Tell me about that house . . . Part Two

By Jared L. Olar

Local History Specialist

405 Willow Street, showing the western exposure.

As we continue this week with the history of 405 Willow St., let’s take a look at what the old Pekin city directories tell us about who has lived there over the years, and compare it with the sales history of the parcel of land where the house is situated.

First, here is a list derived from the city directories, showing those who have been heads of household or who have resided at this address.

1861: Eden John F., laborer, res. Willow, ns., 3d d. e. Fourth; Flanagan Christopher, laborer, res. Willow, ns., 2d d. e. Fourth; Regentz Julius, carpenter, res. ne. cor. Willow and Fourth

1870-71: Meints Runt., blacksmith, res ns Willow 2 d e Newhall (Fourth); 

1876: Smith Dietrich C. (T. & H. Smith & Co. and Teis Smith & Co. and Smith Plow Co.) res ne cor Willow and Newhall.

1887: Smith Dietrich C. (Teis, Smith & Co.) (T. & H. Smith & Co.) (Smith, Hippen & Co.) (Pekin Plow Co.) res. 501 Willow

1893: Smith D C (Teis Smith & Co), v pres and mngr P P C, h 405 Willow

1895: Smith D C ( Teis Smith & Co), v pres and gen mgr P P C, h 405 Willow

1898: Smith Dietrich C., pres. Teis Smith & Co., and v.-pres. and mngr. P. P. Co., r 405 Willow

1903-04: Smith Dietrich C., pres Teis Smith & Co., and v.-pres. and mgr. P. P. Co., r 405 Willow

1907-08: Smith, D. C., retired, r 339 Buena Vista; address of 405 Willow not listed and presumably vacant.

1908-09: Vacant

1912: Bleeker, Mrs. Anna, r 405 Willow; Bleeker, Miss Blanche, steno W. A. Potts, r 405 Willow

1913: Mrs. Anna Bleker, 405 Willow; Smith, D.C., retired, and Mrs. Caroline, r 339 Buena Vista. (Reardons live next door at 407 Willow)

1914, 1915, 1916: No listing, presumably vacant; William J. Reardon at 407 Willow

1921: WILLIAM J REARDON Attorney-at-Law. Practices in all Courts. Office in Kuhn Bldg. Res. 407 Willow. Cttz. phone, office 309, res. 924-Y; Bell 53-R; Reardon, Mrs. Marie, r 407 Willow

1922: REARDON WM J (Marie A) lawyer 355 Court tels 309 Bell 126 r 405 Willow

1941: REARDON WM J (Marie E; 1), Lawyer, Marshall Bldg 340 Elizabeth, Tel 99, h405 Willow, Tel 1255

1943: Reardon Marie Mrs, 405 Willow

1966: Reardon Marie E (wid W J) h405 Willow

1968: Vacant

1969: Marshall Eug V (Eliz O) Emp Central Ill Light (Peoria Ill) h405 Willow St (Byron J. Oesch, neighbor, 409 Willow)

1970: Marshall Eug V (Eliz O) constn supt Central Ill Light (Peoria) h405 Willow St (Byron Oesch, neighbor, 409 Willow)

1999: Marshall Eugene V, Marshall Richard J, 405 Willow

2000: Marshall Eugene V, Sisco Nancy B, 405 Willow

2001 and 2002 : Nancy B. Sisco, Tita D. Sisco, 405 Willow

2003 and 2004: No listing

2005 and 2006: Marshall Eugene V, 405 Willow

The current owner appears in city directories at this address from 2007 to the present.

As we can see, despite some gaps in the chronology, the city directories provide a fairly complete list of residents or heads of household for this location. And from this list we see that the sales history from the County Assessor’s website is gravely mistaken to place Eugene V. Marshall’s purchase of the house in 1900, which is when 405 Willow St. was owned by Dietrich C. Smith.

One thing the directories cannot tell us, however, is when the house was built. The directories also don’t tell us the owners of the house or its lots, how many times the house has been sold, nor all the names of those who have lived in the house. For that information we must consult other records.

The current home owner has provided a copy of an old title history for this property that was prepared in the 1980s by the Tazewell County Recorder of Deeds office. The title history begins on 24 Feb. 1836 with David Bailey, who was one of the five co-founders of Pekin in 1830, and comes down to 7 May 1984 when Eugene V. Marshall and his wife owned the house at 405 Willow St.

