Tell me about that house . . . .

The Pekin Public Library’s program on Saturday, 11 March 2023, about tracing a house’s history in Pekin, has elicited a lot of interest. For those who were unable to attend the program, the fruit of our research on the history of the house that we featured in our program will be presented here in a series of articles, beginning today and continuing each week.

A video of the program is also available at the library’s YouTube channel.

Tell me about that house . . . .

By Jared L. Olar

Local History Specialist

In November 2022, the Pekin Public Library invited the public to submit nominations from those who were interested in learning about the history of a particular house in Pekin. One of the main purposes of this program was to demonstrate the steps in the process of researching of house history in Pekin, and to show what resources are available at the library to aid in such a project.

We received seven nominations. Using a very scientific process . . .

. . . one of was selected.

The winner was 405 Willow St. Sara Hutchison nominated this house: “I went inside once 20+ years ago and it was obviously a really impressive house in its day. Seems like it would have an interesting story.

In this case, appearances are not deceiving. She’s right about this house being impressive in appearance, and that it has an interesting story. In researching this address, we learned that it is one of Pekin’s more historic homes. In telling the story of that house, one will also tell some of Pekin’s own story.

405 Willow Street, showing the home grand front porch which faces south.
405 Willow Street, showing the western exposure.
405 Willow Street, showing the eastern exposure.

To find out about this house’s history, the first step is to find it on the map.

The next step is to visit the website of the Tazewell County Assessor:

The county assessor’s website provides several pieces of important information, including two important items that will be necessary to research the sales history of the house and the land on which it sits. One is the Parcel ID, which in this case is 04-04-35-150-001. The other is the parcel’s legal description:

SEC 35 T25N R5W BAILEYS ADDN LOTS 3 – 4 & 5 BLK 18 NW ¼

This information is necessary to do a title search at the Tazewell County Recorder of Deeds Office, which will produce a complete record of the times that this parcel of land and any structures on it have changed hands. Title histories for property in Pekin begin as early as the establishment of Pekin as an unincorporated settlement in January of 1830 and come down to the most recent sale.

Now, the Tazewell County Assessor’s website will also provide a sales history for parcels of land in our county, but such histories only go back to 1900, and they are often list sales out of their proper chronological order. That is just what we see for the website’s sales history of 405 Willow St. Here is what the assessor’s website provides as a sales history – with a few parenthetical remarks to show dubious or confusing list entries (next week it will become evident why those entries are dubious):

1 Jan. 1900                         Eugene V. Marshall (!!!)

6 March 1957                     Marie Reardon (??)

23 July 1957                       George Bundy (??)

25 July 1957                       Lillie Bundy (??)

14 Sept. 1967                     Marie Reardon

7 Feb. 1977                         Lillie McCarrick

1 Oct. 1987                         M. Ellan Brooks

26 May 2006                       Kathleen Milkereit

According to the assessor’s website, Milkereit sold this house to the current owner for $150,000.

The current owner has supplied us with a sales history from the Recorder of Deeds Office. The history reaches much further back in time than the year when the house at 405 Willow St. was built. Since the parcel’s legal description says the house is in Bailey’s Addition, it is no surprise to find that the first legally recorded owner of this parcel was David Bailey, one of the five original plat-holders of Pekin and one of the principals in the landmark 1841 case of Bailey v. Cromwell which secured the freedom of Nance Legins-Costley (1813-1892) and her three eldest children.

Next week we will consult our old Pekin city directories to see what we can learn of who lived in this house.

#405-willow-st, #bailey-v-cromwell, #baileys-addition, #david-bailey, #eugene-v-marshall, #george-bundy, #house-history, #kathleen-milkereit, #legal-description, #lillie-bundy, #lillie-mccarrick, #m-ellan-brooks, #marie-reardon, #nance-legins-costley, #parcel-id, #pekin-history, #recorder-of-deeds-office, #sara-hutchison, #tazewell-county-assessor

A Pekin Union Army soldier in a Confederate Army cemetery?

By Jared L. Olar

Local History Specialist

An undated article clipping from the Pekin Daily Times in the files of the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room tells of a Civil War soldier from Tazewell County who was buried in a Confederate Army cemetery.

The article, headlined “Confederate cemetery holds Tazewell County soldier,” was probably published about 20 years ago [NOTE: It was published 13 April 2001]. It tells of how the newspaper was contacted by a photographer from the Griffin Daily News in Griffin, Ga., seeking information on Corp. Nathan Kellogg, who was one of four Union soldiers to be buried in Griffin’s Stonewall Cemetery, a city cemetery with a large burial section for soldiers of the Confederate States of America. To find a gravestone for a Union soldier in a Confederate cemetery is highly unusual.

Corp. Kellogg’s headstone is shown in Stonewall Cemetery in this Find-A-Grave photo submitted by Michael Dover.
Corp. Nathan Kellogg’s headstone in Stonewall Cemetery is shown in this Find-A-Grave photo submitted by Michael Dover.

The Pekin Times article provides fascinating information, but is incomplete and somewhat inaccurate, for, as we shall see, it is incorrect about where Corp. Kellogg’s remains are now buried.

Kellogg belonged to a family of pioneers who lived on land that was then outside of Pekin but is now within Pekin’s city limits. Two brothers of this family are notable figures in the early history of Pekin and Tazewell County: Nathan Benjamin Kellogg Sr. (1793-1853) and Benjamin Kellogg Jr. (1806-1855).

They were among the 14 children of Benjamin Kellogg Sr. (1761-1821) and Luranah Spaulding (1766-1834), natives of Massachusetts who had settled in New York. Both Nathan and Benjamin Jr. were born in Kinderhook, New York, and came to Tazewell County in the early 1830s.

Nathan is listed on page 713 of Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” where it says he served as Tazewell County Coroner from 1842 to 1848. He married twice, first to Magdalen Esselstyne (1792-1826), with whom he had four sons and a daughter, and a second to Alzina (Pennoyer) Woodrow (1805-1884), with whom he had four daughters and three sons. His youngest son was Nathan Benjamin Kellogg Jr., the Civil War soldier who had been buried in Stonewall Cemetery.

The other prominent member of the Tazewell County Kelloggs, Benjamin Jr., was a successful merchant, land owner, and local political official who was a friend of Abraham Lincoln. The “Papers of Abraham Lincoln Digital Library” website provides this summary of Benjamin Kellogg Jr.’s life and career:

“Benjamin Kellogg, Jr. was a prominent merchant, landowner, and town and city official in Pekin, Illinois. In 1829, he and his partners established Crain, Kellogg, & Company, the first mercantile business in Pekin. Kellogg began purchasing public land in September 1832, when he bought 160 acres in Mason County, becoming the first person to purchase land in what would become Allen Grove. Between 1832 and 1855, he purchased thousands of acres of public land in Mason, Tazewell, McLean, and Logan counties. Kellogg was also active in Pekin’s civic affairs. At the first town elections held in July 1835, he won election as town clerk, and in August, he became treasurer of the Board of Trustees. He won a second term as town clerk in 1836. When Pekin received its charter as a city in 1849, Kellogg became the first city clerk, holding that job until October 1850. In 1850, he was working as a clerk and owned $20,000 worth of real estate. Eager to get a railroad through Pekin, in 1853, Kellogg and a partner personally subscribed $100,000 for the Mississippi and Wabash Railroad. Abraham Lincoln represented Kellogg in numerous cases in the Tazewell County Circuit Court.”

In addition to the cases in which Lincoln represented him, Benjamin Jr. was also a key witness in the 1839 Tazewell County Circuit Court case of Cromwell & McNaughton v. Bailey, in which the estate of Nathan Cromwell asked the court to require that David Bailey of Pekin pay off a promissory note for the purchase of the Cromwell’s indentured servant Nance. Bailey had declined to pay the note because Nance said she was a free person and had never consented to a contract of indentured servitude. In his testimony, Benjamin Jr. confirmed that Nance had always insisted on her freedom. The court ruled against Bailey, though, so Bailey retained Lincoln to appeal the verdict to the Illinois Supreme Court in the 1841 case of Bailey v. Cromwell & McNaughton. Agreeing with Lincoln’s arguments, the Illinois Supreme Court overturned the Tazewell County court decision and declared that Nance and her three eldest children were free.

That case touched on the wider question of the morality of human slavery which later helped to spark the destructive fires of the Civil War. In that conflict, Nathan B. Kellogg Sr.’s youngest son Nathan B. Jr., who was born in Tazewell County on 11 Oct. 1846, stepped up to fight for the Union cause. His Union Army service records say he was a farmer living at Pekin, and give his physical description as 5 feet 8 inches in height, with a light complexion, gray eyes, and light-colored hair.

His service records show that he enlisted on 16 June 1862 and was mustered into the 85th Illinois Infantry, Co. F., at Peoria on 27 Aug. 1862. Though only in his teens, Nathan Jr. was consumed with patriotic zeal for his country. This is evident from his service records: although he was only 15 years old at the time, his records indicate that he lied about his age so he could enlist, claiming to be 17 at enlistment and 18 when he was mustered in.

