Bill Costley — Pekin’s link to ‘Juneteenth’

This is a reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in June 2015 before the launch of this weblog.

Bill Costley — Pekin’s link to ‘Juneteenth’

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

On May 2, 2015, this column featured a review of a new book by local historian Carl M. Adams about a notable early Pekin resident’s stalwart struggle for freedom — “Black Nance” Legins-Costley, who secured her freedom from slavery with the help of her attorney Abraham Lincoln in the 1841 Illinois Supreme Court case Bailey v. Cromwell. Adams’ book, “Nance: Trials of the First Slave Freed by Abraham Lincoln,” was recognized April 25 at the annual awards luncheon of the Illinois State Historical Society in Springfield.

This week, we will take another look at the family of Nance Legins-Costley in order to learn about Pekin’s historical connection to the origin of the celebration of “Juneteenth,” which is the oldest known public commemoration of the legal end of slavery in the U.S. “Juneteenth” refers to June 19, 1865, the day when Union soldiers under the command of Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston in Texas with news that the Civil War was over and all slaves were now free. Because Texas had been a part of the Confederate States of America, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation could not be enforced in Texas until then.

Juneteenth 2015 was celebrated on Friday, marking exactly 150 years since Union troops brought the news of freedom to Galveston. One of Granger’s soldiers in Galveston that day was none other than Private William Henry “Bill” Costley of Pekin (1840-1888), eldest son of Benjamin Costley and Nance Legins-Costley (though Union military records misspell Bill’s surname “Corsley”).

On his enlistment and muster papers, Bill Costley of Pekin is called “William H. Corsley.”

Bill Costley was mustered out of his regiment on Sept. 30, 1865.

We will now lend this column space to Carl Adams so he can share the results of his historical and genealogical research which tell the story of Bill Costley’s adventures during and immediately after the Civil War. (It was only this month that Adams located Bill’s final resting place, with the help of Rich Apri of St. Paul, Minn.)

  • * *

Bill Costley was the first male slave to be legally freed by attorney Abraham Lincoln as a result of the Bailey v. Cromwell Illinois Supreme Court case in 1841. He was an infant at the time. At age 23, Bill Costley decided to join the Union cause of the Civil War.

During the summer of 1864, the Civil War was going poorly for the Union Army on the Richmond-Petersburg front. Commander-in-Chief Lincoln was afraid he would not be re-elected president. To make matters worse, the Illinois 29th Regiment of Volunteers (Colored) had suffered more than 70 percent casualties at the Battle of the Crater — virtually wiped out, with all the officers either dead or wounded.

In spite of the fact they knew black men would have to fight with muskets at their front and bayonets held by white soldiers at their backs, 13 blacks from Tazewell County decided it was time to volunteer to reinforce the Colored Troops. Those brave 13 were William Costley of Pekin, his brother-in-law Edward Lewis, Thomas Shipman, George M. Hall, Joseph Hubbard, Richard Howard, Wilson Price, Thomas Tumbleton, Morgan Day, and the tightly knit family of William J. Ashby and his three sons, William H., Marshall and Nathan (one of those sons married a sister of Bill Costley).

At least two of them would not come home — Thomas Shipman of Pekin and Morgan Day of Elm Grove fell in battle, and their names are inscribed on the monument to Tazewell County’s fallen heroes outside the courthouse in downtown Pekin. And at least one of them was wounded — William Henry Costley. However, Bill Costley would participate in at least two more historic events before he returned home: the founding of the “Buffalo Soldiers” and “Juneteenth.”

Shown is the name of Bill Costley’s fellow soldier Thomas Shipman inscribed on the Tazewell County Veterans Memorial outside the Tazewell County Courthouse. Shipman, along with Morgan Day and William H. Costley, were among the 13 African-Americans from Tazewell County who fought to end slavery and restore the Union during the Civil War. Shipman and Day fell in combat, while Costley suffered a shrapnel wound to his shoulder.