This house is located on Lot 4, Block 18, in a part of Pekin known as Bailey’s Addition because it was originally owned by David Bailey. (As we noted last week, this is the same David Bailey who was a party in the landmark Illinois Supreme Court case Bailey v. Cromwell in July 1841.)

Following is a table derived from the title history. It should be kept in mind that the owner of the land often did not live there, and in several instances this land was temporarily held by land agents, loan companies, or attorneys involved in deed transfers.

Grantor                                                Grantee                                           Date

David Bailey                                        John B. Newhall                               24 Feb. 1836

Thomas C. Wilson Sur.                   The Public                                        24 Feb. 1836 (Plat recorded)

David Bailey                                        Samuel G. Bailey                             16 Jan. 1837

Emily B. Bailey                                   B. S. Prettyman                                10 Sept. 1850

Emily B. Bailey                                   Gideon H. Rupert, et al.                 2 Jan. 1851

Rupert & Haines                               Peter Zeer                                        11 Jan. 1853

Peter Zeer, et al.                               Adam Moerlan                                10 Aug. 1853

Peter Zeer & wife                             Menne F. Aden                                 2 Jan. 1855

Abner Mitchell & wife                    B. S. Prettyman                                6 July 1857

William Mitchell                               B. S. Prettyman                                6 July 1857

Erastus W. Mitchell, et al.             B. S. Prettyman                               11 Aug. 1857

Menne Aden                                     Arend Behrens                                14 Nov. 1860

Stephen O. Paine                             George R. Laughton                        26 Dec. 1865

Sarah E. Barber & husband          William S. Kellogg                         30 Dec. 1870

William E. Hassan                             William S. Kellogg                         22 March 1871

Menne F. Aden & wife                   Dietrich C. Smith                          8 May 1871

D. C. Smith                                       Teis Smith                                        24 Dec. 1874

Edward Pratt Shf.                             The Public                                       8 Jan. 1878 (Levy)

D. C. Smith by Assignee                Smith & Luppen                              8 Jan. 1879

Frederick Smith, et al.                     Dietrich C. Smith                           15 Jan. 1879

E. F. Unland, et al.                            The Public                                       14 April 1901

Dietrich C. Smith & wife                A. L. Champion, Tr.                        10 April 1907

A. L. Champion, Tr.                          Jesse Cooper                                    4 Aug. 1908

Jesse B. Cooper & wife                   Edwin A. Forrest                              27 July 1911

Edwin A. Forrest                              D. F. Lawley Tr.                               27 July 1911

Edwin A. Forrest                              Pekin Loan & Home Ass’n              18 Sept. 1911

Edwin A. Forrest                              William A. Potts                               11 Nov. 1911

William A. Potts & wife                  Blanche Bleeker                             15 Nov. 1911

Blanche Bleeker                              Pekin Loan & Home Ass’n             17 Sept. 1914

Blanche Bleeker                              W. J. Reardon                                30 Jan. 1915

W. J. Reardon & wife                     Union Cent. Life Ins. Co.                1 Aug. 1929

W. J. Reardon & wife                     Viola Osterman                                1 Aug. 1932

Viola Osterman                                 Marie Reardon                              1 Aug. 1932

Marie Reardon & hus.                   Pekin Loan & Hom.                        15 April 1930

William J. Reardon, et al.             Eugene V. Marshall & wife           5 Sept. 1967

Eugene V. Marshall & wife           Peoria Sav. & Loan                         13 Sept. 1967

Peoria Sav. & Loan                           Eugene V. Marshall & wife           28 Jan. 1982

Eugene V. Marshall & wife           Eugene V. Marshall & wife           7 May 1984

A comparison of the title history with the record of the city directories shows that the owner of the property has been the head of household since at least 1876. The names found in the 1861 and 1870-71 directories only lived at this location but never owned the land or whatever house or houses then stood there.

Next week we’ll delve into records that tell us the approximate date when the house at 405 Willow St. was built and what the house looked like in the past.

This title history for Lot 4, Block 18 in Bailey’s Addition of Pekin traces the sales history of the lots on which the house at 405 Willow St. stands, from 24 Feb. 1836 to 7 May 1984.

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From funerals at home to funeral homes of Pekin

This is a reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in July 2012, before the launch of this weblog.

