Lost town of Circleville featured in WEEK-TV segment

The lost Tazewell County town of Circleville, and the town’s most (in)famous residents, the Berry Gang, are the subject of a special segment by WEEK-TV weeknight anchor Caitlin Knute which aired during the 10 p.m. news on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016:

SPECIAL REPORT – Circleville: A Lost Town and its Most Infamous Residents

Circleville was previously the subject of a weblog post here:

The lost town of Circleville

Click on the “Circleville” tag below for other mentions of this town at “From the History Room.”

The old Tazewell County Courthouse Block is shown in this detail from an "Aerial View of Pekin," a unique map that was printed in 1877. The old Courthouse, which stood from 1850 to 1914, is near the middle of this image. To its left are two buildings -- at the corner of Fourth and Elizabeth was a building that held county offices for elected officials such as county clerk, recorder of deeds, etc.  Just below that, at the corner of Fourth and Court, is the old Tazewell County Jail and Sheriff's Residence (which was replaced in 1891 -- today it's the location of the McKenzie Building, which was built as a new jail in the 1960s).  Since this map was drawn in 1877, it's only eight years after Bill Berry's lynching in 1869, which took place outside the jail at the corner of Court and Fourth.  Note that there are four trees represented in front of the jail -- there's no telling which of them was Berry's gallows tree.

The old Tazewell County Courthouse Block is shown in this detail from an “Aerial View of Pekin,” a unique map that was printed in 1877. The old Courthouse, which stood from 1850 to 1914, is near the middle of this image. To its left are two buildings — at the corner of Fourth and Elizabeth was a building that held county offices for elected officials such as county clerk, recorder of deeds, etc. Just below that, at the corner of Fourth and Court, is the old Tazewell County Jail and Sheriff’s Residence (which was replaced in 1891 — today it’s the location of the McKenzie Building, which was built as a new jail in the 1960s). Since this map was drawn in 1877, it’s only eight years after Bill Berry’s lynching in 1869, which took place outside the jail at the corner of Court and Fourth. Note that there are four trees represented in front of the jail — there’s no telling which of them was Berry’s gallows tree.

#berry-gang, #caitlin-knute, #circleville, #jim-conover, #lynch-law, #pekin-history, #tazewell-county-history, #week-tv, #william-berry

Why they called the private ‘Major’

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Twice before in this column space, we have spotlighted the life and death of one of Pekin’s co-founders, Major Isaac Perkins, who was killed in the battle known as Stillman’s Run on May 14, 1832, during the Black Hawk War. We first looked at Perkins in a column published on Aug. 3, 2013, and again examined Stillman’s Run in a column published last summer, on July 25, 2015.

This is the signature of Major Isaac Perkins on the pages of minutes from the 1829-1830 planning meetings for Pekin's founding. Perkins was one of the four original platholders of Pekin. IMAGE COURTESY  OF TAZEWELL COUNTY COURTS ADMINISTRATOR COURTNEY EETEN

This is the signature of Major Isaac Perkins on the pages of minutes from the 1829-1830 planning meetings for Pekin’s founding. Perkins was one of the four original platholders of Pekin. IMAGE COURTESY OF TAZEWELL COUNTY COURTS ADMINISTRATOR COURTNEY EETEN

Our first look at Major Isaac Perkins presented some of the findings of the genealogical research of the family of Cathie Butler Pipkins of Olympia, Wash., who is a descendant of Perkins’ youngest son James. (Incidentally, Pipkins is the sister of Tim Butler, Illinois House Representative for the 87th district, which includes the part of Tazewell County where their ancestors Isaac and Jane Barker Perkins were pioneer settlers.)

But despite great progress in reconstructing Isaac Perkins’ life and ancestry, one question remained unanswered: Why did the standard histories of Tazewell County and Pekin refer to him as “Major” Isaac Perkins when he had only the rank of “Private” during his Illinois State Militia service in the Black Hawk War?

Pipkins recently emailed the Pekin Public Library with the news, “Mystery on the ‘Major’ title solved!”

