Tazewell’s unincorporated communities: Lilly

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Among Tazewell County’s older unincorporated communities is the tiny and quiet farming hamlet of Lilly, located about two miles from Mackinaw’s village limits and less than two miles from the eastern border of Tazewell County.

John Drury’s “This is Tazewell County, Illinois” (1954), page 210, offers this brief description of Lilly: “Near the eastern border of the county lies Lilly, still another community in Mackinaw Township. It has a population of 90. Lily (sic) is on the New York Central System and is served by the post office at nearby Mackinaw.”

The land of William Lilly, from whom the village of Lilly got its name, is shown just west of town in this detail of an 1873 Tazewell County plat map of Mackinaw Township.

Today the railroad is no more, and Lilly’s population is even lower than it was in 1954. Lilly chiefly owes its existence to the railroad, having started out as a stop along the old Indianapolis, Bloomington & Western Railway, whose tracks connecting Pekin with Indianapolis were laid down in 1869.

That the construction of the railroad is what brought Lilly into being is reflected on old plat maps of the county. There’s no trace of Lilly on an 1864 wall plat map of Tazewell County, the spot then being designated as undifferentiated “Lots.” But Lilly was there by the time the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County” was published. The railroad was built between those dates.

Lilly and environs in 1891.

The hamlet apparently was named after William Lilly (1822-1894), a Maryland-born settler of Welsh descent whose farm is shown about a half-mile west of Lilly on the 1873 plat of Mackinaw Township. No one with the name of Lilly owned any farms in Mackinaw Township in 1864, but that year “W. Lilly” (i.e., Lilly’s namesake) and a “J. Lilly” are shown owning adjoining farms about six miles south of Lilly in Little Mackinaw Township. A short biographical sketch of William Lilly may be found on page 518 of Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County, Illinois.” A longer sketch is on page 1039 of the “Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Tazewell County.” William Lilly is buried with his wife Elizabeth and sons Joseph and William in Lilly Cemetery, located at the southeast corner of the intersection of Fast Ave. and Lilly Road (in the southeastern extremity of Lilly).

This 1891 plat shows the small hamlet of Lilly, named for Tazewell County pioneer William Lilly (1822-1894) and established circa 1870 as a train depot near William Lilly’s farm. The spot first attracted travelers — such as Abraham Lincoln — in the 1830s, who would overnight at an inn there on the Old Peoria Road.

Pioneer farmers lived in and near the future site of Lilly well before the arrival of the railroad. Until a tragic fire in May 2014, Lilly’s most famous landmark was the old Lilly Inn, first erected in the 1830s to serve travelers on the Old Peoria Road that linked Peoria, Mackinaw, Danvers, and Bloomington. Lawyers and judges in the Eighth Judicial Circuit – including Abraham Lincoln – would sometimes stop overnight at that inn, some two or three decades before Lilly was founded and named.

Lilly and environs as of 1910.

An enlarged plat of Lilly in an 1891 atlas of the county shows the hamlet with only two east-west streets (William and Broadway – today, roughly, Killion and Winkler) and two north-south streets (Lindsey and Hay – today, roughly, Killion and Lilly). The plat also shows the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad (formerly the I. B. & W) slicing east-west through the heart of Lilly, with the depot on the north side of the track and a mill and grain elevator on the south side. A 1910 plat of Lilly looks much the same as the 1891 plat, the only differences being the addition of a second railroad track – that of the Illinois Traction System – and the Zorn Grain Co. on the sound end of the hamlet. By 1929, however, the Zorn Grain Co.’s property had become the location of the Lilly Christian Church.

This 1929 plat of Lilly shows further changes in the village.

Lilly had always benefited from the traffic and commerce that moved between Mackinaw and Bloomington, and the coming of the railroad was an even greater boon. With the advent of the automobile in the early 20th century, however, as well as the shift of traffic from Old Peoria Road (Fast Ave. and Runyon Road) to Illinois Route 9, traffic and trade bypassed Lilly, which consequently has remained small and out of the way. No churches or businesses are currently located in Lilly, but the Mackinaw Valley Vineyard on Route 9 is just a mile from Lilly to the south.

Lilly and environs in 1929.

Advertisements

#abraham-lincoln, #lilly-inn, #tazewell-county-unincorporated-communities, #william-lilly, #zorn-grain-co

Abraham Lincoln slept, stood and walked here

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

Abraham Lincoln slept, stood and walked here

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

The Union barely had time to celebrate Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865, before the nation was horrified by the assassination of its Commander-in-Chief, President Abraham Lincoln, at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C., on April 14 – a mere five days later.

