A look inside Root’s City Directory of 1861

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
Library Assistant

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.

Besides a facsimile reprint of the 1861 Root’s City Directory of Pekin available for study in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room, the library’s private archives also include a fragile first edition of the 1861 directory that had belonged to Pekin historian William H. Bates (who heavily annotated this copy while preparing the 1870 directory).

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.

Shown here is an advertisement from the 1861 Root’s Pekin City Directory for local riverboats and railroads that operated in and around Pekin.

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.

Among the full-page advertisements in the 1861 Root’s City Directory of Pekin was this one for the Haines Agricultural Works, which was owned and operated by the brothers Ansel and Jonathan Haines at a spot just east of present-day James Field. Among the implements made at their factory was Jonathan’s patented Illinois Harvester, also known as the Haines Harvester.

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Drown’s Peoria city directory of 1844

This is an updated reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in Nov. 2013, before the launch of this weblog.

Drown’s Peoria city directory of 1844

By Jared Olar
Library Assistant

While the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection primarily includes publications and documents pertaining to Pekin and Tazewell County, the collection also encompasses various items related to Illinois history and a broader genealogical interest, as well as reference materials, books and other documents that pertain to the history of nearby communities.

One of those books is a facsimile reprint of a fascinating relic of Peoria’s past – none other than Peoria’s very first city directory, “The Peoria Directory for 1844,” compiled and published by Simeon DeWitt Drown, town surveyor for Peoria.

Drown’s book usually would be of interest to students of the history of the city and county of Peoria, but as a contemporary document and record of one of central Illinois’ largest and most important community, it also would make interesting reading for anyone with central Illinois roots or who might simply be curious to glimpse everyday life and business in the Midwest or Illinois during the middle of the nineteenth century. It would be another 17 years after the publication of Drown’s directory before Pekin’s first city directory would be published.

As Peoria’s town surveyor, Drown was a natural choice for author and editor of a city directory. His skills as a printer, engraver and mapmaker also suited him to the task he had assumed. He came to Peoria from New York in 1838, and in January 1844 his residence and place of work were in a house at the southeast corner of Franklin and Adams streets.

In those days, Peoria was still a small settlement, especially by modern standards – Drown’s personal census counted only 1,619 people, almost all of them living and working in an area close to the river bounded by Liberty, Perry and Green streets.

However, the small city was then a boom town, and Drown noted (boasted?) in his preface that “during the last year, . . . upwards of fifty buildings were erected, and nearly all of a permanent material, — brick or stone.” For those reasons, Drown said, “Peoria ought now to be the seat of government of the state,” mentioning that there had recently been efforts in the Illinois General Assembly to fix the state capital at Peoria. Drown thought his town would make an idea capital since it was almost as centrally located as Springfield and, Drown predicted, would soon surpass Springfield in population.

Besides the compilation of residents, businessmen and professions that were the chief reason such old directories were prepared, Drown also collected and wrote essays for his directory on Peoria’s history. Peoria shares its earliest historical roots with Tazewell County and the cities and villages of Pekin, Creve Coeur and East Peoria which line the Illinois River nearby. Thus, in Drown’s directory, his “History of the Town Down to the Present Time” naturally commences with the adventures of the French explorers Marquette, Joliet and La Salle.

Drown’s historical sketch includes lengthy excerpts from the journals and recollections of the early French explorers, and Drown also reproduced two early maps of the area of Lake Pimiteoui (Peoria Lake) showing the ephemeral Fort Crevecoeur. One of the maps Drown identified as “a fac simile of Hennepin’s map so far as it describes this region of country,” while the other is a facsimile of a map of our area from Daniel Coxe’s 1722 volume, “Coxe’s Carolana,” based on memoirs of Dr. Daniel Coxe, an English physician who made his own explorations of the Illinois River around 1698.

On page 20 of his 1844 Peoria City Directory, Simeon DeWitt Drown reproduced a facsimile of Father Louis Hennepin’s 1698 map of the Illinois Country, indicating the site of Fort Crevecoeur in the future Tazewell County.