Shown is the name of Bill Costley’s fellow soldier Morgan Day inscribed on the Tazewell County Veterans Memorial outside the Tazewell County Courthouse. Costley and Day were among the 13 African-Americans from Tazewell County who fought to end slavery and restore the Union during the Civil War.

General Ulysses S. Grant and the Union Army, sensing a quick victory, were eager to get the spring offensive started in March 1865, but heavy spring rains made movements difficult for horses and men alike, and wet ammunition was also a problem.

Finally, in the last week of March, the Union Army awoke from winter sleep and started to move. A fair-skinned black private from Tazewell County, Private Thomas Shipman, was one of the first to go. Assigned to the sharpshooters under Captain Porter, Shipman was killed trading musket balls with the rebel skirmishers on March 31.

Around noon on April 1, General Sheridan beat General Pickett at Five Forks. Private Bill Costley’s unit, the 29th Regiment of Volunteers (Colored), held part of the right flank of the Union line at Hatcher’s Run. The breakthrough prompted Grant to order a full frontal assault all along the line, spanning miles.

As Bill’s infantry line moved forward on the Confederate breastworks nearing Petersburg, an artillery shell blew an air burst to the front and to the left of Bill, close enough to knock him to the ground with sharp pain to the front left shoulder.

Bill was evacuated to the Regimental Aid Station. Dr. Clarence Ewen later wrote in Bill’s pension file (No. 524296) that he remembered Bill’s wound as badly bruised, but no blood, so Bill was ordered back to the front and, bravely, Bill went back into the fight — only to return the next day with intolerable pain.

So Bill was evacuated again, this time to Division for Triage, then on to the “Negro Only” facility at Point-of-Rocks near the pontoon bridge across the James River, and from there to City Point for transfer to a hospital at Alexandria, Va. Bill spent about five weeks in the military medical system. During this time Bill learned his family’s old friend, lawyer Lincoln, was killed as one of the last casualties of the War of the Rebellion.

Juneteenth — Freedom Day, June 19, 1865, for all of Texas slaves, about a quarter of a million souls.

The scene is the Gulf of Mexico in June 1865. The Civil War was over and Private Bill Costley was recovering from a shrapnel wound to his left shoulder, according to his pension file. After a month in the hospitals at Point-of-Rocks and Alexandria, Va., Bill Costley was returned to duty with his unit.

Most of the white Union soldiers were discharged for home, but most of the black soldiers still had a year of service, and the French had invaded Mexico during the war. Lincoln was dead, so Secretary of War Stanton ordered General U.S. Grant to dispatch the black units to the Mexican border as a show of force along the Rio Grande.

At least two Navy ships, the USS Wilmington and the USS William Kennedy, were ordered to load 2,000 Union soldiers, including General Gordon Granger and the 900 men of 29th Regiment of Illinois Colored Volunteers, which was augmented with former slaves and dispatched to the Mexican border.

It was a rough ride. From Mobile, Ala., the ships were sent out into very rough stormy seas to disembark at South Padre Island near Brownsville, Texas. The weather was too rough to unload anyone and the Rio Grande was flooding. After two days, the Navy needed safe harbor, so they tried Aransas Pass near Corpus Christi for another three days, but it was still too rough to unload.

The senior Navy captain warned Granger they were running out of supplies and the nearest resupply was at Galveston. This would be a turning point of history for the state of Texas.

“June 18 — Arrived off Galveston, at Pier 21.” The sight was surprising, if not shocking, to see black uniformed sailors and soldiers working side-by-side with still enslaved longshoremen, who had never heard of an “Emancipation … what?” This discovery would travel up the chain of command very quickly.

So without further orders and under threat of martial law enforced by black armed soldiers, the entire populace assembled at Ashton Villa the next morning. General Granger stood on the second floor balcony to read General Order No. 3. At the last four words of the first sentence, “all slaves are free,” the entire throng was motionless. It seemed no one even breathed. While it took a while to sink in, the order soon turned into an explosion of emotion that has lasted now for 150 years — Juneteenth, Freedom Day, 1865.

