as Tazewell County Coroner from 1842 to 1848. He married twice, first to Magdalen Esselstyne (1792-1826), with whom he had four sons and a daughter, and a second to Alzina (Pennoyer) Woodrow (1805-1884), with whom he had four daughters and three sons. His youngest son was Nathan Benjamin Kellogg Jr., the Civil War soldier who had been buried in Stonewall Cemetery.

The other prominent member of the Tazewell County Kelloggs, Benjamin Jr., was a successful merchant, land owner, and local political official who was a friend of Abraham Lincoln. The “Papers of Abraham Lincoln Digital Library” website provides this summary of Benjamin Kellogg Jr.’s life and career:

“Benjamin Kellogg, Jr. was a prominent merchant, landowner, and town and city official in Pekin, Illinois. In 1829, he and his partners established Crain, Kellogg, & Company, the first mercantile business in Pekin. Kellogg began purchasing public land in September 1832, when he bought 160 acres in Mason County, becoming the first person to purchase land in what would become Allen Grove. Between 1832 and 1855, he purchased thousands of acres of public land in Mason, Tazewell, McLean, and Logan counties. Kellogg was also active in Pekin’s civic affairs. At the first town elections held in July 1835, he won election as town clerk, and in August, he became treasurer of the Board of Trustees. He won a second term as town clerk in 1836. When Pekin received its charter as a city in 1849, Kellogg became the first city clerk, holding that job until October 1850. In 1850, he was working as a clerk and owned $20,000 worth of real estate. Eager to get a railroad through Pekin, in 1853, Kellogg and a partner personally subscribed $100,000 for the Mississippi and Wabash Railroad. Abraham Lincoln represented Kellogg in numerous cases in the Tazewell County Circuit Court.”

In addition to the cases in which Lincoln represented him, Benjamin Jr. was also a key witness in the 1839 Tazewell County Circuit Court case of Cromwell & McNaughton v. Bailey, in which the estate of Nathan Cromwell asked the court to require that David Bailey of Pekin pay off a promissory note for the purchase of the Cromwell’s indentured servant Nance. Bailey had declined to pay the note because Nance said she was a free person and had never consented to a contract of indentured servitude. In his testimony, Benjamin Jr. confirmed that Nance had always insisted on her freedom. The court ruled against Bailey, though, so Bailey retained Lincoln to appeal the verdict to the Illinois Supreme Court in the 1841 case of Bailey v. Cromwell & McNaughton. Agreeing with Lincoln’s arguments, the Illinois Supreme Court overturned the Tazewell County court decision and declared that Nance and her three eldest children were free.

That case touched on the wider question of the morality of human slavery which later helped to spark the destructive fires of the Civil War. In that conflict, Nathan B. Kellogg Sr.’s youngest son Nathan B. Jr., who was born in Tazewell County on 11 Oct. 1846, stepped up to fight for the Union cause. His Union Army service records say he was a farmer living at Pekin, and give his physical description as 5 feet 8 inches in height, with a light complexion, gray eyes, and light-colored hair.

His service records show that he enlisted on 16 June 1862 and was mustered into the 85th Illinois Infantry, Co. F., at Peoria on 27 Aug. 1862. Though only in his teens, Nathan Jr. was consumed with patriotic zeal for his country. This is evident from his service records: although he was only 15 years old at the time, his records indicate that he lied about his age so he could enlist, claiming to be 17 at enlistment and 18 when he was mustered in.

Corp. Kellogg enlisted for three years of service, but he did not make it to the end of those three years. He was mortally wounded in the Battle of Peach Tree Creek in Georgia on 19 July 1864. Taken captive by the Confederate Army, he was taken to a military hospital at Griffin, Georgia, where he succumbed to his wounds the next day. He was one of approximately 1,900 Union casualties and 2,500 Confederate casualties of that battle. Of this battle, Union Maj. Gen. J. D. Cox said, “Few battlefields of the war have been strewn so thickly with dead and wounded as they lay that evening around Collier’s Mill.

