The indomitable Jacob Funk

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

The indomitable Jacob Funk

By Jared Olar
Library Assistant

In the list of Tazewell County’s earliest pioneer settlers was Jacob Funk, whose name appears with relative frequency in the old county records and histories.

Born on Dec. 28, 1793, in Lexington, Kentucky, one of the children of Adam and Nancy Funk, Jacob married Susannah Popejoy (1798-1845) in 1813 in Ohio and had several children. He and his wife and children moved to central Illinois in the 1820s. On page 207 of his 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” Charles C. Chapman names “Jesse, Absalom and Jacob Funk” among those who arrived in 1825 and made their homes in what would soon become Fon du Lac Township, Tazewell County, “on the river bottom above and opposite Fort Clarke.”

On page 228 of Chapman’s history, Jacob Funk is named as one of three men appointed as election judges for Ten Mile precinct “at the house of Thomas Camlin.” Funk also served on Tazewell County’s very first grand jury, which was appointed in June 1827 to serve at the October term of the Circuit Court, according to page 231 of Chapman’s history.

In the following year, on March 3, 1828, we find Funk applying for and receiving a license to operate a tavern, for which he paid the county a fee of $2. At the same time, Funk sought to go into the ferry business – but found his ambitions blocked by his neighbor John L. Bogardus, who held exclusive rights to operate a ferry across the Illinois River in that area. Funk then filed a petition in court to challenge Bogardus. This is how Chapman tells the story of the case of Funk vs. Bogardus, on pages 232 and 234 of his Tazewell County history:

“At the March term, 1828, the County Treasurer came into court and settled his account with the county . . . . At this meeting Jacob Funk petitioned the Court to revoke the ferry license of John L. Bogardus for non-attendance to his duties. It appears that the fault-finding Jacob looked with covetous eyes upon Bogardus, and by pure selfishness was prompted to thus petition the Court. Bogardus was contentedly ferrying the people with their goods and chattels across the Illinois opposite Peoria, while Funk sat upon the bank and sought to find fault that would rob Bogardus of that right, which he would then himself seize. After summoning Bogardus before the Court and a careful investigation of the charges the petition was refused. Unable to gain his point in this way Funk applied for a license at or near the same point where Bogardus was engaged, but the Court desired no competition and so refused the application.

“On the 3rd day of March, 1828, Rufus North, Jacob Funk and Jonas Hittle applied for tavern licenses, which, upon filing good and sufficient bonds, and paying into the county treasury the sum of $2.00, were granted. . . . It now appears that while Funk was providing entertainment for man and beast, his neighbor Bogardus had his ferry license, which he had obtained from Sangamon county, proved and spread upon the records here. He also secured the passage of an act prohibiting any one to establish a ferry within one mile of his own.

“Bogardus was evidently an old and extensive operator in the ferry business, for we find he held his license granted while Tazewell county was under the jurisdiction of Sangamon, and further, we find on Sept. 5, 1828, he made application to this Court for another ferry. He selected, as the most remunerative place for his branch ferry, the Illinois at the mouth of Fox river. . . .”

Thwarted in his initial attempt to secure Bogardus’ ferry rights for himself, Funk tried again in 1831, as Chapman relates on page 245, in a section that Chapman titled, “The Irrepressible Funk”:

“If the Court thought to escape the importunities of their old petitioner, Jacob Funk, on making the move to Pekin, they soon found they were sadly mistaken. No sooner had they found a room wherein to convene in official capacity than the indomitable Jacob appeared and again importuned the Court to revoke Bogardus’ ferry license. A citation was immediately issued commanding the said Bogardus to appear and show cause why his license should not be taken from him. Promptly at the convening of the Court at the September term, Funk was on hand and requested that attention be given to the citation issued against Bogardus. The Court, however, let other matters take the precedence until Sept. 8, when Bogardus appears before the Court and is confronted by Funk and [Abner] Eads, and, in the language of the record, the ‘trial is gon into.’ After hearing the evidence pro and con the Court gravely decided ‘that the ferry license issued to John Bogardus by the Sangamon county Commissioners and confirmed by this Court is hereby revoked.’ Thus Funk had at last gained a victory over his enemy, Bogardus, and no doubt was content. Abner Eads, however, was not satisfied with having Bogardus ousted, but applied for a ferry at the same place; but this the Court promptly refused. Bogardus again petitioned for a ferry across the river at Fort Clark, but the Court not wishing more trouble, refused to grant it.”

Funk did not have long to enjoy his victory over Bogardus, however, because Funk died just one year later, in October 1832. Chapman mentions Funk’s death in a brief and tantalizing aside, on page 470 of his history, where he names “Jacob Funk, who was shot by the Sheriff.” Unfortunately Chapman does not say anything else about the circumstances of Funk’s death. Since it happened in October 1832, presumably the sheriff who shot Funk was James Scott, who served as sheriff from 1832 to 1835, or perhaps it was Scott’s predecessor Philip B. Miles, whose term as sheriff ended in 1832. Various family trees at say Jacob died in Groveland. He was buried in Deacon Street Cemetery in Morton.

Photograph of Jacob Funk’s grave marker in Deacon Street Cemetery, Morton, Illinois, uploaded to Funk’s Find-A-Grave memorial by “BR.”