Private Bill Costley of Pekin probably didn’t get much of a celebration when his mother was emancipated 24 years earlier, but he did not miss the joys of this party that lasted all day, into the night and again the next day. However, they were still under military orders. “June 21 — Put to sea.”

  • * *

After the war, Bill returned to Pekin, where in 1870 the Civil War hero found himself indicted for murder. Bill had encountered a convicted rapist named Patrick Doyle brutally attacking a woman in the street. Bill intervened, twice ordering Doyle to stop, and when Doyle ignored him, he shot and killed him. (The records of Doyle’s inquest detailing Bill Costley’s actions are still on file with the Tazewell County Coroner.)

The people of Pekin knew Bill and his family, though, and they also knew who Doyle was and what he’d been sent to prison for — so after a two-day trial, the all-white jury acquitted Bill Costley, finding the homicide justifiable due to Bill’s having come to the aid of a woman in need. (Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” page 296, has a brief reference to Bill Costley’s trial and acquittal.)

Adams’ research shows that Bill later left Pekin, moving to 320 Main St., Davenport, Iowa, and then to 1134 N. Ninth St., Minneapolis, Minn., where it’s possible some of his family had also moved. Though the years wore on, Bill’s old war wound continued to plague him. Bill kept complaining of shoulder pain to his Pension Board, so he finally was admitted to Rochester State Hospital in Rochester, Minn., in May 1888, and there he died five months later, on the night of Oct. 1, 1888. The ward notes say he had “expired before he could be undressed.”

William Henry Costley, war hero, Buffalo Soldier, and witness to the first Juneteenth, was laid to rest — under the name of “William H. Crossley” — in Rochester’s Quarry Hill Park, in the Rochester State Hospital Cemetery, located between 11th Ave. NE and Route 22, just north of Route 11.

Shown is the grave marker of Pekin Civil War veteran William H. Costley (surname misspelled “Crossley” in the inscription) in the Rochester State Hospital Cemetery, Rochester, Minn.

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Peter Weyhrich, Pekin’s pioneer German settler

This is a reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in October 2014 before the launch of this weblog.

Peter Weyhrich, Pekin’s pioneer German settler

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

As mentioned before in this column, the first Pekin city directory was published in 1861. One of the Pekin Public Library’s copies of the 1861 directory is a precious and fragile edition that was formerly owned by none other than Pekin’s own pioneer historian William H. Bates, who prepared the first formal history of Pekin for inclusion in the 1870-71 Sellers & Bates Pekin City Directory.

The pages of Bates’ copy of the 1861 directory are amply annotated in Bates’ own hand. These notes were probably added while Bates was working on later editions of the city directory. One of the notes, on page 70 of the 1861 directory, has to do with an early Pekin city official named Peter Weyhrich Sr.

On that page is a list of the directors of the Pekin and Cincinnati Union District Schools, who were elected to three-year terms. In 1861, the school directors were “Peter Weyhrich, sr.,” whose term of office was to expire in August 1861; William Stanbery, who term was to expire in August 1862; and John Haas, whose term was to expire in August 1863. A handwritten note in Bates’ copy of this directory at bottom of this page says, “Peter Weyhrich, sr., was the pioneer German settler of Pekin.”

Thus, we see that Weyhrich, who arrived in Pekin in 1831 or 1832, held the special place in Pekin’s history as the first of a great wave of German immigrants who would choose Pekin as their new home in America during the 1800s. To be sure, Weyhrich was not the only person of ethnic German descent to arrive during those earliest years of Pekin’s history, but he was the first of them who had been born in Germany. By the latter half of the 1800s, the number of German settlers in Pekin was so large that the city had more than one German-language newspaper and many businesses had signs in their windows telling people that German was spoken there.