Corp. Kellogg enlisted for three years of service, but he did not make it to the end of those three years. He was mortally wounded in the Battle of Peach Tree Creek in Georgia on 19 July 1864. Taken captive by the Confederate Army, he was taken to a military hospital at Griffin, Georgia, where he succumbed to his wounds the next day. He was one of approximately 1,900 Union casualties and 2,500 Confederate casualties of that battle. Of this battle, Union Maj. Gen. J. D. Cox said, “Few battlefields of the war have been strewn so thickly with dead and wounded as they lay that evening around Collier’s Mill.

Kellogg’s service record notes his capture at the battle with the comment, “In Parole Camp Captured At Peach Tree Creek Ga.” Due to his death, he was not officially mustered out of service until 5 June 1865, almost a year after his death.

As this record shows, Corp. Nathan B. Kellogg Jr. of Pekin was one of four Union soldiers who were buried in Stonewall Cemetery, Griffin, Georgia, immediately after their deaths during the Civil War.

Corp. Kellogg was buried in nearby Stonewall Cemetery alongside many Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle. There, in a Confederate Army burying ground, his bones rested for the next three years, when his remains, along with those of three other Union soldiers that had been buried in Confederate cemeteries, were transferred to Marietta National Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia.

The headstone of Corp. Kellogg of Pekin stands among the thousands of Civil War dead in Marietta National Cemetery, Marietta, Georgia, in this photograph submitted to Find-A-Grave by Davis E. McCollum.
The headstone of Corp. Nathan B. Kellogg Jr. of Pekin on Marietta National Cemetery, Marietta, Georgia, where Kellogg’s remains have been interred since 1867, is shown in this photograph submitted by Find-A-Grave user “Janet.”

Although his remains have been in Marietta since 1867, a local resident of Griffin, Ga., named Mrs. C. Robert Walker apparently came across a record of Kellogg’s burial in Stonewall Cemetery in 1960 and, not knowing of his removal to Marietta, ordered a Civil War soldier’s headstone for the plot where his remains once had lain.

And so, Corp. Nathan Benjamin Kellogg Jr. of Pekin is currently memorialized in two separate cemeteries in the South, with a headstone marking the empty grave where once he lay in Stonewell Cemetery, and another marking his actual grave in Marietta National Cemetery.

On 22 Sept. 1960, Mrs. C. Robert Walker of Griffin, Georgia, applied to have a Union soldier Civil War headstone placed on the plot where Corp. Nathan Kellogg of Pekin had been buried in 1864. She did not know, however, that Kellogg and three other Union soldiers buried in Stonewall Cemetery, Griffin, had been moved to Marietta National Cemetery, Marietta, Georgia, in 1867.

#abraham-lincoln, #alzina-pennoyer-woodrow-kellogg, #bailey-v-cromwell, #bailey-vs-cromwell, #battle-of-peach-tree-creek, #benjamin-kellogg-jr, #benjamin-kellogg-sr, #corp-nathan-b-kellogg, #corp-nathan-b-kellogg-jr, #corp-nathan-kellogg, #cromwell-vs-bailey, #luranah-spaulding-kellogg, #magdalen-esselstyne-kellogg, #marietta-national-cemetery, #nance-legins-costley, #nathan-benjamin-kellogg-jr, #nathan-benjamin-kellogg-sr, #pekin-history, #stonewall-cemetery

Entertainment and sports celebrities in the family

By Jared L. Olar

Local History Specialist

Among Central Illinois’ African-American veterans of the Civil War was Pvt. Edward W. Lewis (c.1834-1907) of Peoria, who served in the 29th U.S. Colored Infantry from the autumn of 1864 to the spring of 1865.

We have previously devoted some attention to Pvt. Lewis due to his link to Nance Legins-Costley (1813-1892) of Pekin and Peoria, known to history for being the first African-American to secure her freedom with the help of Abraham Lincoln. Lewis married Nance’s eldest child Amanda E. Costley (1834-1900) in Pekin on 24 March 1858.

Although Pvt. Lewis’ Civil War service and marital connection to Nance Legins-Costley are notable in and of themselves, genealogical research on the Lewis family has shown that he had some remarkable individuals and celebrities among his relatives who lived in the 20th century. Let’s take a look at some of what we can learn about the Lewis family and their descendants.

After Amanda’s 1858 marriage to Edward W. Lewis, we find her in the 1860 U.S. Census living with her in-laws the Lewises in St. Louis, Missouri. That census record, dated 14 July 1860, shows Amanda Lewis, 25, a washerwoman, and little Edward Lewis, 1, in the household of Ambrose Lewis, 67, porter, born in Virginia, along with Fillis Lewis, 69, washerwoman, born in Virginia, Fillis Butcher, 20, washerwoman, born in Virginia, Thomas Brown, 3, born in Missouri, and Margaret Butcher, 1, born in Missouri. For some reason, Amanda’s husband Edward Lewis is not listed as a member of this household, but his firstborn child Edward was there with Amanda and his grandparents Ambrose and Phillis. (Other records indicate that Fillis or Phillis Butcher was a daughter of Ambrose and Phillis, and Margaret Butcher was her daughter.)

Remarkably, Edward’s parents Ambrose and Phillis Lewis were double-counted in the 1860 U.S. Census, because another record, dated over a month earlier on 8 June 1860, shows Ambrose Lewis, 76 (not 67), servant, born in Virginia, Phillis Lewis, 75 (not 69), servant, living in the household of Louis Brown, 32, riverman, born in Kentucky, and Mary Brown, 23, washerwoman, along with Polly Lewis, 55, washerwoman, and little girls named Francis Brown, 4, Georgiana Brown, 2, and Emma L. Brown, 5 days old.  The little girls were the daughters of Louis and Mary Brown, and Mary herself was a daughter of Ambrose and Phillis (as indicated by the 1854 marriage license of Louis and Mary which gives Mary’s maiden name as Lewis).

These two 1860 census records together provide a picture of the Lewis family in St. Louis at that time, with some members living in one residence and others at another address, and the senior members Ambrose and his wife Phillis perhaps moving out of their daughter Mary’s home two or three weeks after being counted in the census, just in time to be counted a second time in July. The little boy Thomas Brown living with them in July is one of the children of Louis and Mary (Lewis) Brown.

Edward W. Lewis subsequently appears in the 1863 Peoria City Directory working as a tobacconist at 24 N. Adams and living at 53 Birket. He enlisted in the Union Army on 28 Sept. 1864 at Springfield, and served until the war’s end, being mustered out at Springfield on 23 May 1865. While in the service, he had the rank of private, and the Union Army employed him as a cook (as we see in the 1865 Peoria City Directory).

After the war, Edward and his wife Amanda and their sons continued to live in Peoria until their deaths. Over the years, Edward worked as a tobacconist, a cook, a music teacher and musician, and a whitener or whitewasher. His Peoria Star obituary says he died 1 April 1907 at home: “Edward Lewis age 76 years, died of dropsy at 114 Hancock in Peoria. He is a Civil War veteran and a member of the Masons. 3 sons survive. Services April 3 with burial in Springdale.

His first wife Amanda had preceded him in death seven years earlier. Both Edward and Amanda are buried in Springdale Cemetery in Peoria, but neither of them has a headstone. Research has identified two lines of living descendants of their son Ambrose Lewis, the Marabettas and the Edwardses.

In addition to the living descendants of Pvt. Edward W. Lewis, some lines of descent have been traced from Edward’s sister Mary A. Lewis down to the present day.

As noted above, Mary and her husband Louis T. Brown (who was born April 1828 in Kentucky) married on 28 Dec. 1854 at the Second Colored Baptist Church in St. Louis, Missouri. The church’s pastor, J. R. Anderson, conducted the marriage. Census records show that Louis worked variously as a riverman, a common laborer, and a whitewasher. Mary and Louis went on to have six daughters and two sons: Frances M. “Fannie”, Thomas, Georgiana, Emma Louise, Matilda, Susan, William Christopher, and Carrie M. Lines of descent down to the present day can be traced from Fannie and her brother William Christopher, but for our purposes we will focus on Fannie’s descendants.

Fannie grew up in the wider St. Louis, Missouri, area. On 24 Dec. 1879, in Madison County, Illinois, she married an African-American farm worker named Thomas Sexton, who was born Dec. 1854 in Illinois. Fannie and Thomas lived at Pin Oak and Collinsville in Madison County and raised a family of two sons and three daughters: Harry, Lucy Amanda, Ella, Carry, and William.

Their eldest daughter Lucy was born 13 Feb. 1883 in Collinsville, Illinois, but later we find her in Belleville, where she married George Robert Cherry (1869-1940) on 11 June 1904. Lucy and George had two daughters, Gladys Hannah Willamena (1905-1985) and Vivian W. (1908-1983), and two sons, George Robert (1906-1978) and Norman Thomas (1910-1969).