In her email, she wrote, “According to the index card catalog at the Illinois State Archives in Springfield, he was commissioned as Major of the Illinois Militia, Peoria County Battalion, 22 Sept. 1826. Source: Illinois Executive Record, 1818-1832, Vol. 1, p.138. Also, in the Governor’s Correspondence, Vol. 2, 27 July 1827, there’s a record of Isaac Perkins as Major commanding the Peoria odd battalion.”

Prior to Pipkins’ discovery, the best guess is that Perkins had held the rank of Major during earlier militia service. That’s exactly what the information from the State Archives shows.

Pipkins also found some records that document another detail of her ancestor’s life mentioned in old Tazewell County histories – namely, that Perkins had served as Tazewell County Recorder of Deeds.

“Also, in the index file is a record of his nomination as recorder for Tazewell Co. He was commissioned as Tazewell Co. Recorder on 14 Feb. 1827. Source: Illinois Executive Record, 1818-1832, Vol. 1, p.151. His resignation as Tazewell Recorder is noted in the Senate Journal, 1828-29, p.165, but no date is given on the index card of which I have a copy.”

Another fascinating record of Isaac Perkins’ family is the obituary of his daughter Elizabeth “Lizzie” Perkins Uhl High, who died April 15, 1898 in Peoria and is buried in Springdale Cemetery. Her obituary was published on two successive days, in the April 16-17, 1898, issues of The Peoria Herald. The obituaries help shed further light on the experiences of Tazewell County’s pioneers. Here is the second one, headlined, “Funeral of Mrs. High – First White Child of Tazewell County is No More.”

“The funeral services of Mrs. Elizabeth High, wife of J. R. High, and the first white child of Tazewell county, was held yesterday afternoon at the home, 302 Hayward street, Rev. L. Kirtley, of the First Baptist church, officiating. The services were largely attended by many of the real old settlers of this city and from around her old home at Circleville, Tazewell county. She was the first female white child born in Tazewell. Her father, Major Perkins, helped drive out the Indians during the Black Hawk war. [Note: Though Perkins was killed at Stillman’s Run, the result of that war was the clearing of all Native American tribes from Illinois.] She was born between Pekin and Circleville, October 21, 1827, and was married about forty years ago. Her father conducted a relief station at Circleville. The Indians murdered the travelers, but never harmed Major Perkins or his family. Several times little Miss Perkins was stolen from the family, but was never harmed. She was returned in a few days loaded down with beads and presents.”

#black-hawk-war, #circleville, #elizabeth-perkins-uhl-high, #isaac-perkins, #pekin-history, #stillmans-run, #tazewell-county-history

The life and death of Major Isaac Perkins

Here’s a chance to read again one of our old Local History Room columns, first published in August 2013 before the launch of this blog . . .

The life and death of Major Isaac Perkins

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Among the pioneer settlers of Tazewell County was a man named Isaac Perkins. Though little remembered today, he was a figure not only in the county’s early history but also played a role in the founding of Pekin and took part in an important formative event in Illinois history. In this column, we will sketch Perkins’ life with the help of publications in the library’s Local History Room collection and materials supplied by Cathie Butler Pipkins of Olympia, Wash., a descendant of Isaac Perkins’ youngest son James.

Isaac Perkins was born in 1795 in Livingston County, Kentucky, one of the seven children of Solomon and Elizabeth (Miller) Perkins. Solomon was born in western North Carolina in the 1750s and died around 1809 in southern Illinois. He is mentioned in early Illinois history as the first permanent settler in the Cave-in-the-Rock area of southern Illinois in the early 1800s.

On Nov. 7, 1813, in Pope County, Ill., Isaac, then 18 years old, married Jane Barker (1797-1862), daughter of Lewis Barker, a neighbor of Solomon Perkins who, like Solomon, had been born in North Carolina and settled in Livingston County, Kentucky, before coming to Cave-in-the-Rock. During the War of 1812, Barker had served as a captain in the Wabash Territory Illinois Militia, and in 1818 he was elected the first Illinois state senator for Pope County. In that year, Barker’s son-in-law Isaac Perkins served as a Justice of the Peace in Franklin County, Illinois. Isaac and his wife Jane had eight children. In the 1820s, Solomon Perkins’ sons Elisha and Isaac moved to the future Tazewell County, arriving about a year after pioneer settler Nathan Dillon. Elisha’s wife Susannah was a sister of Isaac’s wife Jane.

