The Roaring ’20s in Tazewell County

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

The Roaring ’20s in Tazewell County

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

In March 2013, this column concluded a 25-part series that had begun in Sept. 2012 on a pair of sensational murders that occurred in East Peoria and Pekin in the early 1930s. The series put a magnifying glass on different aspects of life, law and crime in Tazewell County toward the end of the Prohibition Era.

The era of Prohibition, of course, is commonly known as the Roaring ’20s, a colorful description of a generally high-spirited time of material prosperity and swift social change. It’s now been a century since the start of that decade. A book about that time is included in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection: “Roaring in the ’20’s in Tazewell County,” produced in 2002 by the Tazewell County Genealogical and Historical Society and compiled by Vivian Higdon.

The book is only 46 pages, yet “Roaring in the ’20’s” has individual chapters on all of the things for which that era is known: not only gangsters and organized crime, or Prohibition and speakeasies, but also the Woman’s Suffrage Movement, fashions, automobiles and roads, new inventions, sport and entertainment, and heroes and daredevils.

The Roaring Twenties weren’t all gangsters, speakeasies, and flappers. Sometimes it was a group of neighborhood boys in Pekin shooting a game of marbles, as in this undated 1920s photo from the Peoria Journal-Transcript. Shown left to right are Urban Albertsen (1917-1999), Edwin Hamilton, Dan Reardon, Howard Riopel (on bicycle), Chester Marshall, Harvey Bennett, Paul Herren (1917-1986), Joe McNaughton (1919-2002), Murray Revoid, and Robert Hamilton. The photographer was Brooks Watson.

Among the social changes of that decade were changes in the language, so it makes sense that “Roaring in the ‘20’s” also has a handy one-page glossary of 1920s-era slang, from “applesauce” to “whoopee.”

Here are some selections from the glossary:

Applesauce: Horsefeathers!
Bee’s knees: An excellent idea, person, thing
Berries: Similar to bee’s knees
Big cheese: Big shot
Bluenose: Prude
Bump off: Murder or kill
Bunk: Nonsense
Cake-eater: A ladies’ man
Cat’s meow: See “Bee’s knees”
Cat’s pajamas: See “Cat’s meow”
Cheaters: Eyeglasses
Crush: Infatuation
Darb: Reliable to pay a check
Drugstore cowboy: A man who tries to pick up girls on the corner
Dumb Dora: A stupid woman
Flapper: A stylish, brash young woman wearing short skirts and shorter hair
Giggle water: Alcoholic beverage
Heebie-jeebies: The jitters
Hoofer: Dancer
Hotsy-totsy: Pleasing
Jake: It’s OK
Joint: A club, usually serving alcohols
Keen: Attractive, appealing
Nerts: To show disgust (“Nuts!”)
Scram: Leaving quickly after being told to
Sheba: Woman with sex appeal
Sheik: Man with sex appeal
Spifflicated: Drunk
Struggle buggy: Backseat of a car (a parent’s worst nightmare)
Swell: Wonderful; or a rich man
Take for a ride: Drive off with someone to bump him off
Torpedo: A hired gun
Upchuck: To vomit as a result of drinking too much
Whoopee: To have a good time

#brooks-watson, #chester-marshall, #dan-reardon, #edwin-hamilton, #harvey-bennett, #howard-riopel, #joe-mcnaughton, #murray-revoid, #paul-herren, #preblog-columns, #roaring-20s, #roaring-in-the-20s-in-tazewell-county, #robert-hamilton, #the-third-degree, #urban-albertsen, #vivian-higdon

Electric lights and a village disaster

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

Electric lights and a village disaster

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Electric street lights have been a part of our lives for so long that most of us take them for granted. Nevertheless, the introduction of street lights in the latter half of the 1800s was a revolution in the way we live – and not uncommonly in a revolution, people can get hurt, as well shall learn in this week’s exploration of the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection.