This woodcut is an illustration of the account of the Indian tribes of Illinois in Drown’s 1844 Peoria City Directory.

#1844-peoria-city-directory, #dr-daniel-coxe, #drowns-directory, #father-louis-hennepin, #fort-crevecoeur, #pimiteoui, #preblog-columns, #simeon-dewitt-drown, #springfield

Settlers pour into Peoria and Tazewell counties

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

On Friday, March 2, at 11 a.m., the Pekin Public Library will present the third video in its Illinois Bicentennial Series in the Community Room. The video that will be shown is 34 minutes in length and is entitled, “Farming in Tazewell County During the ’30s and ’40s,” presented by Tom Finson. Like last month’s Finson video, it includes vintage film footage from around the county. Admission is free and the public is invited.

For the pioneer settlers of central Illinois, farming wasn’t merely a business, but was crucial for a settler family’s survival. Our column this week recall the first of the post-War of 1812 settlers in our area.

The summer before Illinois was admitted as the 21st state of the Union in 1818, a territorial census counted 40,258 souls living in the soon-to-be state – but the new state’s population rapidly increased over the next decade. Up to that time, American settlers in Illinois had come chiefly from southern states and had settled almost exclusively in southern Illinois.

But with the dawn of statehood a new wave of migration arrived, in which settlers from southern Illinois began to move north, joined by newcomers from states north of the Ohio River. These new arrivals to central Illinois came up the Illinois River or overland from southern Illinois to Fort Clark (Peoria) and its environs – and as we shall see, these newcomers included William Blanchard and Nathan Dillon, names prominent in early Tazewell County history.

As we saw previously, American soldiers built Fort Clark in 1813 on the ruins of the old French village of La Ville de Maillet, which Capt. Thomas Craig had burned the year before during an Illinois militia campaign meant to warn the Indians of Peoria Lake not to ally with Britain during the War of 1812 (but which likely had the opposite effect).

In relating the story of Craig’s burning of the French village, S. DeWitt Drown’s “Peoria Directory for 1844” says (italics as in original), “Capt. Craig excused himself for this act of devastation, by accusing the French of being in league with the Indians, with whom the United States were at war; but more especially, by alledging (sic) that his boats were fired upon from the town, while lying at anchor before it. All this the French have ever denied, and charge Capt. Craig with unprovoked, malignant cruelty.”

Craig’s accusation that the French Americans of Peoria Lake were in league with Indians hostile to the U.S. was based on the fact that the French not only lived peaceably with the tribes of the area, but even sometimes intermarried with them. But the tribes of Peoria Lake had declined to join Tecumseh’s confederacy and were considered to be friendly until the unprovoked attacks of Territorial Gov. Ninian Edwards and Capt. Craig.

The destruction of La Ville de Maillet essentially ended the French phase of the European settlement of central Illinois – afterwards only the French fur traders of Opa Post at the present site of Creve Coeur were left in the area. The early historians of Peoria and Tazewell counties tended to disparage the early French settlers of central Illinois, even to the point of claiming that they weren’t really settlers at all. For example, Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County” described the men and women of Opa Post in this way:

“These French traders cannot be classed as settlers, at least in the light we wish to view the meaning of that term. They made no improvements; they cultivated no land; they established none of those bulwarks of civilization brought hither a half century ago by the sturdy pioneer. On the other hand, however, they associated with the natives; they adopted their ways, habits and customs; they intermarried and in every way, almost, became as one of them.”

Chapman’s comments reveal that his disparaging appraisal of the French fur traders was due not only to disdain for the social class and lifestyle of a fur trader, but also the pervasive racist bias against Native Americans that spread westward with American expansion. Other influences included the age-old enmity between England and France that stemmed from the medieval Hundred Year’s War, with religious estrangement and animosity between Protestants and Catholics also thrown into the mix.