In his 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” page 205, Charles C. Chapman says, “In 1824 Nathan Dillon was followed by his brothers with their families, who settled on the creek around him. Then came George and Isham Wright to Hittle’s Grove, Esau and William Orendorff to Sugar Creek, Isaac Perkins, Hugh Woodrow, William Woodrow, Samuel Woodrow, John Summers, Jacob and Jonathan Tharp, Peter Scott and others, came into Sand Prairie in 1824.”

Chapman elsewhere mentions the appointment of Isaac Perkins as a county election judge for Sand Prairie precinct, and that Isaac’s brother Elisha built one of the first mills in Sand Prairie Township. It was Elisha who laid out the now vanished town of Circleville in the northeast corner of the township. Upon their arrival in Sand Prairie, Isaac and Elisha had built crude cabins in Section 1. Elisha remained in that location, while Isaac acquired extensive land not only in Sand Prairie but also at the future site of Pekin.

In 1825, Isaac served as a Justice of the Peace for Peoria County, when then included the territory that would become Tazewell County. After the creation of Tazewell in 1827, Isaac was the county’s first Recorder of Deed, and the very first legal document in the Recorder’s office, dated July 6, 1827, bears his name (A digital image of this document may be seen at http://www.tcghs.org/photo0500.htm).

In 1829, Isaac was one of the four original plat deed owners of Pekin. The other three plat owners were Gideon Hawley, William Haines and Nathan Cromwell. It was Cromwell’s wife Ann Eliza who chose the name “Pekin” for the Town Site on the Illinois River that the four men had platted out. Ann Eliza was a sister of Isaac Perkins’ wife Jane Barker and Elisha Perkins’ wife Susannah Barker. Nathan Cromwell, reportedly with the assistance of his wife Ann Eliza, named the city streets in the original town of Pekin after the wives and daughters of the first settlers here. Susannah Street was named for Elisha Perkins’ wife (although in his list of Pekin’s feminine-named streets, Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 Tazewell County history garbled Isaac with his brother Elisha).

The early publications on Pekin and Tazewell history usually refer to Isaac as “Major Isaac Perkins.” Genealogical researchers of the Perkins family plausibly explain that he probably acquired that rank from an otherwise unknown tour of duty with the Illinois State Militia. Isaac’s only known military service, however, was as a Private in the Black Hawk War of 1832, when he served in the 5th Illinois Regiment Brigade of Mounted Volunteers under the command of Major Isaac Stillman and Major David Bailey.

Stillman and his men, including Perkins, engaged Black Hawk’s forces on May 14, 1832, in the first battle of the Black Hawk War, known as the Battle of Sycamore, or better remembered as Stillman’s Run, which took place at a location about midway between Dixon and Rockford in Ogle County. Chapman tells the story of the battle on pages 258-261 of his 1879 history. Having unwittingly made camp near Black Hawk’s warriors, Stillman’s ill-trained and undisciplined men were immediately thrown into a panic and complete disarray, and the battle, such as it was, quickly became a chaotic retreat (hence the mocking name, “Stillman’s Run”). Black Hawk’s warriors easily slaughtered, scalped and beheaded the few soldiers who attempted to make a stand. Among them was Private Isaac Perkins. His youngest child, James, was then only three months old.

Coming upon the gory scene the next day was a state militia brigade led by a 23-year-old captain named Abraham Lincoln, who with his men gathered the remains of the fallen and buried in a common grave at the battle site, near a creek that consequently was named Stillman’s Creek. In 1901, a monument was erected at the site, which today is at the east end of the town of Stillman Valley.

See also “Eyewitness Accounts of Stillman’s Defeat


#cathie-butler-pipkins, #circleville, #isaac-perkins, #pekin-history, #preblog-columns, #stillman-valley, #stillmans-run

Daniel Sapp’s life and times

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

In a previous column, we told of the popular horse race track and fair grounds that used to exist in the area where the Pekin Housing Authority residences are now located. For much of its existence, the race track was owned and operated by a prominent local farmer, land owner and public official named Daniel Sapp, popularly known in the area as “Uncle Dan Sapp.” This week we’ll turn a spotlight on Sapp’s life and times.

