How Pekin became the 10th incorporated city in Illinois

This is a revised version of one of our “From the Local History Room” columns that first appeared on 28 Jan. 2012 before the launch of this weblog, republished here as a part of our Illinois Bicentennial Series on early Illinois history.

How Pekin became a city

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Pekin has been Tazewell County’s leading community and the continuous seat of county government about as long as Pekin has been a city. But our city had not a few birth pangs in its earliest days, and during Pekin’s first two decades or so the community’s future was often in doubt.

As stated in the Nov. 5, 2011, “From the History Room” column, the 1824 arrival of Jonathan Tharp three years before the formation of Tazewell County was the seed from which Pekin would grow. However, things got off to a slow start, and by 1830 only eight white families lived in the settlement that was given the name “Pekin” that year.

Pekin’s fortunes were then on the rise, however, and in the spring of 1831 the county’s officials obtained permission from the state to temporarily move the county’s government operations from Mackinaw to Pekin – an interim decision until a state-appointed commission had determined where the permanent county seat should be.

Four years later, on July 2, 1835, Pekin’s voters chose to formally incorporate as a town and the community held its first town election on July 9, 1835, to install “a board of five trustees of the Town of Pekin” to serve one-year terms. The vote results were: D. Mark, 24; D. Bailey, 24; Samuel Wilson, 17; Joshua C. Morgan, 22; S. Pillsbury, 24; and S. Field, 12. In the words of Pekin’s early historian W.H. Bates, “On the 11th of the same month, the Board of Trustees was organized, J.C. Morgan being elected President, and Benjamin Kellogg, Jr., Clerk.” (1870 Pekin City Directory, p.13)

Just one year later, however, Pekin suffered one of its many early setbacks, when the above mentioned state-appointed commission decided that county seat was to be moved from Pekin to Tremont. Pekin’s Board President J.C. Morgan moved to Tremont at that time and resigned from the Pekin town board on June 27, 1836.

Undaunted by the loss of county seat status, Pekin carried on with its annual town elections and its population steadily increased. Calamity struck in late 1843, however, when a deadly scarlet fever epidemic swept over the community, which then numbered about 800 residents.

This detail from page 27 of the 1870-71 Sellers & Bates Pekin City Directory shows W. H. Bates’ account of the vote and local census that enabled Pekin to become an incorporated city in August of 1849.

It would be more than a decade before Pekin found itself on surer footing. As the 1974 Pekin Sesquicentennial says, “After years of misfortunes, epidemics, wars, droughts, and general weariness, Pekin seemed due for a change of luck. It came, and 1849 was the turning point. The population had risen to 1,500, and the town’s residents voted unanimously to organize under a city charter (dated August 20, 1849). On September 24, Bernard Bailey was elected mayor, heading a council of four aldermen: John Atkinson, David Kenyon, William Maus, and Jacob Riblet.”

Maus, incidentally, was one of the town’s doctors, and he had attended to the sick during the scarlet fever epidemic of 1843-1844. He had previously treated Pekin’s cholera victims during the July 1834 epidemic.

In the 1870 Pekin City Directory, W. H. Bates details the process of how Pekin became a city. To begin with, Bates says the county seat was moved from Tremont back to Pekin in 1848. But Illinois state records show that it was 1849, the same year Pekin incorporated as a city, and “1849” is handwritten — perhaps by Bates himself — on the page of the library’s copy of the 1870 City Directory.

Bates then relates that on Aug. 7, 1849, the town board approved a resolution to take a census of Pekin “preparatory to city organization under the general act of incorporation allowing towns of fifteen hundred inhabitants the privilege of adopting the Springfield or Quincy charters if a majority of the inhabitants, upon due notice, vote in favor of it.” (Springfield and Quincy had themselves both received their city charters from the Illinois General Assembly on Feb. 3, 1840.)

Only two days later, on Aug. 9, 1849, the census results were reported to the board, and, having found that Pekin contained at least 1,500 people, it was “ordered that two weeks’ notice, to be published in the ‘Mirror,’ for an election, to be held on the 20th of August, 1849, to vote for or against the City of Pekin.”

