William W. Sellers, publisher and politician

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

William W. Sellers, publisher and politician

By Jared L. Olar
Library assistant

The foundation of Pekin’s historical record was laid in 1870, with the publication of the Sellers & Bates Pekin City Directory. As noted more than once in this column, included in that directory was a “History of Pekin, from its earliest settlement to the present time.”

The 1870 directory billed itself as “the first history and directory of the city.” The conjunction “and” is important – it was not the first city directory (that was the 1861 Roots directory), but it does contain the first published history of Pekin. If not for the Sellers & Bates directory, our knowledge of Pekin’s early history would be greatly impoverished.

But just who were “Sellers & Bates, Printers,” to whom researchers into our local history owe such a great debt? We first answered the “Bates” part of that question in the March 17, 2012 Pekin Daily Times, in the column, “William H. Bates of Pekin, ‘the historian of the city.’

Bates was the younger half of the printing and publishing partnership of Sellers & Bates. Sellers was William W. Sellers of Pekin, a newspaper publisher and Republican politician (there was no clear line separating the two roles in those days, even as the line between journalism and politics is obscured in our day) who enjoyed a fair degree of local prominence.

The entries for William Sellers and his printing firm, Sellers & Bates, in the 1870 Pekin City Directory which his business produced and published.

Sellers briefly appears in Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” p.723, in Chapman’s account of Tazewell County’s early newspapers. One of them was the Tazewell County Republican, of which Chapman writes, “. . . Wm. W. Sellers got a hold of it, in 1863 or ’64. He made it a red-hot Republican organ and one of the best papers published in the Northwest. He was a shrewd able writer and could turn the English language into a two-edge sword when in a wordy conflict with an opponent. He conducted it until his death, which occurred Dec. 15, 1872. It was then conducted by his administrators for a short time, when Jacob R. Riblett and Wm. H. Bates purchased it.

Shown is an advertisement for the Tazewell County Republican newspaper from the 1870 Sellers & Bates Pekin City Directory. The Tazewell County Republican was owned and published by William W. Sellers.

The reference to Sellers’ death in 1872 explains why Sellers’ name dropped from the title of subsequent editions of the Pekin City Directory. The business partnership of Sellers & Bates was ended by Sellers’ untimely death, after which Bates continued to publish the directories alone.

The “Atlas Map of Tazewell County, Illinois” was published about 1873. The atlas includes several lengthy biographies of the “Old Settlers of Tazewell County,” all of them laden with fulsome praise of their subjects. On page 43 is a biography of Sellers that reads more like a funeral eulogy than a proper biography, but which nevertheless records all of the highlights of his life.

Sellers, the biography says, “was born May 19, 1833, in Mercersburg, Franklin county, Pennsylvania. He was the youngest of a family of six children of Michael and Phoebe (Walker) Sellers. He is descended from one of the old and prominent families of eastern Pennsylvania. His early culture was received in the schools of his native town. His rare and eminent natural qualities, coupled with his active and studious mind, led him on to that success which, as a public man and journalist, he acquired in his after career.

Sellers went into journalism in the early 1850s as assistant editor of the Chambersburg Repository, but at age 22 he moved to McConnellsville, Pa., and became the owner and publisher of the Fulton Republican. “He was married July 8, 1856, in Indianola, Iowa, to Miss Lide Smith, with whom he first became acquainted in his native town.” They had five children. After their marriage, they returned to McConnellsville, where Sellers continued to publish the Fulton Republican. He also was elected to the Pennsylvania legislature.

Sellers settled in Pekin in November 1863 and soon after purchased the Tazewell County Republican. “The county was largely democratic at this time, but owing to the herculean labors of this gifted journalist, we may largely account for the political revolution of 1872, when we find, for the first time in its political record, that the county was republican,” his biography says.

Sellers was elected mayor of Pekin in 1865, but he resigned in the fall of 1866 after winning election as a representative in the Illinois General Assembly. Besides the elective offices he held, the biography states that Sellers also “was appointed, by President Grant, postmaster of the city of Pekin, which position he held until his death, which occurred at his residence on the 15th of December, 1872. His amiable and accomplished wife is still continuing the paper which was so ably conducted by her husband.

Somewhat remarkably for that era, after Sellers’ death, President Grant appointed Sellers’ widow as “postmistress of Pekin.” “The appointment meets the approbation of the citizens of Pekin, and it is well conducted through her management,” the biography says.

In tribute to Sellers’ journalism, his biography comments, “It is a well-established fact in the minds of our intelligent citizens, that the press is the most potent agency for good or evil in Christendom. The same is true in state or municipal affairs. Every city owes its progress, in a great measure, to its press. Newspapers are now becoming the vehicle of thought, as well as the means of heralding the virtues of every people and the beauties of every locality to the world. In respect to these facts, Pekin was indeed benefited by the short but incessant labors of William W. Sellers.