From funerals at home to funeral homes of Pekin

By Jared Olar
Library Assistant

When a loved one dies, most of us will have dealings with a local funeral home or mortuary. The prevailing custom today is to gather for funerals or memorial services in a funeral parlor.

But it was not always that way. In the 1800s, wakes and funerals took place in the home of the deceased. The transition from “funerals in the home” to “funerals in a funeral home” was accomplished more than a century ago – and one of those responsible for effecting that change was a Pekin funeral director named Henry Wilmont.

Wilmont was a son-in-law of Charles Kuecks, founder and proprietor of Kuecks Funeral Home which formerly existed at 31 S. Capitol Street, occupying the space that is now the front lawns of the Pekin Municipal Building and Tazewell County Justice Center. “Pekin: A Pictorial History” (1998, 2004) reports that Wilmont was “a national proponent of having funerals in a parlor rather than in the deceased’s home.”

The former Kuecks-Woolsey Funeral Home on Capitol Street is shown in this Nov. 1966 photograph by Ralph James Goodwin. The funeral home relocated down the street, to the corner of Capitol and Broadway, and is now known as Davison-Fulton-Woolsey. The former location is now the front lawn of the Pekin Municipal Building.

Kuecks Funeral Home got its start in 1882 as Kuecks-Wubben Furniture and Undertaking, located at 209-210 Court Street. (In the past, coffins and furniture were often manufactured by the same men.) Later on, Wilmont joined the undertaking firm, which moved to the Capitol Street location in 1921. During the 1920s, another son-in-law of Kuecks, Clyde Cowser, joined as a partner. Kuecks died in 1929, and the business became Kuecks-Woolsey Funeral Home in 1950, when Robert Woolsey and Fred Soldwedel became partners, later being joined by Louis Meyer in 1954.

In 1963, Woolsey became the funeral home’s sole proprietor. “Woolsey’s Pekin Chapel, at 301 Broadway is the only structure in the history of Pekin to be constructed solely for use as a funeral home,” according to “Pekin: A Pictorial History.” Now known as Davison-Fulton-Woolsey, through its succession of owners this funeral home qualifies as Pekin’s oldest mortuary.

Also boasting a long history is Henderson Funeral Home at 2131 Velde Drive. 420 Walnut Street. Henderson Funeral Home, formerly Noel-Henderson, was founded by Orville W. Noel in 1900 at the Albertson & Koch furniture store in downtown Pekin on Court Street. Later he relocated to the Zerwekh Building, which later became the home of the Pekin Daily Times. In 1925 he moved his funeral business to 430 Elizabeth Street, where it stayed until a fire in 1939.

However, by that time Noel had acquired one of Pekin’s oldest structures, the old Rupert Park Estate on Walnut Street, an 11-room colonial-style mansion that had been built in 1862 by pioneer settler Gideon Rupert, who named our county after Sen. Littleton W. Tazewell of Virginia. Gideon’s son F. E. Rupert further improved the mansion and estate. After Noel’s death in 1946, his employee William Weimer carried on the business until his own death in 1964. Merl Henderson, who had worked alongside Weimer for several years, bought the funeral home in 1965, and the Henderson family maintained and preserved the historic Rupert mansion as their funeral parlor until April 2013, when the funeral home moved to new facilities on Velde Drive in northern Pekin.

This photograph from circa 1890 shows the Rupert Park estate on Walnut Street in Pekin. This was the mansion of F. E. Rupert, son of Pekin pioneer Gideon Rupert, and it later was converted into the Henderson Funeral Home.

Though not boasting as long a history as the Woolsey or Henderson funeral homes, Abts Mortuary can boast that it has been owned and operated by the same family for longer than any other Pekin funeral home. Abts was founded in 1934 by John and Gladys Abts, beginning at Sixth and Broadway and then moving in 1942 to its present location at Fifth and Park Avenue, the former home of Pekin Mayor Everett W. Wilson (1893-1894, 1899-1900). Gladys’s father had operated a funeral home in Randolph, Neb., and in 1918 Gladys became the first woman in Nebraska to obtain an embalmer’s license. Abts Mortuary is now in its fourth generation in the mortuary business.

The grand home of Pekin Mayor E. W. Wilson, at the junction of Fifth St. and Park Ave. in Pekin, is shown in this photograph from circa 1890. Wilson’s home later became Abts Mortuary.