With the unanimous vote on Aug. 20, the “City of Pekin” was born, with a mayor/alderman form of government. Bates says Pekin was only the 10th incorporated city in the State of Illinois. Records show that it had been only six months since the state’s ninth city, Rock Island, was incorporated.

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#bernard-bailey, #county-seat, #dr-william-s-maus, #illinois-bicentennial, #j-c-morgan, #joshua-c-morgan, #pekin-becomes-a-city, #pekin-becomes-a-town, #preblog-columns, #w-h-bates

Bates recalls Pekin’s ‘Early Times’

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

This week we return to Pekin’s pioneer historian William H. Bates, from whom we received most of our knowledge of Pekin’s early history. It was in the 1870-71 Sellers & Bates Pekin City Directory that Bates first historical sketch of Pekin was published, but Bates also told the stories of Pekin’s past in other places and venues, such as in booklets, pamphlets, and newspaper columns.

One of the ways that Bates told Pekin’s history was in a lengthy essay entitled “Early Times in Pekin and Tazewell County” that he wrote for a magazine called Shades’ Monthly in May 1913. That issue of the magazine was included in the 1914 Tazewell County Courthouse Cornerstone time capsule. Bates’ essay was reprinted in recent issues of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society Monthly (May 2017, pp.1911-1919, and June 2017, pp.1942-1946).

Bates’ essay bears a close resemblance to the historical sketch that he printed and reprinted over the years in his Pekin city directories. It’s also similar to a historical sketch that Bates wrote for his “Historical Souvenir to Commemorate the Dedication of the New Tazewell County Court House.” But in the Shades’ Monthly essay he varied his expression somewhat, and also included some details and anecdotes not found in the city directory account of Pekin’s past.

Following are some excerpts from Bates’ “Early Times” essay, telling of the original Native Americans inhabitants and the settlement of the site of Pekin by the first pioneers. Bates said one of his chief sources for the recollections of the site’s Native American inhabitants was a pioneer named Daniel C. Orr “who played around Shabbona’s wigwam.”

Pottawatomi leader Shabbona, shown in a daguerreotype printed in John Leonard Conger’s “History of the Illinois River Valley,” 1932.

“Yes, Pekin is located on historic ground. For unnumbered years prior to the coming of the white man, the red man held full sway; roaming from one favorable location to another, as fancy, convenience or war dominated him.

“Indian villages occupied high ground above the possibility of overflow by the floods, but were always near the streams, which gave the aborigine fishing and hunting privileges.

“The high ground, from the upper end of Pekin Lake to the southern limits of Pekin, was the home of a tribe of Pottawatomie Indians, under the leadership of Shabbona, an able chieftain, who gained the friendship and gratitude of the white pioneers by warnings and tribal protection, for which he was appropriately named ‘The White Man’s Friend.’ In the Indian war of 1832, because he refused to join Black Hawk, in an attempt to exterminate the ‘pale face,’ he had to seek refuge near his white friends in order to save his life.

“Shabbona, and his immediate followers, while in this vicinity, occupied the high ground near our present Gas Works, on what is today Main street, southward to a point near the present C. P. & St. L. [Railway’s] round house. . . .

“Jonathan Tharp was the first permanent white settler in ‘Town Site,’ the date being 1824. He located his crude log cabin near the family wigwams of Shabbona, just west of the present Franklin School.

“Jesse Eggman, a boon companion of Tharp, also located in ‘Town Site,’ the name the hunters and trappers had given the high bluff . . .

“‘Town Site,’ as seen by the pioneer settlers, was on the first ridge; then came ‘Bitzel’s Lake;’ then another sand ridge between Third and Fourth streets; then a succession of low places and ponds between Fourth and Fifth streets. One of these ponds, about where Albertsen & Koch’s store now stands, was a great resort for ducks. Mr. B. S. Hyers, the oldest Pekin merchant, now living, told the writer that he ‘shot many a mess of ducks at this pond.’