Kellogg’s service record notes his capture at the battle with the comment, “In Parole Camp Captured At Peach Tree Creek Ga.” Due to his death, he was not officially mustered out of service until 5 June 1865, almost a year after his death.

As this record shows, Corp. Nathan B. Kellogg Jr. of Pekin was one of four Union soldiers who were buried in Stonewall Cemetery, Griffin, Georgia, immediately after their deaths during the Civil War.

Corp. Kellogg was buried in nearby Stonewall Cemetery alongside many Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle. There, in a Confederate Army burying ground, his bones rested for the next three years, when his remains, along with those of three other Union soldiers that had been buried in Confederate cemeteries, were transferred to Marietta National Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia.

The headstone of Corp. Kellogg of Pekin stands among the thousands of Civil War dead in Marietta National Cemetery, Marietta, Georgia, in this photograph submitted to Find-A-Grave by Davis E. McCollum.
The headstone of Corp. Nathan B. Kellogg Jr. of Pekin on Marietta National Cemetery, Marietta, Georgia, where Kellogg’s remains have been interred since 1867, is shown in this photograph submitted by Find-A-Grave user “Janet.”

Although his remains have been in Marietta since 1867, a local resident of Griffin, Ga., named Mrs. C. Robert Walker apparently came across a record of Kellogg’s burial in Stonewall Cemetery in 1960 and, not knowing of his removal to Marietta, ordered a Civil War soldier’s headstone for the plot where his remains once had lain.

And so, Corp. Nathan Benjamin Kellogg Jr. of Pekin is currently memorialized in two separate cemeteries in the South, with a headstone marking the empty grave where once he lay in Stonewell Cemetery, and another marking his actual grave in Marietta National Cemetery.

On 22 Sept. 1960, Mrs. C. Robert Walker of Griffin, Georgia, applied to have a Union soldier Civil War headstone placed on the plot where Corp. Nathan Kellogg of Pekin had been buried in 1864. She did not know, however, that Kellogg and three other Union soldiers buried in Stonewall Cemetery, Griffin, had been moved to Marietta National Cemetery, Marietta, Georgia, in 1867.

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Nance Legins-Costley and Pvt. William Costley to be honored by Pekin monument

By Jared L. Olar

Local History Specialist

Plans are underway for a permanent stone monument in downtown Pekin to honor the memory of Nance Legins-Costley and her son Pvt. William Henry Costley.

In the past few years, Nance and her son William have been the subjects of multiple articles posted here at “From the History Room.” Nance Legins-Costley (1813-1892) of Pekin and Peoria is known to history as the first African-American to secure her freedom with the help of Abraham Lincoln, through the landmark 1841 Illinois Supreme Court case Bailey v. Cromwell. Her oldest son William H. Costley (1840-1888) of Pekin later went on to fight in the Union Army during the Civil War, serving in the 29th Illinois Colored Infantry, Co. B., and was present in Galveston, Texas, on the first Juneteenth in 1865.

The story of Nancy Legins-Costley is told by Carl Adams in his book, “Nance: Trials of the First Slave Freed by Abraham Lincoln.” IMAGE PROVIDED BY CARL ADAMS

Partners involved in this project include Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman, the City of Pekin, Pekin Main Street, the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce, the Dirksen Congressional Center, and Abel Monument. Ackerman also credits research on Nance Legins-Costley and her family that has been conducted or made possible by the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society and the Pekin Public Library’s Local History collection.

According to Ackerman, the memorial is being privately donated, and Abel Monument is now at work on it.

The monument will be four feet in length and three feet in height, and will bear a header inscription reading, “Tazewell County Remembers.” The names of Nance and her son William, and words of tribute to their lives, will be inscribed on the front and back of the monument.

Ackerman says the memorial is to be installed in the “pocket park” on the north side of Court Street across from the Tazewell Building, located between the Studio 409 beauty salon at 411 Court and the law offices of Joseph W. Dunn at 417 Court St.