Finally, Preston Funeral Home was founded by Clarence and Roland Preston in 1934 at 337 St. Mary St. It relocated in 1957 to the Teis Smith mansion at 500 N. Fourth St. D. Neal Hanley began operating Preston-Hanley in 1965, and his twin sons, D. Neale “Buster” Hanley II and Charles R., succeeded him (Charles leaving the business and becoming Tazewell County Coroner in 2018). In 2011 the Hanleys established Pekin’s newest cemetery, Prairie Haven on Veterans Drive.

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Early Tazewell County’s first banks

This is a reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in December 2014 before the launch of this weblog, republished here as a part of our Illinois Bicentennial Series on early Illinois history.

Early Tazewell County’s first banks

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

When much of Illinois was still a wilderness, what did Tazewell County’s pioneers do for money?

In their first years after arrival, the pioneer settlers didn’t use money, but instead relied on barter. Before long, however, they were able to make use of the rudimentary makings of a monetary and banking system. In his 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” pages 870-872, Ben C. Allensworth provides an account of the development of the county’s financial system (which tracked closely with the development of the state’s and the nation’s financial system).

“In the early days of the settlement of Tazewell County,” Allensworth writes, “its merchants exercised the functions of banks by safe-keeping the money of the people and selling them bills of exchange . . . The old safes of those days, with their impressive size, showing great round rivet heads indicating immense strength, called ‘Salamanders,’ remain only a memory of the older citizens of today.”

Allensworth then cites Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County” for his information on the county’s first bank, the Shawneetown Bank, founded in Pekin in 1839 as a branch of the Bank of Illinois. Col. C. Oakley was the bank president, Charles A. Wilcox was the cashier and William C. Docker was the clerk. The Shawneetown Bank “had but a short run and closed its doors in 1842, because of the collapse of the great improvement system, inaugurated about this time by the State of Illinois,” Allensworth says.

Shown is an example of an early bank note circulated as currency in Pekin about the middle of the 1800s. According to Ben C. Allensworth’s Tazewell county history, the bank note was of dubious value, so it was sent “into the West for circulation, as far away from home as possible, that it might not be returned for redemption so easily . . . We are told that it utterly failed of credit and was soon withdrawn.”

Allensworth’s account continues, “The first firm to do a regular banking business in Pekin, which has been handed down from one organization to another to this day, was that of G. H. Rupert & Co., established in 1852, although Mr. James Haines, a member of this firm, had opened an office for banking the year before as a branch of a Peoria bank.”

As we have noted previously in this column, the mansion of Gideon H. Rupert (1799-1877), which he built in 1862, was for a long time the location of Henderson Funeral Home, while James Haines (1822-1909) was a younger brother of William Haines, one of the co-founders and original plat-holders of Pekin. “It is from Mr. Haines we get the most information as to the methods and practices of the first bankers of Tazewell County,” Allensworth says.

The remainder of Allensworth’s account of the circumstances that led to the establishment of the banking firm of G. H. Rupert & Co. is here excerpted:

“We had no regular banks of issue in Tazewell County until the National banks were organized. Some of our older citizens remember that there was current money issued by a bank called the ‘Prairie State Bank of Washington,’ some time before the War, but the writer has been unable to get reliable information as to this.

“There was reported an incident as occurred at the counter of this bank at this time, which was characteristic of those days. A certain Doctor came to the bank and is said to have deposited $200 in gold. A short time after he wished to withdraw his money, when he was offered the paper issue of the bank for his demand, which he refused to take, demanding gold instead.

“It is said, the doctor, to end the altercation, drew his pistol and compelled the payment of gold . . . .

“Banks of issue of other States, and of cities of our own State, flooded the country with currency of doubtful value. This currency was mostly based on State bonds, and the less valuable these securities were the more profitable it was to circulate the currency based on them.

“Southern and Eastern banking associations would send their currency into the West for circulation, as far away from home as possible, that it might not be returned for redemption so easily. . . .

“This currency of ante-bellum days, based on securities of fluctuating value, was more or less discredited in different parts of the country, often depending on the distance it was from its place of redemption, but more frequently because of the changes of the market value of the State bonds on which these issues were based. . . .

“But the people grew tired of these constant changes in the value of their money and refused to use it longer. The currency became so obnoxious to the people that they came to designate it by such names as Wild Cat, Red Dog and still more opprobrious titles.