#abner-eades, #absalom-funk, #adam-funk, #battle-of-the-wabash, #illinois-river-ferry, #jacob-funk, #jesse-funk, #john-l-bogardus, #preblog-columns, #sheriff-james-scott, #sheriff-philip-b-miles, #susannah-popejoy, #thomas-camlin

Tazewell’s first horse thief – and first jail break

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

Tazewell’s first horse thief – and first jail break

By Jared Olar
Library Assistant

The year 1829 was very eventful for the fledgling Tazewell County. Not even two years had elapsed since the county had been created by the Illinois legislature, but the need had already arisen for a jail.

Tazewell County’s first jail, according to Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 county history, “was a two-story structure, 16 feet square, made of solid hewn timber, and was one of the strongest and most costly jail buildings erected by the pioneers throughout Central Illinois.” It was erected at the county seat of Mackinaw at a cost of $325.75.

Appropriately, not long after the county got its first jail, it also got its first horse thief, William Cowhart – and its first jail break. Chapman recorded these memorable events on pages 236-241 of his county history. Most of Chapman’s account, however, was in fact a reprint of an 1853 newspaper article that had been printed in the Bloomington Pantagraph. The article’s author was none other than Tazewell County pioneer Nathan Dillon, traditionally but erroneously regarded as the county’s first permanent white settler (William Blanchard came a year before Dillon, and the French Catholic fur traders who lived at the future site of Wesley City/Creve Coeur arrived before Blanchard), and the namesake of Dillon Township.

Dillon recalled:

“James Willis and his brother were the first pioneers on Sandy, in the neighborhood of where the flourishing village of Magnolia, in Marshall county, now stands, they having located there as early as 1827 or ’28, their nearest neighbor at that time being William Holland, who had already settled at Washington, Tazewell county, where he still lives. One cold Friday in the winter James Willis, who had been boarding at William Hall’s, in Dillon settlement on the Mackinaw, started on a trip with a young man calling himself by the name of Cowhart, whom he had hired to go and work for him at his new location. The distance was fifty miles and Holland’s the only family on the road. Willis was mounted on a fine horse, well equipped. The day was very cold and when they got to Crow creek, eighteen miles north of Holland’s, Willis dismounted and let Cowhart have his horse, overcoat and equipage, and took the gun belonging to Cowhart, supposing it to be loaded.

“Cowhart mounted, but instantly took the other end of the road. Willis, thinking that a shot from the gun might bring the rogue to a sense of duty, brought it to bear upon him, but upon trial found that the touchhole had been plugged with a green stalk, and so the man, money and equipage disappeared without any hindrance.

“Willis was quite unwell eighteen miles from any house and it was snowing, but he beat his way back to Holland’s. It happened that Abraham Hiner, a neighbor of mine, was there, and Willis made out a description of the robber and sent it by Hiner to me, with the request that I should do what I could for him.

“We immediately called our neighbors together and it was agreed that Daniel Hodgson, my brothers Daniel, Walter and Joseph, and myself would give him a chase, though it still remained cold and it was thirty-six hours after the commission of the robbery, which occurred forty miles away,”

Over the course of several days, Dillon and his posse engaged in a prolonged pursuit of Cowhart that took them over the Illinois border into Indiana. Because it was winter and snow blanketed the ground, tracking Cowhart was not difficult. The posse captured him near Rockville, Ind.

On their return trip, the posse stopped briefly at a tavern in Newport, Ind., where they encountered some resistance from some of the locals, who attempted to help Cowhart escape from their custody. Dillon wrote:

“About the time we were ready to start the man at the writing-desk proved to be a lawyer, and presented a petition to our prisoner to sign, praying for a writ of habeas corpus. I snatched the petition from the prisoner’s hand, saw what it was, gave it to the lawyer and told him to keep it to himself or I would give him trouble; whereupon he grew saucy, but went back when I walked towards him until he reached the end of the room; told me, I believe, that I was ‘out of order’; not to touch him. I told him plainly that if I heard another word from him I certainly should slap his jaw, then left him pale as death and turned to the prisoner and took him by the collar. He attempting to get away, some of the men took hold of me to assist him, exclaiming that there should be no dragging out. I gave him a stout jerk, at the same time Hodson and my brothers Daniel, Joseph and Walter assisted him with a shove, and he went out in short order. We set him astride of one of our horses just as the landlord and another man approached, and said we had no business to come there in such a way. The prisoner begged for help. We told him that if he attempted to get off the horse, or if any man attempted to assist him, we would ‘blow him through.’ With that we left them and got into our own State the same night. Next day we started for home, which we reached with our prisoner, after being out nine days, some of which were as cold as I ever experienced.

“Willis recovered all that Cowhart had robbed him of except two dollars and fifty cents.

“It was the same winter that the jail at Mackinaw was being built; and the prisoner was guarded by old Jimmy Scott, Deputy Sheriff, until it was deemed sufficiently strong to keep him safely. Soon after he was put into it, however, somebody was friendly enough to let him out, and he escaped trial and the penitentiary.”

In the spring, a bounty of $20 was set “for the apprehension and delivery of William Cowhart who was let out of jail, and also the person who let him out.” But Cowhart had made a clean getaway, and no one ever collected the reward.

Chapman concludes his story with the observation, “Cowhart proved to be an expensive settler to the county, for, we find the Court gave James Scott $68 for keeping him. For guarding Cowhart, John Hodgson, William Davis, John Ford, A. Wright, William Sampson and F. Seward each received $2, Nathan Dillon $33.68; Daniel Hodgson $5, and Martin Porter $1, making a total of $119.68, within $5.32 as much as the court-house cost, and it would have paid the County Treasurer’s salary for three years.