“Then came ridges and ponds for over a mile to the east until you had in view a beautiful body of water afterward named ‘Bailey Lake,’ at the foot of East Bluff . . . .

“Joseph, son of Jonathan Tharp, was the first male white child born in ‘Town Site,’ his natal day being March 10th, 1827. . . .

“In the fall of 1828, the first steam boat that ascended the Illinois river, created wild consternation. The Indians fled to the hills or dense timber. Near Kingston, where Jesse Eggman had established a ferry, one Hugh Barr, who had never seen a steam boat, hearing the hideous noise made by the escaping steam, and seeing the open fires under the boilers, which looked like two great eyes, at the weird hour of midnight, turned out with dog and gun and chased the ‘monster’ until it passed up the river. The small band of settlers who lived along our river front, were awakened from their peaceful slumbers by the grewsome (sic) noise. They gathered in groups and waited the approach of ‘the monster of the deep.’ Good, old Father [Jacob] Tharp gathered his family together for prayers, doubtless thinking that Gabriel was blowing the final call; and good Aunt Ruth Stark prayed the ‘All Wise One’ to have Gabriel call at Fort Clark (now Peoria) first, as they were ‘wickeder up there.’ . . . .”

#black-hawk, #courthouse-cornerstone-time-capsule, #daniel-c-orr, #hugh-barr, #jacob-tharp, #jesse-eggman, #jonathan-tharp, #joseph-tharp, #pekin-history, #pottawatomi-in-pekin, #ruth-stark, #shabbona, #w-h-bates, #william-h-bates

Joseph Irwin, founder of the Pekin Daily Times

Here’s a chance to read one of our old Local History Room columns, first published in April 2012 before the launch of this blog . . .

Joseph Irwin, founder of the Pekin Daily Times

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Pekin’s hometown newspaper, the Pekin Daily Times, has a history that stretches back to Oct. 1873, when the Peorians Joseph B. Irwin and Col. W.T. Dowdall bought and renamed a failed weekly paper called the Pekin Register (1856-1873), the successor of the Pekin Weekly Plaindealer (1854-1856), which in turn was born of the merger of the Tazewell County Mirror (1836-1854) and the Pekin Weekly Reveille (1850-1854).

The Pekin Times remained a weekly until Jan. 3, 1881, when Irwin turned the paper into a five-column daily. Ever since, the Pekin Daily Times has been published Monday through Saturday. But rather than trace the newspaper’s history, let’s take a look at the life and career of the paper’s founder.

Irwin’s life story is told in Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” pp. 720-722, as well as the 1894 “Portrait and Biographical Record of Tazewell and Mason Counties, Illinois,” 1894, p.254. Additional details are found in Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County.”

This portrait of Pekin Daily Times founder Joseph B. Irwin (1849-1900) appeared in Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County.”

Irwin was born Oct. 11, 1849, in Circleville, Ohio, the son of John E. and Catherine (Tobias) Irwin, who were natives of Pennsylvania. He passed his boyhood days in Circleville, receiving his schooling at Circleville Academy. His lifelong interest in local politics began in Ohio, where he served a term as city clerk of Portsmouth. In Jan. 1872, Irwin married Inez M. Fifer, a cousin of Illinois Gov. Joseph W. Fifer (1889-1893). They had two children, but both had died before 1879.

Irwin moved to Peoria, where he worked for the Peoria Democrat until 1873. After moving to Pekin and founding the Pekin Times in partnership with Dowdall, Irwin also served as school inspector for three years, and was elected Pekin’s city supervisor in the spring of 1894. In his day, the founder of the Pekin Daily Times was one of Tazewell County’s prominent newspapermen and politicians. Back then, usually journalists were openly partisan – politically independent newspapers were rare.