Coming this summer, a memorial to honor the memory of Nance Legins-Costley and her son Pvt. William H. Costley is to be installed in the “pocket park” on the north side of Court Street across from the Tazewell Building, located between the Studio 409 beauty salon at 411 Court and the law offices of Joseph W. Dunn at 417 Court St. GOOGLE STREET VIEW IMAGE

Placement and dedication of the monument is to be on or near Juneteenth this summer.

This will be the second Central Illinois memorial devoted to memorializing the life of Nance Legins-Costley.

As was reported here last week, the life of Nance Legins-Costley is also commemorated on an Illinois State Historical marker currently on display at the Peoria RiverPlex facility.

That marker and two others were created last year for the planned Freedom & Remembrance Memorial that will be placed and dedicated this spring at the corner of South Adams and Griswold streets in Peoria. The purpose of the memorial is to honor the lives of the more than 2,600 Peorians (Nance among them) buried at the defunct Moffatt Cemetery that was located a very short distance north of that intersection.

Nance Legins-Costley’s life and that of her family forms a part not only the history of Pekin, where she lived from 1829 to the late 1870s, but also of Peoria, where she lived for most of the rest of her life from the late 1870s until her death in 1892. She and her husband and one of her sons were interred in Moffatt Cemetery.

But I am of the opinion that Nance and her story really belong to all of Illinois, since she was born in Kaskaskia, the old territorial capital (and later the first state capital), and later was taken to Springfield before Nathan Cromwell brought her to Pekin. She even lived briefly with one of her sons in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after her husband Benjamin’s death.

However, the real reason it can be said that Nance belongs to all of Illinois is the indomitable courage and persistence she showed in fighting to secure the recognition of her freedom – for her fight and her strength resulted in an important Illinois Supreme Court ruling benefitting not only her and her family but every other African-American held in indentured servitude in Illinois.

In my opinion, that’s definitely worthy of a monument or two – or more.

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Joshua Wagenseller’s dry goods store

By Jared L. Olar

Local History Specialist

This week we feature another of the six 19th-century downtown Pekin businesses in the collection of vintage business cards we’ve been examined for the past several weeks. This card advertises the business known as Wagenseller & Co., which operated in the 100 block of Court Street in the latter half of the 1800s.

The firm of Wagenseller & Co. was owned and operated by Joshua Wagenseller (1813-1882), one of Tazewell County’s Old Settlers whom we have spotlighted here twice previously. As we mentioned before, Wagenseller was an ardent abolitionist, a friend of Abraham Lincoln (who was a guest in the Wagenseller home on many a visit to Pekin), and a founding member of the Tazewell County Republican Party.

Wagenseller came to Pekin in 1837 and went into business with his brother Benjamin here in the firm of B. & J. Wagenseller, but Benjamin’s death in 1844 brought an end to that business. Joshua Wagenseller afterwards was engaged in various enterprises until he at least founded Wagenseller & Co. during the 1860s.

Wagenseller appears in the 1861 Root’s City Directory of Pekin as “Wagenseller Joshua, merchant; office, 48 Court, ss., 7th d. w. Second; res. sw. cor. Broadway and Market.” About a decade later, though, his eldest son William Henry Wagenseller had joined his father in the business, which is listed in the 1871 Sellers & Bates City Directory of Pekin as “WAGENSELLER & SON, (J. W. & W. H. W.), dealers in dry goods, clothing, boots, shoes, hats, caps, carpets, oilcloths, notions, groceries; also saddles and harness; ss Court 5 and 6 d w Second.

Joshua Wagenseller’s dry goods store in downtown Pekin is shwon in this business card from the early 1870s.
This drawing of the downtown Pekin store of J. Wagenseller & Son was printed in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County.”