It is in the family of Lucy and George Cherry where we meet some truly remarkable individuals who made some significant achievements and score some historic “firsts.”

For instance, their son George R. Cherry married Elizabeth A. Beckham (1912-1992), who was born in Cahokia, Illinois. Her obituary, published in the 20 March 1992 edition of The Belleville News-Democrat, notes that Elizabeth “was the first African-American woman to work as a clerk in the St. Clair County Offices.

George and Elizabeth (Beckham) Cherry had a daughter named Carol Yvonne Cherry (1936-2017), who married Jackie Koogan White (1927-1978). Born in Water Valley, Mississippi, White moved with his family to Centralia, Illinois during the 1930s. He played basketball for Centralia High School, and went on to attend historic Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he was a four sports star and won all-conference honors in football and basketball.

After college, White played for the world famous Harlem Globetrotters from 1949 to 1952. He then became the coach of the Kappas, who under his guidance won several titles in the Inter-Frat series. Settled in Los Angeles, California, White made history by becoming the first black official in the NBA in 1968. Prior to that he had been the first black official in the old ABL as well as the first black to officiate in the Pac-8. Sadly, however, he died of cancer on 3 Aug. 1978 when he was only 51.

Centralia (Ill.) High School yearbook photo of Jackie K. White.
Photo of Jackie Koogan White from his 1978 newspaper obituary. White, a former Harlem Globetrotter, made history as the first African-American official in the NBA in 1968.
Yearbook photo of Carol Yvonne Cherry, great-great-granddaughter of Mary A. (Lewis) Brown, who was a sister-in-law of Amanda (Costley) Lewis of Pekin and Peoria, eldest child of Nancy Legins Costley of Pekin and Peoria. Carol was the second wife of Jackie Koogan White.

Another individual that we find in the Lewis-Brown-Sexton-Cherry family tree attained success and some degree of fame back when Jackie Koogan White was still a child. The link is again found among the children of Lucy and George Cherry: their second daughter Vivian married Leroy Allen Maxey, a jazz drummer who during the high point of his career was known simply as “Maxey.” He rose to fame as the first drummer for the Cab Calloway Orchestra, with whom he toured nationally and internationally.

Leroy Allen Maxey in a cropped image from a photograph of the Cab Calloway Orchestra. PHOTOS COURTESY OF JEFF PITET OF THE HIDEHOBLOG.COM
Leroy Allen Maxey and his drum set in a 1934 promotional photograph for the Cab Calloway Orchestra.
British advertisement from 1934 announcing the Cab Calloway Orchestra’s first tour of England and spotlighting the virtuoso drumming of Leroy Maxey. PHOTOS COURTESY OF JEFF PITET OF THE HIDEHOBLOG.COM
An early advertisement photo of Leroy Maxey.
Early in his career, Leroy Allen Maxey was the drummer for the Dave Lewis Jazz Boys.

Maxey was born 6 June 1904 in Kansas City, Missouri, and married Vivian W. Cherry during the 1940s. They had two sons. During those years they lived in Flint, Michigan, but later settled in Los Angeles. Vivian died there on 24 Dec. 1983, and Maxey followed her a few years later on 24 July 1987. They are buried together at Forest Lawn in Hollywood Hills, California.

Several photographs and an advertisement from Maxey’s career as a jazz drummer have been uploaded to his Find-A-Grave memorial by Jeff Pitet of (which is devoted to Cab Calloway’s career).

Videos of early Cab Calloway performances are also available online, in which Maxey can be seen playing with the orchestra.

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Nance Legins-Costley and Pvt. William Costley to be honored by Pekin monument

By Jared L. Olar

Local History Specialist

Plans are underway for a permanent stone monument in downtown Pekin to honor the memory of Nance Legins-Costley and her son Pvt. William Henry Costley.

In the past few years, Nance and her son William have been the subjects of multiple articles posted here at “From the History Room.” Nance Legins-Costley (1813-1892) of Pekin and Peoria is known to history as the first African-American to secure her freedom with the help of Abraham Lincoln, through the landmark 1841 Illinois Supreme Court case Bailey v. Cromwell. Her oldest son William H. Costley (1840-1888) of Pekin later went on to fight in the Union Army during the Civil War, serving in the 29th Illinois Colored Infantry, Co. B., and was present in Galveston, Texas, on the first Juneteenth in 1865.

The story of Nancy Legins-Costley is told by Carl Adams in his book, “Nance: Trials of the First Slave Freed by Abraham Lincoln.” IMAGE PROVIDED BY CARL ADAMS

Partners involved in this project include Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman, the City of Pekin, Pekin Main Street, the Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce, the Dirksen Congressional Center, and Abel Monument. Ackerman also credits research on Nance Legins-Costley and her family that has been conducted or made possible by the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society and the Pekin Public Library’s Local History collection.

According to Ackerman, the memorial is being privately donated, and Abel Monument is now at work on it.

The monument will be four feet in length and three feet in height, and will bear a header inscription reading, “Tazewell County Remembers.” The names of Nance and her son William, and words of tribute to their lives, will be inscribed on the front and back of the monument.

Ackerman says the memorial is to be installed in the “pocket park” on the north side of Court Street across from the Tazewell Building, located between the Studio 409 beauty salon at 411 Court and the law offices of Joseph W. Dunn at 417 Court St.

Coming this summer, a memorial to honor the memory of Nance Legins-Costley and her son Pvt. William H. Costley is to be installed in the “pocket park” on the north side of Court Street across from the Tazewell Building, located between the Studio 409 beauty salon at 411 Court and the law offices of Joseph W. Dunn at 417 Court St. GOOGLE STREET VIEW IMAGE

Placement and dedication of the monument is to be on or near Juneteenth this summer.

This will be the second Central Illinois memorial devoted to memorializing the life of Nance Legins-Costley.

As was reported here last week, the life of Nance Legins-Costley is also commemorated on an Illinois State Historical marker currently on display at the Peoria RiverPlex facility.

That marker and two others were created last year for the planned Freedom & Remembrance Memorial that will be placed and dedicated this spring at the corner of South Adams and Griswold streets in Peoria. The purpose of the memorial is to honor the lives of the more than 2,600 Peorians (Nance among them) buried at the defunct Moffatt Cemetery that was located a very short distance north of that intersection.

Nance Legins-Costley’s life and that of her family forms a part not only the history of Pekin, where she lived from 1829 to the late 1870s, but also of Peoria, where she lived for most of the rest of her life from the late 1870s until her death in 1892. She and her husband and one of her sons were interred in Moffatt Cemetery.

But I am of the opinion that Nance and her story really belong to all of Illinois, since she was born in Kaskaskia, the old territorial capital (and later the first state capital), and later was taken to Springfield before Nathan Cromwell brought her to Pekin. She even lived briefly with one of her sons in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after her husband Benjamin’s death.

However, the real reason it can be said that Nance belongs to all of Illinois is the indomitable courage and persistence she showed in fighting to secure the recognition of her freedom – for her fight and her strength resulted in an important Illinois Supreme Court ruling benefitting not only her and her family but every other African-American held in indentured servitude in Illinois.

In my opinion, that’s definitely worthy of a monument or two – or more.

#abel-monument, #abraham-lincoln, #bailey-v-cromwell, #carl-adams, #john-ackerman, #juneteenth, #local-history-room, #nance-legins-costley, #nathan-cromwell, #pekin-area-chamber-of-commerce, #pekin-history, #pekin-main-street, #pekin-nance-memorial, #peoria, #peoria-freedom-remembrance-memorial-park, #tazewell-county-genealogical-historical-society, #william-henry-costley

Moffatt Cemetery historical markers on display at RiverPlex

By Jared L. Olar

Local History Specialist

The two Illinois State Historical Markers for the Freedom & Remembrance Memorial that were unveiled Nov. 15 at the Peoria Riverfront Museum have found a temporary home in the main atrium of the Peoria Park District’s RiverPlex facility.

Two of the three Illinois State Historical Markers that will form the Freedom and Remembrance Memorial, to be dedicated in Spring 2023 at the intersection of Griswold and South Adams in Peoria, are currently on display in the main atrium of the Peoria Park District’s RiverPlex. PHOTO COURTESY OF FRM PROJECT

FRM team members, with the assistance of RiverPlex supervisor Sue Wheeler and RiverPlex staff, put the historical markers on display at the RiverPlex on Monday, Dec. 12. Accompanying the markers are informational panels that provide more of the story of Peoria’s former Moffatt Cemetery and the more than 2,600 Peorians who had been interred in the long-defunct burying ground during the 19th century and the first few years of the 20th century.

Among those Peorians were 52 Union Civil War veterans, whose names and regiments are listed on a third historical marker that has been exhibited in a special display at the Peoria Riverfront Museum since July 28. One of those veterans was Pvt. Nathan Ashby of Pekin, who was present at the first Juneteenth in Galveston, Texas, 19 June 1865.