Peter Weyhrich Sr. was born in 1806 in Hesse-Darmstadt. A biographical sketch of the life of Peter’s nephew Adam is included in the 1894 “Portrait and Biographical Record of Tazewell and Mason Counties,” on pages 565-566. The sketch says Adam’s grandfather (identified in Weyhrich family histories as Peter’s father) Jacob Weyhrich, a native of Hesse-Darmstadt, settled in Tazewell County in 1828 and was later followed by other members of his family. Peter had arrived in Pekin by 1832, but Adam didn’t emigrate until the 1850s, at or around the same time that his father Philip Weyhrich, Peter’s brother, decided to join Jacob and Peter in America.

Beginning his new life in America in Pekin, the early city directories indicate that Peter was active in the community’s life and commerce. He served as Pekin’s mayor in 1858 and 1859. Peter also took part in the formation of Pekin’s first railroad companies, according to Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County.” Most of the Weyhrich family, however, acquired land in Sand Prairie Township to the south of Pekin. Peter died Jan. 2, 1879, and is buried in Lakeside Cemetery in Pekin.

This detail of the map of Sand Prairie Township south of Pekin from the 1873 Atlas Map of Tazewell shows land owned by the Weyhrich family, a pioneer Pekin family that included Pekin’s first German-born settler, Peter Weyhrich.

Early Tazewell County history tells of another Peter Weyhrich, but that Peter – apparently another nephew of the elder Peter – is only mentioned due to the sensational circumstances surrounding and following his death. Chapman tells the story briefly in two paragraphs on pages 298-299 of his Tazewell County history:

“Peter Weyhrich, an old resident of Sand Prairie, died very suddenly Wednesday night, June 20, 1877. The sudden death and incidents attending it caused grave suspicion of foul play. A jury was impanelled and a post-mortem examination made of the deceased, and the stomach sent to Chicago for examination, where it was decided that he came to his death by poison. Mrs. [Anna E.] Weyhrich, wife of the deceased, was arrested and tried for the murder. The case was taken from this to Logan county and tried the last week in March, 1878. States Attorney [William L.] Prettyman and J. B. Cohrs prosecuted, and Messrs. Roberts & Green defended.

“The trial was a long and tedious one, and the prisoner was found guilty and sentenced to fourteen years in the penitentiary. A motion for a new trial was made and denied, when an appeal to the Supreme Court was taken. This tribunal reversed the decision and remanded the case for a new trial, which took place in July, 1878, and resulted in her acquittal.”

As an aside, the prosecutor J. B. Cohrs is none of than Illinois State Sen. John B. Cohrs, a Pekin attorney whose life was previously treated in this space, and whose wife was active in the founding of the Ladies’ Library Assocation, predecessor of the Pekin Public Library.

#adam-weyhrich, #germans-in-pekin, #john-b-cohrs, #pekin-history, #peter-weyhrich, #preblog-columns, #william-h-bates

Tazewell County Old Settler Joshua Wagenseller

This is a reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in March 2015 before the launch of this weblog.

Tazewell County Old Settler Joshua Wagenseller

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Among the biographies of the Old Settlers of Tazewell County featured in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County” is an extended account of the life of a Tazewell pioneer named Joshua Wagenseller. Joshua’s family is commemorated today in the name of Wagonseller Road south of Pekin. Following are excerpts of Joshua’s biographical essay — omitting most of the remarkably florid prose in which this and the other biographies in the 1873 “Atlas Map” were written.

“Joshua Wagenseller is a native of Montgomery county, Pennsylvania, born July 5, 1813. He is the fifth child of Peter and Susanna (Longaker) Wagenseller. Mr. W., father of Joshua, was a native of Montgomery county, Pa., and his parents were of German descent. He followed farming as the vocation of his life. He emigrated to Ohio about the year 1832, and settled in Columbus, Franklin county, where he resided until his death, which occurred about two years after. His wife, mother of Joshua, subsequently removed to Pekin, Ill., terminating a useful life in 1866, while residing with her son Joshua. . . .