“It was at this time that the banking firm of G. H. Rupert & Co. did the people of Pekin and vicinity a great service. All our currency had become more or less discredited, and yet the people must have money to facilitate their transactions in business. G. H. Rupert & Co. adopted as their own issue the currency of the Platte Valley Bank of Nebraska, guaranteed on each bill put out by them, and thus relieved the stress for a good currency in Tazewell and surrounding counties.

“This was a very courageous act, and the approach of the Civil War, with its resultant crashes in all business enterprises, tested to the breaking point the credit of this banking firm.

“But, notwithstanding the terribly adverse conditions, they made good their guarantee to the people, redeeming in gold, dollar for dollar, this Platte Valley currency, thereby establishing a precedent of good faith which, up to this time, has been faithfully followed by all the banks of Tazewell County.”

#banks, #charles-a-wilcox, #col-c-oakley, #g-h-rupert-and-co, #gideon-rupert, #illinois-bicentennial, #james-haines, #preblog-columns, #shawneetown-bank, #william-c-docker, #william-haines

The founding of Tazewell County

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

After Illinois achieved statehood, new settlers poured into central Illinois throughout the 1820s, making new homes for themselves in and around Fort Clark (Peoria) or clearing land for farms along the eastern shores and bluffs of Peoria Lake and the Mackinaw River basin. Those were the years that saw the arrival of Tazewell County pioneers William Blanchard, Nathan Dillon, and William Holland.

Another of those early settlers was an Ohio resident named Jonathan Tharp (1794-1844), who built a log cabin on a ridge above the Illinois River in 1824 at a spot that is today the foot of Broadway in Pekin. Tharp’s cabin was the seed that would sound sprout and grow into the city of Pekin.

The result of the wave of immigration of those years was that in 1825, a mere seven years after statehood, the State Legislature erected a new county, named for the Peoria tribe of the Illiniwek who had once dwelt in that place.

Tazewell County came along almost on the heels of Peoria County’s founding. As we have often recalled in this column, Tazewell County was established in 1827. It was Illinois’ 38th county – the 23rd county since statehood. At the time, Tazewell County was officially a part of Sangamon County, but was in fact under the governmental administration of Peoria County.

This detail from a map printed in the State of Illinois’ 1991 booklet, “Origin and Evolution of Illinois Counties,” shows the original boundaries of Tazewell County as established by the State Legislature in 1827 and 1829. The village of Mackinaw was chosen as the first county seat because it was then near the geographical center of the county.

The original plan was to name the new county “Mackinaw,” after the tributary of the Illinois River that flowed through it (a Kickapoo chief named Mackinaw or Machina also lived with his people in Tazewell County in those years). However, one of the county’s prominent pioneers, Gideon H. Rupert (1799-1877), a Virginia native, intervened to have the proposed bill to establish the county amended, so the new county would instead be named for U.S. Senator Littleton W. Tazewell of Virginia. The first county seat was still named Mackinaw, though.

Following is the account of the founding of Tazewell County as found in Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” pages 207-209 (emphasis added):

“Tazewell county was organized by an act of the Legislature January 31st, 1827, with the following boundaries: Beginning at the northeast corner of township twenty, north of the base line, and range three east of the third principal meridian, thence north on said line to the north line of township twenty-eight north, thence west to the middle of the Illinois river, thence down said river to the north line of township twenty north, thence east to the place of beginning.

“In the act organizing the county January 31, 1827, an error occurred in describing the boundaries. This error was corrected by an act re-establishing the boundaries, passed January 22, 1829.

“The territory comprising the county of Tazewell formed part of the counties at the dates named in the several subdivisions of the State prior to the organization of the county, as follows:

“1809 — At this date Illinois Territory was organized, and was subdivided into the counties of Randolph and St. Clair. Tazewell was included in the county of St. Clair.

“1812 — Tazewell formed part of the county of Madison.

“1814 — Tazewell was included in the counties of Madison and Edwards: west of the third principal meridian in Madison, east of the meridian in Edwards.

“1816 — Tazewell was included within the boundaries of Madison and Crawford counties: east of the meridian in Crawford, west in Madison.

“1817 — Tazewell formed part of the counties of Bond and Crawford: west of the meridian in Bond, east in Crawford.

“1819 — Tazewell was included in Clark and Bond counties: west of the meridian in Bond, east in Clark.

“1821 — Tazewell formed part of Fayette and Sangamon counties: west of the meridian in Sangamon, east in Fayette.