Though he was probably best known for his race track, Sapp also enjoyed success in agriculture and as a breeder of horses. He also held several public offices in Tazewell County. His biography was included in the 1894 “Portrait and Biographical Record of Tazewell and Mason Counties, Illinois,” pages 335-36, which enumerated his record of public service up to that point as follows:

“A Democrat in politics, Mr. Sapp served for twelve years as Supervisor of Spring Lake Township, and was the Chairman of the County Board for some time. In 1886 he was nominated for County Treasurer, and was elected by a majority of two hundred, he and one other candidate being the only Democrats who secured election that fall. Entering upon the duties of the office in December, 1886, he served with efficiency until December, 1890.”

Three years after the publication of his biography, Sapp went on to run successfully for mayor of Pekin, serving a two-year term. He later ran again for mayor in 1905 and served a second two-year term. In memory of his service and achievements, Sapp Street in Pekin was named for him.

No doubt one of the things that helped him achieve the success and prominence he enjoyed were her personal connections – he was related by marriage to the important Prettyman family of Pekin. Sapp was married twice, both times to members of the Prettyman family. His first wife was Elizabeth (Prettyman) Offutt, who passed away in 1887. He remarried in March 1893 to Nellie (Prettyman) Smith, who was his first wife’s niece – Nellie was one of the daughters of Pekin pioneer and attorney Benjamin S. Prettyman, who had held several public offices and had himself served a term as Pekin mayor.

Here are excerpts from Sapp’s published biography from the “Portrait and Biographical Record”:

“Daniel Sapp, proprietor of the Spring Lake Stock Farm, and one of the successful stockmen of the Illinois Valley, was born in Fleming County, Ky., May 18, 1842. When a mere child he was left an orphan and thus thrown upon his own resources. At the age of fourteen years, in 1856, he accompanied a stock trader to Bloomington, Ill., where he worked on a stock farm at Randolph Grove for two years. As may be imagined, his school advantages were necessarily very meagre, and all the knowledge he now possesses has been practically acquired by self-culture.

“The year 1858 witnessed the arrival of Mr. Sapp in Spring Lake Township, Tazewell County, where he assisted in breaking prairie and doing farm work, being for three years in the employ of one man, and receiving as compensation for his services forty acres of land in Peoria County. Of this property he was naturally quite proud, as it was the first he had ever owned and had been gained through his unaided exertions. In 1861 he entered the employ of the Memphis Ice Company and went south for them, having charge of the ice barges. He also attended to the unloading and sale of ice, and the securing of the collections. In May, 1861, when travel was especially dangerous on account of the war, he went south as far as the mouth of the Arkansas River with two barges, and on his return to Memphis Dr. Smith, of that place, gave him a letter to Gen. M. Pope, which secured his passage through the lines. He then returned to Spring Lake Township.

“In 1863 Mr. Sapp was united in marriage with Mrs. Elizabeth (Prettyman) Offutt, a native of Delaware. After that event he settled on his present farm and engaged in raising grain and stock. From time to time he has added to his original purchase until his landed possessions now aggregate two thousand acres, for the most of which he paid $40 or $50 per acre. This farm is pleasantly situated on the Mackinaw River seven miles south of Pekin. Here he built a substantial residence, 72×36 feet in dimensions and two stories in height, which was the most elegant rural home in Tazewell County. Unfortunately the dwelling burned to the ground, but it was afterward replaced by another attractive and conveniently arranged house, a trifle smaller than the first. . . .

“After the death of his wife, in 1886 (sic – 1887), Mr. Sapp came to Pekin, and during the following year he purchased two hundred and thirty-two acres within the corporate limits of the city. Here he has a one-mile track, as fine as any in the state. The farm in itself is well improved with a barn, 100×36 feet in dimensions, with two wings 36×36 feet, and two large sheds outside. On the place are usually about one hundred horses. . . .