It was during the 1860s that street lights were installed in Pekin – but they were gas lights, not electric. Here is how the 1974 Pekin Sesquicentennial tells the story:

“It was February 18, 1861, when an Act to Incorporate the Pekin Gas Light Company was approved by the Illinois General Assembly. It was four years later, however, before said company was organized, with William Stansbury as president. . . It was under Stansbury, though, that the first gas street lights were put in operation, and the old lamp-lighter was a familiar figure in the city from February 5, 1866, until 1888, when electric street lights replaced the old gas type.”

William H. Bates in the 1887 Pekin City Directory also notes that, “On the 5th of February, 1866, the City Council ‘deemed it expedient and proper to light the streets, lanes, avenues and alleys of the city with gas.’

The Sesquicentennial also tells of the founding of Pekin’s first electric utility companies in the late 1880s and early 1890s. The switch from gas to electric lights also meant a change in power sources. With gas lights, it was simply a matter of burning natural gas to give off light, but with electric lights the electricity must be generated.

In those early days, steam power was one of the means of power generation for electric street lights. Usually everything worked as it was supposed to, but one September day in Morton it resulted in tragedy.

Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County” includes accounts of various “Calamitous Events” that befell the residents of Tazewell County. One of them, related on page 82, is entitled, “Fatal Explosion at Morton.” Here is Allensworth’s account:

“A 5 o’clock, p.m., September 5, 1897, the steam-boiler of the electric light plant at Morton, blew up from some cause never ascertained. The building was a one and a half story brick, and was used as a feed-mill, pumping station for the water supply, and as a saw-mill. It was owned by Barr Bros. & Co. George Grimm, foreman, had just gone to his supper leaving a pressure of 25 pounds on the boiler, when the explosion took place. The boiler was blown through the roof, and brick, iron and debris were scattered for blocks around.

“Those killed were: Tillie Buyer, aged 5 years; Emma Buyer, aged 12 years; Albert Buyer, aged 4 years, who died next day.

“The injured were: Frank Buyer, aged 14 years, and Miss Cassie White, who was visiting friends in Morton at the time the explosion occurred. The children injured and killed belonged to the family of Moses Buyer. At the time of the explosion they were playing in the back yard, and at the first intimation of danger started for the house nearby, but were caught by the falling missiles and two of them were instantly killed.

“This was the most serious calamity that has ever befallen the village of Morton.”

Shown is what was left of the Morton electric power plant after the explosion of Sept. 5, 1897, that killed three children and injured two others who were playing in the neighborhood. The photograph is from the “GHPERK/Perkins Family Tree” at Ancestry.com, which shows the genealogy of Moses S. Beyer, who lost three of his children and had a fourth injured in the disaster.

In his account of this tragedy, Allensworth misspells the family name of the children who died or were injured. They were the children of Moses S. Beyer (1861-1933) and Susan (Zobrist) Beyer (1868-1922). Moses, an electrician, worked at the very plant that took the lives of three of his children when it exploded (and in fact, Allensworth’s “Barr Bros. & Co.” may be an error for “Beyer Bros. & Co.”). Emma, Tillie, and Albert Beyer are buried in the old Apostolic Christian Cemetery of Morton. Also buried with them is an unnamed infant of Moses and Susan who also died in 1897.

Besides their son Frank, U.S. Census records show that Moses and Susan had three other children, daughters named Mary, Lena, and Anna, who survived to mourn the loss of their siblings. Their mother Susan, severely traumatized by the loss of four of her children the same year, can also be counted as a victim of the disaster: census records show that by 1900 she was a patient living at the Peoria State Hospital near Bartonville, and remained there until her death on Oct. 16, 1922. She and Moses are buried together in Morton’s Apostolic Christian Cemetery.