“1827 — Tazewell organized January 31st: boundary defective.

“1829 — Tazewell boundaries defined, and error in law of 1827 corrected as above given. County originally created from territory then comprising part of the counties of Sangamon and Fayette:
west of the third principal meridian taken from Sangamon, east of the meridian, comprising 24 townships, taken from Fayette.

“1830 — McLean county was formed by taking off the three ranges east of the meridian and range one west of the meridian.

“1839 — Logan county was created, taking off three townships on the south.

“1841 — The counties of Mason and Woodford were organized, and Tazewell reduced to its present boundaries.

“The commissioners to locate the county seat were Thos. M. Neale, Wm. L. D. Ewing and Job Fletcher. They were by the act of organization required to meet on the third Monday of March, 1827, or within five days thereafter, at the house of Wm. Orendorff, for the purpose of locating the county seat, which, when located, was to be called ‘Mackinaw.’ Until county buildings were erected the courts were required to be held at the house of Wm. Orendorff. Election for county officers at the house of said Wm. Orendorff on the second Monday of April, 1827.

“All that part of Fayette lying east and north of Tazewell was attached to Tazewell for county purposes.

“In the year 1825 the Legislature created Peoria county, and attached to it for all county purposes all of the territory north of town 20 and west of the third principal meridian, thus including all the present county of Tazewell. Nathan Dillon, William Holland and Joseph Smith were chosen County Commissioners for the new county. The former two resided in this county. They held their first meeting at Peoria March 8, 1825.

“When the population of Tazewell was thought to be sufficiently large to regularly organize, an election was held in April, 1827, and Benjamin Briggs, George Hittle, and James Lotta were chosen County Commissioners. The Commissioners at once proceeded to hold a meeting and consummate the organization. This they did at the house of William Orendorff, April 10, 1827. . . .

“The county at this time was very large; even in 1829, when a new boundary was formed, it contained 79 townships. It has been divided for the formation of other counties so often that it has finally been reduced to 19 townships.

“The county was named in honor of Hon. John Tazewell (sic – Littleton), United States Senator from the State of Virginia. There is a county in that State which also bears the same name, these being the only two in the United States.”

#chief-mackinaw, #gideon-rupert, #illinois-bicentennial, #jonathan-tharp, #littleton-waller-tazewell, #mackinaw, #mackinaw-river, #nathan-dillon, #tazewell-county-history, #william-blanchard, #william-holland, #william-orendorff

The naming of Tazewell County

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

All available records indicate that when the founders of Pekin gave their town its name in 1830, they had in mind the renowned Chinese city of Peking (Beijing). Their new settlement on the east bank of the Illinois River would soon become the seat of government of Tazewell County, which had been established in 1827.

But why was the county given the name “Tazewell”?

The earliest history of Tazewell County, published by Charles C. Chapman in 1879, informs us (page 209), “The county was named in honor of Hon. John Tazewell, United States Senator from the State of Virginia. There is a county in that State which also bears the same name, these being the only two in the United States.”

That’s straightforward enough, although it doesn’t explain why a new Illinois county would be named after a Virginia senator. Chapman’s statement has an even more serious problem, however – there was no Virginia senator named “John Tazewell.”

There were, in fact, two Virginia senators surnamed “Tazewell,” who were father and son – Henry Tazewell (1753-1799), who served in the U.S. Senate from 1794 until his death, and Henry’s son Littleton Waller Tazewell (1774-1860), who served in the U.S. Senate from 1824 to 1832. Since Tazewell County was formed while Littleton W. Tazewell was a senator, no doubt he was whom Chapman had in mind when he said the county was named for a U.S. senator from Virginia. (Tazewell County in Virginia was named after Henry Tazewell, the father.)

Tazewell County in Illinois was named for U.S. Senator Littleton Waller Tazewell of Virginia, depicted here in a portrait in the collection of the Library of Virginia in Richmond.  The portrait is reproduced on the cover of Norma Lois Peterson's 1983 biography of Senator Littleton.

Tazewell County in Illinois was named for U.S. Senator Littleton Waller Tazewell of Virginia, depicted here in a portrait in the collection of the Library of Virginia in Richmond. The portrait is reproduced on the cover of Norma Lois Peterson’s 1983 biography of Senator Littleton.

