Dreadful tornado smashes through central Illinois

This is a reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in Dec. 2013, before the launch of this weblog.

Dreadful tornado smashes through central Illinois

By Jared L. Olar

Local History Specialist

Buildings Twisted and Torn from their Foundations,” the newspaper headline said, describing a “DREADFUL TORNADO” that tore through Washington – the worst one that had ever struck the community in living memory.

It could have been a headline from November 2013 (nine years ago last week), but in fact this was a story published in the 20 May 1858 edition of the Washington Investigator.

That 164-year-old news report was featured in the Jan. 2009 newsletter of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society. In this week’s From the Local History Room column, we’ll draw upon the society’s newsletter to help us recall that harrowing event as seen through the eyes of some of Tazewell County’s early settlers.

This detail of a page from a May 1858 edition of the Washington Investigator shows part of a news article about a tornado and storms that hit Washington and other communities in central Illinois that year. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Unlike the twister that left a trail of devastation in Tazewell County on 17 Nov. 2013, the tornado that hit Washington on the night of 13 May 1858, was accompanied by a severe thunderstorm that continued through the early morning hours of May 14, causing extensive flooding throughout the area. Eyewitness accounts from central Illinois residents indicate that the storm system that generated Washington’s 1858 tornado also sent rain, hail, high winds and tornados through many communities in Tazewell and McLean counties.

The severest gale of wind, accompanied with rain and hail, visited our town last Thursday night, that has ever been known to the oldest inhabitants,” says the report in the Washington Investigator.

The report continues:

“About half past 6 o’clock the wind began to blow from the northwest, where a dark, heavy cloud had been hanging for sometime. It continued to increase in intenseness for near a half hour, accompanied with torrents of rains and volleys of hail. A little past seven o’clock it lulled away, the rain in a measure ceased, but devastation and ruin were the visible traces of its angry visit.

“Notwithstanding the fierce wrath of the storm had found its crisis at about seven o’clock, had visited almost every habitation in our town with a destroyer’s merciless intent, leaving them more or less scored and bruised, yet the heavy clouds poured down their torrents of rain, the forked lightning hissed its fiery course in vivid awfulness athwart the sky, the winds howled about the dwellings, thrashing trees and shrubbery with destructive violence till between two and three o’clock Friday morning when a calm began gradually to reign over our storm-scathed village.”

The Washington Investigator’s report then provides an extensive inventory of destruction in Washington and nearby communities – buildings moved off foundations, roofs torn off, doors smashed in, church spires demolished, barns wrecked, board sidewalks ripped up and blown away, fences blown down, bridges destroyed, orchards stripped.

“A small frame house in the east part of [Washington], occupied by Mr Creismann, was carried about ten feet from its foundation, and set down again, before him self and wife could get out of it. . . . A tree standing on the edge of Farm Creek, in the neighborhood of the depot, some two feet in diameter, was twisted off about ten feet from the ground, and the upper portion hurled some distance along the bank. The bridges on the north and south of town have been swept away by the flood; leaving no ingress for teams in either direction. A horse was found dead in the creek just below the flouring mill; supposed to have been blown into the water and drowned.”

At the town of Cruger, the tornado arrived just as a train was pulling into the east end of town, blowing the train off the tracks and dumping it upside-down into a ditch filled with two feet of water, but amazingly only four of the passengers were reported to have been hurt.

The widespread destruction left many people injured. Remarkably, Washington escaped with no fatalities, but reports from elsewhere mentioned persons killed or missing. The Washington Investigator says:

“At Kappa a number of dwellings were torn to pieces. Three persons killed – a man in attempting to save his house from blowing over, was crushed beneath the falling timbers of his house, which contained his wife and child – all killed . . . Two men were killed a short distance from Eureka . . . A rumor reached here, the truth of which we are unable to substantiate, to the effect that a house containing a family of several persons, situated on the prairie, about two miles north of the head of Walnut Grove, was missed from its accustomed locality, when some persons went in search of it. They visited the spot where it had once stood, and found nothing but the fallen chimney. They followed the direction the storm had taken, but no trace of the lost house or its occupants could be discovered.”

Other storm deaths included a number of people who drowned in Peoria Lake – the storm came through while they were boating on the Illinois River. Some of the survivors were rescued by the crew of the Samuel Gaty, “which had lain at Pekin during the heaviest part of the storm” and then came up the river and took aboard “the wrecked passengers of the Obion . . . among which were three ladies – one, Mrs. Tew, of Pekin, was very feeble from long exposure in the water,” according to the Washington Investigator report.

The storm appears to have extended over a territory of more than 25 miles in width,” the report says, “but where it commenced or where it ended in its devastating journey, we have no means of stating at our present writing. The dismay and suffering, loss of life and property, and the consequent lamentation, marks the progress of this sweeping tornado, as one that has scarcely, if ever been equaled in Illinois.

#2013-tornado, #creismann, #obion, #preblog-columns, #sam-gaty, #samuel-gaty, #tazewell-county-genealogical-historical-society, #tazewell-county-history, #tcghs, #tew, #the-washington-investigator, #tornado-of-1858, #tornado-of-2013, #washington, #washington-tornado

The pioneer doctors of Pekin

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

The pioneer doctors of Pekin

By Jared Olar

Local History Specialist

When local historian and journalist Ben C. Allensworth in 1905 undertook to update and augment Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” he no doubt saw that one aspect of local history that Chapman had overlooked was the origin and development of the medical profession in Tazewell County. Allensworth therefore asked Dr. W. E. Schenck to write a special chapter providing an account of the “Pioneers in the Medical Profession,” found on pages 880-882 of Allensworth’s history.