Those same attitudes toward the Indians and the French were also exhibited by Charles Ballance in his 1870 “History of Peoria.” In his history, Ballance argues at length that the French Americans of La Ville de Maillet were culturally and socially greatly inferior to the Americans of British origin who supplanted them, finding fault with the style of the homes they built and even denying the reports of the village’s former inhabitants that their settlement included a wine cellar and a Catholic church or chapel. Maybe behind Ballance’s common ethnic, racial, and social disdain for the Indians and French, there was an uneasy conscience over the fact that the city of Peoria of Ballance’s day only existed because the French settlement had been wiped out in 1812.

The construction of Fort Clark at the site of the French village in 1813 planted the seed of the present city of Peoria, for a new village quickly grew up around the fort (the site is today Liberty Park on the Peoria Riverfront, at Liberty and Water streets). According to Chapman, the fort itself burned down five years later. But in 1819, one year after Illinois statehood, the pioneer founders of Peoria arrived: Joseph Fulton, Abner Eads, William Blanchard (1797-1883), and four other men, who had traveled by keelboat and on horseback.

The next few years saw the arrivals of even more settlers. In 1825 the state legislature created Peoria County, which originally covered a large area of central and northern Illinois, including the future Cook County and the soon-to-be formed Tazewell County. Ten years later, Peoria was officially incorporated as a town, and by 1845 Peoria was large enough to incorporate as a city.

Three years after William Blanchard’s arrival at Fort Clark, he and a few companions crossed Peoria Lake to present-day Fon du Lac Township in Tazewell County, building a dwelling and growing crops south of the future Woodford County border. Here is how Chapman told the story of Blanchard’s earliest pioneer activities:

“Wm. Blanchard, Jr., is a native of Vermont, where he was born in 1797; left that State when seven years of age, and with his parents went to Washington Co., N. Y., where his father, William, died. When seventeen years of age he enlisted in the regular army, and took an active part in the war of 1812, serving five years, when he, with Charles Sargeant, Theodore Sargeant and David Barnes, veterans of the war, started West, coming to Detroit, Mich., thence to Ft. Wayne, whence they journeyed in a canoe to Vincennes, thence to St. Louis. From there they came up the Illinois in a keel boat manned by a fishing crew, and commanded by a man named Warner, and landed at Ft. Clark, now Peoria, in the spring of 1819.

“Crossing the river to what is known as the bottom lands they found a cleared spot, and with such tools as they could arrange from wood put in a patch of corn and potatoes. This land is now embodied in Fond du Lac township. Looking farther down the stream they found, in 1822, an old French field of about ten acres, on which they erected a rude habitation, and soon this soil was filled with a growth of blooming corn and potatoes. This was the first settlement between Ft. Clark and Chicago, and was the first dwelling erected. The site is now covered by the fine farm of Jacob Ames.”

In this map detail from an 1873 atlas of Tazewell County, the farm of Jacob Ames —
designated on the map as land owned by “Rachael Ames” — is shown in Sections 11 and 12 of Fondulac Township, around the area of Grosenbach Road. William Blanchard’s “rude habitation” is said to have been built in 1822 on land that later was included in the farm of Jacob Ames.

One year before Blanchard came to the future Tazewell County, North Carolina native Nathan Dillon (1793-1868) brought his family overland from Ohio to Sangamon County, first dwelling on Sugar Creek south of Springfield. Dillon then struck out north, arriving in the future Tazewell County in 1823.

Dillon has traditionally been called Tazewell County’s first white settler, but he arrived here a year after Blanchard and long after the Frenchmen of Opa Post. The confusion arose from the haste with which Chapman’s 1879 Tazewell County history was compiled and edited – Chapman didn’t learn that Blanchard preceded Dillon until the printing of his book was underway, so Chapman’s book at first states that Dillon was the earliest, then later on corrects and apologizes for that error. The monument at Dillon’s grave erroneously pronouncing him the county’s first white settler stems from Chapman’s mistake.

But regardless who was first, Blanchard and Dillon both possessed pioneering courage and grit, paving the way for many others who were soon to follow.

Next week we’ll review the story of the creation of Tazewell County.

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