In that same directory, we find Joshua still living at the southwest corner of South Market (today called South Second) and Broadway, while William was at the northwest corner of South Market and North Washington. Joshua’s younger son Frank Rupert Wagenseller is listed in this directory as “Wagenseller Frank, harnessmaker,” and living at home with his father.

By the time of the 1876 Pekin directory, both William and Henry were partners of their father. The directory that year shows  “WAGENSELLER, J. & SONS, (Joshua Wagenseller, William H. Wagenseller, and Frank R. Wagenseller) wholesale leather and shoe findings, and saddlery hardware, 120 and 122 Court.” This directory shows that Joshua was still at the southwest corner of Broadway and Second (formerly called Market).

Joshua Wagenseller died 22 July 1882 of Bright’s disease (an old term for inflammation of the kidneys) and was buried in Lakeside Cemetery. The 1887 Pekin city directory shows that Frank carried on the Wagenseller & Sons general store, which by then had relocated to 302 Court St., while William ran a dry goods and notions store at 208 Court St.

Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 History of Tazewell County provides this biography of Joshua Wagenseller:

“Joshua Wagenseller is in the truest sense, one of Tazewell county’s pioneers, having arrived here as far back as Jan. 3, 1837. He points with pride to the Keystone State as the home of his birth. He first saw the light July 5, 1813, in Norris county, Pa. Peter and Susanna (Longacre) Wagenseller, his parents, were honest industrious people. Three years after he came here he was married to Miss Mary Rupert, five children being the issue of the union.

“Mr. W. is now engaged in the mercantile business, which is far the oldest established house in Central Illinois, having been opened 42 years ago and continued without intermission during all these years.

“Although not a politician, Mr. Wagenseller has numbered among his personal friends some of the greatest statesmen of our time, and among the number was Abraham Lincoln, who, previous to his election to the Presidency, frequently visited him at his home here. Lincoln was, in former years, Mr. Wagenseller’s attorney and after his elevation to the high position of President, he did not forget his friend of former years, but offered him an appointment to a Federal office, which Mr. Wagenseller chose to decline and time has proven that he chose wisely, for no country has a greater honor to bestow on any man than that of a successful, honest private citizen.”

Wagenseller’s obituary in the Bloomington Pantagraph mentions that the federal office which he had declined was “the marshalship of the Southern District of Illinois,” which Wagenseller turned down “on account of mercantile business.”

As a Tazewell County Old Settler, Wagenseller’s extended biography was included in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County. Following are excerpts from that biography:

“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. . . .

“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.”

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The Alchemy of ‘Oops!’: Inaccuracies in Heerman’s treatment of Nance Legins-Costley’s trials

By Jared L. Olar

Local History Specialist

In recent years, the lives of Nance Legins-Costley (1813-1892) and her family have become much better known thanks chiefly to fresh light being brought to the subject as a result of the research of Carl Adams, who began delving into Nance’s story in the 1990s.

As we have related here at “From the History Room” more than once, Nance Legins-Costley is known to history as the first African-American slave to secure her freedom with the help of Abraham Lincoln. First appearing in published Pekin historical accounts in 1871 (in William H. Bates’ original narrative of Pekin’s early history), Nance and her persistent efforts to obtain acknowledgement of her freedom later were briefly mentioned in the 1949 Pekin Centenary volume. A much fuller (though far from complete) account was included in the 1974 Pekin Sesquicentennial (pp.6-7).

Apart from local historical narratives, prior to Adams’ research Nance’s story has been mostly relegated to relatively brief notices or passages in Lincoln biographies and studies. For example, John J. Duff devoted just four extended paragraphs to the story in his 1960 tome “A. Lincoln, Prairie Lawyer” (pp.86-87).