Dr. Schenck began his account with a general description of “the pioneer doctor,” who

“was not educated in his profession as the modern physician has been. He was scholastic, often polished, but many things are now in common use that were unknown in his day. He had no knowledge of chloroform. The elegant pharmaceutical products which we now dispense were not to be had in his day. The X-ray had not been dreamed of, and modern surgery, which has astonished the world by its boldness, and gratified suffering humanity by its success, would have been considered cruel rashness a generation ago. With his ponderous saddle-bags he went from his humble domicile on hi mission of humanity and never refused to respond to a call, no matter what the prospects for remuneration. He was often compelled to make long rides in all kinds of weather and all conditions of roads; was often detained for many hours where his only compensation was the gratitude of a suffering patient, and not always even that. His powers of observation were very acute. He usually readily discovered the nature of the difficulty and promptly gave a suitable remedy; though it was not always pleasant to take. He lived, and loved to live, for his work, and the good he did lives after him. He was, by all odds, the most useful man in the community, the most universally beloved and most missed when he died.”

After sketching the life of a pioneer doctor in general terms, Schenck provided a list with brief personal descriptions of Tazewell County’s early doctors and physicians, grouped according to the communities in which they lived and worked. Schenck’s list covers Pekin, Washington, Tremont, Groveland, Delavan, Mackinaw and Minier. Following is how Schenck summarized the story of Pekin’s first doctors:

Dr. John Warner was the first physician of whom we can find any account in Tazewell County. He was located in Pekin at the time of the Deep Snow — the last days of December, 1830. Nothing more can be learned.

Dr. S. Pillsbury came to Pekin in 1831 and was prominent in the profession and in society for many years. He died here and is still favorably remembered by the oldest citizens. In 1834 one Dr. Perry and his wife died of cholera in Pekin. Drs. Pillsbury and Griffith were the only doctors left in Pekin after the death of Dr. Perry.

Dr. William S. Maus came to Mackinaw in 1831 and to Pekin in 1838. He served one term in the legislature in 1838. He died in Pekin in 1870.

Dr. Joseph S. Maus came to Mackinaw in 1838 and to Pekin in 1853. He died in Pekin in 1872. The Doctors Maus were highly educated and successful physicians. They had the confidence and esteem of the community for many years and their memory is still fondly cherished by all who knew them.

Dr. Samuel Wagenseller was one of the most noted characters that the profession ever had in this county. He came to Pekin in 1849. He read with Dr. Fitch and began practice in 1855. He was for many years at the head of the profession in this county, and no man ever succeeded in getting such a hold on the people as he. He was killed by accident October 7, 1877.

Dr. R. C. Charlton was born in Ireland. He was a graduate at the ‘School of Medicine, Apothecaries’ Hall,’ Dublin, December 5, 1837. He practiced many years in Pekin and died of pneumonia, the result of exposure in his professional duties, at the age of 73.”

In this frame of Jim Conover’s video of the 30 June 1988 excavation of the Tharp Pioneer Burying Ground (now under the parking lot of Pekin’s Schnucks grocery store), the remains of a victim of the July 1834 cholera epidemic is shown. In the upper left corner an archaeological site worker picks up a coffin nail and points to the spot on the skull where the nail had been found embedded. Another coffin nail was found in the left femur. The nails are evidence that the coffin was hastily built around the cholera victim to reduce the possibility of exposure to the disease. Pekin’s local physician Dr. Perry helped treat Pekin’s cholera victims in July 1834, but he and his wife both succumbed to the disease themselves.

#ben-c-allensworth, #cholera, #cholera-epidemic, #dr-fitch, #dr-griffith, #dr-john-warner, #dr-joseph-s-maus, #dr-perry, #dr-r-c-charlton, #dr-samuel-pillsbury, #dr-samuel-wagenseller, #dr-w-e-schenck, #dr-william-s-maus, #jim-conover, #mrs-perry, #pekin-pioneer-doctors, #preblog-columns, #tharp-burial-ground

The origin of Pekin’s crazy 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.

The origin of Pekin’s crazy streets

The From the Local History Room column on Nov. 5, 2011, discussed the question, “Who came first to Pekin?” While delving in Pekin’s early history to answer that question, the column also included the following aside on “why Pekin has such crazy streets”:

“After the Tharps other settlers would soon arrive – by 1830, what would become Pekin counted eight settlers. The Tharps and their companions, most of them from Ohio, made plans for a village called Cincinnati, with streets to be laid out on a north-south-east-west grid. But other settlers living to the north of the Tharps plotted out a town (named Pekin by Ann Eliza Cromwell) with streets running perpendicular to the Illinois River. The name Cincinnati was given to one of the county’s townships, and the proposed village of Cincinnati was incorporated into Pekin . . . .”

A somewhat more extended account of the origin of the peculiar street plan of the oldest parts of Pekin may be found in the 1974 Pekin Sesquicentennial volume, on page 23:

“A discussion of the development of Pekin’s streets and sidewalks will follow, but first it seems appropriate to attempt an explanation – especially for newcomers – of the unusual mixture of triangular intersections, jogs, and other odd features of the layout of city streets.

“In 1831 (after the land auction in Springfield discussed in the Overview) two rival land-owning groups plotted their ground next to each other, using different layouts. One plotted the town of ‘Cincinnati,’ using a strict north/south grid; the second group plotted the town of ‘Pekin,’ following the line of the Illinois River bank, which resulted in a northeast/southwest grid.