This color advertisement for Sellers & Bates Printers, a Pekin business located in an upstairs office on the south side of Court Street four doors east of Third Street, features the business trademark. Sellers & Bates produced the 1870 Pekin City Directory, in which this ad was run.

Advertisements

#1870-pekin-city-directory, #celestial-city, #celestials, #old-settlers, #pekin-history, #pekin-mayors, #sellers-and-bates, #tazewell-county-republican-newspaper, #william-h-bates, #william-sellers, #william-w-sellers

Westerman’s Rose Villa and the Herget Mansion

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Recently we highlighted the somewhat tense and at times colorful relationship that noted Pekin distiller Henry P. Westerman (1836-1922) had with the local press. As we previously recalled, at one point Pekin editor and printer (and the city’s first historian) William H. Bates “was threatened at his very domicile by H. P. Westerman, the old head of the Pekin whiskey ring,” as the Peoria Journal mentioned on Nov. 3, 1881.

Westerman was of course known for much more than evading the federal whiskey tax and threatening the lives of newspaper editors. In fact, he and his wife Mary were prominent and influential members of the community, as one might gather from Westerman’s extensive and laudatory biography which was included in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County,” page 38, among that publication’s lives of the “Old Settlers” of the county.

Another unmistakable sign of the Westermans’ exalted status in Pekin’s society was their impressive place of residence, a large Victorian-style mansion known as “Rose Villa.” Their mansion was located on Washington Street at the head of Buena Vista, at the street address today designated 420 Washington St.  A lithograph engraving of Rose Villa as well as an engraved portrait of H. P. Westerman himself may be found in the 1873 “Atlas Map.”

Later in life Westerman moved to California, where he died. The block on which Rose Villa stood was acquired by a member of another of Pekin’s prominent German families, Carl Herget, who replaced the old Westerman frame mansion with his own brick Classical Revival structure, known today as the Herget Mansion, now 103 years old and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. The blueprints and specifications for the new building were drawn up on July 15, 1912, by the architectural firm of Hewitt & Emerson, 321 Main St., Peoria.

It should be noted that Rob Clifton’s “Pekin History: Then and Now” (2004) has an incorrect statement regarding the relationship between Westerman’s Rose Villa and the Carl Herget Mansion. “Then and Now” says, “Around 1912 George Herget bought and then converted the house to its current appearance.” George, founder of Herget National Bank and donor of the land on which the Pekin Public Library was built, was Carl Herget’s uncle. The 1912 construction of the Herget Mansion was the erecting of a new structure from the ground up, not merely a major remodel of a previously existing structure.

RoseVilla

This engraving of Rose Villa, mansion of Henry P. Westerman, was published in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County.” The Carl Herget Mansion on Washington Street stands on the site today.

#carl-herget, #carl-herget-mansion, #george-herget, #h-p-westerman, #old-settlers, #pekin-history, #rose-villa, #w-h-bates, #william-h-bates

Tazewell County Old Settler Daniel Rankin

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Following on last week’s portrait of the life of Pekin Mayor Daniel Sapp, we turn this week to the life of another early settler of this area who also had the name of Daniel – Daniel M. Rankin (1803-1877), whose family surname is today borne by Rankin School on South Fifth Street, a few miles south of Pekin. The residence and farm building of Rankin’s farmstead were situated on the east side of the road that is today South 14th Street, but the Rankin family farm stretched west to Fifth Street.

A native of Lancaster County, Pa., Rankin arrived in Tazewell County in the autumn of 1828. Consequently, he was one of the survivors of the extremely harsh winter of 1830 which the county’s pioneers remembered as “the Deep Snow.” As one of Tazewell County’s “Old Settlers,” his biography was included in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County,” page 58. A lithograph of Rankin’s farm, called the “Odley Farm,” is found on page 117 of the same atlas.

DanielRankin

This engraving of Tazewell County Old Settler Daniel M. Rankin (1803-1877) was published in Charles C. Chapman’s “History of Tazewell County.”

Excerpts of Rankin’s biography from the “Atlas Map” here follow:

“Daniel M. Rankin, the subject of our sketch, was born in Lancaster county, Pa., on the 31st day of October, 1803, where he received his early education, and where he remained until seventeen years of age engaged in working upon the farm, and at which time he concluded to learn a trade. Choosing the blacksmithing, he engaged with one of his brothers, John Rankin, with whom he remained three years, at the expiration of which he began journey work, and worked two years at Hawksville, Pa.

