Dedication of the Pekin Carnegie library cornerstone

By Jared Olar

Library Assistant

In recent weeks, we have looked back to the way the groundwork was laid for the construction of Pekin’s Carnegie library. By early 1902, the library board’s building committee had selected Paul O. Moratz as the architect to design the new library building, and Moratz had submitted his plans to the board on March 13, 1902.

This photograph from the 1930s shows Pekin’s old Carnegie Library, which was built to the design of Bloomington architect Paul O. Moratz in 1902-1903. The cornerstone was located to the right of the front steps. One of the two wrought-iron lamps at the entrance steps was saved when the library was demolished in the early 1970s. The lamp stood in the new library’s plaza until 2014, at which time it was restored and refurbished so it could be moved to the remodeled and expanded library’s new Local History Room.

In her 1902 account of the Pekin Public Library’s early history, Miss Mary Gaither told of the next steps in the process:

“In June, the reports of this Committee stated that the contracts had been let, as agreed upon, reserving certain details, and the bid of Mr. J. D. Handbury was, after due deliberation, accepted by said committee.”

In the bidding competition, J. D. Handbury had gone up against Conklin-Hippen-Reuling Co. and E. Zimmer & Co. All three construction firms were based in Pekin. Besides those three Pekin contractors, the building committee had also considered bids from a Peoria contractor and two or three Bloomington contractors.

After the selection of the contractor, the ground at 301 S. Fourth Street was prepared and staked off. Plans were then made for a grand public ceremony and parade in which the Carnegie library’s cornerstone would be dedicated and laid. Within the cornerstone a time capsule would be stored.

The date for the ceremony, which drew a large crowd of Pekin residents both great and small, was set for Tuesday, Aug. 19, 1902. The library board members at the time were Franklin L. Velde, William J. Conzelman, Carl G. Herget, Henry Birkenbusch, Ben P. Schenck, Mrs. W. E. Schenck, Mrs. J. L. Hinners, Miss Emily Weyrich, and (of course) Miss Gaither.

One of them items in the cornerstone time capsule was a telegram received at 9:04 a.m. on Aug. 14, 1902, from John Oglesby, private secretary of Illinois Lieut. Gov. William A. Northcott (1854-1917), expressing Northcott’s regrets that he could not attend the cornerstone laying ceremony.

Shown here is one of the invitations to the ceremonial laying of the Pekin Carnegie Library’s cornerstone and time capsule, which took place following a grand parade on Aug. 19, 1902.

It is likely that Pekin’s own historian William H. Bates (1840-1930) oversaw the selection and preparation of the contents of the time capsule, as he later did in the case of the 1914 Tazewell County Courthouse cornerstone time capsule. Bates’ obituary recalled that “He was at the fore in all public demonstrations” (i.e. celebrations or ceremonies), and it is telling that one of the items in the library’s 1902 cornerstone was the 1883-1884 library card of Bates’ own daughter Ida.

In any event, the contents of the cornerstone chiefly consisted of an assortment of documents and relics pertaining to the library’s early history, the history of the plans and preparations leading up to the construction of Pekin’s Carnegie library, lists of the local governmental officials in office at the time of the laying of the cornerstone, and mementos of the 38 local service clubs that took part in the cornerstone ceremony.

Also placed in the cornerstone time capsule were a number of mementos and artifacts that are not directly related to the library, such as postages stamps, calling cards, an Oct. 1899 Pekin Street Fair brochure, and a Smith Wagon Co. catalog. Also included were five local newspapers, three of them from August 1902 and two of them from February 1896. The reason for including three August 1902 newspapers is obvious – they are issues with dates that are close to the day of the cornerstone laying: the Pekin Daily Post-Tribune of Aug. 18, 1902, the Pekin Daily Times of Aug. 16, 1902, and the Pekin Freie Presse of Aug. 14, 1902. (Pekin formerly had a German language newspaper due to the heavy influx of German immigrants to Pekin in the mid- to late 1800s.)

The two newspapers from February 1896 were the Pekin Daily Tribune and the Pekin Daily Evening Post, both of 13 Feb. 1896. They were chosen for the time capsule because that date was close to the day that the library became a municipal body of Pekin’s city government.

With the library cornerstone laid, construction proceeded apace and the new Pekin Public Library opened its doors to a proud and grateful community on Dec. 10, 1903, with a formal dedication ceremony on Dec. 14, 1903..

When we continue the story of Pekin’s library next week, we’ll turn our attention to some of the Carnegie’s library’s special furnishings – which included a pair of beautiful clocks.

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Some pre-1914 obituaries from Tazewell County

This is an updated reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in May 2014, just before the launch of this weblog.

Some pre-1914 obituaries from Tazewell County

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Of the resources available in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room, perhaps it is the online obituary index that gets the most use, since obituaries are excellent sources of information for genealogists. The library’s index covers obituaries published in the Pekin Daily Times from Oct. 3, 1914 to the present year – but also includes a handful of obituaries from the Daily Times and other Tazewell County newspapers from prior to 1914.