#a-wright, #abraham-hiner, #daniel-dillon, #daniel-hodgson, #f-seward, #horse-theft, #james-scott, #james-willis, #jimmy-scott, #john-ford, #john-hodgson, #joseph-dillon, #martin-porter, #nathan-dillon, #preblog-columns, #walter-dillon, #william-blanchard, #william-cowhart, #william-davis, #william-hall, #william-holland, #william-sampson

Rev. George W. Minier, founder of Minier

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

Rev. George W. Minier, founder of Minier

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

The largest community in Tazewell County’s Little Mackinaw Township is the village of Minier, which was founded nearly 146 years ago. Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” page 854, describes Minier’s founding and early years in this way:

“The village of Minier is located on Section 22 at the intersection of the Kansas City branch of the Chicago & Alton Railroad and the Illinois Midland. It was laid out October 18, 1867, by George W. Minier, Charles E. Boyer and others. The site where Minier was located up to the time of the building of the Chicago & Alton Railroad was a low flat prairie, and there were ponds of water within the present limits of the village that scarcely went dry during the entire season. Mr. J. M. Edmiston was the first resident of Minier, being employed by the Chicago & Alton Railroad Company as its agent, and his residence was the first house built in the city. Shortly afterwards the railway company erected a water-tank at that place which was visible for miles around, and the town was nicknamed ‘Tank,’ which name it wore for several years.”

The 1873 Atlas Map of Tazewell County shows that Minier’s founder and namesake, the Rev. George Washington Minier, then lived on a farmstead along the southern boundary of Minier. J. M. Edmiston, the first resident, was apparently Rev. Minier’s son-in-law James Edmiston, husband of Minier’s daughter Eliza Jane, who was one of the 12 children of Minier and his wife Sarah Ireland. That and other details can be gleaned from the published biography of Rev. Minier found on pages 237-38 of the 1894 “Portrait and Biographical Record of Tazewell and Mason Counties.”

The Rev. George Minier, a pioneer settler of Tazewell County, was the founder of the Tazewell County village of Minier in Little Mackinaw Township.

The biography calls Rev. Minier “one of the early settlers of Tazewell County, and a pioneer Christian preacher of western Illinois.” In 1894, he was living in Section 13 of Little Mackinaw Township. Rev. Minier was born in Ulster Township, Bradford County, Pa., on Oct. 8, 1813, one of the 10 children of John Minier, whose father Daniel Minier is said to have served under Gen. George Washington during the Revolutionary War. Born in Lycoming County, Pa., John Minier moved to Bradford County, where he worked as a farmer. In 1839, John moved to Bureau County, Ill., where he died around 1841.

The published biography goes on to say that John’s son George “was reared in Bradford County, and was educated in the public schools and Athens Academy. He often walked six miles to and from school. When his college course was completed he engaged in teaching in Chemung, N. Y., for three years, and in 1837 emigrated to Chicago, Ill., where he met ‘Long John Wentworth.’” — a Chicago newspaper editor who served two terms as mayor of Chicago.

The account continues:

“He then went to Bureau County and engaged in surveying the state road from Peru to Galesburg. In 1839 he was employed as a civil engineer on the main line of the Illinois Central Railroad, and aided in the survey of the Illinois River. His work along that stream brought on an attack of ague, which lasted for fourteen months, after which he resumed teaching near Princeton, Ill.

“Three years were spent as a teacher in Magnolia, Putnam County, after which he became a preacher of the Christian Church, and continued in the work of the ministry in McLean and Tazewell Counties for many years. He was also at the head of a female college in Bloomington, which he sold in 1850 to Dr. Finley. The following year he came to Tazewell County, and with a land warrant secured one hundred and sixty acres of Government land at eighty-three cents per acre. It was a tract of unbroken prairie, but he cleared and improved it, and has since made his home thereon. In connection with farming, he has also continued his work as a Christian minister.”

It was in 1842 that Rev. Minier was ordained a minister of the Christian Church. During his ministry, he pastored many churches throughout central Illinois, including churches in Lincoln, Atlanta, Armington, Washington, Concord, Minier, Delavan and Emden. Besides his religious endeavors, he also was active in politics. “In early life he was a Democrat in politics, but was a stanch (sic) Republican from the organization of the party until a short time since, when he joined the Prohibition party, and was the first man ever nominated in the United States for Congress on the Prohibition ticket. He was a warm personal friend of Abraham Lincoln,” the biography says.

As a proponent of the prohibition of alcohol, Minier spent most of his life as a member of the Sons of Temperance. He also spoke out against war. “He is a member of the Peace Congress of the United States and was elected a delegate to the World’s Convention in London, where he was to read a paper. Being prevented from going, he however sent the article which he had prepared, and which was read before that body,” according to the biography. Rev. Minier also was involved in the organizing and founding of Illinois State University.

He died on Feb 18. 1902, and is buried with his wife Sarah in Glenwood Cemetery, Mackinaw.

#eliza-jane-minier, #james-m-edmiston, #long-john-wentworth, #minier, #preblog-columns, #rev-george-w-minier, #sarah-ireland-minier, #tank

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.