“Other land owners who acquired their property after the 1829 land auction did not develop their holdings into lots immediately. When they did (during the mid-1830s), they followed the north/south grid established by ‘Cincinnati.’ Broadway, which following the grid system of Cincinnati, separated the two original street systems. Court Street was the only thoroughfare extending out of ‘Pekin’ into ‘Cincinnati’; the intersection of this northwest/southeast street with ‘Cincinnati’s’ north/south ones accounts for many of the confusing intersections west of Eighth Street.”

The Sesquicentennial’s account of the origin of Pekin’s street layout notes that it was after the county seat was moved from Mackinaw to Pekin in the summer of 1831 that the town of Cincinnati was formally added to the town of Pekin by an act of the Illinois General Assembly – thereby ensuring the consternation of generations of future drivers.

In this detail of an 1872 map of Pekin, the direction of the streets in the Original Town of Pekin can be compared with the standard north-south-east-west grid of Pekin’s later Additions.

#ann-eliza-cromwell, #cincinnati-addition, #jonathan-tharp, #original-town-of-pekin, #pekin-history, #preblog-columns, #tharp-family

Pekin’s feminine street names

This is a reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in December 2011, before the launch of this weblog.

Pekin’s feminine street names

By Jared Olar

Local History Specialist

In a previous post here, we looked into the historical accounts and legends of how pioneer settler Ann Eliza Cromwell named Pekin in 1830. As it happens, Mrs. Cromwell is also said to have chosen the names for most of the streets in the original town of Pekin. History and legend credits her with Pekin’s feminine-named streets.

Most of the standard works on Pekin’s history state unequivocally that Mrs. Cromwell chose the street names. For example, “Pekin Centenary 1849-1949” says she was “responsible for the early naming of the streets and the unique designation of the east and west street series with the names of women.

The same thing is repeated in “Pekin Sesquicentennial 1824-1974” and “Pekin, Illinois: A Pictorial History” (1998, 2004), but with the additional detail that, as it says in “Pekin Sesquicentennial,” the streets were named “in honor of female relatives and friends of the original settlers.” Local historian Fred W. Soady’s 1960 paper, “In These Waste Places,” also says the street names “remain as daily reminders of the pioneer women of the city.

The two earliest published accounts of Pekin’s founding, however, express some hesitation about Mrs. Cromwell’s role in the street-naming. Most remarkably, the 1870 Pekin City Directory of W.W. Sellers & W.H. Bates says it was Major Nathan Cromwell who named the streets: “The streets were named by Maj. Cromwell, assisted, doubtless, by his wife, and the singular femininity of the nomenclature still in a great degree, retained, will be accounted for when we state, on the best authority, that our daily walks are, to a great extent, over the quiet monuments of the early women of our beautiful city – that with but few exceptions the older streets are named to correspond with the given names of the daughters, mothers, grandmothers and wives of the old regime.

Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County” similarly presents Mrs. Cromwell’s role as a likely speculation rather than an indisputable fact: “We should think the streets were also named by this goodly matron, judging from the feminine names they bear. It is stated that they were named in honor, and perpetuate the names, of the early women of the city, and that the older streets, with few exceptions, bear the names of the mothers, grandmothers, wives and daughters of the pioneers.

Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County” presents a handy table identifying the women for whom the streets were named (but leaves out Cynthiana St., and calls Sabella St. “Isabel”):

Ruth – Ruth Stark

Minerva – named for the goddess Minerva

Matilda – Matilda Bailey, sister of Samuel P. Bailey, one of the pioneer lawyers of Pekin, after whom Bailey’s Lake (now Meyers Lake or Lake Arlann) was named

Lucinda – Lucinda Pierce, second wife of William Haines, who was the original purchaser of “Town Site”

Amanda – Amanda Swingle, wife of Major Hugh Woodrow, a pioneer and an officer in the Black Hawk War

Harriet – Mrs. Harriet Sandusky, mother of Mrs. Elijah Mark

Jane – Jane Adams, first wife of William Haines

Catherine – after the wife of Samuel Woodrow

Margaret – for the eldest daughter of Seth Wilson, known as “Grandma Young,” died 1901

Isabel – Isabel Briggs, daughter of one of the pioneer Sheriffs, Benjamin Briggs

Henrietta – Henrietta Shoemaker, cousin of William Haines

Charlotte – Charlotte Amanda Dusenberry, afterwards Mrs. Lincoln

Caroline – Caroline Perkins, whose father, Major Isaac Perkins, was killed in the Black Hawk War

Ann Eliza – the wife of Major Cromwell

Elizabeth – one or both of the wives of Thomas Snell and Gideon Hawley

St. Mary – the Blessed Virgin Mary

Susannah – wife of Major Perkins, who operated a horse mill near Circleville, which was converted into a fort during the Black Hawk War

Sarah Ann – daughter of William Haines, afterwards the wife of the Hon. B. S. Prettyman.

The names of the streets of the Original Town of Pekin (shown here in pink) that are perpendicular to the Illinois River were chosen by Pekin co-founder Nathan Cromwell, who named them about the wives, daughters, mothers, and grandmothers of Pekin’s early settlers.

