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.

#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

‘Big Pete,’ W.H. Bates and The Star Spangled Banner

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Question: What do Pekin’s pioneer historian William H. Bates, the Hanging Judge of Andersonville, and The Star Spangled Banner all have in common?

Answer: Mexico.

No, we’re not talking about that Mexico, and not that Star Spangled Banner, either. In this case, we mean a town in Missouri called Mexico, and a Civil War-era newspaper printed there that was dubbed “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Mexico, Mo., was also the home for the last 35 years of his life of Peter “Big Pete” McCullough, known as the Hanging Judge of Andersonville.

McCullough, Bates and The Star Spangled Banner are spotlighted on a pair of informative historical panels created by the Missouri’s Civil War Heritage Foundation (www.mocivilwar.org). The panels, one featuring Bates and The Star Spangled Banner and the other featuring McCullough, will be formally dedicated at a ceremony in Mexico on Tuesday afternoon, April 12.

This project was brought to the attention of the Pekin Public Library last fall, when Gabriela Molina, programs coordinator of Missouri’s Civil War Heritage Foundation, contacted the library seeking additional information on W.H. Bates of Pekin.

Regular readers of this column will recall that Pekin’s own W.H. Bates, who had a lifelong career in the fields of printing and newspapers, had a part in the printing of The Star Spangled Banner. As we have noted previously, during the Civil War Bates volunteered for the U.S. Army from 1861 to 1864, serving in Companies C and H, 8th Missouri Infantry, 15th Army Corps.

His published 1930 obituary, repeating information from a biographical sketch that was included in Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” says Bates “and other printers in his regiment issued a paper from a print shop they took over at Mexico, Mo., printing the edition on manila wrapping paper, the only kind available, the owner having secreted the print paper at the approach of the troops.”

Allensworth’s history, page 976, presenting information that must have been provided by Bates himself, adds these details: “William Henry Bates, on his arrival at the United States Arsenal, St. Louis, became a member of Company C, Eighth Missouri Infantry (American Zouaves), and took part in the engagement in Wentzville, Mo., July 16, 1861, and several skirmishes prior to, and after the occupancy of City of Mexico, Mo., where, on the 19th, the printers in A. B. and C. companies of the Eighth Missouri, issued the first Union half-sheet newspaper printed in the Confederacy, and named it ‘The Star Spangled Banner.’”

The printing equipment had belonged to a Mexico resident named Robert Verdier. The paper’s editor was Chester H. Childs, who, according to the 1860 U.S. Census, was a bookkeeper in St. Louis before the war.

Star Spangled Banner Newspaper

Shown is the top portion of the first edition of The Star Spangled Banner, a Civil War paper produced in Mexico, Mo., by the members of the Missouri Eighth Infantry on July 19, 1861. William H. Bates of Pekin was one of the soldiers who helped print this paper. The only known surviving copy of the paper is preserved at the Mexico Audrain County Library. IMAGE PROVIDED BY GABRIELA MOLINA OF MISSOURI’S CIVIL WAR HERITAGE FOUNDATION

Despite the conditions under which this newspaper was produced – under the stresses and strains of war, using poorer quality and less durable paper – an original copy of The Star Spangled Banner has survived the 155 years since it was printed. It was donated several years ago to the Audrain County Historical Society in Mexico and is preserved in the archives of the Mexico Audrain County Library. It’s the only copy known still to exist.

With the permission of the Mexico Audrain County Library and the assistance of the Missouri’s Civil War Heritage Foundation, the Pekin Public Library has been supplied with a color photocopy of the top half of this historic newspaper which Bates helped to print, along with reproductions of the proofs of the historical panels to be dedicated this Tuesday.

newspaper

Shown is a full page image of The Star Spangled Banner’s first issue, which is preserved in Mexico, Mo. IMAGE PROVIDED BY GABRIELA MOLINA

As a journalistic project of Union troops charged with securing Missouri for the United States in the face of strong Confederate sympathy, The Star Spangled Banner’s purpose was to promote the Union cause, to reassure Union sympathizers in Mexico that the American Zouaves would keep them safe, and to warn Confederate sympathizers that, as the newspaper proclaimed, “The time of temporizing with rebellion in this part of the State is past.”