The two markers now displayed at the RiverPlex tell the story of Moffatt Cemetery and of one of the especially notable persons buried there, Nance Legins-Costley (1813-1892) of Pekin and Peoria, known to history as the first African-American slave to be freed with the help of Abraham Lincoln.

Nance and her son Leander Costley (c.1845-1886) are recorded in the Peoria County Undertakers’ Reports as having been interred at Moffatt. Nance’s husband Benjamin Costley (c.1814-1883) was also very probably buried at Moffatt – his death and burial record says he was to be interred at Springdale Cemetery, but Springdale has no record of him being buried there, and since his wife and son are at Moffatt, it is believed that he was the first of the Costley family to be interred there.

The two markers now at the RiverPlex and the one at the Riverfront Museum will remain on display at their interim locations until the Spring of 2023, when they will be permanently installed on land at the intersection of South Adams and Griswold streets, near the site of the defunct Moffatt Cemetery. The land is being deeded by the United Union of Roofers Local No. 69 to the City of Peoria. The markers, along with a lighted flag to honor the Civil War veterans and informational signs, will form the Freedom & Remembrance Memorial.

The creation and dedication of the memorial next year will be done in partnership with the City of Peoria, the Peoria Park District, and Roofers Local No. 69.


#benjamin-costley, #juneteenth, #leander-costley, #moffatt-cemetery, #nance-legins-costley, #nathan-ashby, #pekin-history, #peoria, #peoria-county-undertakers-reports, #peoria-freedom-remembrance-memorial-park, #peoria-park-district, #riverplex, #sue-wheeler, #united-union-of-roofers-local-69

Further light on the Shipman family

By Jared L. Olar

Local History Specialist

In June and July this summer “From the History Room” devoted some attention to the African-American family of Moses and Milly Shipman of Sand Prairie and Elm Grove Townships in Tazewell County, with special attention paid to the freedom lawsuits that Milly and some of her children and friends filed in St. Louis, Missouri, after they were kidnapped by human traffickers who wished to return them to slavery.

In particular, we delved into the life story of Pvt. Thomas G. L. Shipman of Pekin, son of Moses and Milly, who served as a sharpshooter in the 29th U.S. Colored Infantry during the Civil War.

As we noted back in June of this year, Thomas first appears on record in the U.S. Census returns for the city of Peoria, dated 15 Aug. 1850, which show “Thos. G. L. Shipman,” age 16, “mulatto” (i.e., of black and white ancestry), living in the household of Harvey Green, 40, laborer, and Mary Ann Green, 27. Also living in this household were George W. Lee, 5, Juliett Lee, 4, Richard Toombs, 41, Charles W. Shipman, 23, and David Shipman, 24.

Through the excellent research of Susan Rynerson of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society, and with the aid of Lea Vandervelde’s book “Redemption Songs: Suing for Freedom before Dred Scott” (2014), it has been determined that the Charles W., David, and Thomas of this census record were brothers. Vandervelde’s also points out (page 237, note 35) that after Milly’s death, Moses Shipman remarried in Tazewell County on 19 Dec. 1844 to a woman named Nancy Winslow.

The freedom suit files of Milly Shipman and her companions show that she and Moses had children named Mary Ann and David, who must be the David Shipman found in this census record. In addition, it is significant that Charles, David, and Thomas were living with Mary Ann Green, who is known from marriage records to have been a Shipman as well. Thus, she must be Moses’ and Milly’s daughter Mary Ann.

Tazewell County marriage records show that Mary Ann Shipman married a certain James Lee on 12 July 1843. Consequently, we can identify the George W. Lee and Juliett Lee of this census record as children of Mary Ann by James Lee. By the time of the 1850 census, though, Mary Ann was remarried to Harvey Green, for her first husband James perhaps had died. Mary Ann and Harvey later had a daughter Alice Green, as shown in the 1860 census (by which time Mary Ann had again remarried to Charles Granby, as shown by Tazewell County marriage records).

At this point, it should be clarified that Vandervelde (on page 95 and on page 237, notes 33 and 34) offers an incorrect suggestion regarding the identity of Mary Ann Shipman and her second husband Harvey Green. On page 95 of her book, Vandervelde identifies the 1850 census record of Harvey Green and Mary Ann (Shipman) Green as that of Harry Dick, one of the emancipated freedmen who was kidnapped by Stephen Smith in 1827, and Mary Ann (Shipman) Green. On page 237, Vandervelde says Harry Dick “appears to have changed his name to Harry Green. Harry Green, a black man whose age matches that of Harry Dick, married Maryan Dotson on August 9, 1842, in Jasper County, Illinois.

The 1850 census record, however, does not mention a “Harry” Green, but instead shows a “Harvy” Green. Furthermore, the Mary Ann of the 1850 census record could not have married a Harry (or Harvy) Green in 1842, because she has been shown to have married James Lee in 1843 in Tazewell County. Although Harvey Green’s age and place of birth in the 1850 census record matches that of Harry Dick, that alone is not sufficient to identify them.

In this cropped image from a page of the 1850 U.S. Census of Peoria, we see the household of Harvy and Mary Ann Green, which included Mary Ann’s children George W. Lee, 5, and Juliett Lee, 4, a certain Richard Toombs, 41, and Mary Ann’s three brothers Charles W. Shipman, 23, David Shipman, 24, and Thomas G. L. Shipman, 16.

As an interesting aside, Mary Ann’s son George W. Lee later married Mary Jane Costley, daughter of Benjamin and Nance (Legins) Costley of Pekin and sister of Pvt. William Henry Costley of the 29th U.S. Colored Infantry, Co. B. George himself also served in a colored regiment during the Civil War, but in George’s case he ended up being assigned to the 55th Massachusetts Colored Infantry, Co. H. Thus we see that Pvt. Thomas Shipman was related to the Costleys of Pekin.

Thomas was also related by marriage to the Ashbys of Liverpool Township, Fulton County, who provided four men to the 29th U.S.C.I. Peoria County marriage records show that David Shipman, who was Thomas’ brother, married Elizabeth Ashby on 28 Jan. 1849. From available records on the Ashby family, it seems most probable that Elizabeth was a sister of Pvt. Nathan Ashby of Pekin, of the 29th U.S. Colored Infantry, Co. G., one of four Ashby men of Pekin who served in Co. G. Nathan himself was very probably a son of Fulton County’s first African-American physician, Dr. James Ashby (1808-1850). Illinois state census records for 1855 indicate that David and Elizabeth had a son, born circa 1850, but nothing is known of that son’s identity.

After his enumeration in the 1850 U.S. Census, Thomas Shipman next appears in Peoria County marriage records, which show that on 27 June 1859, he married Martha Ann Powell, born circa 1840 in Indiana. Then the U.S. Census returns for the city of Peoria, dated 5 July 1860, show Thomas Shipman, 21, laborer, born in Illinois, with Martha A. Shipman, 20, born in Indiana, married within the year, and Franklin Shipman, 3 months old. Thomas, Martha, and Franklin are all classified as “mulatto” and unable to read or write. The 1863 Peoria City Directory lists Thomas as a laborer then residing at 77 S. Washington St.

Thomas laid down his life for his country in action near Hatcher’s Run, Virginia, on 31 March 1865. If he had lived, he would have accompanied his regiment to Galveston, Texas, in June 1865 to be present at the first Juneteenth. His widow Martha applied for a Civil War pension in his name on 12 May 1865.

Further research on the family of Thomas Shipman conducted by Susan Rynerson and myself has found that Thomas and Martha had two other children besides their son Franklin named in the 1860 U.S. Census. Those children are Nancy Ellen “Nannie” Shipman, born about 1862 in Peoria, and Thomas Eaton Shipman, born 24 Dec. 1864 in Pekin.

After obtaining a pension as a Civil War widow, Martha remarried in Peoria County in 1867 to a man named Jordan Rogan, who was born about 1835 in Louisiana. Thus, in the U.S. Census returns for Peoria dated 8 June 1870, we find Jordan Rogan, 35, plasterer, born in Louisiana, Martha Rogan, 28, keeping house, born in Indiana, Nancy, 8, goes to school, born in Illinois, and Thomas, 5, born in Illinois; and everyone in this household is identified as “mulatto.” That Martha’s son Franklin does not appear in this census record indicates that he must have died by then.

Martha’s second husband Jordan Rogan presumably died during the early to mid-1870s, because on 11 Dec. 1879 in Peoria County, Martha remarried to a man named Rufus S. Eastman, who was born in 1848 in Lincoln County, Tennessee, the son of David and Margaret (Crofford/Crawford) Eastman. This marriage record says Martha was born in Terre Haute, Indiana, a daughter of Eaton and Lillie (Harris) Powell.

It should be noted that Rufus’ surname is spelled variously in different records. In the 1879 marriage record his surname is given as “Easland,” but in the 1880 U.S. Census it is “Easton,” but in Springdale Cemetery records it is “Eastman.”