#amanda-swingle, #ann-eliza-cromwell, #benjamin-briggs, #benjamin-prettyman, #blessed-virgin-mary, #caroline-perkins, #charlotte-amanda-dusenberry, #charlotte-amanda-lincoln, #elijah-mark, #fred-w-soady, #gideon-hawley, #harriet-sandusky, #henrietta-shoemaker, #hugh-woodrow, #isaac-perkins, #isabel-briggs, #jane-adams, #lucinda-pierce, #margaret-wilson-young, #matilda-bailey, #minerva, #nathan-cromwell, #pekin-history, #preblog-columns, #ruth-stark, #samuel-p-bailey, #samuel-woodrow, #sarah-ann-haines, #sarah-ann-prettyman, #seth-wilson, #susannah-perkins, #thomas-snell, #william-haines

Tales of childhood from Pekin’s past

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

Tales of childhood from Pekin’s past

By Jared Olar

Local History Specialist

The history of Pekin and Tazewell County consists of the names and the doings of pioneer settlers and Native Americans, the founding of towns and cities, the building of roads and bridges, and the lives of notable businessmen and political leaders.

However, to begin to get a better understanding of what happened in Tazewell County’s or Pekin’s past, and why it happened, we need to consider not only the prominent people and events of local history, but the stories and memories of the everyday lives of ordinary people in the community.

One example of such everyday memories is a 25-page manuscript that records personal stories written down by Mary Aydelott Robertson in the 1960s and compiled in the 1990s by her daughter, Mary Louise Robertson Wilde, entitled, “Tales From Childhood – Pekin, Illinois, c. 1898-1912.” A copy of this manuscript is preserved in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room. Wilde explains the background and the nature of her mother’s stories in some introductory remarks:

“At some point, she began writing up adventures from her own life, then typing them with carbon copies. . . . And in the late 1960s (I can place the time by her frugal use of scrap paper with various dates printed on it!), she began to write these stories about childhood as she knew it in Pekin, Illinois, at the turn of the century. I don’t know exactly why she had her older brother, John, as the main character of the tales. . . . Anyway, I’m sure that all the events in the (unfinished) manuscript actually took place. I do detect a certain creativity in the conversations and the feelings attributed to John (some of which I edited out while typing the stories). But the people, the time, and the place have come alive for me as I worked with these tales, and I hope that the same thing will happen to you.”

Here is an excerpt to give the “feel” of Robertson’s stories, from pages 19-20:

“Papa was the head of a grain and commission business. Every morning and afternoon he walked down St. Mary’s Street to his office near the river. Uncle Will often walked with him, because he worked in another grain and commission office across the street from Papa’s. The competition of the two companies did not make any difference to the two brothers, who were very close to each other. Both companies had grain elevators above the river bank, with railroad tracks between the elevators and the water. Papa’s elevator was red, and Uncle Will’s was gray, but otherwise they looked much the same. . . .

“When the children were not in school, Papa often let them walk down to work with him. They liked to watch the farmers drive their loaded wagons onto the big scales to be weighed, and then to see the little cups carrying the grain up into the upper part of the elevator, to be stored. Papa knew all of the farmers by name, and the children knew many of them, too. Particularly, they knew the farmers who lived between town and the farm where the cabin was. They were interested to hear about Marie’s new colt, which was to be her very own, or about the black and white dog that had to be tied up, because it chased the chickens. Next time they drove out to the farm, the children would watch for the colt, or for the black and white dog. . . .

“There were other interesting things about Papa’s business. The company owned other grain elevators up and down the river, but these were not on the railroad to Chicago, as the home elevator was. The company owned a fleet of barges, and a sturdy old side-wheeler to pull them. These barges brought the grain from the other elevators for transshipment to the Chicago grain market. There was also a cabin boat, which could be attached to the steamer. This boat was useful for many errands, such as transporting workmen to the river elevators. But what the children liked about it was that the family could take trips on the river . . . .

“The cabin boat could house the family comfortably, and even provide room for guests. In addition to the double-decker bunks in the two bedrooms, there were cots in the living room, and on the front deck, or porch. With a convenient little galley and a small dining room at her disposal, Mamma said it was like playing at keeping house. Sometimes the cabin boat trailed behind the steamer, or sometimes behind the whole string of barges. When it was at the end of the string, Mamma liked to sit on the rear desk, and watch things getting smaller and smaller as the boat pulled away from them. On still other trips, the cabin boat was hitched to the front of the steamer, which then pushed it up and down the river. The children liked this location best.

“Empty barges were fun to play in. One could run shouting down the length of the empty boat, listening for echoes. Or one could play ball inside, without fear of the ball flying into the water; if they played on the roof of the barge, that happened all too often. Barges loaded with wheat or corn were great fun, too. The children loved to burrow or roll in the grain, as if it were a sand-pile. Mamma was a little afraid that the children might smother in the grain, but Papa pooh-poohed the idea. Still, he made a rule that no child could go alone into a barge filled with grain. John was older than the other children, and he was not quite so interested in trying to build forts and castles of the slippery material. However, whenever the other children wanted to play on a full barge, he always went along. When Mamma realized that he would always be there, she didn’t worry as much, and enjoyed the boat rides more.”

‘The City of Pekin,’ shown here, was a rebuilt canal barge that hauled grain up and down the Illinois River in the early 20th century.

#barge, #city-of-pekin, #mary-aydelott-robertson, #mary-louise-robertson-wilde, #pekin-history, #preblog-columns, #tales-from-childhood-pekin-illinois-c-1898-1912

Assorted scenes from Pekin’s past

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

Assorted scenes from Pekin’s past

By Jared Olar

Local History Specialist

Among the items, articles and relics preserved in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room is a file containing an assortment of old photographs from Pekin’s past.

Many of the photos were clipped from old newspapers, while many others are old prints, postcards and portraits that over the years were donated to the library for preservation. Some of them evidently came from old scrapbooks.