“The subject of this biography acquired his early culture mostly at Green Tree Seminary, in his native country, where he acquired a knowledge of the rudiments of a good, practical, business education. His first business engagement after completing his course was in a wholesale dry goods house in the city of Philadelphia, where he obtained a position as bookkeeper and accountant. The next business engagement was with his brother in Union county, Pa., where he remained about two years. We would remark that these experiences of his early life laid the foundation for that successful business career which in after life distinguished him in his subsequent mercantile transactions.

“He was now of age, and, looking westward for a richer field in which to enlarge and develop his energies, he went to Columbus, Ohio, and erected a saw mill on Elm creek, and was engaged in the manufacture of lumber about three years, or until the spring of 1837, when he removed to Illinois, and settled in Pekin, Tazewell county. . . .

“Mr. Wagenseller formed a partnership with his brother Benjamin, and, under the firm name of ‘B. & J. Wagenseller,’ he began, in Pekin, a course of mercantile life, which business he has since followed. This original firm ceased in 1844, by the death of his brother. They went through the financial crash of 1840 unscathed. . . . Since the dissolution of this firm, Mr. Wagenseller has been at the head of subsequent business houses, and although he has been identified with other business largely in life, merchandising has been his leading vocation. He has been engaged in milling covering an aggregate of nearly ten years. He rebuilt and owned the first good grist mill propelled by water in Tazewell county. . . .

This drawing of the downtown Pekin store of J. Wagenseller & Son was printed in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County.”

“Mr. Wagenseller was married May 7, 1840, to Miss Harriet, daughter of Henry and Naomi Rupert, of Pekin, — formerly of Virginia. As the fruits of this union, they have had a family of six children. Two of his sons are now engaged with him in his present mercantile operations. Two of his sons are married, and all of his family are at this time (1873) residents of Pekin. Mr. Wagenseller and wife are both members of the Congregational Church of Pekin, and are among the original members of that church.

“Mr. W., in addition to his mercantile business, owns and carries on a farm near Pekin. He also owns a large area of land located in Iowa. . . . Politically, in early life, Mr. Wagenseller became a whig. His first vote for president was cast for Gen. Wm. H. Harrison, in 1836. He was anti-slavery in his sentiments, and the following circumstance, as related by himself, opened his eyes to the inhumanity of the slave traffic. While on a trip to New Orleans, on a steamboat, a slave owner came on board with a woman and six children. He witnessed the revolting spectacle of a slave girl sold on the block. ‘The scene,’ said Mr. W., ‘made me ever afterward an abolitionist.’ On the disorganization of the whig party, in 1856, he became identified with the republican party, to which he has since been strongly attached. He voted twice for the immortal Lincoln and twice for the valiant Grant, who so ably assisted in firmly planting the stars and stripes on the bulwark of American freedom. . . .

“Mr. Wagenseller has been required to represent the interests of his ward for several years in the common council of the city, and was vice president of the Peoria, Pekin, & Jacksonville Railroad Company. He has been one of the active, public-spirited citizens of Pekin for thirty-six years.”

#abolitionism, #joshua-wagenseller, #pekin-history, #preblog-columns, #slavery, #tazewell-county-history, #wagonseller-road

Trolley cars on Pekin’s streets

This is a reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in January 2015 before the launch of this weblog.

Trolley cars on Pekin’s streets

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

In terms of public transportation in Pekin today, we have the Peoria-based CityLink bus system. But in the past, Pekin was served by its own bus lines — and before that, by street cars. Pekin’s trolley system began as an abortive private venture which was taken over and run by the city.

