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

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Celebrating and mapping Tazewell County’s history

Jared Olar
Library assistant

The opening of Illinois’ Bicentennial Year A.D. 2017-2018 was marked across the state last winter with formal ceremonies in which local governments raised the official State Bicentennial flag. The chief flag-raising for Tazewell County took place on the Tazewell County Courthouse lawn, in a ceremony organized and presented by the Tazewell County Illinois Bicentennial Committee.

Since then, the committee, made up of representatives of local communities and organizations, has continued to meet on a monthly basis to help with the ongoing celebration of the Bicentennial in Tazewell County. Among the events gearing up for the celebration of Illinois’ 200th birthday this December was an Illinois Bicentennial Tea, presented May 12 at the Pekin Park Pavilion by the Tazewell County Museum and the Pekin Woman’s Club. The event was attended by about 30 people, who listened to a historical address by Stu Fliege, director of the Illinois State Historical Society in Springfield.

One of the committee’s projects has been the construction of an online historical StoryMap of Tazewell County, an initiative of the Tazewell County Board. Janna Baker, Tazewell County geographic information system coordinator, has been at work on the StoryMap, adding the locations of county historical sites along with information about them that she has researched or that committee members have provided.

Shown is a screenshot of the Tazewell County Historical StoryMap, a local Illinois Bicentennial project that can serve as an information resource for local historical education. IMAGE COURTESY THE TAZEWELL COUNTY ILLINOIS BICENTENNIAL COMMITTEE

The sites on the Tazewell County Historical StoryMap are organized under four page tabs: Historical Places of Interest, National Register of Historic Places, State Historical Markers, and the Springfield-to-Peoria Stage Coach Road.

The Historical Places of Interest range from the sites of the county’s first courthouse in Mackinaw and the old French trading post in Creve Coeur early in Tazewell County’s history, to the location of the Little Mine Riot and the nation’s first Vacation Bible School (both of which happened in 1894), to the former Springlake Clubhouse (where infamous Chicago gangster Al Capone is said to have gone hunting) and the Deer Creek-Mackinaw Middle School World War II memorial.

The average Tazewell County resident is probably unaware that the county has 12 structures on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Old Post Office, the Tazewell County Courthouse, and the Carl Herget Mansion in Pekin, the Dement-Zinser House and Denhart Bank Building in Washington, and the Waltmire Bridge across the Mackinaw about five miles south of Tremont.

Tazewell County also has four State Historical Markers, including one for the Riverboat Columbia Disaster of 1918 at the Pekin riverfront, and one for Fort Crevecoeur, which was the first European structure built in the future Tazewell County in 1680.

The StoryMap also traces the path of the old Springfield-to-Peoria state road, a stage coach route that the Illinois General Assembly established as an official state road in Feb. 1827, just a month after they had formed Tazewell County. The route is now known as Springfield Road, though it has been a long time since it has gone all the way from Springfield to Peoria. One fascinating historical detail is that Abraham Lincoln once owned land along Springfield Road in Tazewell County.

Even after the State Bicentennial Year concludes on Dec. 3, 2018, the StoryMap will continue to be available as an educational resource.

The Tazewell County Historical StoryMap may be viewed HERE.

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