Together these images almost form a photo album of miscellaneous pictures from the community’s history. Following is a sample of the photos from this file.

One photo, dated Aug. 7, 1927, shows two children sitting in a toy wagon – Ann Crumbaker of Abingdon and James Unland. The photo, which was clipped from an old newspaper, was taken at the Unland home at 807 Bacon Street. The caption says Ann Crumbaker was a granddaughter of the late Rev. M. V. Crumbaker, a former pastor in Pekin.

Turning that clipping over, one finds a group photo of “Pekin City Mail Carriers 26 Years Ago,” dated April 20, 1930. The caption identifies the men as Frank E. Hatcher, Peter Trimpi, W. Y. Franks, Charles Cohenour, C. F. Dittmer and Henry Mohr. Unfortunately part of the photo was cropped, so Franks and Mohr have been cut off. The caption says C. A. Kuhl was then the postmaster, and adds that the photo had been supplied by Mrs. Peter Trimpi of 709 S. Seventh St.

The file also contains two larger photos showing industrial plants, including an aerial view of the old Standard Brands plant which formerly employed many residents of Pekin.

Two other photos – one of a husband and wife, and the other of a baby girl – bear the official business logo of Coles Studies of Pekin and Delavan, the business of Pekin’s pioneer photographer Henry Hobart Cole (1833-1925), who was responsible for creating many historical photographs of Pekin and other parts of Tazewell County. The writing on these two photos identifies the persons in the photos as “Mr & Mrs Green; Mrs Piles youngest sister” and “Ester Green, daughter of Mr. and Mrs Green.”

Another more recent photo is dated Feb. 1982 and was taken by Frank Mackaman. The black-and-white image shows an unidentified man driving a small single-rider snow plow and clearing a parking lot following a snow storm that winter.

For our final sample from the file, there are two photos from Aug. 7, 1927 of “Pekin’s Lady Lindbergh – Miss Anna Behrens, head bookkeeper of the American National bank, who leaves for Chicago soon to complete her flying course, started at Varney field. She had already had several flattering offers for demonstration work,” the caption says.

Anna M. Behrens (born 18 March 1898 in Pekin, died 29 May 1967 in Los Angeles County, Calif.) was the second daughter and fifth child of Henry D. and Catherine A. (Dircks) Behrens. Her father Henry (1863-1934), a son of German immigrants from Hesse-Darmstadt, was a painter at the Smith Wagon Co. in Pekin. Her mother Catherine was a descendant of Germans of Ostfriesland. Anna is buried in Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier, Calif.

Anna M. Behrens’ day job was head bookkeeper at American National Bank in Pekin, but her interest in flying led her to be dubbed Pekin’s “Lady Lindbergh.”

Anna M. Behrens of Pekin learned to fly at Varney field in Idaho. She later moved to California,

#ann-crumbaker, #anna-m-behrens, #annie-behrens, #c-a-kuhl, #c-f-dittmer, #catherine-a-dircks, #charles-cohenour, #ester-green, #frank-e-hatcher, #frank-mackaman, #henry-d-behrens, #henry-hobart-cole, #henry-mohr, #james-unland, #peter-trimpi, #preblog-columns, #rev-m-v-crumbaker, #smith-wagon-company, #w-y-franks

Looking at the lie of the land in Illinois

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

Looking at the lie of the land in Illinois

By Jared Olar

Local History Specialist

Whether it’s a question regarding the history of a particular locale or a need to become familiar with the lie of the land in an area, maps and atlases are invaluable resources and research tools.

In the Spring of 2014, some especially useful examples of such tools were added to the researcher’s “tool box” known as the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection: an archive of topographic maps produced by the Illinois State Geological Survey.

What sets topographic maps apart from other kinds of maps is that they not only show the location of cities, towns, roads, rivers, lakes, dams and boundaries, but they also indicate the contours of the terrain and the elevation of hills. With a topographic map, one can readily tell not only whether an area is rugged or level, but just how rugged or level it might be.

This archive of maps was generously donated to the library by Pekin resident Merle H. Glick (1924-2014), who built up an impressive collection of ISGS topographic maps over his years of traveling, hiking or canoeing through Illinois. Though not complete, Glick’s map collection nevertheless covers around two-thirds of the land area of the state of Illinois. Many of the maps are somewhat older, reflecting the way things appeared some years or decades ago, so the maps serve as historical primary sources.

Glick’s collection includes 178 individual topographic maps. Each map covers a “quadrangle” of the state of Illinois. Most of the quadrangle maps – 117 of them, to be exact – are large, at a scale of 1:24000, while the remaining 61 quadrangle maps are at the lower, less detailed 1:65000 scale. The collection also includes two indexes to the ISGS topographic maps, along with a topographic map symbols key, a few articles about maps, and a large ISGS “Geologic Map of Illinois” from 1967.

To consult the library’s topographic map collection, visit the Local History Room or inquire at the infodesk in the Adult Services Department.

Shown is a detail of the 1967 Illinois State Geologic Survey map of the Pekin Quadrangle.

#1967-geologic-map-of-illinois, #1967-pekin-topographic-map, #geologic-map-of-illinois, #illinois-state-geologic-survey, #merle-glick, #pekin-quadrangle, #preblog-columns, #topographic-maps

Tazewell County ‘Old Settler’ Ann Eliza Kellogg

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

Tazewell County ‘Old Settler’ Ann Eliza Kellogg

By Jared Olar

Local History Specialist

In the late 1800s it was somewhat common for local historians to compile and publish collections of biographies of the notable people then living in the area. Such a publication often would be called a “portrait and biographical record.” There was one for Tazewell and Mason counties in 1894.