Gladys M. Dubson’s 1939 Illinois State University master’s thesis, “Historical and Economic Survey of Tazewell County, Illinois, 1663-1939,” which is part of the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection, says (page 2) that it was Littleton Waller Tazewell “for whom Tazewell County, Illinois, was named.” Dubson includes several paragraphs of biography and genealogy of Littleton W. Tazewell. In addition, John Drury’s 1954 “This is Tazewell County, Illinois,” pages 3-4, says, “The new county on the Illinois River was named after Littleton Waller Tazewell, a leading American lawyer and political leader of the time. When the county was organized in 1827, Tazewell was serving in the United States senate, being chairman of that body’s committee on foreign relations. In later years, Tazewell was elected governor of Virginia. During most of his public career he had been a strong opponent of President Jackson’s policies. He died in 1860.”

In this column, we have previously noted that originally, when Illinois legislators made plans to form a new county out of Peoria County, the proposed name was Mackinaw County, not Tazewell County. In fact, the bill that was approved by the Illinois House of Representatives in January 1827 was named, “An Act Creating Mackinaw County.” The Illinois Senate, however, amended the title to read, “An Act Creating Tazewell County,” and it was in that form that the bill passed the Senate on Jan. 31, 1827.

It was Pekin pioneer settler Gideon Henkel Rupert (1799-1877), who soon after his arrival in the future Tazewell County was able to become a successful businessman and landowner – and the wealthiest man in Pekin – who is credited with convincing the Illinois Senate to name the new county after Senator Tazewell of Virginia.

Littleton W. Tazewell had no connection with the county that was to be named after him, so why would Rupert want his county named for Tazewell rather than bear a local Native American place name such as “Mackinaw”? It probably had something to do with the fact that both Rupert and Tazewell were Virginians. Rupert was born in New Markey in Shenandoah County, Virginia. Tazewell was one of the most prominent Virginians of his day, and a renowned and admired speaker whose oratorical skills rivaled those of his fellow U.S. Senator Daniel Webster, so it was probably pride in his native state that explains Rupert’s desire to see the new county named for Senator Tazewell.

A copy of Norma Lois Peterson’s 311-page biography of Tazewell County’s namesake Littleton Waller Tazewell, published in 1983, recently was graciously donated by the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society to the library’s Local History Room collection.

#gideon-rupert, #littleton-waller-tazewell, #tazewell-county-history

The early days of Mackinaw

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

The early days of Mackinaw

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

The village of Mackinaw in eastern Tazewell County occupies a special position in the county’s history. As this column has noted previously, Mackinaw was the first seat of government for Tazewell County, and the first county courthouse was erected in Mackinaw.

One of the most important sources for the history of those days is Charles C. Chapman’s “History of Tazewell County.”  Also among the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room sources that tell of Mackinaw’s history is “Mackinaw Remembers 1827-1977,” edited by Gladys Garst. The story of Mackinaw’s founding is told on the first two pages of that book, along with a glance back at the prehistory of the Mackinaw area.

“The proof and importance of marks in our Indian cultural heritage,” this volume says, “lies in the fact that Dr. W. H. Holmes, Curator, Department of Anthropology, Smithsonian Institution, stated the following about the cache discovered in 1916 on the James Tyrrell farm northeast of Mackinaw: ‘Undoubtedly, they represent the most skillful work in stone flaking that has yet been found in this country.’ Thirty-five bifaces (a particular cut) from the Mackinaw cache are on exhibit at the Illinois State Museum in Springfield. Three are in McLean County Historical Society Museum in Bloomington, and one is owned by Mr. Stuart Ruch of Champaign. These are thought to be from the Hopewell culture (100 BC to AD 300). Irvin Wyss and Ivan Lindsey are two local men who were digging when they found the cache. Many artifacts have been found by others. Ernest Fuehring has a display in the Mackinaw Federal Savings and Loan Building.”

The most obvious marks of Mackinaw’s Indian cultural heritage are the village’s name and the name of the Mackinaw River. As a rule, the names of rivers and notable natural geographical features tend to be older than the names of towns or cities.  Naturally that is the case with the village of Mackinaw. It may be a surprise to learn, however, that the village did not derive its name from the river.

According to “Mackinaw Remembers,” “It is an accepted fact [the village of Mackinaw] bears the name of Chief Mackinaw or Mackinac of the Kickapoo tribe . . . Some say Mackinaw means ‘little chief.’ It is listed in Illinois State History, No. 4, p. 57, 1963, by Virgil K. Vogel, pamphlet series of Illinois State Historical Society, as meaning turtle. It is taken from the language of the Ojibways.”