#albert-beyer, #anna-beyer, #beyer-bros-and-co, #cassie-white, #electric-street-lights, #emma-beyer, #frank-beyer, #gas-street-lights, #george-grimm, #lena-beyer, #mary-beyer, #morton-power-plant-disaster, #moses-s-beyer, #pekin-gas-light-company, #peoria-state-hospital, #preblog-columns, #susan-zobrist-beyer, #tillie-beyer, #william-stansbury

Hinners’ Organ Company’s privileged place

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

Hinners’ Organ Company’s privileged place

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

It’s not at all uncommon that the Pekin Public Library receives a research question on one subject that might lead to delving into other, related areas of local history.

For example, a few years ago a patron expressed interest in locating a photograph of a former Pekin resident named Gene Stein, who died in Peoria on Feb. 1, 1922, and was buried in Springdale Cemetery. His full name was Eugene Albert Stein, and he was born in Pekin on May 26, 1864, son of German immigrants named Herman and Emma (Hinckle) Stein. His wife was Eleanor “Lallie” Erler (1879-1946), daughter of Franklin and Elizabeth (Howells) Erler. As a first step in the search, Stein’s obituary was found in the Pekin Daily Times. Though by no means an extended account of his life, his obituary is quite informative. It turns out that Stein was well-known in Pekin.

His obituary says he was “one of the best known musicians, composers and orchestra directors of this vicinity. . . . ‘Gene,’ as he was familiarly known to nearly everyone in Pekin, grew to manhood here and always was identified with this community. . . . Known far and wide as one of the best musicians of this section, ‘Gene’ was for years identified with the Hinners Organ company here and with the Capitol theatre, where he was orchestra director. Just previous to his last illness, he gave up his orchestral work to become manager of the Pekin Music company.

This drawing of the Hinners Organ factory in Pekin is cropped from an image of the back cover of an old copy of “Hinners’ Organ Method,” an instruction book for learning how to play the organ.

The name of Hinners is prominent in Pekin’s history, and references to the Hinners’ Organ Company – that is, Hinners & Albertsen – appear several times in the standard works on the history of Pekin. For example, the 1949 Pekin Centenary, page 147, says, “For years, too, the Hinners Organ Company, founded in 1879, was one of Pekin’s leading factories, producing thousands of Hinners reed and pipe organs, sold to all parts of the United States, Europe, and other parts of the world.”

The Hinners organ factory was located at 125-131 Court Street, at the corner of Court and Second streets. Another old publication, the Industrial & Commercial edition of one of Pekin’s former newspapers, the Pekin Post-Tribune, includes the following two paragraphs about Hinners on page 21:

“In 1879 the manufacture of organs was inaugurated in Pekin by John L. Hinners. The first organs were made by him and one assistant. Small and insignificant as was the enterprise in the beginning, it has steadily developed in a natural and healthy manner and today it is one of the principal and most successful manufactories of the city. The establishment at the outset began the system of selling without agents, direct from the factory at factory prices, to private purchases.

“Messrs. Hinners & Albertsen enjoy a growing business. Only first-class lumber is used in organs. The firm procures the very best, direct from persons whose specialty is the preparing of lumber for organs and pianos. The aim of the company is not to create an opportunity for any one to gain by influencing sales of organs, but to offer to actual purchasers and users of organs the best possible organs at the lowest possible price. Reed and pipe organs are manufactured.”

Despite the well-earned reputation for quality, Hinners’ went out of business just prior to World War II, the victim of advancing technology – Hinners’ rivals had faster, more efficient, automated factories that enabled them to sell organs at much lower prices.

Because the Hinners’ company once occupied a privileged place in Pekin’s economy, the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room keeps a “Hinners” file that includes newspaper clippings, essays, papers, and booklets related to the history of Hinners’. One of the books in the library’s Hinners collection is a copy of “Hinners’ Organ Method,” an instruction book for learning how to play the organ. No doubt as a musician and employee of Hinners’, Gene Stein taught organ lessons in Pekin.

One thing that is not in the history room’s collection, however, is a photograph of Gene Stein. Anyone who knows of such a photo may call the library at 347-7111, ext. 2, or the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society at 477-3044.