The U.S. Census returns for Peoria dated 5 June 1880 enumate the household of Martha and Rufus as: Rufus Easton, 45, cook at a hotel, born in Tennessee, wife Martha A. Easton, 35, housekeeping, born in Indiana of Virginia-born parents, Rufus’ step-daughter Nanie E. “Shipmun,” 18, assistant, born in Illinois, and Rufus’ step-son Thomas E. “Shipmun,” 13, born in Illinois. Everyone in the household is listed as “black.”

Rufus died on 19 April 1891 and is buried in Springdale Cemetery in Peoria. His widow Martha survived until 14 Dec. 1899, when she died in Peoria and was buried two days later in Springdale. As for Martha’s son Thomas Eaton Shipman, he is listed in the 1893 Peoria City Directory as a musician living at 912 Sixth St. (which was then the home of Martha Eastman). Thomas died 15 July 1894 and was also buried in Springdale. It is unknown if Thomas ever married or had children.

Thomas’ older sister Nancy or Nannie married on 24 June 1880 in Peoria to Richard C. Hilliard, 28, white, born in St. Louis, Missouri, son of Ralph and S. (Holley) Hilliard. Nannie and Richard had an unnamed son on 16 Oct. 1880 in Peoria, but it is unclear whether that son was stillborn or died soon after birth, or perhaps later was given a name. No other children of Nannie and Richard are known, and it is unknown when and where Nannie and Richard died and are buried. Nannie was probable dead before May 1895, because Tazewell County marriage records show that Richard C. Hilliard, 41, of Springfield, Illinois, a hotel waiter, born in St. Louis of Ralph and Susan Hilliard, married in Pekin on 6 May 1895 (his second marriage) to Dora Jackson, 28, of Davenport, Iowa, born in Davenport of Rufus and Julia Jackson. The fact that Richard had been living in Springfield could be a clue as to where Nannie may have died and been buried. In any case, it is not impossible that Nannie and her brother Thomas had children who survived to adulthood and may perhaps have living descendants, but at this time nothing further is known of the descendants of Pvt. Thomas Shipman.

Vandervelde discusses another uncertain point regarding the Shipman family on page 95 of her book (cf. page 237 note 39): the identity of the George Shipman named in the 1845 will of Revolutionary War veteran David Shipman of Tazewell County. The will includes a bequest of the remainder of the estate to go toward the clothing of George Shipman when he became of age.  As Vandervelde notes, the identity of that George Shipman is unclear. He could have been a younger, or even youngest, son of Moses Shipman, born perhaps of his second marriage to Nancy Winslow. Or he may have been a son of Moses and Milly who, like Thomas G. L. Shipman, was born after Milly’s safe return to Tazewell County.

Vandervelde points out that the 1850 U.S. Census provides two candidates for the George Shipman of the will. One of them is George W. Shipman, 13, mulatto, apparently working as a servant at Peoria House hotel – his name is listed directly under Hiram Williams, 25, black, a cook at Peoria House. They are the only two blacks shown in that census record as employees of Peoria House.

The other candidate in the 1850 census is “Geo Shipman,” 17, mulatto, a laborer in the household of George and Abigail Washington (who are identified in this record as “black”). Now, we have previously discussed this very census record in the context of the genealogy of the Ashby family, because this is the first time Pvt. Nathan Ashby is named in the historical record. Nathan Ashby, 14, and Mary Beverly, 16, were also living in this household at this time. We know from other records that James Ashby, probably Nathan’s brother, married a Beverly, and we know that David Shipman married Elizabeth Ashby. Thus, most likely George Shipman is a brother of David Shipman, just as Mary Beverly would be a sister-in-law of James Ashby, and Elizabeth Ashby would be a sister of Nathan Ashby.

Thus, we can be reasonably confident that this is the George Shipman of the 1845 will. Given the age of this George Shipman, he would be a son of Moses and Milly Shipman. That would make him an older brother of Pvt. Thomas Shipman. Further information on George has not yet been found.

This cropped image from a page of the 1850 U.S. Census for the City of Peoria shows the African-American household of George and Abigail Washington, including their son Albert, 2, along with Mary Beverly, 16, George Shipman, 17, and Nathan Ashby, 14. Mary was probably the sister of Margaret Beverly who married James W. Ashby in Knox County, Illinois, in 1845. James Ashby and Nathan Ashby evidently were brothers. In addition, an Elizabeth Ashby, apparently their sister, married David Shipman, who was apparently the brother of the George Shipman shown in this census record. George Washington’s wife Abigail may have been a Beverly, Shipman, or Ashby.

#abigail-washington, #benjamin-costley, #charles-w-shipman, #david-shipman, #dora-jackson, #dr-james-ashby, #eaton-powell, #elizabeth-ashby, #franklin-shipman, #george-shipman, #george-w-lee, #george-w-shipman, #george-washington, #harry-deck, #harry-dick, #harry-green, #harvey-green, #hiram-williams, #james-lee, #james-w-ashby, #jordan-rogan, #juliett-lee, #juneteenth, #lea-vandervelde, #margaret-beverly, #martha-ann-powell-shipman, #mary-ann-shipman, #mary-beverly, #mary-jane-costley, #maryan-dotson, #milly-shipman, #milly-v-stephen-smith, #moses-shipman, #nance-legins-costley, #nancy-ellen-shipman, #nancy-winslow, #nathan-ashby, #peoria-house-hotel, #ralph-hilliard, #redemption-songs, #richard-c-hilliard, #richard-toombs, #rufus-jackson, #rufus-s-eastman, #susan-holley-hilliard, #susan-rynerson, #thomas-eaton-shipman, #thomas-shipman, #william-henry-costley

Freedom & Remembrance Memorial markers unveiled

By Jared L. Olar

Local History Specialist

A great deal of progress has been made in the effort to create the Freedom & Remembrance Memorial in south Peoria, a project that aims to commemorate and honor the more than 2,600 Peorians buried at the former Moffatt Cemetery. This project was described here at “From the History Room” in a blog post in August 2021.

The most visible signs of that progress are the three Illinois State Historical Markers that were the center of attention at a special “unveiling” event hosted this week by the Peoria Riverfront Museum, held on Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 15. Project core team member Robert Hoffer of the Peoria Historical Society was the chief speaker at the event.

In addition, Joseph Hutchinson, another core team member, who belongs to the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, spoke about the Civil War veterans buried at Moffatt Cemetery. Also addressing the attendees was Charles Stanley, Illinois State Historical Society board member and chairman of the Society’s Historical Marking Committee, who read a message from the New York-based Pomeroy Foundation, a major donor toward two of the project’s three markers.

The first marker to be completed, commemorating the 52 Union Civil War veterans buried at Moffatt Cemetery, was unveiled July 28 at the Riverfront Museum as part of an exhibit on Moffatt and the planned Freedom & Remembrance Memorial. One of those veterans was Pvt. Nathan Ashby of Pekin, who was present at the first Juneteenth in Galveston, Texas, 19 June 1865.

More recently, the other two historical markers were completed and brought to Peoria. One of the markers tells the history of Moffatt Cemetery, from its origins in the mid-1800s as a family burying ground of Peoria pioneer Aquilla Moffatt, through its closing in 1905, down to the razing and rezoning of the cemetery in the 1950s. When the cemetery was razed, it was reported that the burials at Moffatt had been relocated, but recent research has found that only a small number of burials were moved. The majority of the 2,600-plus burials remain at the site, paved and built over.

Among those burials still at the site would be Nance Legins-Costley (1813-1892), known to history as the first African-American to secure freedom with the aid of Abraham Lincoln. Her life story is the subject of a book and several papers and articles written by project core team member Carl Adams. Costley had indefatigably insisted on her freedom through a series of Illinois lawsuits, and Lincoln’s legal arguments in the landmark 1841 Illinois Supreme Court case of Bailey v. Cromwell at last obtained the courts’ recognition that Costley had been right all along. In April of 1892, she was buried in Moffatt Cemetery, where her late husband Benjamin Costley had been buried in 1883 and their son Leander Costley was buried in 1886.

At Tuesday’s event, Hoffer said the United Union of Roofers Local #69 is deeding land at the corner of South Adams and Griswold for the site of the Freedom and Remembrance Memorial, which will be owned by the City of Peoria. Hoffer also acknowledged and thanked the other organizations that are involved in and support the project, which include, among others, the Peoria Park District, the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, the Abraham Lincoln Association, the Peoria Public Library, and the Pekin Public Library.

Title transfer of the land for the memorial should be completed in the near future, after which the markers and a lighted flag pole will be installed. A formal dedication ceremony of the memorial is being planned for the Spring of 2023.