Here are excerpts from the 1974 Pekin Sesquicentennial volume’s account of Pekin’s old trolley system, on pages 24-26:

“A familiar song of many years ago begins ‘Clang, clang, clang went the trolley; ding, ding, ding went the bell . . .,’ and so it was in 1912 when the first street railway began in Pekin. Initially a private business, the line consisted of one battery-operated car that ran on track from Capitol Street near Court to the ‘Distillery Road.’ Each night the car batteries were charged to get ready for the next day’s run. The ill-fated line lasted but two years before financial problems forced it out of business.

“But all was not lost for trolley enthusiasts. The City of Pekin entered the public transportation field in July of 1914 with the passage of Ordinance Number 38: The Purchase, Rehabilitation, and Construction of a Municipal Street Railway. Voters passed a referendum which allowed the city to issue $48,000 in street railway bonds. . . .

“The city purchased the bankrupt line, including all track and equipment, for $8,500. The balance of the money was used to expand services and purchase new equipment. Very specific and demanding requirements were set forth in the law, for example: cars were required to be constructed of red cypress or cedar, 32 feet long, with one longitudinal seat on each side; gauge of the track had to be four feet, eight and one-half inches; steel poles along Court Street to Seventh Street, had to be in two sections totaling 27 feet in length, with the tops 22 feet above the pavement; the trolley wire had to be grooved, hard-drawn copper, with a minimum tensile strength of 51,000 pounds per square inch.

A trolley car heads up Court Street in downtown Pekin in the 1920s.

“Besides the route previously described, the street railway expanded from the corner of Court and Capitol Streets as far east on Court as the GM&O Railroad tracks (just west of the present hospital). The usual scheduled involved two cars, one leaving the east end of the line on Court Street, while the other would leave the west end of the line on South Second and Industry. The two cars would meet at the business district close to the Court House. There was a double track at this point, and one car would side-track until the other car passed, then proceed to its destination at the other end of the line. This operation ran seven days a week from early morning until late evening.

“Many Pekinites remember the trolley cars and the friendships which developed while riding to and from work or uptown to shop — all for a nickel fare. The street railway continued until 1935, when it was replaced by our present bus service . . . .

“The street cars went out fighting, though, with much City Council debate. C. F. Gehrig, one-time City Commissioner, appeared before the Council and urged that Court Street not be paved down the center so that the tracks could remain undisturbed because ‘we might want the street cars back.’ Many did, but the coming of the automobile was making travel too hazardous, with many auto/street car collisions. No more ‘clang, clang, clang’ — just some fond memories for many residents and a slice of nostalgia for the younger set.”

This following added detail is mentioned in “Pekin: A Pictorial History” (1998, 2004), page 17: “Also for 5 cents a day, local youth Roy Williams was paid to push the wooden seats back when the train reached the park so the passengers could face forward on the return trip.”

Roy Williams died just a year ago last month – but the old Pekin Municipal Street Railway garage is still there on South Second Street, the location of Walt’s Garage.

The old ‘home base’ of Pekin’s trolley cars at 1420 S. Second Street is today the home of Walt’s Garage — the building still sports the inscription “Pekin Municipal Street Railway.” Trolley rails are still visible in the garage floor.

#c-f-gehrig, #pekin-history, #pekin-municipal-street-railway, #preblog-columns, #roy-williams, #street-cars, #trolleys

F.M. Peterson, high school principal and superintendent

This is a reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in October 2014 before the launch of this weblog.

F.M. Peterson, high school principal and superintendent

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Pekin Community High School’s theater is named for and dedicated to F.M. Peterson. Older PCHS alumni will remember that Peterson was a longtime principal of the high school and superintendent of the high school district.

They might not remember, however, that he was also a veteran of both World Wars and a lieutenant colonel in the United States Air Force Reserves. These and other details of his life are mentioned in his Pekin Daily Times obituary.

F. M. Peterson, from the 1947 Pekinian yearbook

Born Franklin M. Peterson on Aug. 7, 1896, in Brownstown, Ill., a small town on Illinois Route 40 between Vandalia and Effingham, he was a son of William F. and Lillian (Starnes) Peterson. He was 20 years old when the United States entered the First World War on April 6, 1917. During the war, Peterson served in the American Expeditionary Force in France. He was 22 when the Armistice was signed on Nov. 11, 1918.