“On the 7th of July, 1825, he was married to Miss Esther Lefevre, a native of Lancaster county, Pa., and in the spring of 1826 he began housekeeping. In 1827 he sold out, and in the month of September, 1828, he bid farewell to the hills and valleys of his native state and emigrated to the Great West, making Tazewell county, Ill., his point of destination, coming all the way by wagon, which required about six weeks’ time. He says he had splendid weather for traveling. When he first saw Pekin, it was but a small village composed of a few log houses.

“He settled on section 27, Sand Prairie township, Tazewell county, where he moved into a log cabin, and he immediately began opening up a farm. He remained there until 1864, when he sold out his farm and moved into the city of Pekin, where he remained some two years, and in 1866 he purchased the farm where he now resides, three miles southeast of Pekin, consisting of four hundred acres of good land – in fact, some of the most valuable in the county. . .

“He had the misfortune to lose the companion of his early life. She died on the 6th of August, 1855. They had fourteen children, seven of whom are now living and are comfortably situated. His son, George W., has charge of the farm, and is one of the most active young men in the county. He possesses all the qualifications necessary to success in life. He is thoroughly posted in every department of agriculture, and his farm is stocked with fine herds of cattle, hogs, and horses. . .”

At the time his biography was written, Rankin was living with his son George and two of his daughters on the Odley Farm. The biography concluded with the hope that he would “long live to be a blessing in the future, as he has been in the past, to his family and the society which he has been identified with for so many years.”

However, by the time Charles C. Chapman had published his 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” Rankin had passed away, as Chapman noted on page 422 of his history. Rankin died July 30, 1877. He is buried just at the northeast corner of his old farm, in Rankin Cemetery, also known as Haines (or Haynes) Cemetery, located on the north side of Veterans Drive.

#daniel-rankin, #haines-cemetery, #odley-farm, #old-settlers, #pekin-history, #rankin-cemetery, #rankin-school, #tazewell-county-history

Old Settlers Enoch and Quintus Orendorff

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Among the old families of the Delavan and Hopedale areas are the Orendorffs, whose ancestors settled on land in what would become Tazewell County during the 1820s. This family name has previously appeared in this space, when we recalled the shocking account of the brutal murder in 1860 of the wife and little daughters of George W. Orendorff of Delavan. Most of the clan, of course, experienced far less tragedy than did George, but their lives were often notable and sometimes attracted the attention of early historical writers.

An extended biography of Darius White Orendorff, with a detailed genealogical narrative of the branches of the Orendorff family in Tazewell County, was included in the 1894 “Portrait and Biographical Record of Tazewell and Mason Counties,” pages 656-660. Mentioned in this genealogy was Darius’ kinsman Enoch Thomas Orendorff, who was born Nov. 29, 1799, in Jefferson County, Va., first coming to the territory that would soon become Tazewell County in 1826. (See also Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” page 445 – the Orendorff name is frequently met in Chapman’s history.)

As pioneers of the county, Enoch and some of his Orendorff siblings and kin (name originally spelled “Ohrendorff,” and sometimes later spelled and misspelled “Orndorff” or “Orendorf”) were grouped among Tazewell County’s “Old Settlers.” Thus, among the biographies of the Old Settlers of Tazewell County that were published in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County,” the following brief, glowing sketch of the lives of Enoch Orendorff and his son Quintus is found on page 90:

“Quintus Orendorff was born in the present limits of Tazewell county, November 10, 1828. He is the oldest child of Enoch T. and Rosanna Orendorff, who were both natives of Kentucky (sic). He emigrated to Illinois and settled in the present limits of Tazewell county in 1826, where he was soon after married to Miss Rosanna Orendorff. They have had by this union a family of four sons and one daughter; three of the former are still living, viz.: Quintus, residing in Delavan; Dr. Charles, residing at Kansas City, Mo.; and John L., who is engaged in the jewelry business at Delavan. Mr. Orendorff followed farming through life. He was called out near the close of the Black Hawk war, but was not engaged actively in any of its campaigns. Himself and family were members of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. He was one of those energetic and moral citizens, whose influence in the community for good was duly felt and appreciated. His earthly labors closed April 2, 1852. The death of his worthy and estimable wife occurred April 15, 1851.