The river’s name, however, is an abbreviated form of “Michilimackinac,” a name which some people continued to use even as late as 1846. “In 1681 Father Marquette mentions the Michilimackinac River in his log. It is so-spelled on some maps published in 1822 in the Atlas of Indian Villages of Illinois, compiled by Tucker and Temple,” says “Mackinaw Remembers.”

“Mackinaw Remembers” also has this to say about the Native American peoples living in the area in the early 1800s: “The Indians left a definite mark in our area. War clouds just prior to the War of 1812 made feisty Kickapoos even more restless. They burned settlements on their move toward Lake Peoria. One band of them took up quarters with some Potawatomi, Chippewa, and Ottawa on the Mackinaw River. The peaceful Potawatomi far outnumbered the other tribes. Their chief was named Shimshack. Chief Mackina of the Kickapoos eventually became friendly; however, he and the tribes left with the mass evacuation of Indians in Illinois in 1832.”

Chapman’s Tazewell County history also includes some anecdotes of Chief Mackinaw, or “Old Machina” as Chapman calls him, and notes that his people, the Kickapoo, “dwell in the western and southwestern part of the county” (page 195).

“For some years after the first settlers came wigwams were scattered here and there over the county . . . Another extensive camping ground was on the Mackinaw river, near the present town of Mackinaw. Old Machina was the chief of this band. The Kickapoos had made a treaty shortly previous to the coming of the first settler, by which the whites acquired all their land. When the whites came, however, to settle and occupy the land the Kickapoos were angry, and some of them felt disposed to insult and annoy the settlers. When John Hendrix came to Blooming Grove the Indians ordered him to leave. Not long afterwards they frightened away a family which settled on the Mackinaw. Old Machina ordered one family away by throwing leaves in the air. This was to let the bootanas (white men) know that they must  not be found in the country when the leaves of autumn should fall. In 1823, when the Orendorffs came, Old Machina had learned to speak a little English. He came to Thomas Orendorff and with a majestic wave of his hand said: ‘Too much come back, white man: t’other side Sangamon’” (page 195-196).

Fanny Herndon, one of the “Snowbirds” (the survivors of “the Deep Snow” during the extremely harsh winter of 1830-31), “related stories of earlier settlers mentioning the many tepees here. She told of an Indian trail which came in the village [of Mackinaw] from the northeast, went past the west side of the Bryan Zehr place, and led to the present home of Clifford Rowell. It continued southwest along the bluffs.

The formal founding of the village of Mackinaw is almost coeval with the establishment of Tazewell County in 1827. Originally when Illinois legislators made plans to form a new county out of Peoria County, the proposed name was Mackinaw County, not Tazewell County. In fact, the bill that was approved by the Illinois House of Representative in January 1827 was named, “An Act Creating Mackinaw County.” The Illinois Senate, however, amended the title to read, “An Act Creating Tazewell County,” and it was in that form that the bill passed the Senate on Jan. 31, 1827. Gideon Rupert of Pekin is credited with the choice to name the county after Rupert’s fellow Virginian Littleton Waller Tazewell, U.S. Senator from Virginia.

The legislation erecting Tazewell County also fixed the county seat at Mackinaw, which then was near the center of the county. William H. Hodges, County Surveyor, was hired to lay off the town of Mackinaw, and the sale of town lots was then advertised for three weeks in the Sangamon Spectator. It was decided that the county court house – a relatively simply log structure –was to be built “at or near the spot where the commissioners drove down a stake, standing nine paces in a northeastern direction from a white oak blazed on the northeastern side.” That was Lot 1, Block 11, where the Eddy Smith family lived in 1977. The Mackinaw courthouse served the county for only three years, from 1828 to 1831. Then followed the rivalry between Pekin and Tremont for the honor of county seat which this column has previous described.


Shown is an artist’s rendering of the log house that served as Tazewell County’s courthouse when Mackinaw was the county seat from 1828 to 1831.

#chief-mackinaw, #gideon-rupert, #littleton-waller-tazewell, #mackinaw, #mackinaw-courthouse, #mackinaw-river, #michilmackinac, #preblog-columns, #snowbirds, #tazewell-county-history, #tazewell-county-native-tribes