The following photos are provided courtesy of the Freedom & Remembrance Memorial project:

The story of Peoria’s Moffatt Cemetery is told on this Illinois State Historical Marker. This and the other two Freedom and Remembrance Memorial ISHS markers were made possible through grants from the William D. Pomeroy Foundation. The markers will be placed at the intersection of South Adams and Griswold, near the site of the former cemetery. The memorial will be established on land donated by the United Union of Roofers #69 and will be owned and maintained by the City of Peoria.
This Illinois State Historical Marker lists all 52 of the Civil War Union soldiers buried in Moffatt Cemetery on the south side of Peoria. Among those Union veterans was Pvt. Nathan Ashby of Pekin, who served in the 29th U.S. Colored Infantry and was present at the original Juneteenth in 1865.
The life and legacy of Nance Legins-Costley of Pekin and Peoria, who was buried in Moffatt Cemetery in 1892, is commemorated by this Illinois State Historical Marker to be placed near the site of the former cemetery in Peoria. Costley is known to history as the first African-American to obtain her freedom with the help of Abraham Lincoln. She and her family were pioneers who lived in Pekin from 1829 until the late 1870s, when they moved to Peoria.
Robert Hoffer, core team member of the Freedom and Remembrance Memorial project, addresses the attendees of the historical marker unveiling event Tuesday afternoon, 15 Nov. 2022. Three Illinois State Historical Markers memorializing and honoring the more than 2,600 people buried in Moffatt Cemetery will be placed near the location of the former cemetery at the intersection of South Adams and Griswold, Peoria. A dedication ceremony is planned for Spring 2023.

#abraham-lincoln-association, #african-americans-in-pekin, #aquilla-moffatt, #bailey-v-cromwell, #benjamin-costley, #bob-hoffer, #carl-adams, #charles-stanley, #freedom-suits, #illinois-state-historical-society, #joseph-hutchinson, #juneteenth, #leander-costley, #moffatt-cemetery, #nance-legins-costley, #nathan-ashby, #pekin-history, #peoria-freedom-remembrance-memorial-park, #peoria-historical-society, #peoria-riverfront-museum, #pomeroy-foundation, #robert-hoffer, #sons-of-union-veterans-of-the-civil-war, #united-union-of-roofers-local-69

The Alchemy of ‘Oops!’: Inaccuracies in Heerman’s treatment of Nance Legins-Costley’s trials

By Jared L. Olar

Local History Specialist

In recent years, the lives of Nance Legins-Costley (1813-1892) and her family have become much better known thanks chiefly to fresh light being brought to the subject as a result of the research of Carl Adams, who began delving into Nance’s story in the 1990s.

As we have related here at “From the History Room” more than once, Nance Legins-Costley is known to history as the first African-American slave to secure her freedom with the help of Abraham Lincoln. First appearing in published Pekin historical accounts in 1871 (in William H. Bates’ original narrative of Pekin’s early history), Nance and her persistent efforts to obtain acknowledgement of her freedom later were briefly mentioned in the 1949 Pekin Centenary volume. A much fuller (though far from complete) account was included in the 1974 Pekin Sesquicentennial (pp.6-7).

Apart from local historical narratives, prior to Adams’ research Nance’s story has been mostly relegated to relatively brief notices or passages in Lincoln biographies and studies. For example, John J. Duff devoted just four extended paragraphs to the story in his 1960 tome “A. Lincoln, Prairie Lawyer” (pp.86-87).

Adams himself has contributed two significant articles on the subject to the Abraham Lincoln Association’s newsletter, “For the People” – first, in the Autumn 1999 issue (vol. 1, no. 3), “The First Slave Freed by Abraham Lincoln: A Biographical Sketch of Nance Legins (Cox-Cromwell) Costley, circa 1813-1873,” and second, in the Fall 2015 issue (vol. 17, no. 3), “Countdown to Nance’s Emancipation.” Adams is also the author of the paper, “Lincoln’s First Freed Slave: A Review of Bailey v. Cromwell, 1841,” in the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (vol. 101, nos. 3/4 – Fall-Winter 2008, pp.235-259). Finally, Adams has treated this subject in story form in his 2016 book, “NANCE: Trials of the First Slave Freed by Abraham Lincoln: A True Story of Mrs. Nance Legins-Costley.”

More recently, Nance and her story have been treated in a number of histories devoted to Lincoln or to the subject of American slavery.

For example, Lincoln scholar Guy C. Fraker addresses the case of Bailey v. Cromwell and McNaughton in a single paragraph on p.52 of his 2012 book, “Lincoln’s Ladder to the Presidency: The Eighth Judicial Circuit.” There Fraker offers a bit of polite criticism of the manner of telling the story of Nance and her trials “as a case where Lincoln’s role was to ‘free a slave,’” which Fraker says “is simply not accurate.” Rather, Fraker insists, “Nance’s gallant efforts to assert her free status, not Lincoln, resulted in her freedom.

Fraker’s criticism is well received, because while Lincoln’s place in Nance’s story was very important in enabling her to secure the freedom that she always (and rightly) insisted was hers, this is in truth Nance’s life story rather than the story of how Lincoln purportedly set out to free a slave. From the standpoint of Lincoln scholarship, this case is significant as the first time Lincoln had to directly wrestle with the moral and legal issues related to slavery. But, as Adams himself agrees, from the viewpoint of Nance Legins-Costley this case was quite simply a matter of the greatest importance, because on it depended her freedom and that of her children.

Most recently, Lincoln historian and scholar Michael Burlingame tells the story of Nance and the case of Bailey v. Cromwell in a lengthy paragraph on pp.20-21 of his new (2021) book, “The Black Man’s President: Abraham Lincoln, African Americans, & the Pursuit of Racial Equality.”

As only to be expected in historians of the stature and scholarly diligence of Burlingame and Fraker, their accounts of Nance and Bailey v. Cromwell are accurate and informative.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to use those two adjectives to describe the way in which the story of Nance is told in M. Scott Heerman’s 2018 volume, “The Alchemy of Slavery: Human Bondage and Emancipation in the Illinois Country, 1730-1865.” I have not had occasion to give a close reading to Heerman’s entire book, which appears to be a generally compelling study of the manner in which human servitude was practiced in the officially free state of Illinois. Nevertheless, regarding Heerman’s treatment in his book of the life and trials of Nance Legins-Costley, a number of serious factual errors seem to have slipped past his fact checker during the editorial process.

Heerman introduces Nance and her trials in his chapter 4 (pp.105-106), where he refers to, “The first case, Nance, a Negro Girl v. John Howard (1828).” More accurately, that was the second case. The long tale of Nance’s struggles to win her freedom began (as Heerman himself describes) the previous year, when Nance’s master Thomas Cox’s possessions (including Nance and her family) were auctioned off to pay for a debt. She did not wait until 1828 to protest her freedom, but already in October of 1827 we find the freedom suit Nance, a Negro girl v. Nathan Cromwell. The second case, against Howard, was filed due to Sangamon County Coroner John Howard’s role in selling Nance to Cromwell.

Heerman returns to the story of Nance in his chapter 6 (pp.135-136), but here we again find factual errors. Of Nance he writes (p.135), “Born in Maryland around 1810, she was brought to Illinois and converted into a registered servant.” U.S. Census records consistently show Nance’s place of birth as Maryland, and indicate that she was born circa 1813. However, Adams’ research into Nance’s family history shows that she was born in Kaskaskia, Illinois, not Maryland. It was rather her master Nathan Cromwell who was born in Maryland, and presumably Nance, not knowing where she was born, herself came to believe she was born in Maryland as well. Her parents and siblings, who perhaps could have reminded her of where she was born, were sold away from her in 1827, when Nance was about 14. It was Nance’s parents Randol and Anachy (Ann) Legins, not Nance herself, who were brought to Illinois (by Nathaniel Green) – but they were from South Carolina, not Maryland.

Next, on the same page Heerman says, “In 1828, Nathan Cromwell sold Nance at public auction to John Howard. She disputed her sale before the Illinois Supreme Court, in Nance, a Negro girl v. John Howard (1828), . . . .” This is a remarkable instance of confusion on Heerman’s part. Howard did not purchase Nance; he rather oversaw the auction whereby Nance, an indentured servant of Thomas Cox, was sold to Nathan Cromwell. Heerman’s confusion seems to have arisen from his overlooking the earlier case of Nance v. Cromwell, and from misreading the court documents in Nance v. Howard.

Heerman once more returns to the story of Nance and her family in his concluding chapter (pp.166-167). There he correctly recalls that “In 1841, Abraham Lincoln helped to free Nance Cromwell from bondage in a local case, and during the war, her son William Costley took up arms.” But at this point we again encounter some very serious errors of fact.

Heerman proceeds to say that Nance’s son William “enlisted in the 26th Volunteers, and after fighting in Missouri and Mississippi, the company went to Virginia, where on April 9, 1865, Costley witnessed Lee’s formal surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.

Shown here is the white Union soldier William Henry Costley (1845-1903) of Weldon, DeWitt County, Illinois, who is not to be confused with the black soldier William Henry Costley/Cosley (1840-1888) of Pekin, Tazewell County, Illinois. Image is from the Logan Collection of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, and may also be found at the Find-A-Grave memorial of William H. Costley of Weldon.