“When the first issue of the Times appeared [in 1873] there was no subscription list, as the paper had changed hands so often that its reputation was well nigh gone and the outlook was extremely discouraging. But by much hard work, natural ability and perseverance, our subject soon placed the paper on a solid basis, and as a newsy and literary production it ranked among the leading weeklies of the northwest,” says the Portrait and Biographical Record.

According to Chapman, “Irwin soon bought Dowdall out, and by untiring energy and rare business tact, built up a larger circulation than it ever enjoyed before. In July, 1877, Geo. E. Schaumleffle purchased a third interest of the paper.” Schaumleffle, born in Pekin in 1854, often wrote the paper’s editorials.

B.C. Allensworth’s Tazewell County history supplies these additional details: ““Irwin soon bought Dowdall out, and the county having passed into the control of the Democratic party, the paper was recognized as the organ of that party and prospered from that time on, when in May, 1886, it was purchased from Irwin by A.W. Rodecker, F. Shurtleff, Thomas Cooper, and B.C. Allensworth.”

After leaving the Pekin Daily Times, Irwin joined the Post Publishing Company and was made editor and manager of the weekly Republican Post, formerly called the Tazewell County Republican. Irwin’s time at the Republican Post was financially successful, but politically it was controversial. Allensworth mentions that Irwin “antagonized republican interest to such an extent that Colonel Bates” – Pekin historian W.H. Bates, who had retired from the Tazewell County Republican – “came back into the paper business with the Tazewell County Tribune.” Also in 1886, says Allensworth, Irwin founded the Pekin Daily Post, and he continued the publication of the Republican Post and the Daily Post until his death in Pekin on Jan. 13, 1900.

“There is perhaps no better campaigner among the politicians of the county than Mr. Irwin,” says the Portrait and Biographical Record, “who is well known to every prominent citizen in both parties, and being acquainted with all the main roads and byways in this vicinity, can get over and around Tazewell County and in every township and political center quicker than any other man. He has met with several business reverses, but his fine financial standing, business ability and honesty have never been questioned. Among politicians and newspaper readers generally he is conceded to be one of the best editors in the county.”

#col-w-t-dowdall, #george-e-schaumleffle, #illinois-governor-joseph-w-fifer, #j-b-irwin, #joseph-b-irwin, #pekin-daily-times, #pekin-history, #pekin-newspaper-history, #w-h-bates

How Pekin became a city

Here’s a chance to read again one of our old Local History Room columns, first published on 28 Jan. 2012 before the launch of this blog . . .

How Pekin became a city

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Pekin has been Tazewell County’s leading community and the continuous seat of county government about as long as Pekin has been a city. But our city had not a few birth pangs in its earliest days, and during Pekin’s first two decades or so the community’s future was often in doubt.

As stated in the Nov. 5, 2011, “From the History Room” column, the 1824 arrival of Jonathan Tharp three years before the formation of Tazewell County was the seed from which Pekin would grow. However, things got off to a slow start, and by 1830 only eight white families lived in the settlement that was given the name “Pekin” that year.

Pekin’s fortunes were then on the rise, however, and in the spring of 1831 the county’s officials made the “extra-legal” decision to move the county’s government operations from Mackinaw to Pekin — effectively moving the county seat, without, however, obtaining the authority to do so from the state. Four years later, Pekin was formally incorporated as a town and the community held its first election on July 9, 1835, to install “a board of five trustees of the Town of Pekin” to serve one-year terms. The vote results were: D. Mark, 24; D. Bailey, 24; Samuel Wilson, 17; Joshua C. Morgan, 22; S. Pillsbury, 24; and S. Field, 12. In the words of Pekin’s early historian W.H. Bates, “On the 11th of the same month, the Board of Trustees was organized, J.C. Morgan being elected President, and Benjamin Kellogg, Jr., Clerk.” (1870 Pekin City Directory, p.13)

Just one year later, however, Pekin suffered one of its many early setbacks, when the county seat was formally moved by the state’s instruction from Pekin to Tremont. Pekin’s Board President J.C. Morgan moved to Tremont at that time and resigned from the Pekin town board on June 27, 1836.