Adams himself has contributed two significant articles on the subject to the Abraham Lincoln Association’s newsletter, “For the People” – first, in the Autumn 1999 issue (vol. 1, no. 3), “The First Slave Freed by Abraham Lincoln: A Biographical Sketch of Nance Legins (Cox-Cromwell) Costley, circa 1813-1873,” and second, in the Fall 2015 issue (vol. 17, no. 3), “Countdown to Nance’s Emancipation.” Adams is also the author of the paper, “Lincoln’s First Freed Slave: A Review of Bailey v. Cromwell, 1841,” in the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (vol. 101, nos. 3/4 – Fall-Winter 2008, pp.235-259). Finally, Adams has treated this subject in story form in his 2016 book, “NANCE: Trials of the First Slave Freed by Abraham Lincoln: A True Story of Mrs. Nance Legins-Costley.”

More recently, Nance and her story have been treated in a number of histories devoted to Lincoln or to the subject of American slavery.

For example, Lincoln scholar Guy C. Fraker addresses the case of Bailey v. Cromwell and McNaughton in a single paragraph on p.52 of his 2012 book, “Lincoln’s Ladder to the Presidency: The Eighth Judicial Circuit.” There Fraker offers a bit of polite criticism of the manner of telling the story of Nance and her trials “as a case where Lincoln’s role was to ‘free a slave,’” which Fraker says “is simply not accurate.” Rather, Fraker insists, “Nance’s gallant efforts to assert her free status, not Lincoln, resulted in her freedom.

Fraker’s criticism is well received, because while Lincoln’s place in Nance’s story was very important in enabling her to secure the freedom that she always (and rightly) insisted was hers, this is in truth Nance’s life story rather than the story of how Lincoln purportedly set out to free a slave. From the standpoint of Lincoln scholarship, this case is significant as the first time Lincoln had to directly wrestle with the moral and legal issues related to slavery. But, as Adams himself agrees, from the viewpoint of Nance Legins-Costley this case was quite simply a matter of the greatest importance, because on it depended her freedom and that of her children.

Most recently, Lincoln historian and scholar Michael Burlingame tells the story of Nance and the case of Bailey v. Cromwell in a lengthy paragraph on pp.20-21 of his new (2021) book, “The Black Man’s President: Abraham Lincoln, African Americans, & the Pursuit of Racial Equality.”

As only to be expected in historians of the stature and scholarly diligence of Burlingame and Fraker, their accounts of Nance and Bailey v. Cromwell are accurate and informative.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to use those two adjectives to describe the way in which the story of Nance is told in M. Scott Heerman’s 2018 volume, “The Alchemy of Slavery: Human Bondage and Emancipation in the Illinois Country, 1730-1865.” I have not had occasion to give a close reading to Heerman’s entire book, which appears to be a generally compelling study of the manner in which human servitude was practiced in the officially free state of Illinois. Nevertheless, regarding Heerman’s treatment in his book of the life and trials of Nance Legins-Costley, a number of serious factual errors seem to have slipped past his fact checker during the editorial process.

Heerman introduces Nance and her trials in his chapter 4 (pp.105-106), where he refers to, “The first case, Nance, a Negro Girl v. John Howard (1828).” More accurately, that was the second case. The long tale of Nance’s struggles to win her freedom began (as Heerman himself describes) the previous year, when Nance’s master Thomas Cox’s possessions (including Nance and her family) were auctioned off to pay for a debt. She did not wait until 1828 to protest her freedom, but already in October of 1827 we find the freedom suit Nance, a Negro girl v. Nathan Cromwell. The second case, against Howard, was filed due to Sangamon County Coroner John Howard’s role in selling Nance to Cromwell.

Heerman returns to the story of Nance in his chapter 6 (pp.135-136), but here we again find factual errors. Of Nance he writes (p.135), “Born in Maryland around 1810, she was brought to Illinois and converted into a registered servant.” U.S. Census records consistently show Nance’s place of birth as Maryland, and indicate that she was born circa 1813. However, Adams’ research into Nance’s family history shows that she was born in Kaskaskia, Illinois, not Maryland. It was rather her master Nathan Cromwell who was born in Maryland, and presumably Nance, not knowing where she was born, herself came to believe she was born in Maryland as well. Her parents and siblings, who perhaps could have reminded her of where she was born, were sold away from her in 1827, when Nance was about 14. It was Nance’s parents Randol and Anachy (Ann) Legins, not Nance herself, who were brought to Illinois (by Nathaniel Green) – but they were from South Carolina, not Maryland.