Front cover of the Pekin Public Library’s archival copy of Hinners’ Organ Method.

Back cover of the Pekin Public Library’s archival copy of Hinners’ Organ Method.

#eleanor-lallie-erler, #eugene-albert-stein, #gene-stein, #h-j-rust, #hinners-and-albertsen, #hinners-organ-company, #hinners-organ-method, #john-l-hinners, #preblog-columns

William Holland and the founding of Washington

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

William Holland and the founding of Washington

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

In our past visits to the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room, we have delved into the stories of the pioneers and founders of the western and southern parts of Tazewell County. This week we turn our attention to the northeast of the county, the area of Washington Township.

Just as we have seen with the rest of the county, pioneer settlers first came to Washington Township in the 1820s. In his 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” pp. 664-669, Charles C. Chapman tells the story of the township’s first settlers, beginning with William Holland Sr., who was one of the companions of William Blanchard Jr. in Tazewell County. As this column recently recalled, Blanchard was the first pioneer settler in Fondulac Township and rival to Nathan Dillon’s claim to the title of first white settler of Tazewell County.

Holland not only initiated the settlement of Washington Township and founded the city of Washington, but prior to that he also was one of the early settlers of Peoria.

The first settler in Washington township was William Holland, Sen., a native of North Carolina, and who emigrated from that State, and settled in Edwardsville, Madison county, Ill., in 1815,” Chapman says. “He remained there for three years, when he removed to Sangamon Co., and after two years residence there moved to Peoria, then Fort Clark, in the spring of 1820. He crossed the river to the flats, now Fond du Lac township, and occupied an old shanty. Here he raised a crop during the summer of the same year. He cut logs, which he hauled across the river and erected a double log cabin. This was the second dwelling built in Peoria.

Further on, Chapman says, “In the spring of 1825, he came to this township, and built a log house on section 23, and on the present site of A. G. Danforth’s residence. Here the family were surrounded by a dense wilderness, and were the only white occupants of this township until 1826. Holland commenced improving a farm on sec. 24, town 26, range 3, just east of the town of Washington, and embracing a part of the Holland, Dorsey, Walthan and Robinson addition to the town. His nearest neighbors were located on Farm creek, three miles east of Peoria, where the first settlement was made in this section. Among them were Wm. Blanchard, Elza Bethard, Jack Phillips, and his son William, Austin and Horace Crocker, and Thomas Camlin, whose cabin was located nearest Holland’s G[r]ove.”

During those early days, one of Holland’s brothers, James, briefly settled in Washington Township in 1827, coming from North Carolina, but he soon moved on to Macoupin County.

Chapman’s 1879 account of the township’s early history continues for several more pages. Following are a few key excerpts dealing with Holland and his family, and telling of Holland’s role in the founding of Washington:

“The oldest living settler of this township is Lawson Holland, eldest son of William Holland, Sr., who was born in Lincoln Co., N.C., in 1812, and came to this county with his parents. From him we gather many incidents connected with the early settlement of the township. He was married in Oct., 1833, to Miss Elizabeth Bandy, daughter of Reuben Bandy, who came from Kentucky in 1831, and bought out the claim of Ira Crosby. They were married by Rev. Nathan Curtis, a Methodist minister. This was the fourth marriage in the township. . . .

“The first school-house was built near Wm. Holland’s hut in the winter of 1827-28. It was built of logs and was 16 by 18 feet. The writing desks and seats were made of split logs, and it was lighted by sawing an aperture out of each end of one log, over which was pasted greased paper. This ancient and somewhat unique style of windows served to keep out the wind and admitted some light. The school was a subscription school and was taught by George H. Shaw, now a resident of Shaw’s Grove, who was traveling through the country, and stopped over night with Wm. Holland, Sr. He was satisfied to receive, as compensation, his board, washing and horse feed . . . .