Given the culture of the day, naturally we find that most, sometimes all, of the biographies in these books were of prominent men. It’s somewhat interesting, then, that the extended biographies of the “Old Settlers of Tazewell County” found in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County” include several of the county’s prominent women.

One of those women whose biography is featured among the “Old Settlers” was Ann or Anna Eliza (Hawley) Kellogg. Her biography, on page 75 of the “Atlas Map,” consists of two paragraphs:

“Mrs. Anna Eliza Kellogg, the subject of this sketch, was born in Tazewell county, Ill., January 7, 1827. She is the daughter of Gideon and Elizabeth Hawley, who were among the first white settlers of Tazewell county. Mr. Hawley was a native of the state of Vermont, and Mrs. Hawley of Kentucky. They were both good and useful citizens, and did as much to settle and improve Tazewell county as any other citizens. They passed through many hard and trying times and experienced a great many privations, which, however, turned out for the benefit of others. They raised a large and respectable family of children, nine in number, five of whom they have had the misfortune to bury; four are now good and useful citizens of Illinois and Iowa. Mr. Hawley, after living a long and useful life, died in October, 1852. Mrs. Hawley still survives, and is now a resident of Iowa.

“Mrs. Kellogg is supposed to be the third white child born in Tazewell county, consequently she has been identified with the county all her life. She received her early education in the common schools of Tazewell county, which at that day were very meagre. In March, 1843, she was joined in marriage to Mr. William Anderson, who was a kind and affectionate husband for about fifteen months, and then departed this life, leaving his wife the mother of one infant child, who soon followed its father. On July 23d, 1845, Mrs. Anderson was again joined in marriage to Robert Kellogg, her present husband. Mr. Kellogg was born in Columbia county, New York, in 1818, and emigrated to Illinois, and settled in Tazewell county, in 1836. Mrs. Kellogg has seen Tazewell county emerge from almost a wilderness to be one of the proud and heavily populated counties in the great state of Illinois. Mrs. K. is a woman of clear intellect, and has always been industrious and economical, and has done her part to make life a success. She is well and favorably known for her charity and benevolence to both the church and the great human family. She has taken great pains in raising her family and preparing them for future usefulness. She is held in high estimation for her many good qualities by all who enjoy her acquaintance, and she is a most excellent lady and citizen.”

Curiously, Ann Eliza’s biography does not mention where she lived, but the “Atlas Map” elsewhere lists her second husband Robert as a farmer in Section 32 of Dillon Township, south of Dillon on the southern border of the township.

This detail from the 1873 map of Dillon Township shows the farmstead of Robert and Anna Eliza Kellogg in the southwest of the township. Their farm in Section 32 was several miles east of Green Valley.

Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “Tazewell County History,” page 420, includes a brief biography of Ann Eliza’s brother Norman C. Hawley, born June 6, 1837 in Cincinnati Township. Chapman writes that Norman’s father Gideon “was a native of Vermont, and his mother, Elizabeth (Caldwell) Hawley, was born in Kentucky. This couple came to the State in 1819, and were among the earliest settlers in Tazewell county.

Chapman also notes that at the time of Jacob Tharp’s arrival in Dec. 1825, Gideon Hawley was “living on the Mackinaw side of Sand Prairie.” In the spring of 1830, Hawley was one of the four men who surveyed and platted the town site of Pekin. Hawley was also one of the first settlers of Sand Prairie Township, and “died on the farm where Jas. Hamson now lives,” Chapman writes.

Hawley family histories relate that Gideon Hawley was born Aug. 13, 1797, in Ferrisburgh, Vermont, a son of Gideon and Levina (Darrow) Hawley. He died Oct. 16, 1852, in Sand Prairie Township, and is buried in Hawley Cemetery, which is located several miles south of Pekin off South 14th Street.

As for Anna Eliza’s husband Robert, he died April 15, 1896. Anna Eliza date of death is uncertain, but she must have died before the 1880 U.S. Census, because the census that year lists Robert as a “widower.” He and Anna Eliza had three sons and three daughters: William L. (born Oct. 22, 1849, in Tazewell County, died in 1929 in Muscatine, Iowa),  Mary E., Charles E., Fannie, Laura, and Albert.

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Public grade school education in Pekin through the years

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

Public grade school education in Pekin through the years

By Jared Olar

Local History Specialist

The founding pioneer settlers of Pekin believed it was very important to provide youth with a good education. So it was that in 1830, the year of Pekin’s founding, the town’s first school opened. A log cabin built by Thomas Snell, it was located on the west side of Second Street between Elizabeth and St. Mary streets, at the southwest corner of Elizabeth and Second. Snell’s son John was the teacher.

Pekin’s first school house also has the distinction of temporarily serving as a fort during the Black Hawk War of 1832. The town’s inhabitants quickly threw up a stockade around the building. Thankfully, Fort Doolittle, as it was called, never had to be used, which was an especially good thing since, as the publications on Pekin’s early history relate, the fort’s builders had forgotten to provide it with a water supply.

A few years later, Pekin’s second school, called the Cincinnati School, was built at the corner of Franklin and Third streets. A one-story frame house situated near the lower end of the long vanished Bitzel’s Lake (which later would be drained to make way for the railroad), Cincinnati School would get surrounded by water every spring, so temporary bridges would be placed to enable the students to get to the school, or else the shorter pupils would have to be carried by the taller ones.