One of Pekin’s pioneers was in Washington, D.C., during those days of sorrow: Seth Kinman, who formerly operated a hotel in downtown Pekin, claimed to have been an eye-witness of the president’s assassination, and contemporary newspaper accounts say Kinman took part in Lincoln’s funeral cortege.

As a result of his assassination, Lincoln came to be revered as a martyr for the cause of preserving the Union and for the abolitionist cause. The people of Illinois in particular have held his memory in the highest esteem ever since. It is in the state capital, Springfield, where he is entombed, and in towns and cities throughout the state Illinoisans are still proud to point to buildings and locations where Lincoln once lived, worked, or stayed. This is especially true of communities in central Illinois.

One of our county’s Lincoln sites unfortunately was destroyed by fire in May 2014 – the approximately 180-year-old Lilly Inn in eastern Tazewell County, one of the county’s oldest buildings, was a local link to President Abraham Lincoln, who stayed at the inn while riding the circuit as an attorney in central Illinois from the 1830s to the 1850s.

The Lilly Inn was, of course, far from the only site in our area with ties to Lincoln. For example, his work as a lawyer sometimes brought to him Mason County, where he is known to have stayed in the home of his friend Samuel C. Conwell on Washington Street in Havana. Conwell’s home, which he built in the early 1850s, is still standing.

In Tazewell County, Washington also boasts of its connection with Lincoln. At the old Washington Hotel, which stood where a BP parking lot is today, Lincoln made a stump speech during a stop on the way to Galesburg to debate Stephen A. Douglas. Some years ago, Washington placed five Bronze footprints at locations in Washington where Lincoln is known to have stopped in his travels.

Lincoln’s work brought him to Tazewell County two or three times a year, and he represented clients at the county’s courthouses in Tremont and Pekin. Naturally this work produced numerous Tazewell County legal documents bearing Lincoln’s signature or handwriting or name, and most of these precious mementos of Lincoln’s life, while remaining the possession of Tazewell County, are now in the keeping of the state of Illinois in Springfield.

One of Lincoln’s more important cases was Bailey vs. Cromwell (1841), in which Lincoln appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court in Springfield and won the freedom of Nance Legins-Costley (“Black Nance”) of Pekin, a slave of Pekin pioneer co-founder Nathan Cromwell. Lincoln successfully argued that Costley and her children had to be recognized as free under Illinois law since there was no legal documentation establishing that they had ever been the property of the principals involved in the case, or that Costley had ever agreed to a temporary contract of indentured servitude.

When he came to Pekin for court, Lincoln often stayed at the old Tazewell House hotel, which stood from 1849 to 1904 at the corner of Court and Front streets (Gene Miller Park today). After the Tazewell House hotel was demolished, its threshold was preserved at the Tazewell County Courthouse, and was inscribed with words commemorating the fact that “Hereon trod the great Abraham Lincoln – Stephen A. Douglas – John A. Logan – Robert G. Ingersoll – David Davis – Edward D. Baker and others.

Tazewell House presumably was the Pekin hotel in the lobby of which, according to Tom Wheeler’s article, “The First Wired President,” published on a New York Times blog in May 2012, Lincoln first saw a telegraph key in 1857.

Lincoln’s legal career created another tangible link between Lincoln and Tazewell County – Lincoln sometimes would purchase his clients’ land and hold it for them in his name, later returning it when cases were concluded. That’s how Lincoln came to own several parcels of land in Tazewell, including the land at the intersection of Allentown and Springfield roads (where Morton has held the annual Punkin Chuckin event).

This 2008 Pekin Daily Times informational graphic chart describes 22 sites in Pekin that have direct or indirect links to President Abraham Lincoln. The list was researched and compiled by Dale Kuntz.

In 2008, retired teacher Dale Kuntz of Pekin, who served on the Tazewell County Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission preparing for the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth in 1809, proposed that the city of Pekin create a historical “Lincoln Walk” in downtown Pekin to help visitors and residents learn more about Lincoln’s ties to the city.

Kuntz’s historical research had identified 22 sites along the proposed route that can be shown to have direct and indirect Lincoln connections, starting at the bank of the Illinois River where Lincoln had landed in 1832 when his oar broke while he returned from the Black Hawk War, then heading along Front Street south to Cynthiana, then east to Broadway, out to Sixth Street, then back west along Court Street to end at Gene Miller Park, the former site of the Tazewell House hotel.

#abraham-lincoln, #black-hawk-war, #black-nance, #dale-kuntz, #illinois-bicentennial, #lilly-inn, #nance-legins-costley, #nathan-cromwell, #preblog-columns, #robert-e-lee, #samuel-c-conwell, #seth-kinman, #tazewell-house-hotel, #washington-hotel