Next, on the same page Heerman says, “In 1828, Nathan Cromwell sold Nance at public auction to John Howard. She disputed her sale before the Illinois Supreme Court, in Nance, a Negro girl v. John Howard (1828), . . . .” This is a remarkable instance of confusion on Heerman’s part. Howard did not purchase Nance; he rather oversaw the auction whereby Nance, an indentured servant of Thomas Cox, was sold to Nathan Cromwell. Heerman’s confusion seems to have arisen from his overlooking the earlier case of Nance v. Cromwell, and from misreading the court documents in Nance v. Howard.

Heerman once more returns to the story of Nance and her family in his concluding chapter (pp.166-167). There he correctly recalls that “In 1841, Abraham Lincoln helped to free Nance Cromwell from bondage in a local case, and during the war, her son William Costley took up arms.” But at this point we again encounter some very serious errors of fact.

Heerman proceeds to say that Nance’s son William “enlisted in the 26th Volunteers, and after fighting in Missouri and Mississippi, the company went to Virginia, where on April 9, 1865, Costley witnessed Lee’s formal surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.

Shown here is the white Union soldier William Henry Costley (1845-1903) of Weldon, DeWitt County, Illinois, who is not to be confused with the black soldier William Henry Costley/Cosley (1840-1888) of Pekin, Tazewell County, Illinois. Image is from the Logan Collection of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, and may also be found at the Find-A-Grave memorial of William H. Costley of Weldon.

On this point, Heerman and his fact checker should have paused to consider how and why a black man, William Costley, would have served in a white Union regiment during the Civil War. Even more remarkable, on p.167 Heerman presents the photograph of a white Union soldier whose name, regiment, and company are written in cursive hand as “William Costley, Co. D, the 26 Ills Volls.” Heerman’s caption for this photo reads, “William Costley, son of Ben and Nancy Cromwell, age about twenty-one, Boys in Blue, Logan Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Springfield Ill.” (The same photo may be seen at William Costley’s Find-A-Grave memorial.) This same image appears on the front cover of Heerman’s book.

In fact, William Costley was the son of Ben and Nancy Costley, not Cromwell. “Cromwell” was one of the surnames that Nance bore during her lifetime – specifically, during the time she spent as a servant and ward of Nathan Cromwell. (Before that, she would have been known as Nance Legins and then Nance Cox, and the Peoria County marriage records of her children also give her a maiden name of “Allen”.) In this case, Heerman made a simple mental slip, for in his book he usually refers to Nance as “Nance Cromwell.”

However, he clearly has misidentified the white soldier William Henry Costley (1845-1903) of Weldon, DeWitt County, Illinois, as the black soldier William Henry Costley/Cosley (1840-1888) of Pekin, Tazewell County, Illinois. Nance’s son William (Bill) served in the 29th U.S. Colored Infantry, Co. B. – and although the 29th U.S.C.I. was present (along with the 26th Illinois Volunteers) at Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Bill himself was not there, because (as his pension file says) he was wounded in action on April 1 and subsequently was sent to a military hospital. Bill recovered in time, however, to take part in the landing at Galveston, Texas, on 18 June 1865, and thus was present for the first Juneteenth.

Incidentally, Carl Adams believes the white Costleys of DeWitt County may have formerly been the owners of Nance’s husband Benjamin Costley – a fascinating possibility that I have not been able to confirm or disprove. All we know at present is that Ben Costley was a free black, born in Illinois, and first appears on record in the 1840 U.S. Census as a head of household in Tazewell County, where he and Nance married on 15 Oct. 1840.

