A look inside Root’s City Directory of 1861

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

A look inside Root’s City Directory of 1861

By Jared Olar
Library Assistant

A couple months ago in this column space, we took a look through the city of Peoria’s very first city directory, “The Peoria Directory for 1844,” compiled and published by Simeon DeWitt Drown, town surveyor for Peoria.

The later city directories for Peoria were published by Omi E. Root – and it was Root who published Pekin’s first city directory in June 1861, 17 years after the publication of Drown’s Peoria directory. A facsimile copy of the 1861 directory for Pekin, reprinted by the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society, may be found in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection.

Besides a facsimile reprint of the 1861 Root’s City Directory of Pekin available for study in the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room, the library’s private archives also include a fragile first edition of the 1861 directory that had belonged to Pekin historian William H. Bates (who heavily annotated this copy while preparing the 1870 directory).

Called “Root’s Directory of the City of Pekin for the year 1861,” this volume is only 93 pages long. To give an idea of Pekin’s growth since 1861, the most recent Polk city directory for Pekin extends to 470 pages.

Later Pekin city directories, prepared and published by William H. Bates, would include an essay on the history of Pekin, but Root’s directory has no historical or geographical essays. The entries are grouped into nine categories, each with its own section. The section titles are: Special Business Directory; Streets and Avenues; Names; City, Town, and County; Stages, Railroads, and Packets; Educational; Companies and Associations; Religious; and Business Directory.

The largest section of the directory (from pages 12 to 64) is “Names,” which lists the households of Pekin in alphabetical order by the surname of the head of household. “Stages, Railroads, and Packets,” on page 68, lists the local stage coach, railroad and steamboat companies for the convenience of those needing transportation or shipping of merchandise or property.

Shown here is an advertisement from the 1861 Root’s Pekin City Directory for local riverboats and railroads that operated in and around Pekin.

The next section, on page 70, lists the schools of Pekin. At the time, Pekin had only six schools, each with simple if not especially memorable or interesting names: the Brick School-House (predecessor of Pekin Community High School, and remembered by its former students as “the Old Brick”), Cincinnati School, Yellow School-House, Second-Street School, Frame School-House, and German and English School.

The section entitled “Companies and Associations” is a descriptive list of Pekin’s community clubs, such as the Odd-Fellows, the Masons or the Sons of Temperance. Curiously, the city’s three fire companies – Independent No. 1, Rescue No. 1 and Defiance, all organized in 1860 – are grouped with the community associations. That was before the establishment of a single fire department as a branch of city government.

Under the header of “Religious” are listed the 11 churches that then existed in Pekin: First Baptist Church (30 members, 140 Sunday School students), the Roman Catholic Church (400 members), St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (50 regular attendants), the German Evangelical Association, St. Paul’s German Evangelical Church (64 members), the German Evangelical Church (separate from St. Paul’s, having 45 members), St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church (40 members), the Methodist Episcopal Church (96 members), the German Methodist Episcopal Church, the Reformed Dutch Church (average attendance of 60), and the First Universalist Church of Pekin (38 members).

The section called “City, Town, and County,” on page 65, is a list of the elected and appointed government officials of the city of Pekin, Pekin Township and Tazewell County. In those days, municipal elections took place annually on the third Monday in April, and Isaac E. Leonard had just been elected to serve a one-year term as mayor of Pekin. The city council in those days was a Board of Aldermen, with four aldermen representing the city’s four wards. Also in the list of county officers were Tazewell County Sheriff Chapman Williamson, Coroner John Wildhack, County Clerk John Gridley, Circuit Clerk and County Recorder George H. Harlow, and County Treasurer William S. Maus.

Notably, Maus (a former physician whose biography has been sketched in a previous Local History Room column) was wearing two hats in April 1861. He was Pekin Township Supervisor as well as County Treasurer, having been asked to fill a vacancy in the treasurer’s office on Dec. 8, 1860. He served as treasurer until the end of the unexpired term in November of 1861.

Among the full-page advertisements in the 1861 Root’s City Directory of Pekin was this one for the Haines Agricultural Works, which was owned and operated by the brothers Ansel and Jonathan Haines at a spot just east of present-day James Field. Among the implements made at their factory was Jonathan’s patented Illinois Harvester, also known as the Haines Harvester.

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Drown’s Peoria city directory of 1844

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

Drown’s Peoria city directory of 1844

By Jared Olar
Library Assistant

While the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room collection primarily includes publications and documents pertaining to Pekin and Tazewell County, the collection also encompasses various items related to Illinois history and a broader genealogical interest, as well as reference materials, books and other documents that pertain to the history of nearby communities.

One of those books is a facsimile reprint of a fascinating relic of Peoria’s past – none other than Peoria’s very first city directory, “The Peoria Directory for 1844,” compiled and published by Simeon DeWitt Drown, town surveyor for Peoria.

Drown’s book usually would be of interest to students of the history of the city and county of Peoria, but as a contemporary document and record of one of central Illinois’ largest and most important community, it also would make interesting reading for anyone with central Illinois roots or who might simply be curious to glimpse everyday life and business in the Midwest or Illinois during the middle of the nineteenth century. It would be another 17 years after the publication of Drown’s directory before Pekin’s first city directory would be published.

As Peoria’s town surveyor, Drown was a natural choice for author and editor of a city directory. His skills as a printer, engraver and mapmaker also suited him to the task he had assumed. He came to Peoria from New York in 1838, and in January 1844 his residence and place of work were in a house at the southeast corner of Franklin and Adams streets.

In those days, Peoria was still a small settlement, especially by modern standards – Drown’s personal census counted only 1,619 people, almost all of them living and working in an area close to the river bounded by Liberty, Perry and Green streets.

However, the small city was then a boom town, and Drown noted (boasted?) in his preface that “during the last year, . . . upwards of fifty buildings were erected, and nearly all of a permanent material, — brick or stone.” For those reasons, Drown said, “Peoria ought now to be the seat of government of the state,” mentioning that there had recently been efforts in the Illinois General Assembly to fix the state capital at Peoria. Drown thought his town would make an idea capital since it was almost as centrally located as Springfield and, Drown predicted, would soon surpass Springfield in population.

Besides the compilation of residents, businessmen and professions that were the chief reason such old directories were prepared, Drown also collected and wrote essays for his directory on Peoria’s history. Peoria shares its earliest historical roots with Tazewell County and the cities and villages of Pekin, Creve Coeur and East Peoria which line the Illinois River nearby. Thus, in Drown’s directory, his “History of the Town Down to the Present Time” naturally commences with the adventures of the French explorers Marquette, Joliet and La Salle.

Drown’s historical sketch includes lengthy excerpts from the journals and recollections of the early French explorers, and Drown also reproduced two early maps of the area of Lake Pimiteoui (Peoria Lake) showing the ephemeral Fort Crevecoeur. One of the maps Drown identified as “a fac simile of Hennepin’s map so far as it describes this region of country,” while the other is a facsimile of a map of our area from Daniel Coxe’s 1722 volume, “Coxe’s Carolana,” based on memoirs of Dr. Daniel Coxe, an English physician who made his own explorations of the Illinois River around 1698.

On page 20 of his 1844 Peoria City Directory, Simeon DeWitt Drown reproduced a facsimile of Father Louis Hennepin’s 1698 map of the Illinois Country, indicating the site of Fort Crevecoeur in the future Tazewell County.

This woodcut is an illustration of the account of the Indian tribes of Illinois in Drown’s 1844 Peoria City Directory.

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