“In 1887 Mr. Sapp began breeding standard horses, commencing with ‘Billie Wilkes,’ which he still owns. . . . Mr. Sapp is one of the most extensive breeders of standard horses in central Illinois, and his reputation in that line is not limited to Pekin or Tazewell County, but extends throughout the state.

“The second marriage of Mr. Sapp occurred in March, 1893, uniting him with Mrs. Nellie Smith, a daughter of B. S. Prettyman; she is an accomplished lady, and was born and educated in Pekin. . . [Sapp] has traveled extensively throughout this country, and has been in every state except Florida and Washington.”

Just two years after completing his second term as mayor of Pekin, Daniel Sapp died July 13, 1909. He is buried in Lakeside Cemetery, Pekin, where his second wife Nellie is also buried. His first wife, Elizabeth, is buried in the old Prettyman Burying Ground near the former site of Circleville.


This lithograph engraving of Daniel Sapp’s residence on his stock farm south of Pekin was published in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County.”

#benjamin-prettyman, #circleville, #county-fairgrounds, #daniel-sapp, #horse-racing, #pekin-history, #uncle-dan-sapp

The lost town of Circleville

Here’s a chance to read again one of our old Local History Room columns, first published in September 2013 before the launch of this blog . . .

The lost town of Circleville

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

In a recent Local History Room column, we reviewed the history of Green Valley, which is the largest community in Sand Prairie Township. However, as noted in that column, prior to the founding of Green Valley, the title of largest community in the township belonged to Circleville.

Those who might wish to visit Circleville today will search for it in vain – the village is long gone, the land upon which once stood houses and businesses and streets ploughed under. The community was located a few miles southeast of South Pekin. Circleville Road, which used to be East Street in Circleville, is still there, but other than that all that remains of Circleville today is the Prettyman Burial Ground, the old cemetery that was located just south of town. If you’d like to pay your respects to those buried there, you can follow these directions, found at the Illinois Ancestors website:

“Starting from Pekin, at Koch and 14 street, travel south on 14th for about 6 miles, to Townline Road. Turn east (left) on Townline to Pfanz Rd. and travel 1/2 a mile. Travel south (right) on Pfanz Rd. for about  1/2 a mile. The cemetery will be on the left in the middle of a cornfield between Pfanz and Circleville Roads. Or you may take Route 29 south from Pekin to Townline Rd. Then east on Townline.”

If you do visit the Prettyman Burial Ground, don’t forget to wear your clod-stompers.

The previous column on Green Valley’s history quoted a passage about Circleville from page 13 of ”Green Valley, Illinois, Celebrates 125 Years! – 1872-1997.” Here again is what it says about Circleville, which was located in Section 1 of Sand Prairie Township, at the township’s northeast corner:

“This was the first town in the township. It was a stagecoach stop on the old stage line from Springfield to Pekin. As the inn was on rather high ground overlooking the Mackinaw bottom and surrounding prairie, when it came time for the stage to arrive the innkeeper would go upstairs, look out the window to see the coach, then rush downstairs to put potatoes on to boil for the meal. Another story was the open well where they used to cool the beer during the summer. One time someone placed the beer in a sack and when they went to draw it out of the well, the sack broke and the beer fell into the well.”

Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” page 617,” has the following to say about the first settlers of Section 1 of the township, including the founding inhabitants of Circleville. We recently reviewed the life and death of one of those settlers, Major Isaac Perkins:

“Elisha and Major Isaac Perkins settled on sec. 1, about 1824. Both of these gentlemen were active, enterprising pioneers, and were prominent in the early history of the county. Major Perkins was killed in the famous battle of Stillman’s Run, during the Black Hawk war. Isaac [sic – Elisha] moved to Iowa about twenty-five years ago. They came here from near Shawneetown, Ill. Gideon Hawley came from the East and settled on the section with the Perkins’. He died on the farm where Jas. Hamson now lives . . . Jno. Sommers was from North Carolina; he erected his cabin on section 1 . . . John Vancil was among the first to come; he settled on section 9, and is the only one of the earliest pioneers of this township now living. He resides in the town of Circleville. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1798. When he was but two years of age, his parents moved to Kentucky. Here he remained until he was nineteen years old, when he was married to Miss Nancy Tuley, who was born in North Carolina, Jan. 20, 1800. Her parents also moved to Kentucky when she was a child. Shortly after their marriage they came to Illinois, and to Tazewell county.”