“William Holland, Sr., laid out the original town of Washington in 1834, being part of the town lying east of main street. The first building was erected on the original town plat by Joseph Kelso, Sr., in 1834. Kelso and a Mr. Wagoner had purchased of Holland three lots for $150 each, upon one year’s credit. Much valuable timber grew in front of these lots, and in the street, which, by agreement, the first to build should be entitled to use. The question was settled by lot, which fell to Kelso, who was also the first of the pioneers to open a farm wholly on the prairie. . . . Prior to 1885 William Holland Sr., carried on the only blacksmith shop in town, at which time Brazilla Allee built a large two-story frame building on Main street, now occupied by his widow, Sarah Allee. Allee and William Spencer used this building as a blacksmith shop and wagon manufactory, it being the first place in town in which wagons were manufactured. These were primitive times, and the sight of a wagon was hailed with much joy and pleasure, and its possessor envied by all. Travelling was principally done on horseback, and hauling on sleds. . . .

“William Holland, Sr., built the first grist-mill west of his dwelling, in 1827. It was called a band-mill, and was run by horsepower, a simple arrangement consisting of one large wheel, the nave of which was a log of wood eight or ten feet long, hewed eight square, set in a perpendicular position, and supplied with spokes or arms. The lower end was secured by a pivot, on which it turned to another timber fastened in the ground, the upper end being secured in like manner. The flour produced resembled bran or Graham flour. . . . The band-mill of William Holland, Sr., was the only kind of mill in this section of country until 1836, when Wm. Kern erected a flouring-mill on the premises formerly occupied by Jaquin as a brewery.”

This detail from an 1873 plat map of Washington Township shows land near Washington that was owned by Washington’s founder William Holland and his son Lawson Holland.

#a-g-danforth, #austin-crocker, #brazilla-allee, #elizabeth-bandy, #elza-bethard, #fort-clark, #horace-crocker, #jack-phillips, #james-holland, #joseph-kelso, #lawson-holland, #preblog-columns, #reuben-bandy, #rev-nathan-curtis, #sarah-allee, #thomas-camlin, #washington, #washington-township, #william-blanchard, #william-holland, #william-phillips, #william-spencer

Tribal customs of the Central Illinois Pottawatomi

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

Tribal customs of the Central Illinois Pottawatomi

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

A few weeks ago, we glimpsed the life of the Pottawatomi War Chief Senachwine, who lived with his tribe in Washington Township during the 1820s when settlers began to pour into the future Tazewell County. This week we will take a look at the customs of the Pottawatomi of central Illinois, as they were remembered by pioneer settler Lawson Holland, who knew Senachwine for about 10 years before the chief’s death in the summer of 1831.

Holland’s memories of the Pottawatomi were collected by Charles C. Chapman, who included them in his “History of Tazewell County” (1879), on pages 675-676.

The peculiar habits of these time-honored natives were naturally a deep curiosity to the whites,” Chapman writes, “and from the well-stored memory of Lawson Holland we were enabled to gather some facts and incidents which we place upon the records of this work, knowing that only a few years could pass ere they would have been lost in the debris of time.

The first of Holland’s recollections had to do with how the Pottawatomi hunted turtles to eat. Chapman writes, “The preparations incident to this journey are somewhat extended. Two horses are placed side by side, and a blanket stretched between them, and the party start for the streams. The turtles are thrown in this blanket, and when a full load is secured they are carried to the camp, and a large kettle filled with water is placed over the fire, and in the boiling chauldron (sic) the living turtles are thrown, until the kettle is filled. When thoroughly boiled, the meat is plucked from the shell and eaten.

Holland also recalled a sacrificial tradition, “which has existed among the Pottawatomies for ages, . . . that at a certain time of the year, a deer must be killed and eaten without breaking a single bone. This performance is entered into largely, and the greatest caution taken to secure the animal without a bone being broken. It is then roasted, and the meat eaten with the greatest possible care. The remains are then gathered up, placed in the skin of the animal and buried.