#bryan-george, #cora-a-buck, #cora-a-youngman, #franklin-e-myers, #george-joseph-breaden, #ku-klux-klan, #mrs-george-h-youngman, #pekin-daily-evening-post, #pekin-daily-post-tribune, #pekin-daily-times, #pekin-daily-tribune, #pekin-library-cornerstone-time-capsule, #pekin-public-library-obituary-index, #preblog-columns, #sam-gaty, #samuel-russell, #tazewell-republican, #timothy-williams, #william-schaumleffel

A Catholic church in Tremont

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

A Catholic church in Tremont

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” pages 822-823, provides a brief overview of the history of three churches in Tremont Township up to that time, including two paragraphs on Tremont’s two Protestant churches.

Tremont then had two Protestant churches – the Tremont Baptist Church, built around 1888, and the Methodist Episcopal Church, whose members then gathered for worship in the church of a defunct Universalist congregation, but were preparing to build their own new church.

It’s somewhat remarkable, however, that Allensworth’s history devotes four informative paragraphs on the history of Tremont’s Catholic church, more words than were used to describe the two Protestant churches. This might seem surprising today, for, while Catholics still live in Tremont, it has been a long time since the Catholic religion has had a visible presence there with its own place of worship.

Allensworth account said Tremont got its first Catholic priest in 1863 – the Rev. Jeremiah Murphy, an Irish priest who, with his assistant and fellow Irishman, the Rev. Peter Corcoran, had the care of Irish Catholics in Pekin and Tremont. Tremont was a mission church of the Pekin parish, and Father Murphy celebrated Mass every Sunday in both places.

In 1863, the Catholics of Tremont collected $800 to buy an old school house – a small building near the old Tremont Seminary – and turned it into a mission chapel. At the time, about 70 people would assist at Father Murphy’s Masses in Tremont. Most of Tremont’s Catholics had come over from County Waterford, Ireland.

In 1875 an attempt was made to build a church, as the congregation had outgrown the old one,” Allensworth’s history says. “A committee was appointed, meetings were held and a subscription raised, but before the work was well begun Father Healy” – then pastor in Pekin and Tremont – “was recalled, and was succeeded by Father Halpin. Nothing further was done toward a new church until 1879, during Father W. O’Reilly’s pastorate, which began on the first Sunday in August, 1879.

After mass a committee was appointed, whose names were as follows: Richard Lillis, William Connell, John Cullinane, James Cooney, Patrick Ryan, Michael Morrisey, John Fitzgerald and Nick Menard. A site was selected northeast of the old Court House. The committee began its work in earnest, and had the church ready for its first mass on Christmas morning in 1880. Adding to the height of the steeple, and placing a bell therein in 1882, completed the work of the entire church at a cost of nearly $3,000.

The location of the long-vanished St. Joseph Church of Tremont is indicated at the bottom of this detail from an 1891 map of Tremont.

The church, dedicated to St. Joseph, was located at the northeast corner of James and Washington streets. It served Tremont’s Catholic community until June 1902, when a storm severely damaged the church, requiring it to be repaired and remodeled. “It is now out of debt and had a congregation of about one hundred and twenty members, with Rev. D. L. Sullivan as pastor,” Allensworth’s 1905 account concludes.

As time went on, however, the membership of the small mission church dwindled in number, until it was closed and merged with St. Joseph’s Parish in Pekin. One of the surnames of the 1879 committee members, however, continues to be well known in Tremont, Pekin and the surrounding area – the Tremont-based construction company of R.A. Cullinan and Son was founded by one of Tremont’s old Catholic families, and a park in Tremont bears the family name, while Cullinan Properties owns East Court Village I & II on Pekin’s east end.

#cullinan-properties, #father-halpin, #father-healy, #father-w-oreilly, #james-cooney, #john-cullinane, #john-fitzgerald, #michael-morrisey, #nick-menard, #patrick-ryan, #preblog-columns, #r-a-cullinan-and-son, #rev-jeremiah-murphy, #rev-peter-corcoran, #richard-lillis, #st-joseph-catholic-church, #st-joseph-catholic-church-in-tremont, #tremont-seminary, #william-connell

Tazewell County’s first woman deputy

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

Tazewell County’s first woman deputy

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

The year 1916 saw two historical milestones in Tazewell County history. The better remembered milestone is that in the summer of that year, the new county courthouse was completed and formally dedicated. It has served the county ever since.

But it’s also worth remembering that 1916 was when the first woman was sworn in as a Tazewell County Sheriff’s deputy.

Tazewell’s first female deputy was Frances C. Wilson, a native of Mackinaw, born April 27, 1896 – so she was 20 years old when she became a deputy. Two years after her swearing in, she married a Pekin carpenter named Ben B. Jurgens on July 20, 1918, in Bloomington. She and Ben had a daughter named Carolyn. Ben, a World War I veteran, would later serve as secretary of Pekin’s Police and Fire Commission and regional vice president of the Illinois Association of Police and Fire Commissions.

The significant development of the appointment of a woman deputy is recorded on page 85 of the 1974 Pekin Sesquicentennial volume, where a photograph of a young Frances Wilson Jurgens is printed along with the caption, “Pictured at left is Pekin’s pioneer in women’s liberation – and the first woman Deputy Sheriff in this area. Francis (sic) Wilson Jurgens was sworn in by Sheriff John Wilson in 1916. The fact that he was her father had nothing to do with the appointment, of course.

Frances Wilson Jurgens, shown here, was Tazewell County’s first woman deputy.