On page 620 of his history, Chapman in passing mentions the founding of Circleville:

“There are two towns in the township. One of them, Circleville, is located upon section 1. It was laid off Aug. 7, 1837, by Spencer Field and E. M. Perkins. It will be seen, therefore, that Circleville is one of the oldest towns in the county.”

Circleville is perhaps best remembered as the home of the Berry Gang, a group of horse thieves and cattle rustlers who committed numerous crimes in Tazewell County during the lawless and violent 1860s. The core of the gang were four brothers of the Berry family, William (“Bill”), Isaac (“Ike”), Emanuel (“Man”) and Simeon (“Sim”). The story of their crimes and how the law caught up with them, leading to Bill Berry’s lynching in Pekin on July 31, 1869, is told at length in the book “Lynch Law,” written by retired Pekin police officers Jim Conover and James Brecher. The book includes photographs taken around 1939 of two buildings of Circleville that were key locations in the story – McFarland’s Saloon, where the Berry gang plotted an ambush of the lawmen who were seeking to arrest then, and Ditmon’s Grocery and Tobacco across the street from the saloon. Both structures, which were on East Street (Circleville Road) are long gone, and even by 1939 had long been abandoned.

What happened to Circleville that caused it to die? It could be that the bad reputation and painful memories from the Berry Gang days made it the sort of place where people preferred not to live and businessmen preferred not to invest money. Be that as it may, this pioneer prairie community thrived while it was on the old stage coach line, but during the golden age of railroads, communities that hoped to prosper needed a railroad. Being bypassed by the rail lines, in time Circleville dwindled and faded away.


The layout of the streets and lots of old Circleville are shown in this plat map. The Prettyman Burial Ground is indicated by the cross at the bottom.

#berry-gang, #circleville, #elisha-perkins, #green-valley, #isaac-perkins, #preblog-columns, #tazewell-county-history

Green Valley’s long and fertile history

Here’s a chance to read again one of our old Local History Room columns, first published in May 2013 before the launch of this blog . . .

Green Valley’s long and fertile history

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Recently this column took a brief look at the history of Creve Coeur, one of Pekin’s neighbors to the north, with the help of a published village history in the Local History Room collection of the Pekin Public Library.

This week we’ll turn our attention to one of Pekin’s neighbors to the south, Green Valley, with the help of another published history in the Local History Room collection – the Green Valley quasquicentennial volume, “Green Valley, Illinois, Celebrates 125 Years, 1872-1997,” also titled, “Quasquicentennial: Green Valley, Illinois, 1872-1997.”

Green Valley is a small rural community in the south of Sand Prairie Township, not too far north of Malone Township. As a small rural community, its history naturally would not be limited to the families and events of the village, but would include the landowners and farmers in the surrounding area. Consequently, the quasquicentennial volume puts a spotlight not only on Green Valley, but also on Sand Prairie and Malone townships.

Small though it is, Green Valley is the largest community in Sand Prairie Township. Prior to the beginning of Green Valley’s history, however, the title of largest community in the township was held by the vanished village of Circleville. Sand Prairie Township originally was called Jefferson Township, and it used to be larger than it is today, encompassing parts of what is now Malone Township. Around 1824 – the year Jonathan Tharp built his log cabin at the future site of Pekin – white settlers first came to the future site of Circleville, in Section 1 of the former Jefferson Township.

“This was the first town in the township,” the Green Valley history says. “It was a stagecoach stop on the old stage line from Springfield to Pekin. As the inn was on rather high ground overlooking the Mackinaw bottom and surrounding prairie, when it came time for the stage to arrive the innkeeper would go upstairs, look out the window to see the coach, then rush downstairs to put potatoes on to boil for the meal. Another story was the open well where they used to cool the beer during the summer. One time someone placed the beer in a sack and when they went to draw it out of the well, the sack broke and the beer fell into the well.”

