This is a reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in Feb. 2014, before the launch of this weblog.
A look inside Root’s City Directory of 1861
By Jared Olar
A couple months ago in this column space, we took a look through the city of Peoria’s very first city directory, “The Peoria Directory for 1844,” compiled and published by Simeon DeWitt Drown, town surveyor for Peoria.
The later city directories for Peoria were published by Omi E. Root – and it was Root who published Pekin’s first city directory in June 1861, 17 years after the publication of Drown’s Peoria directory. A facsimile copy of the 1861 directory for Pekin, reprinted by the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society, may be found in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection.
Called “Root’s Directory of the City of Pekin for the year 1861,” this volume is only 93 pages long. To give an idea of Pekin’s growth since 1861, the most recent Polk city directory for Pekin extends to 470 pages.
Later Pekin city directories, prepared and published by William H. Bates, would include an essay on the history of Pekin, but Root’s directory has no historical or geographical essays. The entries are grouped into nine categories, each with its own section. The section titles are: Special Business Directory; Streets and Avenues; Names; City, Town, and County; Stages, Railroads, and Packets; Educational; Companies and Associations; Religious; and Business Directory.
The largest section of the directory (from pages 12 to 64) is “Names,” which lists the households of Pekin in alphabetical order by the surname of the head of household. “Stages, Railroads, and Packets,” on page 68, lists the local stage coach, railroad and steamboat companies for the convenience of those needing transportation or shipping of merchandise or property.
The next section, on page 70, lists the schools of Pekin. At the time, Pekin had only six schools, each with simple if not especially memorable or interesting names: the Brick School-House (predecessor of Pekin Community High School, and remembered by its former students as “the Old Brick”), Cincinnati School, Yellow School-House, Second-Street School, Frame School-House, and German and English School.
The section entitled “Companies and Associations” is a descriptive list of Pekin’s community clubs, such as the Odd-Fellows, the Masons or the Sons of Temperance. Curiously, the city’s three fire companies – Independent No. 1, Rescue No. 1 and Defiance, all organized in 1860 – are grouped with the community associations. That was before the establishment of a single fire department as a branch of city government.
Under the header of “Religious” are listed the 11 churches that then existed in Pekin: First Baptist Church (30 members, 140 Sunday School students), the Roman Catholic Church (400 members), St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (50 regular attendants), the German Evangelical Association, St. Paul’s German Evangelical Church (64 members), the German Evangelical Church (separate from St. Paul’s, having 45 members), St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church (40 members), the Methodist Episcopal Church (96 members), the German Methodist Episcopal Church, the Reformed Dutch Church (average attendance of 60), and the First Universalist Church of Pekin (38 members).
The section called “City, Town, and County,” on page 65, is a list of the elected and appointed government officials of the city of Pekin, Pekin Township and Tazewell County. In those days, municipal elections took place annually on the third Monday in April, and Isaac E. Leonard had just been elected to serve a one-year term as mayor of Pekin. The city council in those days was a Board of Aldermen, with four aldermen representing the city’s four wards. Also in the list of county officers were Tazewell County Sheriff Chapman Williamson, Coroner John Wildhack, County Clerk John Gridley, Circuit Clerk and County Recorder George H. Harlow, and County Treasurer William S. Maus.
Notably, Maus (a former physician whose biography has been sketched in a previous Local History Room column) was wearing two hats in April 1861. He was Pekin Township Supervisor as well as County Treasurer, having been asked to fill a vacancy in the treasurer’s office on Dec. 8, 1860. He served as treasurer until the end of the unexpired term in November of 1861.