“Quintus Orendorff, in his early culture, was indebted to parental training and the common school facilities of Tazewell county. To these he had, by application and observation, coupled with his own experience, added a fair practical business education. He was married September 24, 1854, to Miss Emma E., daughter of John and Anna Kelly, of Delavan, and formerly of Providence, R. I. They have had, by this marriage, a family of two sons and three daughters, in the following order of birth, viz.: Oren B., Anna B., Olive B. (deceased in infancy), Charles B., and Jesuline B. They are living with their parents. Mr. Orendorff began life as a business man with some capital. He erected a steam flouring mill in Delavan in 1855, which was the first in the town. This enterprise, in the sequel, was a convenience to the community and a loss to himself. He commenced a mercantile career in Mason County, Ill., where he established in December, 1858, and continued there until December, 1869, when he located in Delavan, where he is now engaged in the sale of groceries, queensware, and confectionaries. As a husband and a parent he is kind and affectionate; as a citizen and business man he is public spirited and reliable. He unites to an active temperament probity and an earnest zeal. His first impressions are usually correct, although he is sometimes impulsive. He is a firm supporter of moral and intellectual culture, and takes pride in the education of his children. As Mr. Orendorff is one of the oldest native citizens of Tazewell county, and having been long identified with its interests, he is too well known to need any eulogy at our hands, as the record of his past life is the true index which points out his real value as a citizen and upright business man.”

Quintus died Sept. 24, 1904, and is buried with his wife and children in Prairie Rest Cemetery, Delavan. Many other members of the Orendorff family, including the parents of Quintus, are buried in Orendorff Cemetery in rural Hopedale.

#enoch-orendorff, #old-settlers, #quintus-orendorff, #tazewell-county-history

Tazewell County’s Old Settlers

Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County” devotes an entire chapter (Chapter VII) to the Tazewell County Old Settlers’ Association, a group that formally organized in Delavan in 1884. Even before then, however, it was already common to think and to speak of the earliest pioneers of the county as the “Old Settlers.” Thus, we see that the biographies in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County” frequently bestow the designation of “Old Settler” upon various individuals.

By 1884, according to Allensworth, many of the Old Settlers felt a desire to form a permanent association “to promote acquaintance and friendship among those who had lived in the county forty years, thereby cementing the ties which have bound the pioneers of the county together during that period, and to keep an accurate record of the birth-place and age at which each came to the county, as well as the date of the death of those who have passed away.”

The Old Settlers’ Association began with about a dozen members, who elected Ira B. Hall as their first president and Cyrus M. Kingman as secretary. The group would have an annual meeting or reunion at the Tazewell County Fair in Delavan. An account of one of their meetings is found in an old newspaper clipping from the collection of Darlene Hamann of Green Valley. The clipping, dated Wednesday, Aug. 29, 1900, was reprinted in the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society Monthly, June 2014, page 1030. Under the triple headline “Tazewell’s Old Settlers,” “They Assembled 400 Strong at Delavan Yesterday – 21 Died During Year,” and “Officers Re-Elected – Fair News,” we read the following:

“The feature of the opening day of the Tazewell county fair at Delavan yesterday was the gathering of the old settlers from all parts of the county. In round numbers there were 400 of the county’s ‘early birds’ on the grounds, renewing acquaintances and exchanging reminiscences. The organization has over 700 members and during the year 21 have been called to their reward. The morning was consumed by routine business and a number of very interesting short talks were made. President James Haines of Pekin, Ira B. Hall of Delavan, Judge N. W. Green of Pekin, and M. D. Pettett of Lincoln all spoke briefly. Mr. Pettett was 90 years old last May and is as spry as the average man of 60. Mr. Hall is 88 years old and has lived in the county over 60 years. The oldest woman present was Mrs. Margaret Young of Pekin aged 82. She came to this county in 1820. The business meeting was concluded by the election of officers for the ensuing year as follows:
“President – James Haines Sr. of Pekin; fourth term
“Vice-President – C. M. Kingman of Delavan; second term
“Secretary and Treasurer – W. F. Copes of Pekin; sixth term
“In the afternoon Judge William Don Maus of Pekin of Pekin delivered the address of the day. It was an eloquent and lengthy discussion upon the scenes and incidents of the times of the pioneers. The address was eagerly listened to by a great crowd of people and all expressed themselves as enjoying it very much.”

Allensworth wrote in 1905 that there was little change of the Association’s officers during the two decades following its organization. After the 1884 founding, Allensworth wrote, “The next year, Ira B. Hall was elected President and W. F. Copes, Secretary and Treasurer, which position he had held for nineteen years and is still in office. The same year, S. M. Woodrow was elected President and held the position about a year. Then Mr. Hall was elected to that office and held it for ten years. Mr. James Haines was then elected President and still holds the position.”

During the 19 years that Copes was secretary and treasurer, the Old Settlers’ Association had 768 members, 182 of whom had died by 1905, in which year there were 587 members of the rolls.

Among the Old Settlers of Tazewell County was a select group known as the “Snowbirds” — pioneers who had survived the unusual “Deep Snow” of the  extremely harsh winter of 1830-31. Shown below is a group photograph of the surviving “Snowbirds” at a gathering of the Tazewell County Old Settlers during a Tazewell County Fair in Delavan circa 1880.

#deep-snow, #old-settlers, #snowbirds, #tazewell-county-history