Circleville later became notorious as the favored hangout of the Berry Gang, a group of outlaws led by four brothers, William, Isaac, Emanuel and Simeon Berry, who had a homestead just outside of Circleville. The criminal career and ultimate doom of the Berry Gang is told in “Lynch Law,” a book authored by local historians and retired law enforcement officers Jim Conover and James Brecher.

An 1864 atlas map of Tazewell County shows Circleville in the northeast corner of Sand Prairie Township, but one will search in vain for Green Valley on that map. In 1864, the land that would become Green Valley was then the Dickson and Schureman farmsteads. (Other long-established and familiar family names of Sand Prairie Township include Woodrow, Deppert and Talbott. The wealthy Cummings family of Pekin also used to own land in the township.) Nine years later, the 1873 atlas map of Sand Prairie shows both Circleville and Green Valley. But visitors to Sand Prairie Township today will find no trace of Circleville, which slowly dwindled away after the heyday of the Berry Gang.

“The land where Green Valley now stands was purchased from the government in 1852 by Samuel Schureman for $3 an acre,” the Greek Valley history says. “He built a one-room house on the side of the present Schureman homestead. Another house was where the 1912 grade school was later built. A Schureman tale is told of the days when wild game ran through the prairie grass and prairie chickens were so thick that when they flew to roost in the evenings on the rail fences, the rail could not be seen for the number of chickens covering it.”

On Oct. 19, 1872, the unincorporated village of Green Valley was platted out by Samuel Schureman. The little settlement’s development was anchored by the Illinois Central Railroad, which was built in 1870, and the Smith-Hippen grain elevator, which was built in 1872. The village celebrated its centennial in 1972, commemorating the original platting by Samuel Schureman, but another centennial milestone is only three years away: March 11, 2016, will be exactly 100 years from the date Green Valley was incorporated as a village.

The community formerly boasted its own newspaper, the Green Valley Banner, which was founded by Clark Nieukirk in the late 1890s and which continued to be printed until it fell victim to the Great Depression in the 1930s. Microfilms of the Green Valley Banner from July 15, 1897, to Dec. 28, 1922, are available in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room.

#berry-gang, #circleville, #green-valley, #preblog-columns, #schureman, #tazewell-county-history

Dead and aborted towns of Tazewell County

Judging from the number of “likes” and “shares” on Facebook and Twitter, a great deal of interest was generated by the column last month on Pekin’s mysterious and ephemeral suburb of “Hong Kong,” marked on an 1857 wall map of Tazewell County but appearing on no other map nor in any other known historical document.

Hong Kong, of course, is far from the only toponym that has vanished from the map. In April 1979, the late local historian Fred W. Soady Jr. prepared a “Preliminary Master List of Settlements in Tazewell County, Illinois” for the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society. Soady’s list includes many place names that have long since disappeared, some of the settlements existing for a short time before dying out, others flourishing for a good while before succumbing to trends and pressures of migration and economics. The town of Circleville south of Pekin is a better known example of a town that was founded early in Tazewell County, flourished for many years (being on an old stage coach route), but later faded and died.

In other cases, the places on Soady’s list are still inhabited today but were renamed at some point. As this column has discussed in the past, the old neighboring settlements of Fond du Lac (Fondulac) and Blue Town merged to become Hilton, which later was renamed East Peoria. Other nearby settlements we’ve discussed include Wesley City, which later adopted the name of Creve Coeur, while North Pekin formerly was called Radio City.

As for the village of Mackinaw, which was Tazewell County’s first county seat, its original name was “Mackinawtown.” Soady’s list includes an entry for “MACKINAW TOWN” (two words), with a note saying, “oldest name (1827-28) for MACKINAW.” However, an old copy of a plat in the TCGHS archives, probably drawn during the 1850s from an original plat legally filed and recorded in the 1830s, shows the name as “Mackinawtown” (one word).