Undaunted by the loss of county seat status, Pekin carried on with its annual town elections and its population steadily increased. Calamity struck in late 1843, however, when a scarlet fever epidemic swept over the community, which then numbered about 800 residents.

It would be more than a decade before Pekin found itself on surer footing. As the 1974 Pekin Sesquicentennial says, “After years of misfortunes, epidemics, wars, droughts, and general weariness, Pekin seemed due for a change of luck. It came, and 1849 was the turning point. The population had risen to 1,500, and the town’s residents voted unanimously to organize under a city charter (dated August 20, 1849). On September 24, Bernard Bailey was elected mayor, heading a council of four aldermen: John Atkinson, David Kenyon, William Maus, and Jacob Riblet.”

Maus, incidentally, was one of the town’s doctors, and he had attended to the sick during the scarlet fever epidemic of 1843-1844. He had previously treated Pekin’s cholera victims during the July 1834 epidemic.

In the 1870 Pekin City Directory, W. H. Bates details the process of how Pekin became a city. To begin with, Bates says the county seat was moved from Tremont back to Pekin in 1848. Others say it was 1849, the same year Pekin incorporated as a city, and “1849” is handwritten — perhaps by Bates himself — on the page of the library’s copy of the 1870 City Directory.

Bates then relates that on Aug. 7, 1849, the town board approved a resolution to take a census of Pekin “preparatory to city organization under the general act of incorporation allowing towns of fifteen hundred inhabitants the privilege of adopting the Springfield or Quincy charters if a majority of the inhabitants, upon due notice, vote in favor of it.”

Only two days later, on Aug. 9, the census results were reported to the board, and, having found that Pekin contained 1,500 people, it was “ordered that two weeks’ notice, to be published in the ‘Mirror,’ for an election, to be held on the 20th of August, 1849, to vote for or against the City of Pekin.”

With the unanimous vote on Aug. 20, the “City of Pekin” was born, with a mayor/alderman form of government. Bates says elsewhere that Pekin was only the tenth incorporated city in the State of Illinois.

This page from the first published history of Pekin, printed in the 1870 Sellers & Bates Pekin City Directory, tells of how Pekin became an incorporated city of Illinois on Aug. 20, 1849. The handwritten marking may have been added by the history's author, W. H. Bates, or by a later local Pekin historian.

This page from the first published history of Pekin, printed in the 1870 Sellers & Bates Pekin City Directory, tells of how Pekin became an incorporated city of Illinois on Aug. 20, 1849. The handwritten marking may have been added by the history’s author, W. H. Bates, or by a later local Pekin historian.

#cholera, #j-c-morgan, #jonathan-tharp, #joshua-c-morgan, #pekin-history, #tazewell-county-history, #w-h-bates, #william-s-maus

Bates’ roll of Tazewell County pioneers

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

For the past two weeks, we’ve spotlighted some items from the trove of William H. Bates papers recently donated to the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society. This week’s column will feature one more fascinating item from the Society’s Bates collection – an old bound daybook in which are enrolled the names of early Tazewell County settlers.

Several daybooks or diaries were included in the donated trove of Bates papers and photographs. Some of Bates’ daybooks recorded the activities and minutes of Civil War veterans groups to which Bates belonged. However, Pekin’s pioneer historian used one particular daybook to maintain an extensive alphabetized list of names that seems to have served as something of a personal directory of Tazewell County’s pioneers. David Perkins of the TCGHS has generously supplied photocopied pages from this daybook to the Pekin Public Library’s Local History Room, and the Society also plans to present the contents of the daybook in the TCGHS Monthly.

The daybook is 12 inches long and 6 inches wide. The names are handwritten on 146 pages of the daybook, the pages numbered from 10 to 155. Most pages are completely filled up with 33 names each, but other pages have only 10 to 20 names, and a few pages have only about five names. Each line entry consists of the settler’s name, the state where he or she was born, the town where the settler’s post office was located, the year the settler arrived in Tazewell County, and the year of death if the settler had passed away.