As I mentioned above, generally speaking Heerman’s work seems to make for a compelling study of the way slavery perdured in Illinois despite laws banning it — and he rightly and very helpfully places the story of Nance Legins-Costley in its broader historical context. However, Heerman’s fact errors and misinterpretation of primary documents regarding the story of Nance and her family (matters with which I have had occasion to become familiar), give us reason to be cautious and critical regarding his treatment of historical examples elsewhere in his book.

#29th-u-s-colored-infantry, #a-lincoln-prairie-lawyer, #abraham-lincoln, #anachy-legins, #benjamin-costley, #carl-adams, #col-thomas-cox, #first-slave-freed-by-abraham-lincoln, #guy-fraker, #illinois-history, #john-howard, #john-j-duff, #juneteenth, #lincolns-ladder-to-the-presidency, #m-scott-heerman, #michael-burlingame, #nance-cromwell, #nance-legins-costley, #nathan-cromwell, #nathaniel-green, #pekin-history, #randol-legins, #the-alchemy-of-slavery, #the-black-mans-president, #william-h-bates, #william-henry-costley

The World Almanac of 1868

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

The World Almanac of 1868

By Jared Olar

Local History Specialist

While most of the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection pertains strictly to Pekin and Tazewell County, the collection also includes many items of a wider historical interest. One of them is a facsimile reprint of the very first edition of The World Almanac.

In the years after its appearance, The World Almanac would become a standard, handy reference work annually chronicling the events and statistics of the world. However, that is not why it is called “The World” Almanac. In fact, it wasn’t envisaged as a comprehensive almanac of the world, but originated as the almanac published by a newspaper called “The New York World.” That newspaper went out of business in 1966, but the almanac survived.

The first World Almanac came out in 1868, only three years after the end of the Civil War and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. The first edition was only 120 pages in length. The 2014 edition has 1,008 pages. Since 1868, The World Almanac has been published annually apart from a 10-year hiatus from 1876 to 1886.

This advertisement for the “improved” Universal Clothes Wringer was included in the 1868 World Almanac.

As an almanac, naturally the 1868 World Almanac begins with a few pages about astronomy and “the weather,” that is, the appearance, movements and locations of the sun, moon, planets and stars, opening with a list of solar eclipses and planetary transits of the sun. The almanac makes no reference to the planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. In 1868, the existence of the dwarf planet Pluto was not yet known (it would not be discovered until 1930), but Uranus and Neptune had been discovered in 1781 and 1846, respectively. However, because they were not visible to the naked eye, their appearance and motion did not qualify as “weather” as the compilers of The World Almanac understood it.

The 1868 World Almanac also includes agricultural, economic and financial data, lists of the names of government officials, members of Congress, and foreign ambassadors, and election returns from each state of the union. The almanac gives a somewhat extended treatment to documents of the U.S. federal government that had to do with the process of post-Civil War “Reconstruction” and constitutional amendments, as well as the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson.

The almanac’s chronicle of “Important Events in 1867” mentions that Illinois ratified the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on Jan. 15 of that year. The governor of Illinois in 1867 was Richard J. Oglesby, and the state’s debt amounted to $6,832,00 in civil debt and $790,000 in war debt.

In the section on the state election returns for Illinois, the almanac comments, “There was no general election in Illinois in 1867; the results of the county elections, however, showed democratic gains, though neither party polled its full vote.” The table of election returns includes two columns showing the county-by-county results in the presidential election of 1864, when, according to the 1868 World Almanac, Illinois cast a total of 189,949 votes for Abraham Lincoln and 158,730 votes for his Democratic opponent, Gen. George B. McClellan. (Other reference works say the vote tallies were 189,512 for Lincoln and 158,724 for McClellan.)

Shown here is the first page of the 1868 World Almanac, listing that year’s eclipses and the risings and settings of 61 bright stars — phenomena that traditionally were classified as “weather.”