A reproduction from microfilm of the photograph of Frances Wilson Jurgens that ran with her obituary in 1954.

As the caption’s jocular tone indicates, the fact that the sheriff was her father had quite a lot to do with her appointment. While a woman serving as a deputy was highly unusual for that time, a sheriff had very wide discretion in his choice of deputies.

Furthermore, citizens then had different expectations of the county sheriff than we do today. Although the law does not require it, today it is expected that the sheriff will be a professional with significant law enforcement training and experience, but in the past the fact that almost anyone could be elected sheriff sometimes meant the sheriff had no prior police experience. On at least one occasion, the Tazewell County Sheriff was a retired school principal and superintendent.

Again, since one of the sheriff’s primary duties was operating the county jail, in past decades a newly elected sheriff and his family would move into the county jail, a building that included the sheriff’s residence. The sheriff’s wife would prepare the daily meals for the jail inmates. Since the job then had something of a “home-y” feel, it’s perhaps not as surprising that Sheriff John L. “Jack” Wilson would appoint one of his own daughters as a deputy.

After her stint as a deputy, Frances Wilson Jurgens did not disappear into married life and motherhood, but remained active in the community and in her church, Grace United Methodist Church of Pekin. She also was the first district committee-woman elected from her local unit of the American Legion Auxiliary after the Legion had been organized in September 1919.

Her life was cut short by illness at the age of 57 on March 19, 1954, when she died at her home, 617 S. 12th St., Pekin. She was buried in Lakeside Cemetery. The fact that her published obituary includes a single-column photograph, at a time when obituary photographs were still uncommon in the Pekin Daily Times, indicates that she was well-known and somewhat prominent in her community. Her husband Ben survived by another 17 years, dying on June 17, 1971, at the age of 78.

#ben-b-jurgens, #carolyn-jurgens, #first-woman-tazewell-county-deputy, #frances-c-wilson, #frances-c-wilson-jurgens, #frances-jurgens, #preblog-columns, #sheriff-john-j-wilson

Do you know the way to Bean Town?

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

Do you know the way to Bean Town?

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

The city of Pekin has seen vast changes since its birth as a pioneer town in 1830 and its incorporation as a city in 1849. Old maps and atlases show the city’s growth, as it spread out to the east, south and north from the original town (now the old downtown area of Pekin) and new sections and streets were laid out.

The maps give the names of the new subdivisions – Cincinnati Addition, Broadway Addition, Colts Addition, Leonard Addition, Edds Addition, Casey’s Addition, etc. However, there is one part of Pekin that had a unique name which does not appear on the old maps, because it wasn’t an “official” name.

That section was popularly known as “Bean Town.” It was the old northeast quarter of Pekin, bounded on the south by Broadway and on the north by Willow, with George Street (today called Eighth Street) as its western boundary. In the days when “Bean Town” got its name, the neighborhoods north of Willow and east of 14th Street did not yet exist.

Shown is a detail from the map of Pekin found in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County.” The northeast quarter of Pekin, indicated by the box, and areas adjacent to it were heavily settled by German immigrants beginning about the mid-1800s. Because the Germans living there usually maintained gardens in which they grew beans, the quarter came to be known as “Bean Town” (“Bohnen Fertel”).

Why was Pekin’s old northeast quarter called “Bean Town”? It got its name as a result of the very great numbers of German immigrants who arrived in Pekin during the middle and latter half of the 1800s. “Bean Town” was Pekin’s German quarter. It was in that quarter, at 1100 Hamilton St., where the parents of U.S Senator Everett M. Dirksen lived, and where Dirsken and his twin brother Thomas lived as children.

An indication of the heavy immigration could be seen when there was an ice jam in the river at Cairo in January of 1854. It held up 14 steam boats loaded with some 2,000 German immigrants,” says the 1949 Pekin Centenary on page 15.

Continuing, the Centenary says, “The Germans built neat homes, and were enthusiastic gardeners. They located in large numbers in the northeast part of Pekin. Their gardens gave that part of the city a character all its own, and it came to be called ‘Bohnen Fertel’ in German, later called ‘Bean Town’, for the same reason; and with the passage of years ‘Bohnen Fertel’ became corrupted into Bonshe-fiddle.

Though the gardens are long since gone, Pekinites still refer to ‘bonshe-fiddle’ and ‘bean town’ in speaking of that part of the city.”

As the Centenary says, “Bohnen” is the German word for “beans.” The word “Fertel” is an old variant form of the German word “viertel,” meaning a fourth or a quarter. (“Fertl” also means “quarter” in Yiddish.) Because the German immigrants liked to plant their gardens with beans, the neighborhood came to be called Bean Town.

For a while in the latter 1800s, the majority of Pekin residents were German, and the German language could be heard here almost as commonly as English. With World War I, however, came a reaction against all things German. As a result, the children of German immigrants hastened to assimilate into American culture, and Pekin businesses began to take down their “Wir sprechen hier Deutsch” signs.

The name “Bohnen Fertel” or “Bean Town” has long since fallen into disuse. The only visible trace of that place-name today is in the name of Bean Town Antiques, a former market at the corner of 14th and Catherine streets.

Bean Town Antiques, a structure that formerly was a market at the corner of 14th and Catherine streets, is shown in this Google Street View image from 2011.