Pekin’s first brick school was Pekin Academy, a two-story building on Tharp Place where a Baptist elder named Gilbert S. Bailey taught young men and women. The structure was erected in 1836, according to William H. Bates, and later historical works say the academy opened in 1852.

Bates also quotes from early town records from 1840 that refer to a school that operated out of the old Methodist Church. In addition, the St. Matthew’s School opened in the early 1850s, a private school that operated as a reformatory, known in town as the “bad boy’s school.”

These early schools were the predecessors of the Pekin and Cincinnati Union School District, which in turn was ancestral to the present District 108 and District 303. The 1860 U.S. Census says Pekin then had 12 school houses and 503 pupils – a tally that includes religious schools. The next year, the 1861 Root’s Pekin City Directory listed six “free schools” in Pekin and Cincinnati Union School District. Those schools were:

  • The Brick School House, built in 1849 on Ann Eliza Street between Third and Capitol, which would serve as Pekin’s first high school
  • The Cincinnati School, at Franklin and Pleasant streets
  • The Yellow School House, at the corner of Second and Susannah streets
  • The Second Street School, between Court and Elizabeth on Second Street
  • The Frame School House, at the corner of Capitol and Ann Eliza
  • The German and English School, on the east side of N. Fourth Street between Market and Caroline

While the city’s public schools were operated collectively as a school district, the formal organization of a state-recognized public school district did not come until the General Assembly passed the Pekin School Charter & Law in 1869. That law governed the operation of Pekin School District until the 1920s, when the city took steps to separate the administration of the high school from the elementary schools, creating District 108, legal successor of Pekin School District, and District 303, the high school district.

A year after the formation of Pekin School District, the 1870 Pekin City Directory lists the following public schools:

  • Second Ward School
  • Third Ward School
  • Fourth Ward School, built 1867-69 at the present site of Washington Intermediate, burned down Dec. 2, 1890. The old Washington School was then built, which served as the high school until West Campus was built in 1916, and then became a junior high.  It was replaced by the current Washington Intermediate building in 1930.
  • Bluff School, built in late 1869 (later called the Fairmount School and the Allen School), at the site of the later McKinley School

Subsequently, the school district would build a succession of elementary and junior high schools, many of which have since been demolished: Lincoln School (1876, extensively remodeled and expanded in 1913, later became Good Shepherd Lutheran School, demolished in 2010), East Side School or Douglas School (1881-2, replaced in 1924, demolished in 1988), Garfield School (1894, demolished in 1981), Franklin School (1923, replaced in 1936, now a private office building), Jefferson School (1906, replaced in 1976), McKinley School (1919, demolished), Roosevelt School (1923, demolished), Fearn Wilson School (1949), Edison Junior High School (1954), C.B. Smith School (1956), Sunset Hills School (1962, recently renamed Scott Altman School), Willow School (1962), L.E. Starke School (1966), Broadmoor Junior High School (1976), Dirksen School (1984, housed in Broadmoor), and most recently, Wilson Intermediate School (built adjacent to old Wilson).

Shown below are photographs and images of many of Pekin’s former schools which have been razed and/or replaced.

The brick structure, which was built in 1836, formerly stood at the northeast corner of Haines and Tharp (now St. Joseph’s Place), and was the home of Pekin Academy which opened in 1852.
Four of Pekin’s old schools — including two of Pekin’s old high schools — are shown on this page from Pekin photographer Henry Hobart Cole’s “Souvenir of Pekin.”
A vintage photo of the Fourth Ward School, which served as Pekin’s high school until in burned down in 1890. The school stood at the current site of Washington Intermediate School, 501 Washington St.
Another view of the Fourth Ward School, which served as Pekin’s high school from the latter 1860s until in burned down in 1890. The school stood at the current site of Washington Intermediate School, 501 Washington St.
Shown here is a photograph of Old Washington School, which served as Pekin’s high school from 1890 to 1916. This school stood at the present site of Washington Intermediate School.
Another view of Old Washington School, which served as Pekin’s high school from 1890 to 1916.
This early view of the 1916 Pekin Community High School on Broadway (later known as West Campus) shows the school as it looked before the addition of its west and east wings.
Pekin Community High School is shown with its west wing addition in this photograph from circa 1930.
Lincoln School, 333 State St., was first built in 1876 but was extensively remodeled and expanded in 1913. It later served as the home of Good Shepherd Lutheran School.
Shown here is Old Douglas School, originally called East Side School, which stood from 1881 to 1926, when it was razed to make way for a much larger Douglas School on the same site.
The second Douglas School, 200 S. 10th. St., stood from 1926 to 1988, when it was torn down and replaced by K’s Super Saver grocery store (now Schnucks).
Garfield School (1895-1983) formerly stood at 1115 State St.
A view of Old Jefferson School, 905 S. Capitol St. The school was built in 1906 and was replaced by the current Jefferson School in 1976.
A view of the rear of Old Jefferson School, 905 S. Capitol St. The school was built in 1906 and was replaced by the current Jefferson School in 1976.
McKinley School, 2115 Court St., was built in 1919 on the former site of Bluff School.
Roosevelt School (1923-1970s), 212 Sapp St., later demolished.

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The adventures of Joel Hodgson

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

The adventures of Joel Hodgson

By Jared Olar

Local History Specialist

Coming to Tazewell County with the first wave of white settlers during the 1820s and 1830s was a resident of Ohio named Joel Hodgson.

A relative of the Tazewell County pioneer family the Dillons, Hodgson first visited what would become Tazewell County in the autumn of 1821 as an advance scout for a proposed “colony” or settlement of Ohio residents. Nothing came of those plans, but Hodgson returned on his own account in 1828 with the intention of settling in Tazewell County permanently. Several of his Hodgson relatives also came to Tazewell during those years.