#14th-amendment, #abraham-lincoln, #gen-george-b-mcclellan, #gov-richard-j-oglesby, #new-york-world, #preblog-columns, #president-andrew-johnson, #world-almanac-of-1868

Making the Eighth Circuit with Lincoln

By Jared Olar

Local History Specialist

It was a century ago that the Lincoln Circuit Marking Association, led by Lottie Jones of Danville, Ill., under the auspices of the Daughters of the American Revolution, placed historical markers at all of the county courthouses and county-line crossings along the route of the old Eighth Judicial Circuit that Abraham Lincoln and his fellow attorneys traveled from 1847 to 1859.

In observance of the 100th anniversary of the placing of the Lincoln Circuit Markers, on Washington’s Birthday, Monday, Feb. 21, the Tazewell County Courthouse hosted a rededication ceremony. The dignitaries in attendance included 10th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Katherine Gorman, Tazewell County Presiding Judge Paul Gilfillan, Tazewell County State’s Attorney Stewart Umholtz, Tazewell Circuit Clerk Lincoln Hobson, Mayor Gary Manier of Washington, Mayor Elizabeth Skinner of Delavan, and Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman. Each of them spoke at the event.

The event’s keynote speaker was Guy C. Fraker, a retired attorney and Lincoln scholar, author of “Looking for Lincoln in Illinois: A Guide to Lincoln’s Eighth Judicial Circuit” (2017). Fraker’s book is a historical tour guide that traces the Eighth Judicial Circuit and highlights aspects of Lincoln’s life and career as an Illinois attorney in the old Eighth Circuit.

As a part of the rededication of the Circuit Markers, and to bring renewed attention to the markers, Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman donated author-signed copies of Fraker’s book to Tazewell County’s public libraries. The Pekin Public Library’s copy is now a part of the library’s Local History collection.

In his book, Fraker provides detailed directions to each of the courthouses and Lincoln Circuit Markers, as well as some of the more notable Lincoln sites readily accessible along the circuit route. Pages 15-21 of Fraker’s book tell about some of lawyer Lincoln’s Tazewell County connections, including links to Delavan, Tremont, Pekin, and Washington.

Tazewell County, says Fraker on page 15:

“. . . provided Lincoln with a solid political base of support in the 1840s, although that support weakened with the rise of the slavery issue in the 1850s. It was the Circuit’s third largest county in population during this period, and Lincoln had more business there than in any county other than Sangamon and Menard. Tazewell lawyers were some of the best on the Circuit, and they included among their ranks Benjamin Prettyman and William Kellogg of Pekin, Benjamin James and Edward Jones of Tremont, and Norman Purple and Henry Grove of Peoria.”

On page 20, Fraker relates a colorful Lincoln anecdote from the 1850 Tazewell County Courthouse, when courtroom proceedings were interrupted by a bat:

“On one occasion in the Pekin courtroom, a trapped bat flew wildly around the chamber. The judge enlisted the lanky Lincoln to drive it out. At first he tried to do so by twirling his coat after the bat, but when that failed to work, he got a broom and successfully drove the flying rodent out the window.”

Two of the county-line crossing Circuit Markers are associated with Tazewell County. One of them is the Logan-Tazewell County Line Marker, on Delavan Road near the county border, located at the southwest corner of the intersection of County Roads 2000E and 0000N (on page 15 of Fraker’s book). The other is the Tazewell-Woodford County Line Marker, located at the northeast corner of Tazewood and Nofsinger roads a few miles north of Washington.

This photograph of the Logan-Tazewell County Line Marker and a map showing its location may be viewed on the “Springfield to Peoria Stage Road” tab at the Tazewell County Historical StoryMap website.

#abraham-lincoln, #benjamin-james, #benjamin-prettyman, #edward-jones, #eighth-judicial-circuit, #guy-fraker, #henry-grove, #john-ackerman, #lincoln-circuit-marking-association, #logan-tazewell-county-line-marker, #looking-for-lincoln-in-illinois, #lottie-jones, #norman-purple, #storymap-of-tazewell-county, #tazewell-woodford-county-line-marker, #william-kellogg