#bean-town, #bean-town-antiques, #bohnen-fertel, #everett-mckinley-dirksen, #germans-in-pekin, #preblog-columns, #thomas-dirksen

The legend of the Lost Forty

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

The legend of the Lost Forty

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

In the lore handed down from the days of the pioneer settlers of Tazewell County is a curious tale of a tract of land that came to be known by the colorful name of “the Lost Forty.”

A “forty” is land surveyor’s term that refers to 40 acres of land. Under the Public Land Survey System, the location and boundaries of a tract of land is identified by state, county, township, range, section and section portion. A “forty” is a quarter-quarter section. In 1832, when large areas of Illinois were opened to white settlers, a forty was the smallest tract of land that could be acquired.

How, then, did Tazewell County “lose” one of its forties? The story is told in Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” page 893.

“There is a tract of land in Tazewell County, lying along the Mackinaw River, which consists of a continuous series of abrupt and deep ravines. Not a foot of the tract could be cultivated. The ridges are full of fox dens, wolves are occasionally found, and turkey-buzzards hover over it in large flocks. Even people familiar with the territory have been lost in the dense forest. Except for a few giant oaks the wood has no commercial value.

“The tract is known as the ‘Lost Forty,’ because no one knows who owns it. For years it has been used for trading purposes, and many unwary persons from a distance have advanced money upon it and taken mortgages in various sums, only to receive a questionable title to a worthless piece of land. On the Tazewell County tax-books the ‘Forty’ appears with the ‘owner unknown.’ The land is watered by innumerable springs and the Mackinaw River, which winds its way through the tract.”

This brief account had previously been published in local newspapers, and, as was common newspaper practice in those days, ended up being republished in papers far and wide as “filler,” including the Gloversville, N.Y., Daily Leader in 1903, the Minneapolis Journal of June 7, 1902, the Oregonian of Portland of Nov. 11, 1901, Uhrichsville, Ohio, News Democrat of Dec. 24, 1901, the Bedford, Pa., Gazette of Dec. 27, 1901, and the Anadarko, Okla., Daily Democrat of Dec. 23, 1901.

For some reason, Allensworth did not trouble himself to specify where the Lost Forty was located, but the Anadarko Daily Democrat’s version (which was itself reprinted from the Springfield, Ill., State Journal) expands a little on Allensworth’s words, introducing the tale of the Lost Forty with these words:

“An African jungle transplanted to Central Illinois would be the best description that could be given to a remarkable tract of land in Tazewell county, lying along the Mackinaw river, near the village of Lilly. . . .”

Lilly is located about 3 miles east of Mackinaw, in Sections 14 and 13 of Mackinaw Township. But there is a serious problem with the words, “lying along the Mackinaw river, near the village of Lilly” – the Mackinaw River wends its way through Mackinaw Township a few miles to the north and northwest of Lilly, not really very “near the village of Lilly” at all.

Another clue that may help us find the Lost Forty is the location of one of Tazewell County’s old cemeteries, which, as it happens, is named “Lost Forty Cemetery.” Volume Five of the Tazewell County Cemetery Indexes, prepared in 1982 by Betty Weghorst Murphy for the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society, lists “Lost 40” cemetery as one of the burial grounds of Mackinaw Township – but the index says that this cemetery at that time was “unlocated.”

The TCGHS website’s current cemetery index, however, says Lost Forty Cemetery is, or was, located in Section 12 of Mackinaw Township, which borders Section 13 on the north. Section 12 is near Lilly, and is closer to the Mackinaw River than Section 13. Even so, the Mackinaw River does not “wind its way through” any part of Section 12. The only waterway that flows through Section 12 is Hollands Creek, which is a tributary of the Mackinaw River.

Part of the Mackinaw River and Section 12 of Mackinaw Township are shown in this detail from a map in an 1891 atlas of Tazewell County.

Presumably Lost Forty Cemetery is located in, or at least very close to, the Lost Forty. If so, the Lost Forty must have been in Section 12 of Mackinaw Township, and perhaps Hollands Creek flowed through it, the tributary creek being confused with the actual river.

On the other hand, the county atlas maps of 1864, 1873 and 1891 do not indicate any unknown or disputed ownership of land in Section 12.

To help solve the mystery, one of our readers, Vivien White of Tremont contacted us in the summer of 2013 and shared some of her childhood memories. White, then 88 years old, said that when she was a child, she lived on a farm in or near Section 12 of Mackinaw Township. Her father, Charles White, rented the farm from an owner whom Vivien believed was from the Washington or Eureka area – but she did not recall the owner’s name or the exact location of the farm, and she didn’t remember exactly where the farm was.

What she remembered, though, is that the farm bordered on the Lost Forty, and that she used to play in that area as a child. White agrees that Allensworth’s old description of the tract – “a continuous series of abrupt and deep ravines . . . The ridges are full of fox dens . . . dense forest” – is accurate. (White remembers a time when she crawled into one of the fox dens. When her father found out, he scolded her because she could have been attacked or bitten by a fox.) However, she said that, contrary to Allensworth, the Mackinaw River did not “wind its way through the tract,” but touched on it or came near it.

So, although we don’t know precisely where the Lost Forty was, White’s recollections at least appear to confirm our initial investigations.

#charles-white, #hollands-creek, #lilly, #lost-forty-cemetery, #mackinaw-river, #mackinaw-township, #preblog-columns, #public-land-survey-system, #the-lost-forty, #vivien-white

Before West Campus: the Menheusen Prairie

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

Before West Campus: the Menheusen Prairie

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

It has been about eight years since the former Pekin Community High School West Campus has been demolished, and even now it’s natural that the land on which it stood is still referred to as “West Campus.” For those who went to school there, it will probably always be “West Campus.”

