Tazewell County’s historian wasn’t from Tazewell County

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

One of the most important standard reference works on the early history of Tazewell County was Charles C. Chapman’s “History of Tazewell County, Illinois.” Published in 1879, only 52 years after Tazewell County was created, this 794-page volume draws upon official documents, publications (including local historian William H. Bates’ 1876 Pekin City Directory), and living recollections of the county’s early settlers to tell the stories of Tazewell’s founders and pioneers.

Local historians and genealogists owe Chapman a great debt for compiling and editing this history. It’s only natural to wonder who Charles C. Chapman was and what led him to prepare this book. As we shall see, to answer those questions we’ll need to compare apples and oranges.

While it’s common for authors or editors to provide some biographical information about themselves in their books, in this case we get little help from Chapman’s title page and preface. All we can learn from them is that Chapman signed his preface from Pekin, and that the book was printed and published by Charles C. Chapman and Co. in Chicago.

The preface signature doesn’t necessarily mean Chapman made Pekin his home, and in fact he did not. He wasn’t even from Tazewell County. Chapman probably only spent time in Pekin and Tazewell County for the purpose of researching and compiling the county’s history, but in the 1870s his home was in fact in Chicago, where his publishing company was based.

Charles C. Chapman

Charles C. Chapman

If he wasn’t even a Tazewellite, why was he interested in Tazewell County history? A “Genealogy Today” article from 2010, titled, “From Apples to Oranges: Portrait and Biographical Albums,” explains:

“The Chapman family, which formed Chapman Bros. and Chapman Publishing, traces its history back to John Chapman, or Johnny Appleseed to most of us. Johnny’s journeys resulted in part of the family migrating to Chicago. In the Windy City, Frank M. Chapman and Charles O. Chapman went into business as Chapman Bros. Located at 71 and 73 W. Monroe Street in Chicago, Chapman Brothers were printers, publishers, and lithographers.

“Their most prolific publications were the ‘Portrait and Biographical Albums.’ They had stumbled onto a creative way to write all those biographies. They charged customers to have their biography included — and then the customer did the writing!”

Frank and Charles had a cousin, named Charles Clarke Chapman, born July 2, 1853 in Macomb, Ill., the son of Sidney Smith Chapman (1827-1893) and Rebecca Jane Clarke (1830-1874). Charles Clarke occasionally collaborated with Frank and Charles in producing “Portrait and Biographical Records” as well as histories of counties from several Midwestern states (chiefly Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Kansas, Nebraska, Ohio and Michigan).

“From Apples to Oranges” continues:

“Another relative, Charles Clark (sic) Chapman, took part in producing some of the histories. Born in Macomb, Illinois, Charles Clark Chapman had hoped to attend Eureka College in Eureka, Illinois, but could not afford the tuition. Instead he headed West and made his fortune in California real estate and is credited with introducing the Valencia orange to the American market.

“While he never did attend college, Charles Clark Chapman does have a university named in his honor. Hesperian College was foundering financially and Charles Clarke Chapman bailed them out. It probably wasn’t too difficult since he was one of the founders of the Farmers and Merchants Bank in Fullerton, Calif. Later the bank become known as the Bank of Italy and eventually it became what it is today: the Bank of America. Out of gratitude, the college renamed itself Chapman University.”

To be precise, the college renamed itself Chapman College, and it later became a university. Its namesake, who hadn’t been able to afford the $100 tuition to Eureka College, was none other than the Charles C. Chapman who compiled and edited the 1879 Tazewell County history. In the same year, several other county histories came out under his name, some published by Chapman Bros., some by Charles C. Chapman and Co.

Valuable as Chapman’s “History of Tazewell County” is, it’s remarkable that Chapman wasn’t even a Tazewell County pioneer, but instead was a successful Gilded Age land agent, banker, oil man, and orange grower (known as “The Orange King of California”), even being elected Mayor of Fullerton in Orange County, Calif. His autobiography was later published as “The Career of a Creative Californian 1853-1944.” Charles Clarke Chapman died April 5, 1944, in Fullerton, and is buried with his wives and family in a grand monument tomb in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, Calif.

#chapman-brothers, #charles-c-chapman, #johnny-appleseed, #tazewell-county-history, #valencia-orange

Robert Strickland, lost and found

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Among the stories and anecdotes of Tazewell County’s early settlers, we find a tale of a little lost boy on page 535 of Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County.” The story, which concerns the earliest history of Morton Township, is as follows:

“In the early settlement of this country it was not uncommon for children to get lost, yet when they did the intensest excitement prevailed in the neighborhood. When Robert G. Strickland was only two years old, he started out to find his father. The surrounding country there was one vast wilderness of brush and timber. He was soon missed, but no traces of his whereabouts could be had for some fifteen hours. The whole settlement turned out in search of the child. Three district schools dismissed, that all might join in the search. A Mr. Baricks found him over a mile from the house, and took him to Samuel Tart’s, who had just lost a little boy, and their girl was so glad she had another little brother. Mrs. Tart had a little niece about the same age of the lost boy, who lived with her. He was tired and dirty, and his clothes all torn and face badly scratched. To this day he wears the scars on his face. He was dressed in the clothing of her little niece by Mrs. Tart, and was sleeping sweetly when his father called for him. We will close this narrative by stating that the lost boy is now the husband of the little girl whose dresses he was clothed with. He resides on the same old farm, and has seven children, none of whom has he lost either by death or straying.”

One year after Chapman included this story in his county history, Robert Strickland and his family were enumerated in the 1880 U.S. Census, which shows Robert as a 44-year-old farmer in Morton Township, with his wife Rebecca, 39, and their seven children Sarah, 16, William, 15, Eva, 12, Laura, 10, Robert, 7, James, 5, and Myra, 2.

Various Ancestry.com family trees provide additional information, including published obituaries and gravestone photographs, telling of the lives and deaths of the little lost boy who had been clothed in the dress of the little girl he would eventually marry.

Robert Gilson Strickland was born in May of 1836, in Nashville, Tenn., a son of Thomas Monroe and Susan Agee (Bondurant) Strickland. Robert’s wife was Rebecca Frances Drury, born in July of 1839, daughter of William and Sarah (Wells) Drury.  In his old age, Robert and Rebecca moved to McLean, Lawndale Township, McLean County, Illinois, where they lived with their son James.

It was at his son James’ home that Robert died of a brain hemorrhage on Aug. 9, 1910. One of his published obituaries states, “At the age of 6 months he moved with his parents to Washington, Tazewell county, Ill., and there grew to manhood … He was married in 1861, and nine (sic) children were born to bless this union.” He was buried in Wiley Cemetery, Colfax, McLean County. Robert’s widow Rebecca died 13 years later in Footville, Wisconsin, on Jan. 17, 1923.

#charles-c-chapman, #morton-township, #tazewell-county-history