On this point, Heerman and his fact checker should have paused to consider how and why a black man, William Costley, would have served in a white Union regiment during the Civil War. Even more remarkable, on p.167 Heerman presents the photograph of a white Union soldier whose name, regiment, and company are written in cursive hand as “William Costley, Co. D, the 26 Ills Volls.” Heerman’s caption for this photo reads, “William Costley, son of Ben and Nancy Cromwell, age about twenty-one, Boys in Blue, Logan Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Springfield Ill.” (The same photo may be seen at William Costley’s Find-A-Grave memorial.) This same image appears on the front cover of Heerman’s book.

In fact, William Costley was the son of Ben and Nancy Costley, not Cromwell. “Cromwell” was one of the surnames that Nance bore during her lifetime – specifically, during the time she spent as a servant and ward of Nathan Cromwell. (Before that, she would have been known as Nance Legins and then Nance Cox, and the Peoria County marriage records of her children also give her a maiden name of “Allen”.) In this case, Heerman made a simple mental slip, for in his book he usually refers to Nance as “Nance Cromwell.”

However, he clearly has misidentified the white soldier William Henry Costley (1845-1903) of Weldon, DeWitt County, Illinois, as the black soldier William Henry Costley/Cosley (1840-1888) of Pekin, Tazewell County, Illinois. Nance’s son William (Bill) served in the 29th U.S. Colored Infantry, Co. B. – and although the 29th U.S.C.I. was present (along with the 26th Illinois Volunteers) at Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, Bill himself was not there, because (as his pension file says) he was wounded in action on April 1 and subsequently was sent to a military hospital. Bill recovered in time, however, to take part in the landing at Galveston, Texas, on 18 June 1865, and thus was present for the first Juneteenth.

Incidentally, Carl Adams believes the white Costleys of DeWitt County may have formerly been the owners of Nance’s husband Benjamin Costley – a fascinating possibility that I have not been able to confirm or disprove. All we know at present is that Ben Costley was a free black, born in Illinois, and first appears on record in the 1840 U.S. Census as a head of household in Tazewell County, where he and Nance married on 15 Oct. 1840.

As I mentioned above, generally speaking Heerman’s work seems to make for a compelling study of the way slavery perdured in Illinois despite laws banning it — and he rightly and very helpfully places the story of Nance Legins-Costley in its broader historical context. However, Heerman’s fact errors and misinterpretation of primary documents regarding the story of Nance and her family (matters with which I have had occasion to become familiar), give us reason to be cautious and critical regarding his treatment of historical examples elsewhere in his book.

#29th-u-s-colored-infantry, #a-lincoln-prairie-lawyer, #abraham-lincoln, #anachy-legins, #benjamin-costley, #carl-adams, #col-thomas-cox, #first-slave-freed-by-abraham-lincoln, #guy-fraker, #illinois-history, #john-howard, #john-j-duff, #juneteenth, #lincolns-ladder-to-the-presidency, #m-scott-heerman, #michael-burlingame, #nance-cromwell, #nance-legins-costley, #nathan-cromwell, #nathaniel-green, #pekin-history, #randol-legins, #the-alchemy-of-slavery, #the-black-mans-president, #william-h-bates, #william-henry-costley

A thwarted kidnapping: Shipman and Mose – the rest of the story

By Jared Olar

Local History Specialist

In September 2013 and January 2014, we recalled a dramatic story that was recorded in Charles C. Chapman’s “History of Tazewell County, Illinois” (1879) – the stirring account of the kidnapping of a family of free blacks from rural Tazewell County in 1827, and the bold and decisive actions taken by some of the county’s early settlers to rescue the victims.

The story, as Chapman recorded it, tells of how an early Tazewell County settler named Shipman had brought a family of free blacks with him to Illinois. The story in Chapman’s account does not name any of the blacks except the father, who is referred to simply as “Mose.”

The kidnappers struck in the middle of the night, seizing Mose and his family, but before the criminals had gone very far, Moses (who had a double row of sharp teeth) gnawed through his ropes and escaped, making his way back to the settlement and alerting his fellow pioneers. Johnson Sommers, William Woodrow, and Absalom Dillon mounted their horses and gave chase.

The pioneers rode hard in pursuit of the traffickers and managed to intercept them in St. Louis, Missouri, both pursuers and pursued landing on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River at the same time. Chapman’s account concludes:

“. . . Sommers jumped from his horse, gathered up a stone and swore he would crush the first one who attempted to leave the boat, and the men, who could steal the liberty of their fellow men, were passive before the stalwart pioneers.

“One of the pioneers hurried up to the city, and procured the arrest of the men. We do not know the penalty inflicted, but most likely it was nothing, or, at least, light, for in those days it was regarded as a legitimate business to traffic in human beings. The family was secured, however, and carried back to this county, where most of them lived and died. All honor to the daring humane pioneers.”

Quite frustratingly to local historical researchers, Chapman provides no other information on Mose and his family. He does not even tell us who “Shipman” was who had brought Mose and his family to Tazewell County. But subsequent research by members of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society was able to determine that “Shipman” was a Revolutionary War veteran from Kentucky named David Shipman (c.1760-1845) who is recorded as being buried in Antioch Cemetery near Tremont. Shipman’s probate file shows that the full name of “Mose” was “Moses Shipman,” who had adopted his former master’s surname, apparently out of gratitude for David Shipman’s having freed him and his wife and children. Moses and his family must have held David Shipman in great fondness, for when David died without any children, Moses handled the funeral arrangements and then purchased most of David’s possessions at the estate auction. The probate file includes reimbursement for Moses Shipman due to the diligent care he provided for David and David’s wife during their final years.

That still leaves numerous questions unanswered, though – namely, why did David Shipman come to Illinois, how and why did he free his slaves, and who were the other members of Moses Shipman’s family?

Census, marriage, and military records for the mid-19th century tell of several African-American Shipmans living in Tazewell and Peoria counties. No doubt they were related to Moses Shipman, very probably his children. One of them, as we mentioned a few weeks ago, was Pvt. Thomas G. L. Shipman, a Pekin native who served in the 29th U.S. Colored Infantry as a sharpshooter during the Civil War, giving his life for his country on 31 March 1865 and leaving a widow, Martha, and son, Franklin.

Another African-American Shipman was a woman named Mary Ann, whose son George W. Lee also served in the Colored Infantry during the war, afterwards marrying Mary Jane Costley, one of the children of Nance Legins-Costley of Pekin (but it is unknown if George and Mary Jane had any children, or least any who survived infancy).

While these records tell us a good deal about the African-American Shipmans of Tazewell and Peoria counties, they of themselves offer no confirming evidence that they were children of Moses Shipman, nor do they tell us who their mother was, or how and why David Shipman brought them to Tazewell County.

Research conducted by Susan Rynerson of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society has provided the answers to those questions, and then some.

The most important thing that Rynerson has discovered is that, contrary to the impression left by Chapman’s account, the family of Moses Shipman was not immediately brought back to Tazewell County. Rather, it took the intrepidity and endurance of Moses’ wife Milly, supported by the steadfast advocacy of Tazewell County’s abolitionist settlers, to convince Missouri’s courts that Milly Shipman, her children, and the others who had been kidnapped were free persons.

The full story of the ordeal of Milly Shipman and her children and companions can be learned by studying the 150 pages of the case file of Milly v. Stephen Smith (including papers from three related cases), which is available at the website of the library of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Milly’s 1827 case can be compared to the steadfast efforts of Nance Legins-Costley to secure recognition of her freedom, which at last was obtained through the 1841 case of Bailey v. Cromwell & McNaghton.

From those documents we learn that the kidnapping of the Shipman family was not a random attack of slavers looking for likely victims. It was more in the line of a family dispute involving a potential heir of David Shipman – namely, David’s nephew Stephen Smith of Kentucky, to whom David owed a sum of money. To help pay off that debt, two of David Shipman’s slaves in Shelby County, Kentucky, named Sarah, 27, and Eliza, 15, were seized and sold.

David, however, evidently wanted his slaves to be free, so he and his wife moved to Madison, Indiana, with the rest of his slaves. There on 3 Oct. 1826, David filed and recorded Deeds of Emancipation for the rest of his slaves, i.e., Moses, 30, Milly, 25, their children Allen, 4, Mary Ann, 3, and David, 15 months, and two others named Henry Dick, 16, and William, 12. David Shipman then moved to Tazewell County, Illinois, bringing his newly freed companions with him. (Mary Ann is certainly the Mary Ann Shipman Lee who was mother of Pvt. George W. Lee, while little David Shipman must be the David Shipman who married Elizabeth Ashby of the Fulton County African-American Ashbys.)

David Shipman’s actions were not at all to the liking of his nephew Stephen Smith, who had expected to inherit his uncle’s slaves and planned to sell them in order to obtain money to buy land. When he found out where his uncle had gone, he visited his uncle in Illinois and attempted to take the former slaves with him, but was prevented from doing so.