However, before it was the location of Pekin’s high school, the land had another name, as is seen in the minutes of the meetings of the old Pekin School District School Board.

The November 2013 issue of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society Monthly reprinted the “Proceeedings of the Board of School Inspectors of the City of Pekin” from the years 1912 and 1913. During those years, the school board made plans to build a new high school – what eventually would come to be known as West Campus.

At the meeting of March 29, 1912, the school board passed an important resolution:

“Inspector Aydelott offered the following resolution: Be it resolved … that for the purpose of building a new Lincoln School building on the present Lincoln School grounds at a cost of ($40,000.00) Forty Thousand Dollars; for the purpose of making an addition to the Garfield School at a cost of Ten Thousand ($10,000.00) Dollars and for the purpose of building a new High School Building on what is known as Menheusen Prairie, corner of Broadway and Eighth streets at a cost of Fifty five Thousand ($55,000.00) Dollars, we call an election to be held on the 15th day of April A.D. 1912 to vote on issuing bonds in the sum of One Hundred five Thousand ($105,000.00) Dollars.”

A few months after the bond issue was approved by Pekin’s voters, at the meeting of Nov. 12, 1912, “On motion of Inspector Aydelott the Committee on School Site were authorized and instructed to petition His Honor the Mayor and Board of Commissioners to vacate the street on what is known as Menhuesen (sic) Prairie for school purposes.

The land on which the high school was built – the Menheusen Prairie – was bounded on the north by Ann Eliza Street, on the east by North Ninth Street, on the south by Broadway, and on the west by North Eighth Street. It was bisected from west to east by Margaret Street, which is the street that the school board asked the city to vacate so the new high school could be built there.

Menheusen Prairie, located in the Campbell Durley and Newhall’s Addition of Pekin, is shown in this detail from the Dec. 1909 Sanborn fire insurance maps of Pekin. A few years later, Pekin’s new high school — later to become West Campus — was built on Menheusen Prairie.

At the time that the December 1909 Sanborn fire insurance maps of Pekin were drawn, this property had only three structures: a small “Voting House” at 18 N. Eighth St, the corner of Eighth and Margaret; a residence at 110 N. Eighth St., the corner of Eight and Ann Eliza; and a small outbuilding on the same lot as the residence. According to David Perkins of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society, the residence at 110 N. Eighth St. reportedly was moved to Washington Street to make way for the new high school.

How did this property come to be known as “the Menheusen Prairie”? It got its name because it was a stretch of meadow and farmland owned by a family of 19th century German immigrants from Ostfriesland, in what was then the German kingdom of Hanover. In old records, this family’s surname is spelled variously “Menhusen,” “Manhusen” and “Menheusen.” The Menheusen Prairie was located in the old German ethnic district of Pekin popularly known as “Beantown” from the great number of gardens grown by the German newcomers to Pekin who had settled there.

The Menhusen name first appears in the 1870 Pekin City Directory, on page 48, which lists “Menhusen B., laborer, bds ne cor Third and Ann Eliza.” There are no Menhusens in the 1876 Pekin City Directory, but the 1887 directory, page 53, shows “Menhusen Albert, grinder Pekin Plow Co. res. 400 N. 8,” and “Menhusen Barthold, teamster, res. 400 N. 8.”

Albert and Barthold were brothers, sons of Meinert “Barney” Jannsen Menhusen and his wife Fentje “Fannie” Bartels Strunk, who had come to Tazewell County from Hamswehrum, Ostfriesland. Meinert died in 1904 and is buried in San Jose.

Like his father Meinert, Barthold Menhusen (whose name also appears in old records as “Bertold” and “Bardelt”) was commonly known in Pekin as “Barney.” He married Catrina Rickelfs in 1871 in Tazewell County and had four children with her. Catrina apparently died prior to 1880, however, because that year he remarried to Fulka Schipper, also a German immigrant from Ostfriesland. The 1880 U.S. Census shows “B. Manhusen,” age 28, a farmer, with his wife “Fulka,” age 34, with Barney’s children Anna, age 10, twins John and Fanny, age 8, and Jeana, age 7. At the time of the 1880 census, Barney and his family were living on Margaret Street – apparently on the land that came to be called the Menheusen Prairie.

The 1887-88 Pekin City Directory, page 172, shows “Barney Menhusen” operating a saloon at 220 Court St., while page 86 lists his residence at 110 N. Eighth St. That is also where he was living at the time of the 1900 U.S. Census, which lists “Barney Menhusen,” a “constabler” (sic), born February 1852 in Germany, with his wife “Fulka,” born May 1848 in Germany (her death record says she was born Oct. 7, 1846), and an adopted son, “Barney,” born August 1889 in Illinois.

Barney had died by 1903, however, because the 1903-04 Pekin City Directory, page 111, shows “Menheusen, Mrs., wid Barney, r 110 N. 8th.” The 1905 Pekin City Directory, page 114, shows “Menheusen, Foelkers (sic), M., wid Barney, r 110 N. 8th.” However, the 1908 Pekin City Directory, page 152, shows “Menhusen, Mrs. Folke, r 1308 Somerset,” while page 153 lists her adopted son Barney A. Menhusen at the same address, indicating that Barney’s widow and adopted son had moved a few years prior to the construction of the new high school. Folka apparently remained at 1308 Somerset until her death on Sept. 12, 1931.