The copy of the Mackinawtown plat, along with another copy of a plat for the “Town of Mackinaw” (made from an original plat filed May 26, 1830, with Tazewell County Recorder of Deeds Isaac Perkins) are among the old land records and plats in the TCGHS archival collection. One set of historical hand-drawn copies of Tazewell plats in the TCGHS collection was preserved by being interleaved long ago among the map plates of an old 1855 “Mitchell Universal Atlas” (published by Charles DeSilver) that was donated to the TCGHS in 1990. These plats, most of them drawn in the 1850s, are of towns and settlements with familiar names – such as Tremont, Delavan, Dillon, Groveland, Armington, Morton, Spring Lake, Hopedale, Washington – or else show additions to area towns, such as the Colts, Haines, and Cincinnati Additions to Pekin, or the Semples and Dorseys Additions to Washington, or Bacons Addition to Groveland.

Several of these plats, however, are of settlements that no longer appear on our maps, or may never have appeared on any map or in any atlas or plat book. We have already mentioned Circleville, which no longer exists, and Wesley City, now called Creve Coeur. The Wesley City plat inserted in the “Mitchell Universal Atlas” is chiefly remarkable for showing a grid of streets and lots that is obviously and purely a fantasy of the plat owners, and is frankly impossible geographically, for the plat fails to account for Creve Coeur’s hills, gullies, and hollers.

A number of these plats are of settlements that probably never got off the ground – “aborted towns” that never made it past the planning stage of the land speculators – or perhaps only existed for a short time, or later were merged into neighboring settlements. Among these “dead” and “aborted” towns of Tazewell County shown in this collection of plats are Liberty (surveyed July 22, 1835, plat filed June 17, 1836), Spring Garden (plat recorded by its proprietor S. A. Bumstead), Hancock (surveyed October 1836), Madison, Hamilton (surveyed August-September 1836), Cleveland (plat filed Feb. 15, 1836), Montpelier (surveyed Sept. 8-9, 1836), and Danforth (located along the old T & P railroad, surveyed by William S. Morgan for proprietors E. W. Cantwell and W. F. Evans).

The town of Cleveland, on Peoria Lake, existed – or would have existed – about where East Peoria’s Walmart is located today. Soady’s preliminary list of Tazewell County toponyms suggests that Liberty may have been another name for Dillon, which, however, has its own plat in this collection separate from the Liberty plat. Soady’s list also suggests that Danforth may have been renamed Tullamore. But Spring Garden, Hancock, Madison, Cleveland, and Montpelier do not appear on Soady’s list.

One of the “aborted” towns in this collection of plats was to be named Cincinnati. Like the proposed town of Cleveland, it was to bear an Ohio place name – many pioneer settlers of Tazewell County in general and Pekin in particular came from Ohio. The plat owners of the prospective town of Cincinnati were Jonathan Tharp and Jesse Dillon. Tharp is famous locally for settling in 1824 at a spot that is now the foot of Broadway in Pekin, where the former Franklin School now stands. The published works on Pekin’s history mention that two rival groups of Pekin settlers wished to establish a town here along the Illinois River. While one group, including Nathan Cromwell, Isaac Perkins, and William Haines, proposed a town with streets running perpendicular to and parallel with the river, Tharp and Dillon proposed their town with streets running north-south and east-west.

Tharp and Dillon filed their plat for the town of Cincinnati on July 11, 1830 (Soady’s list says Tharp laid out the plat in 1827). Cromwell, Haines, and their associates drew up their own town plans in 1829 and also formalized a plat in 1830, apparently in such a hurry to file it that they didn’t have time to think of a name – they called their desired settlement simply “Town Site” and only came up with the name “Pekin” later in 1830. Meanwhile, the plans of Tharp and Dillon failed to bear fruit. Instead, their proposed town was recast as the Cincinnati Addition to Pekin, the northern border of which was Broadway, with Tharp’s home lot (No. 160) at the northwest corner of the Addition. The “Mitchell Universal Atlas” collection includes a cartographer’s fragile template and accompanying legal description for a plat of “Cincinnati,” as well as a later plat copy of Cincinnati Addition which was drawn and recorded May 28, 1857 – tellingly, the plat copy of Cincinnati “Addition” is in fact still titled “Town of Cincinnati.”

Although the town of Cincinnati never came to fruition, “Cincinnati” is, of course, still an extant Tazewell County toponym – it’s the name of the township located to the south of Pekin Township.

The photo gallery below features selections from the “Mitchell Universal Atlas” collection of plats, all images courtesy of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society.

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