Holland also observed that the higher status members of the tribe would display their wealth and status with ornamental jewelry and “piercing the nose and ears, from which hang large rings and bells; also bells attached to a strap bound around the leg or ankle.

Pottawatomi marriage customs, according to Holland, included a clearly delineated division of labor between the two sexes. Chapman writes, “In marriage the women promise to do all the work, such as skinning animals, dressing hides, building tents, and performing all the manual labor, the males only furnishing the necessities of life. The marriage covenant is made by the exchange of corn for a deer’s foot by the parties to be united, and is a time of great solemnity.

Polygamy was practiced among the Pottawatomi – the online essay “Potawatomi War Chief (1744-1831) Chief Senachwine” says Senachwine reportedly had three wives and could not be persuaded to give up polygamy even after he was baptized as a Christian. The Pottawatomi also punished adultery severely. Chapman writes, “The punishment for adultery is cutting off the nose; the first offense being punishable by a small piece, the second a larger one, and the third cuts it to the bone. These are rare cases, however, both sexes having a high regard for purity and virtue.

The last Pottawatomi custom that Holland remembered had to do with their burial customs. “In the winter the dead are entombed by standing the body upright, around which is placed poles run in the earth,” Chapman writes.

Besides his memories of Pottawatomi custom, Holland also shared some anecdotes of his family’s interaction with the native inhabitants of the county. One of his recollections was of an occasion when Holland’s wife had boiled water to use for washing. A Pottawatomi woman came into her cabin and either fell or sat in the tub. “Her cries called the braves, who lifted her out and carried her to the wigwam,” Chapman writes.

Another of Holland’s anecdotes was of an occasion of violence between the Pottawatomi and the early settlers. This is how Chapman relates Holland’s recollection:

“One day, when Lawson was a boy, and while the family were at dinner, and a Frenchman, named Louey, who was stopping with them, had finished his meal, lighted his pipe, and was leisurely smoking outside the cabin, a stalwart Indian came down the trail and demanded his pipe, which was refused. The Indian then drew his tomahawk and drove it into his skull. Holland and old man Avery, who was there at the time, rushed from the cabin, and Avery grappled with the redskin. He sounded the war-whoop, and in a twinkling the little band of whites were surrounded by hundreds of the swarthy tribe. The Chief [Senachwine], taking in the situation, drew his war-club and struck at Avery with this deadly weapon, but Avery’s quick eye dodged the blow, and the instrument was buried in a large tree behind him. It was a perilous moment and there seemed to be no earthly escape for this little band of pioneers, but [Lawson’s father] was regarded as a friend, and his counsel was at all times sought. The Indians then had a war-dance, and returned to their camps, and peace and quietness was again restored. This occurred in 1822.”

Shown is the war club of Pottawatomi War Chief Senachwine. A story from early Tazewell County settler Lawson Holland tells of an altercation between pioneer settlers and the Pottawatomi in 1822 in which Senachwine wielded his war club.

#lawson-holland, #pottawatomi, #preblog-columns, #senachwine, #washington

Senachwine, war chief of the Pottawatomi

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

Senachwine, war chief of the Pottawatomi

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

When settlers of European descent first began to make permanent dwellings during the 1820s in what would soon become Tazewell County, they found the area inhabited by Native American tribes. The most numerous of the tribes was the Pottawatomi, who had villages in the county’s northern townships, as well as a large village at the future site of Pekin, where they were led by a chief named Shabbona.