After the war, Peterson went into the field of public education, serving as chief administrator of the schools in Tolono, Monticello and Coffeen. Three years after the war’s end, in 1921, he married Olga Clotfelter. His obituary does not mention that they ever had any children, however.

In 1938, he became the principal of Pekin Community High School, a position he would hold until 1954. During World War II, however, he was called away from his duties as principal for the added responsibility of service in the Army Air Corps. After the war, Peterson continued his military service alongside his high school career, serving as an officer in the U.S. Air Force Reserves.

In 1954, the District 303 School Board appointed Peterson to the position of District 303 superintendent. Two years later, he retired from the USAF Reserves with the rank of lieutenant colonel. His work as an administrator in public education also brought involvement as well as leadership posts in related professional organizations such as the Illinois Secondary School Principals’ Association, the National High School Principals’ Association, the Illinois Curriculum Committee and the Illinois High School Association.

During his tenure as superintendent, District 303 was faced with a booming student population. The school board originally had planned another expansion project at the high school campus, but in 1959 it was learned that the city planned to widen Eighth Street, which would take land the school board would have needed for an expansion. So the board instead decided to build a second high school campus at the site of the old Pekin Country Club golf course. Construction on the new East Campus began in 1962 and classes started there in the fall of 1963.

Peterson retired in 1965 after a combined 27 years as PCHS principal and superintendent. The high school theater at East Campus was christened in his honor.

After retirement, in 1966 he moved to Belleair, Fla., and remained in that area until his death at age 87. In Florida, Peterson was active in the American Legion as well as the Clearwater, Fla., Military Order of World Wars and the Clearwater retired officers association. He also volunteered for the American Red Cross, serving as treasurer of the Upper Pinellas Chapter of the Red Cross for nine years.

F.M. Peterson died Monday, Sept. 29, 1984, at the Bay-Pines Veterans Administration Center in Belleair, Fla., and his body was cremated. At the time of his death, he and his wife Olga were living in Belleair Bluffs. In addition to his wife, he was survived by his brother Forrest W. Peterson of Belleair.

#f-m-peterson, #franklin-m-peterson, #pekin-high-school, #pekin-history, #preblog-columns

Bowman and Herman sold shoes

This is a reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in June 2015 before the launch of this weblog.

Bowman and Herman sold shoes

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

In Feb. 2015, “From the History Room” first took a look at one of the advertisements in the 1949 Pekin Centenary volume that provided a summary of the history of the old Ehrlicher Brothers pharmacy which was located at 328 Court St. in Pekin. Afterwards we devoted a column to the Centenary’s Central House ad.

This week we’ll review another historically informative advertisement from the Pekin Centenary. Like the pharmacy ad, this one, found on page 130, also offers details on the Ehrlicher family whose members have played important roles in Pekin’s history. It’s a tribute advertisement for B & H Shoe Store, which operated out of 320 Court St., just a few doors down from the Ehrlichers Brothers drug store. The motto of B & H was “A Good Place to Buy Good Shoes.”

These two vintage photographs illustrated the Bowman and Herman shoe store’s tribute advertisement in the 1949 Pekin Centenary.

The shoe store’s proximity to the drug store was probably not a coincidence, because the shoe store was founded by another member of the Ehrlicher family, whose patriarch Johann Georg Ehrlicher had himself been a shoemaker.

“320 Court St. has been a shoe store location for almost sixty-five years,” the ad says. “The original store was known as Ehrlicher’s Shoe Store and in the 1880’s was operated by Fred W. Ehrlicher (an uncle to George and Arthur Ehrlicher of Schipper & Block Co.) and John J. Fink, partners.”

Fred was a brother of the pharmacists Henry and Otto of Ehrlichers Brothers drug store.