The most recent deaths recorded in the daybook happened in 1907, which therefore apparently would be the last year that Bates updated this list of settlers. Most of the settlers in the daybook presumably were still alive in 1907, for they have no date of death. In almost all cases, if a death is written in the daybook, it is only the year of death, but a handful of times Bates included the exact date of death. Because Bates’ daybook is from a period prior to Oct. 1914, when the Pekin Daily Times microfilms begin, the death dates written in the daybook can provide genealogists with information that may otherwise be unavailable due to a missing obituary or a missing or illegible gravestone.

We can’t be sure of the reason Bates maintained this list of Tazewell County settlers. It’s quite possible that he did it as part of his own endeavors in recording the history of Pekin and Tazewell County. He may also have relied on this and similar rolls of settlers in researching or updating the annual Bates City Directories that he printed and published. One might also wonder if this tally of settlers’ names was related to the Tazewell County Old Settlers social organization.

The 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County” and Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County” include the names of the Old Settlers who belonged to that club. If Bates’ daybook has something to do with the Old Settlers, it could be a membership list that was regularly updated. On the other hand, it does not give the appearance of being a membership register, for it doesn’t include information such as length of membership or payment of dues.

Whatever the reason Bates kept this book of settlers’ names, it is now a precious historical relic and an important early source available to historians and genealogists who make use of the services of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society – or who make use of the library’s Local History Room collection.

This is part of one of the pages of an old daybook from the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society's collection of William H. Bates papers. The daybook was a roll of early Tazewell County settlers. On the page shown here may be seen the name of Henry Hobart Cole, a prominent Pekin photographer whose pictures and portraits helped to chronicle the early history of Pekin and the county. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

This is part of one of the pages of an old daybook from the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society’s collection of William H. Bates papers. The daybook was a roll of early Tazewell County settlers. On the page shown here may be seen the name of Henry Hobart Cole, a prominent Pekin photographer whose pictures and portraits helped to chronicle the early history of Pekin and the county. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

#bates-collection, #henry-hobart-cole, #pekin-history, #tazewell-county-history, #w-h-bates, #william-h-bates

The men who built the P., L. & D. Railway

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Last week’s column featured the Civil War discharge paper of William H. Bates of Pekin, a notable item from the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society’s recently acquired Bates collection. Another remarkable document in the Society’s Bates collection is a relic from the early period of the Era of the Railroad – it’s a payroll ledger sheet for the Pekin, Lincoln & Decatur Railway.

Bearing the date of October 1870, and browned, creased, and partly crumbling with age, the payroll sheet records the wages paid out on Oct. 15, 1870, to men who worked for the Pekin Railway Construction Company. It’s not clear how this page ended up in the possession of Bates, who was then engaged in the newspaper and printing trades. Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County,” pages 735-740, tells of the founding and construction of the P., L. & D. Railway, but Bates is not named among the men involved in the company, nor do his published biographical essays mention any connection with this railroad. Perhaps he acquired this sheet while compiling Pekin’s history for one of his local publications.

Chapman’s account goes to great lengths to stress how important this particular railroad was to the people of Tazewell County. “No other of the several railroads traversing this county seem so closely identified with the interests and history of Tazewell county as the P., L. & D. It is a road in which every one takes a commendable local pride,” Chapman says. The 1873 Atlas Map of Tazewell County traces the railroad’s route south out of Pekin through Cincinnati Township, then through Sand Prairie Township to the west of the lost town of Circleville, down to Green Valley where the road veered east through Malone Township to Delavan in Delavan Township, finally heading southeast out of Tazewell County on the way to Lincoln and ultimately Decatur.

The company was chartered in 1867, and its founding members were Benjamin S. Prettyman, Teis Smith, Peter Weyhrich, R. B. Latham, A. M. Miller, John Wyatt, M. Wemple, J. F. D. Elliott, S. C. Bean, Henry B. Durfee, and Luber Burrows. Prettyman was the company’s first president. Subsequently, in 1869, other prominent and wealthy investors joined the venture, including Columbus R. Cummings (founder of the Cummings Estate which donated James Field to Pekin’s public schools), Gordis R. Cobleigh, and John B. Cohrs (whose wife was one of the founding members of the Ladies Library Association, predecessor of the Pekin Public Library). Cobleigh became the general superintendent of the P., L. & D Railway.