As this column has previously related, Shabbona was a member of the Ottawa tribe who had married the daughter of a Pottawatomi chief and succeeded to the headship of his wife’s group of Pottawatomi after her father’s death. Shabbona and his family are reported to have camped to the south of where Pekin’s pioneer settler Jonathan Tharp had built his log cabin in 1824. Other Pottawatomi in the area were headed by a chief named Wabaunsee. During the Black Hawk War of 1832, however, Shabbona and Wabaunsee refused to join Black Hawk’s uprising, and Shabbona even gave active help to white settlers, warning them of impending attack. Consequently, after the war, Shabbona and Wabaunsee were rejected as chiefs, and, according to the online essay “Potawatomi War Chief (1744-1831) Chief Senachwine,” the Pottawatomi instead chose as their leader Kaltoo, also called Ogh-och-pees, eldest son of the Pottawatomi War Chief Sen-noge-wone.

In central Illinois, Sen-noge-wone is more usually called “Senachwine.” In his “History of Tazewell County,” Charles C. Chapman spells the name “Snatchwine.” He and his people dwelt in and near what would become Washington Township. On pages 674-676, Chapman records some memories of Lawson Holland, an early white settler of Washington Township. Holland’s memories included recollections of Chief Senachwine and of the customs of the Pottawatomi of the area. Holland knew Senachwine for about 10 years, remembering him as often despondent.

Chapman writes that Senachwine “was honored and loved by all the braves,” and that “his word was law, and his presence and council always sought in times of disturbance or trouble. Among the whites he was generally honored and respected. To them he always extended the hand of welcome, and the fatted deer of the forest was brought to their door in token of good will.”

Chapman’s account of Chief Senachwine also includes the transcript of a lengthy speech of the chief’s. According to Chapman, Senachwine gave the speech around 1823 when he “found out the whites were becoming alarmed, and called a council with the whites, to talk. He spoke about four hours.”

“When you palefaces came to our country we took you in and treated you like brothers,” Senachwine said. “We furnished you with corn and gave you meat that we killed, but you palefaces soon became numerous and began to trample upon our rights, which we attempted to resist, but was whipped and driven off. This is returning evil for good. The graves of my forefathers are just as dear to me as yours, and had I the power I’d wipe you from the face of the earth. I have 800 good warriors, besides many old men and boys, that could be put in a fight, but this takes up a remnant of these tribes since the last war. I believe I could raise enough braves, and taking you by surprise, could clean the State. I know I could go below your capital and take everything clean. But what then? We must all die in time. You would kill us all off. You tell me that you have forbidden your men to sell whisky. You enforce these laws and I stand pledged for any depredation my people shall commit. But you allow your men to come with whisky and trinkets and get them drunk and cheat them out of all their guns and skins and all their blankets, that the Government pays me yearly for this land. This leaves us in a starving freezing condition and we are raising only a few children compared to what we raised in Old Kentuck, before we knew the palefaces. Some of my men say in our consultations, let us rise and wipe the palefaces from the face of the earth. I tell them no, the palefaces are too numerous. I can take every man, woman and child I’ve got and place them in the hollow of my hand and hold them out at arm’s length. But when I want to count you palefaces I must go out in the big prairie, where timber ain’t in sight, and count the spears of grass, and I haven’t then told your numbers.”

About eight years later, around 1831, Senachwine counseled that violent resistance to white encroachment was futile and would only lead to the annihilation of the native tribes. His counsel and the policy of Shabbona convinced the Pottawatomi not to join Black Hawk in his hostilities. The online essay “Potawatomi War Chief (1744-1831) Chief Senachwine,” quotes him as responding to Black Hawk, “Resistance to the aggression of the whites is useless; war is wicked and must result in our ruin. Therefore let us submit to our fate, return not evil for evil, as this would offend the Great Spirit and bring ruin upon us. . . . My friends, do not listen to the words of Black Hawk, for he is trying to lead you astray. Do not imbrue your hands in human blood . . . .

Senachwine died in the summer of 1831 and was buried on a bluff above his village in Putnam County. After the Black Hawk War, the Pottawatomi were deported to reservations in Kansas and Nebraska, but in subsequent years members of his band reportedly would come back from time to time to visit his grave. On June 13, 1937, the Peoria Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution placed a large stone with a bronze memorial plaque at the spot that was believed to be his grave site, about a half-mile north of the village of Putnam. Five members of the Prairie Band Potawatomi came from Kansas to attend the ceremony.