Smith then gathered a gang of kidnappers and on the night of 4 May 1827 – while everyone was asleep at his uncle’s home at what would later become Circleville in Tazewell County – seized the former slaves and dragged them down to the St. Louis slave market. Smith and his gang managed to grab Moses, Milly, little David, David’s infant brother (probably Charles), as well Henry Dick and William – but as we have seen, Moses escaped and made it back home, alerting his fellow settlers to what had happened.

The rescuing posse intercepted Smith and his gang with their victims on 8 May 1827. The posse members, including Nathan Dillon, quickly filed papers in St. Louis court to prevent Smith from carrying the kidnapping victims to any other jurisdiction. That gave Moses’ wife Milly and her companions time to file a freedom lawsuit that same month. (In one of the documents in the Milly v. Stephen Smith court file, Smith complains about what he saw as the meddling of David Shipman’s Quaker neighbors.)

As historian Lea VanderVelde has related at length in her 2014 book “Redemption Songs: Suing for Freedom before Dred Scott,” Milly was one of numerous free blacks who petitioned for their freedom in Missouri during the 1800s under the legal rule then reigning in Missouri courts of “once free always free.” That is, even though Missouri was a slave state, their courts in those days did not allow the practice of kidnapping a free black in one state and selling him into slavery in Missouri. Just last month, on June 20 during Juneteenth weekend, a new memorial was unveiled outside the Civil Courts Building in St. Louis, inscribed with the names of every black person who brought a freedom suit in Missouri. Among the names on the memorial under the year 1827 are “Milly, a free mulatto woman,” “Harry Dick, a free negro man,” “William, a free negro boy,” and “David Shipman, a free mulatto boy.

Among the names inscribed on the new St. Louis Freedom Suits Memorial are Milly, Harry Dick, William, and David Shipman, four free blacks who were kidnapped from Tazewell County in May 1827 by Stephen Smith, who wished to turn a profit by selling them back into slavery. The new monument was erected and dedicated during the Juneteenth weekend last month, on 20 June 2022.

Milly and the others were held in St. Louis as her case slowly made its way through Missouri’s circuit court as depositions were taken from relevant witnesses in Kentucky and Illinois – with attorneys even traveling to the home of John L. Bogardus in Peoria to take deposition statements. The circuit court erroneously ruled in favor of Smith, claiming that David Shipman was not legally able to free his slaves on account of the money he owed his nephew. However, that judgment was overturned by the Missouri Supreme Court 23 Sept. 1829, finding that Shipman’s debt did not bar him from freeing his slaves. The case was then remanded to the circuit court, which confirmed the Supreme Court’s decision on 13 April 1830, and Smith was ordered to repay to Milly and her companions all court costs.

Milly and her children were at last able to reunite with Moses Shipman in Tazewell County. The 1840 U.S. Census shows David Shipman living in Tazewell County as the head of a household that included black persons whom Susan Rynerson has plausibly identified as Moses Shipman and wife Milly and their children Allen, Mary Ann, David, Charles, and Thomas, along with Henry Dick and William.

As I noted above, a few weeks ago we recalled the life of Thomas Shipman and his service in the Civil War. I am indebted to Susan Rynerson for bringing to my attention the fact that on the Tazewell County Veterans Memorial outside the courthouse, Thomas Shipman’s name is listed immediately below Milton S. Sommers, who was a son of Johnson Sommers, one of the men who pursued Stephen Smith to St. Louis and prevented Thomas’ mother and brothers from being sold back into slavery.

This is the first page of the St. Louis freedom suit petition of Milly Shipman, Harry Dick, William, and David Shipman, free blacks who were kidnapped in May 1827from their home in Tazewell County and dragged down to St. Louis for the purpose of selling them back into slavery. IMAGE FROM WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS LIBRARY WEBSITE.
This is the second page of the freedom suit petition of Milly Shipman, Harry Dick, William, and David Shipman. Significantly, each of the petitioners signed their own names, indicating that their former owner David Shipman had been teaching them how to read and write. IMAGE FROM WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS LIBRARY WEBSITE.
This is the first page of an informative petition of Tazewell County settler Nathan Dillon supporting the fact that Milly Shipman, Harry Dick, William, and David Shipman were free. Dillon also relates how the four were kidnapped by Stephen Smith, nephew of their former master David Shipman. IMAGE FROM WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS LIBRARY WEBSITE.
This is the second page of a petition of Tazewell County settler Nathan Dillon supporting the fact that Milly Shipman, Harry Dick, William, and David Shipman were free. IMAGE FROM WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY IN ST. LOUIS LIBRARY WEBSITE.

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Nance Legins-Costley, Pekin home owner

By Jared Olar
Local History Specialist

Earlier this year, another important part of the life of Nance Legins-Costley was uncovered by Susan Rynerson of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society. As was announced in the May 2022 issue of the TCGHS Monthly (pages 348-349), Nance became the owner of her own home during the approximately five decades that she lived in Pekin.

Rynerson made this discovery on Saturday, 19 March 2022, while engaged in research in early Tazewell County land deeds. There she found a deed of sale dated 19 July 1849, by which “Nancy Costley” purchased the land that her home occupied, Lot 6, Block 26 in the City of Pekin, from William and Caroline Cromwell for the price of $10.

This deed of sale, dated 19 July 1849, conveyed Lot 6, Block 26 in the Original Town of Pekin from William and Caroline Cromwell to Nancy Costley, for the price of $10. (Image reproduced in the May 2022 Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society Monthly)

This deed of sale is significant not only for the new light it sheds on Nance’s life, but also for the early history of Pekin and Tazewell County – for it means that Nance had achieved the status of homeowner a mere eight years after the landmark case of Bailey v. Cromwell which had confirmed Nance’s freedom and that of her three oldest children. It also means Nance was one of the earliest African-American landowners in the county.

It’s also interesting and significant that the deed of sale was made out to Nance rather than to her husband Benjamin. Illinois coverture law at that time, however, considered that the land became Benjamin’s by virtue of his being the head of the Costley household. That law was changed in 1861 such that wives would retain title to their land rather than it passing to their husbands.

It is also noteworthy that Nance bought her home from William Cromwell and his wife Caroline, because Nance had lived and worked in the Cromwell household from 1828 until 1836, when her purported master Nathan Cromwell (one of Pekin’s co-founders and father of William) attempted to sell Nance to David Bailey for $376.48. It was Bailey’s refusal to pay that amount (because Nance had again asserted her freedom) that led to the legal process that culminated in the Bailey v. Cromwell ruling of 23 July 1841.

The Pekin city directories for the years 1861, 1871, and 1876 show the Costley family living at the location of Lot 6, Block 26 in Pekin, which is the southwest corner of Somerset and Amanda streets. Rynerson noted, however, that it appears from the map of Pekin in the 1891 Tazewell County atlas that Lot 6 had been covered by the widening of Somerset Street by that time.

On this detail from an 1872 map of Pekin, from the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County,” a star indicates the location of the home of Benjamin Costley and Nance Legins-Costley and their children.

Nance and her family left Pekin and moved to Peoria in the late 1870s, but Rynerson found that in 1868 the Costleys lost possession of their home lot due to delinquent property taxes.

Although William Cromwell sold the lot to Nance for only $10, the county decided to assess the value of the land at $200 – no small amount for that period, which would mean an annual tax assessment that Nance and Ben were too poor to be able to pay. The 14 July 1859 issue of The Tazewell Register newspaper listed “Benj Costly” as owner of Lot 6, Block 26, and owing $6.44 in back taxes for the years 1856 and 1857. The taxes were listed as delinquent again in 1860.

This detail from the 14 July 1859 issue of The Tazewell Register lists Benjamin Costley among those owing back taxes to Tazewell County. (Image reproduced in the May 2022 Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society Monthly)

Eventually the county auctioned of the Costleys’ home lot to pay off the delinquent taxes. On 10 Oct. 1868, the Tazewell County Sheriff deeded dozens of parcels of land – including Lot 6, Block 26 – to Benjamin Bourland of Peoria. Bourland acquired title to the lot for the price of $9.

In 1875, Bourland quit claimed the land to someone named Eggleston, and then in 1883 (by which time the Costleys had been living in Peoria for at least three years) the Tazewell County Clerk transferred this lot to Joseph Dietz.

Despite their land being sold out from underneath the Costleys, there is no evidence that the Costleys were evicted from their home. It seems rather that as long as the county received its property tax revenue, the Costleys were left unmolested. It is known from William H. Bates’ 1870 history of Pekin that Nance herself was esteemed in the community: “For more than forty years she has been known here as a ‘negro’ upon whom there was no discount, and her presence and services have been indispensible on many a select occasion,” Bates wrote.

During the course of the 1870s, some of the Costley children (by then adults) moved to Peoria, and toward the end of that decade their parents joined them there also. Benjamin Costley first appears in the Peoria city directories in 1880, and he died in Peoria in 1883. Nance followed him in death almost 10 years later, in 1892. She, Ben, and their son Leander were buried in Moffatt Cemetery in Peoria.

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