Joel Hodgson, born Nov. 17, 1789 in Guilford County, North Carolina, was a son of Thomas Hodgson and Patience Dillon. He married Elizabeth Castor (1796-1875) and had several children, including sons Eli and James, and a daughter named Malinda who married Aaron Dillon. An account of his adventures, written in 1885 by Eli Hodgson and Zimri Hodgson of Ottawa, was included in Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” on pages 701-703. Here are excerpts from that account:

“In 1831 Joel Hodgson emigrated from Clinton County, Ohio, to Tazewell County, Illinois, bringing with him a quantity of timothy, clover and blue-grass seeds. After subduing the wild sods of the prairie he sowed a few acres with his favorite grass seed, which is supposed to be the first importation of these grasses to this country. . .

“At the same time Joel Hodgson brought about a bushel of one kind of the choicest peach seeds, which he generously distributed among his widely scattered neighbors who would plant and cultivate. The soil and climate proved to be congenial for raising this palatable fruit, which was true to its kind, and for a number of years bountiful crops of peaches were the result.

“Previous to this, in the autumn of 1821, a number of families of Clinton County, Ohio, proposed to emigrate to some western location, in sufficient numbers to support a school, church, etc., and deputed Joel Hodgson and Luke Dillon to explore the then wild and unoccupied Northwest, and select a location for the colony. His colleague having been taken sick, Mr. Hodgson resolutely started alone on horseback. He equipped himself with a good horse, saddle and bridle, a packing wapello well fitted with dried beef, crackers and hardtack. His other equipments were the best map he could then get of the western territories, a pocket compass, flint, steel and punk-wood with which to kindle a fire, as matches were not then known. He carried no weapon, often remarking that an honest face was the best weapon among civilized or savage man. After crossing the state of Indiana, then a wilderness, he entered Illinois where Danville now is, and here found a small settlement and some friends. Here he made a short stay, then took a northwest course to reach the Illinois river, his map and compass his only guide. He put up usually where night found him. Striking a fire with his flint, steel and punk, wrapped in his blanket, and with the broad earth for a bed, he reposed for the night. He stated that his horse became very cowardly, so that he would scarcely crop the grass which was his only sustenance; he would keep close by his master, following him wherever he went, sleeping at night by his side, and would not leave him at any time. With no roads but an occasional Indian trail, through high grass and bushes, over the broad limitless prairie, or along the timber belts, casually meeting a party of Indians, with whom he conversed only by signs, it is not surprising that horse and rider should be lonely, suspicious and fearful. The Indians were friendly, offering to pilot him wherever he wished to go, but were importunate for tobacco and whiskey; in vain, however, for he carried neither. He reached the Illinois river, he supposed, just below the mouth of the Kankakee, and followed down on the south side till he reached the mouth of the Fox River, and recognized it on his map, the first time he had been certain of his locality since he left Danville. He explored each of the southern branches of the Illinois for several miles from their mouths, passing up one side and down the other. He thus explored the country to Dillon’s Grove, in Tazewell county, near Fort Clark (Peoria). There, as he expected, he met a few settlers, old neighbors of his from Ohio, the first white men he had seen since leaving Danville. He then returned by way of Springfield and Vandalia, to Danville, where he made a claim on government land which he afterwards purchased.  He returned to Ohio and reported that he found no suitable location for the proposed colony west of Danville.

“Some might think it rather singular that a man of his resolution and sound judgment should pass through the best part of the State of Illinois, the best portion of the West, and as good a country as the sun shines on, and then make such a report. But those who saw it as he saw it can properly appreciate his decision; and the fact that he made such difference between then and now. Surrounded by the solitude which even his horse felt so keenly, he was not in a mood to take in the full value of a prairie farm, and the wild region was not then understood. There was supposed to be an almost fatal deficiency of timber, and the coal-fields were hidden in the bowels of the earth. The prairie was supposed to be so cold and bleak in winter as to be uninhabitable, and that not more than one-tenth of the country could ever be utilized. . . . There was no civilization here. The deer, the wolf and the Indian held a divided empire, and, to the solitary traveler, it seemed that generations must pass before this immense solitude could be made coeval with the converse and business of a civilized people . . . .

“Our explorer eventually changed his opinion, for, in 1828, he purchased a farm in Tazewell county, and removed there three years later, having in the autumn of 1828 taken a trip through the country similar to that in 1821, when some few settlements and more experience softened the aspects of the then changing wilderness, and convinced him of the feasibility of settling the prairie region. His colleague, Luke Dillon, with a number of their friends, emigrated to Vermillion county, Illinois, and settled near Danville, and Mr. Hodgson himself designed settling on his purchase of the same place, but the milk-sick disease broke out among cattle on his lands, causing him to change his mind, as above stated. He remained on his purchase, near Pekin, until his death in the autumn of 1836, leaving a widow and nine children, of whom four sons and one daughter yet survive. Similar adventures were made by other parties, cousins of Joel Hodgson, about the same time, and under much same trying circumstances.”

Joel Hodgson died in or near Pekin on Oct. 25, 1836, and was buried in Dillon Cemetery. That autumn was one of grief for the Hodgsons, for Joel’s daughter Malinda also died in 1836 just 10 days after her husband Aaron and five days before her father.

The gravestone of Tazewell County pioneers Joel and Elizabeth Hodgson is shown in this Find-A-Grave photograph.

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