Continuing with the history of B & H Shoe Store, the ad says, “It was later sold to John G. Heisel and Wm. J. Lohnes and the name changed to Heisel & Lohnes. It remained under their management for fifteen or twenty years when Mr. Heisel dropped the name Lohnes from the firm name. (Mr. Lohnes subsequently joined with two business men from Peoria and bought the P. Steinmetz Dry Goods Store which became Lohnes, Merkle & Renfer, where he established a shoe department.)

“In its early years, when the repair department was part of the shoe store, Bart Jost, Sr. was the shoe maker and his teenage son Bartlin Jr., who through the span of his life spent over fifty years as a shoe salesman in the 300 block on Court St., was also an employee of Ehrlicher. To this day old customers reminisce about ‘good old Bart’ when they shop at the B & H where he spent the last active years of his life.

“The John G. Heisel Co. continued and after World War I it was remodeled and the present attractive front installed. Quality shoes were featured then as today.

“About 1924 it was sold to Sam Sandler, an old shoe merchant from Peoria, who shortly after sold it to two brothers-in-law, Ed Bowman and Sid Herman, who changed the name to the B & H Shoe Store, the name it has carried for the past twenty-three years.

“Ed Bowman bought out Herman a few years later. A short time after, his son Mort joined the firm and took over active management. The store has tried to establish a reputation for honest dealings in business and a quality line of merchandise at all times, while keeping pace with the times in modern conveniences and methods.”

#b-h-shoe-store, #bowman-and-herman, #ed-bowman, #ehrlicher-brothers, #ehrlichers-shoe-store, #fred-w-ehrlicher, #heisel-lohnes, #johann-george-ehrlicher, #john-g-heisel-co, #pekin-history, #preblog-columns, #sid-herman

Early history of Pekin’s water works

This is a reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in March 2015 before the launch of this weblog.

Early history of Pekin’s water works

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Running water piped into our homes is something we take for granted today, but it’s something that Pekin residents have only been able to enjoy for 128 years.

The construction of Pekin’s water works was one of the major community improvement projects of the 1880s, the same decade that saw the founding of Mineral Springs Park and the building of Pekin’s original plank bridge over the Illinois River. The decision to install a public water works system was made in the administration of Mayor J. L. Smith, and the system was completed under Mayor A. R. Warren.

Here is the account of the construction and characteristics of the water works as told in Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” pages 945-946:

“The Water Works system in the City of Pekin was completed early in the year 1887, under a franchise granted in May of the previous year, to Charles A. Lamb and Henry S. Raymond.

“The system, as originally projected, called for 8 ½ miles of cast-iron mains and 100 fire-hydrants. Since then the street mains have been added to from year to year and, in 1904, the Company controlled 16 miles of cast-iron mains from four to sixteen inches in diameter, with 159 fire hydrants and 12 miles of galvanized iron street-mains of from one to two inches in diameter.

“The pumping machinery consists of two compound-duplex pumps, of the George F. Blake pattern, with a daily capacity of three million gallons. The pumps take water from a system of driven wells sunk to a depth of 127 feet, which furnish a bountiful supply of clear and pure water at all times. The water is raised to a stand-pipe 137 feet high, having a capacity of 127,000 gallons, which furnishes a domestic pressure of sixty pounds. In case of fire, pumping is direct into the mains, when a fire pressure of 120 pounds is maintained.

“Water is furnished to nearly 1,500 customers, a population of approximately 7,000 people, being nearly eight-tenths of the population within the corporate limits of the City. This is a very large percentage for a city of the size of Pekin, and the fact would tend to show that the local water supply is quite satisfactory in quality as well as quantity.”

The Water Works pumps and water tower were located at the southwest corner of Capitol and Court streets, where the water company is still located today.

This photograph from 1912 shows Pekin’s old water tower and water works located at the southwest corner of Broadway and South Capitol.

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