While Chapman’s account lists the investors and directors of the company whose money and influence made the construction and maintenance of this railroad possible, this payroll ledger sheet provides a list of 26 men who actually did the work of building the railroad, doing the grading work and laying down the ties and steel rails. Most of the workmen were paid at a rate of $1.75 a day or $2 a day, but a few only a dollar a day. The workmen’s names are handwritten, though, and the handwriting is often not easy to make out – not only the names that were written (and often misspelled) by the company staff member who drew up the ledger sheet, but especially the employees’ signatures that testify they had received their wages.

Among the names that are easier to make out are Thomas Doyle, John Leitz, John Coakley, John O’Brien, James Simcack (as spelled by the staff member, though the signature looks more like Simpcott), Ubbo Blompot (signed Bloempott), L. Cramar (signed Cremer), Albert Ubben, and D. Sathoff. The Bloempott and Ubben families were German immigrants who settled in the Pekin area around that time, and long-time Pekin residents will recall Bloompott Florist & Greenhouse at the corner of Hamilton and Eighth streets, which went out of business about 10 years ago and is now the location of Trouble Free Plumbing.

Next week’s From the Local History Room column will spotlight the contents of one of the old daybooks from the TCGHS Bates collection.

Railroad Payroll

This payroll ledger sheet for the Pekin Railway Construction Company, which built and owned the old Pekin, Lincoln & Decatur Railway, lists 26 men who worked on the construction of the railroad in October 1870. This sheet is a part of the William H. Bates collection at the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society, and this image has been graciously supplied courtesy of the Society.

#pekin-history, #pekin-railroads, #tazewell-county-history, #w-h-bates, #william-h-bates

Paper proof that Bates finished his term of service

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

In early April, this column featured a Civil War-era newspaper called “The Star Spangled Banner,” printed in Mexico, Mo., in July 1861 by Union soldiers serving in the Eighth Missouri Infantry. Among the soldiers who helped print the newspaper was Pekin’s own pioneer historian William H. Bates (1840-1930), who served in companies C and H of the Eighth Missouri, attaining the rank of colonel.

Coincidentally, around the same time that this column reviewed the life and military career of William H. Bates, the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society received a donation from an East Peoria resident – a remarkable trove of Bates’ old photographs, personal letters, business papers, diaries, daybooks, and newspaper clippings.

While the TCGHS has been processing and archiving this collection of Bates’ old papers and photos, the Society also has graciously shared copies of a few items from the collection with the Pekin Public Library. Selections from the Bates collection will be featured in the TCGHS Monthly newsletter, and also will be featured in this and subsequent installments of the library’s From the Local History Room column.

Among the copies of the items from the collection that the Society has shared with the Local History Room are Bates’ own Civil War discharge paper, showing him to have been discharged from the Union army on June 12, 1864, at St. Louis, Mo., upon the expiration of the three-year term of service for which he’d signed up on June 6, 1861. Bates’ discharge paper was signed June 25, 1864. The document shows folds, creases, and wrinkles that indicate Bates must have habitually carried on his own person this crucially important paper proving his military duties were complete.

Next week, we’ll take a look at another document from the Bates collection that touches on railroad history in Tazewell County.

This is a detail of the military discharge of William H. Bates of Pekin, a printer and historian who served in the Eighth Missouri Infantry during the Civil War. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL AND HISTORICAL SOCIETY

This is a detail of the military discharge of William H. Bates of Pekin, a printer and historian who served in the Eighth Missouri Infantry during the Civil War. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL AND HISTORICAL SOCIETY

#bates-collection, #pekin-history, #star-spangled-banner, #w-h-bates, #william-h-bates