This monument was placed in 1937 at the spot that was believed to be the gravesite of Pottawatomi War Chief Senachwine, about a half-mile north of the village of Putnam.

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The Pekin Public Library’s early history: A glimpse inside a time capsule

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

A glimpse inside a time capsule

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Each week this column delves into the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection to see what we can learn about various aspects, anecdotes and artifacts of Pekin and Tazewell County history. This week we’ll turn our attention toward the history the Pekin Public Library itself, by taking look at a few of the contents of the library’s Cornerstone Time Capsule collection.

As both longtime residents of Pekin and attentive visitors to the library know, the current library building is not the first one to be erected on it site. Prior to the construction of the current library in 1972, Pekin’s readers were served by a smaller structure that stood at the corner of Fourth Street and Broadway, where the library’s sunken plaza is located today. [NB: Since the 2015 remodel and expansion of the library, the old sunken plaza is no more, replaced by a quiet reading room and a grove of trees with water drainage.]

That earlier structure – one of the nation’s many Carnegie libraries, built in 1902 under the patronage of famous American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie – was the first building constructed in Pekin to serve specifically as a public library. To celebrate that milestone in Pekin’s history, a formal dedication ceremony took place on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 1902.

On that occasion, the library’s cornerstone was laid – and within the cornerstone was placed a time capsule containing an assortment of documents and relics pertaining chiefly to the history of the plans and preparations leading up to the construction of Pekin’s Carnegie library.

The time capsule remained sealed for 70 years. When the old library was replaced with a new, expanded facility in 1972, the cornerstone was opened and the contents of the time capsule were found to be in a very good state of preservation. For many years after that, the cornerstone materials were stored at Herget Bank, later being transferred to the Pekin Public Library’s own historical archives.

Placed in the cornerstone time capsule were five local newspapers, three of them from August 1902 and two of them from February 1896. The reason for including three August 1902 newspapers is obvious – they are issues with dates that are close to the day of the cornerstone laying: the Pekin Daily Post-Tribune of Aug. 18, 1902, the Pekin Daily Times of Aug. 16, 1902, and the Pekin Freie Presse of Aug. 14, 1902. (Pekin formerly had a German language newspaper due to the heavy influx of German immigrants to Pekin in the mid- to late 1800s.)

The reason for including the two newspapers from February 1896 is probably not obvious to anyone not well versed in the library’s history, however. Those newspapers – the Pekin Daily Tribune and the Pekin Daily Evening Post, both of 13 Feb. 1896 – were chosen because that date was close to the day that the library became a municipal body of Pekin’s city government.

The library’s history did not begin in 1902, but in fact reaches back to 1866, as we read in one of the documents placed in the 1902 cornerstone: a “History of the Pekin Public Library” written by Miss Mary Gaither. “On November 24th, 1866, a large number of the ladies of Pekin met to organize what was for many years known as the ‘Ladies Library Association,’” Gaither wrote. Also included in the cornerstone was one of the handwritten invitations to that meeting.

On March 5, 1883, the Pekin Library Association formally incorporated under the laws of the State of Illinois – the original, sealed articles of incorporation from 1883 also were included in the cornerstone time capsule.

Ten years later, on Feb. 6, 1893, the Library Association petitioned the city to have the library and its collection handed over to the city’s ownership. The process of transferring the library from private to public control was completed three years later, in 1896.

Shown here is part of the front page of the Feb. 13, 1896, Pekin Daily Tribune, one of the newspapers that was preserved in the 1902 Pekin Public Library cornerstone time capsule.

Shown here is the top front of the outer sleve of the Feb. 13, 1896, Pekin Daily Tribune, one of the newspapers that was preserved in the 1902 Pekin Public Library cornerstone time capsule.

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