#albert-menhusen, #barthold-menhusen, #bean-town, #beantown, #lincoln-school, #manhusen, #meinert-jannsen-menhusen, #menheusen-prairie, #menhusen, #preblog-columns, #school-inspector-aydelott, #west-campus

The story of Pekin’s post offices

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

The story of Pekin’s post offices

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

This week we’ll take a look at Pekin’s post offices. Perhaps most Pekin residents know that before the current post office on Broadway near downtown Pekin, there was an “Old Post Office” in a stately old building near the Tazewell County Courthouse. But by no means are those the only post offices Pekin has seen.

Pekin’s first post office opened on Feb. 20, 1832, and Robert Alexander was Pekin’s first postmaster, according to “Pekin: A Pictorial History,” page 90. It is not stated where that post office was located, but “Pekin: A Pictorial History” goes on to say that prior to 1850 the post office “operated from various and sundry sites including the general store, a tavern, a hotel and several rented quarters.

The 1949 Pekin Centenary elaborates on that point on page 121: “The location of the Pekin post office during the early years seems to have had nothing on the proverbial rolling stone, for one early chronicle tells that ‘it is impossible to name all the locations.’ We do know that about 1866, it was located on the south side of the 300 block on Court Street about three doors from the railroad.

This drawing from an 1864 wall plat map of Tazewell County shows Pekin’s post office and adjacent buildings on the south side of the 300 block of Court Street. The site is now occupied by the former Pekin Daily Times offices, which originally was the Ricks TV building.

That was approximately where the former offices of the Pekin Daily Times were located until recently, in the former Rick’s TV building. We also find recorded that the first free delivery of city mail took place in 1886.

The Centenary continues its account of Pekin’s post offices: “Then after being moved to the middle of the Mark’s block west of the railroad, it remained there until 1897; when it was again moved to the Flynn Building – in the new Boston block.” The old 1891 atlas map of Pekin shows the post office in the 200 block of Court Street (i.e. Mark’s block) on the south side. The Flynn Building, however, was in the 400 block of Court: The 1898 Pekin City Directory shows the post office’s address as 431 Court St., whereas Patrick Flynn operated a saloon nearby at 401 Court St.

By the time the post office had moved to the Flynn Building, plans had already begun on a new structure to house the post office and other federal agencies. The 1974 Pekin Sesquicentennial tells the story at length on page 117:

“In 1892 an appropriation of $70,000 was made ‘with an additional appropriation up to $80,000,’ for a Federal Building for Pekin . . . . After much heated controversy concerning the location of the new Federal Building, the site of the former Prettyman Homestead at Elizabeth and South Capitol was chosen and purchased for $15,000. But when local bids, based on plans and specifications submitted to the supervising architect of the Treasury Department in 1904, were forwarded to Washington, they were all rejected because they were not within the limits of the contract price; and so new bids had to be submitted. Consequently, it was not until 1905 that the structure was finally completed at a cost of approximately $100,000.”

That is the building known as the Old Post Office, although it houses other federal government agencies besides the U.S. Postal Service. As the Sesquicentennial states, “Besides the post office, the building housed, on the second floor, Pekin’s Home Bureau, the Army Recruiting Office, and the Treasury Department’s offices.

Built in 1905, the structure popularly known in Pekin as “the Old Post Office” was originally more than a post office, but was a federal building also housing Pekin’s Home Bureau, the Army Recruiting Office and the Treasury Department’s local offices.

The post office operated from that structure until 1966, when the current post office building was completed. The following year, the Old Post Office was purchased by Lee Tosi, who in turn sold it to Monge Realty in June 1972. The Pekin Area Vocational Center operated out of the Old Post Office around that time, but the PAVC moved to its own building near East Campus in 1975. Later, there was an attempt to turn the building in a fine restaurant, but at last the county bought the building and still uses it today – county board meetings formerly took place there, and the 109-year-old structure continues to house county probation services.

The 1974 Sesquicentennial volume has this to say about the construction of the current postal facility:

“On November 12, 1964, Postmaster General John A. Gronouski announced that a contract had been awarded to Eckstein and Siemann of Cassville, Wisconsin, to build a new post office here, with an initial investment by the bidder of $376,750. The contract called for the building to be leased to the postal service for 20 years, with renewal options running through 30 years at an annual rental of $31,680 for the basic term. The building, now owned by Raymond Eckstein, an attorney in Wisconsin, has an interior space of 16,524 square feet. The area for parking and movement of postal vehicles totals 21,908 square feet.”

The Sesquicentennial account concludes with a brief look at the surge in business that Pekin’s post office saw in the middle and latter parts of the 20th century, when receipts increased from $139.908.24 in 1948, when Pekin’s postmaster was Roy S. “Peach” Preston, to $832,277.33 in 1973, when the postmaster was Francis J. McLinden. Bringing the story of Pekin’s post office up to date would, of course, require us to tell of the massive cultural changes brought about by the invention of the Internet, email, texting and other social media.

#flynn-building, #francis-j-mclinden, #john-a-gronouski, #lee-tosi, #marks-block, #monge-realty, #old-post-office-restaurant, #patrick-flynn, #pekin-area-vocational-center, #pekin-post-offices, #post-office-block-1864, #preblog-columns, #prettyman-homestead, #raymond-eckstein, #roy-preston