Until a few years ago, the library’s obituary index was a large file of typed index cards, but the index has been completely digitized and is accessible on the internet through the library’s homepage, at, under the “Research” tab, on “Local History Room” page.

The obituary index entries provide the date that each obituary was published in the Pekin Daily Times, along with the page and column numbers. Using that information, an obituary can then be retrieved from the library’s microfilm reels of the Pekin Daily Times.

As said above, the Daily Times microfilm collection begins with the issue published on Oct. 3, 1914, and continues to the present year. The index, however, is even more current, as the library updates it almost daily, whereas the microfilms are current up to the end of 2018 (when all microfilming ceased worldwide). Print editions of the Pekin Daily Times may be consulted for obituaries published since the end of February.

Sadly, there is little recourse for those looking for obituaries that were published in the Pekin Daily Times prior to Oct. 3, 1914. Most copies of Pekin Daily Times issues prior to that date have perished, many having been destroyed in a fire at the newspaper building about a century ago, while other bound volumes of the paper reportedly “disappeared” during and soon after the years in the early 1920s when the newspaper was owned by three members of the Ku Klux Klan.

However, a number of stray issues of the Daily Times from prior to Oct. 3, 1914, have survived, and in fact the library has one of them – the Aug. 16, 1902, edition of the Pekin Daily Times that was preserved in the cornerstone time capsule of the former Pekin Carnegie Library that was built in 1902. Also included in the time capsule were copies of an 1896 Pekin Daily Evening Post, an 1896 Pekin Daily Tribune, and a 1902 Pekin Daily Post-Tribune.

Besides those pre-1914 newspapers, the library archives also include a single issue of the April 13, 1860 edition of the Tazewell Republican, which was donated to the library a few years ago by Timothy Williams of Pekin. There are no formal obituaries in that newspaper, because the custom of publishing biographical tributes of “ordinary” community members who had died was only then starting to catch on. The only thing even remotely like an obituary or death notice in the April 13, 1860 Tazewell Republican was the following short paragraph on page 2:

“The body of the man drowned off the steamer Gaty, something like a month ago, was found on the banks of Spring Lake yesterday or the day previous. The body was identified by the hands, the forefinger of one having been cut off. – Peoria Union.”

The April 13, 1860 edition of the Tazewell Republican newspaper ran this advertisement for the steamboat Sam Gaty on page 3. On the facing page of the same edition was a news brief on the recovery of the body of a Sam Gaty passenger who had fallen overboard and drowned.

On page 3 of the same newspaper is an advertisement that lists the schedule of the trips that the steamboat “Sam Gaty” made between Pekin and Peoria – but while we know the steamer’s full name, the newspaper doesn’t breathe of word of the name of the drowned man. His name probably had appeared in previous issues of the paper, and so the editor, seeking to economize on space on the page, must have decided it wasn’t necessary to repeat the victim’s name.

Unlike the 1860 copy of the Tazewell Republican, the time capsule’s 1896 and 1902 newspapers do include a few obituaries and death or funeral notices, which were added to the library’s online obituary index for the benefit of genealogical researchers in 2014. To each of these index entries have been added research notes indicating that they were printed in newspapers from the Library Cornerstone.

The library’s reference staff will assist genealogists who would like to obtain copies of these pre-1914 obituaries and death and funeral notices, which are listed below. (Note that three individuals had their obituaries published in more than one newspaper.)

Franklin E. Myers, 28, of rural Green Valley, died Feb. 12, 1896 in Pekin, in the Feb. 13, 1896 Pekin Daily Evening Post
Frank Myers, 28, of rural Green Valley, died Feb. 12, 1896 in Pekin, in the Feb. 13, 1896 Pekin Daily Tribune
William Schaumleffel of Pekin, died Feb. 1896, burial Feb. 13, 1896, in the Feb. 13, 1896 Pekin Daily Evening Post
William Schaumleffle of Pekin, died Feb. 1896, burial Feb. 13, 1896, in the Feb. 13, 1896 Pekin Daily Tribune
Samuel Russell, 74, of Pekin, died Aug. 17, 1902, in the Aug. 18, 1902 Pekin Daily Post-Tribune
Bryan George, 6, of Pekin, died Aug. 18, 1902 in Pekin, in the Aug. 18, 1902 Pekin Daily Post-Tribune
George J. Breaden, died Aug. 1902, in the Aug. 18, 1902 Pekin Daily Post-Tribune
George Joseph Breaden, died Aug. 16, 1902 in Pekin, in the Aug. 16, 1902 Pekin Daily Times
Mrs. George H. Youngman, 26, died Aug. 13, 1902, in the Aug. 16, 1902 Pekin Daily Times

A brief genealogical note about this last death notice – according to the Find-A-Grave website, “Mrs. George H. Youngman” was Cora A. (Buck) Youngman, born July 18, 1876, daughter of Oliver and Hannah (Hammitt) Buck, married George H. Youngman on June 7, 1899, and buried in McLean Cemetery, McLean, Ill.

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