After their activities in Mexico, the Eighth Missouri was sent to St. Louis and then down to Cape Girardeau, Mo., and Paducah, Ky. While in Cape Girardeau, Bates was transferred from Company C to Company H, known as the Peoria-Pekin, Illinois, Company, since its members had come from this area.

“Although most soldiers were recruited from St. Louis and its vicinities,” wrote Molina in a letter to the Pekin Public Library in February this year, “some of the first companies were from your part of Illinois. As you will read in the panels, The Eighth Missouri Volunteer Infantry made their way to Mexico where they appropriated printing equipment to publish the Star Spangled Banner. It is a coincidence that the other panel features Pete McCullough of McLean, Illinois, who was also part of the Eighth Missouri. As best we can tell, McCullough was not part of the group that went to Mexico in July 1861, but he moved to Mexico after the war.”

The informational panel tells how McCullough, who died in Mexico on Dec. 5, 1910, acquired the moniker of “the Hanging Judge of Andersonville.” As the panel relates, after the fall of Vicksburg, McCullough was captured by the Confederate Army in July 1863, and as a prisoner of war he ended up at Camp Sumter in Andersonville, Ga.

“As the Confederate prison became more and more overcrowded,” the panel says, “Union prisoners engaged in thievery and other depredations against fellow prisoners. Prison authorities allowed Union prisoners to establish a ‘court’ to enforce discipline, and Big Pete McCullough was elected judge. A number of men were tried for various offenses, but six of the prisoners were brought up on charges of murder. A jury was empaneled, and McCullough presided over a two day trial. The six were convicted of murder and hanged on July 11, 1864. Visitors to the Andersonville National Cemetery find among nearly 13,000 graves the stones of these six, conspicuously separated from those of other prisoners.”

Thanks to the dedication of historians and archivists in Missouri, we today can learn of some of the remarkable stories and personalities from these pivotal years of American history that highlight long-forgotten connections between the communities of Mexico, Mo., and Pekin, Ill.

#hanging-judge-of-andersonville, #mexico-missouri, #missouris-civil-war-heritage-foundation, #pekin-history, #star-spangled-banner, #w-h-bates, #william-h-bates, #zouaves

Westerman’s Rose Villa and the Herget Mansion

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Recently we highlighted the somewhat tense and at times colorful relationship that noted Pekin distiller Henry P. Westerman (1836-1922) had with the local press. As we previously recalled, at one point Pekin editor and printer (and the city’s first historian) William H. Bates “was threatened at his very domicile by H. P. Westerman, the old head of the Pekin whiskey ring,” as the Peoria Journal mentioned on Nov. 3, 1881.

Westerman was of course known for much more than evading the federal whiskey tax and threatening the lives of newspaper editors. In fact, he and his wife Mary were prominent and influential members of the community, as one might gather from Westerman’s extensive and laudatory biography which was included in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County,” page 38, among that publication’s lives of the “Old Settlers” of the county.

Another unmistakable sign of the Westermans’ exalted status in Pekin’s society was their impressive place of residence, a large Victorian-style mansion known as “Rose Villa.” Their mansion was located on Washington Street at the head of Buena Vista, at the street address today designated 420 Washington St.  A lithograph engraving of Rose Villa as well as an engraved portrait of H. P. Westerman himself may be found in the 1873 “Atlas Map.”

Later in life Westerman moved to California, where he died. The block on which Rose Villa stood was acquired by a member of another of Pekin’s prominent German families, Carl Herget, who replaced the old Westerman frame mansion with his own brick Classical Revival structure, known today as the Herget Mansion, now 103 years old and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. The blueprints and specifications for the new building were drawn up on July 15, 1912, by the architectural firm of Hewitt & Emerson, 321 Main St., Peoria.

It should be noted that Rob Clifton’s “Pekin History: Then and Now” (2004) has an incorrect statement regarding the relationship between Westerman’s Rose Villa and the Carl Herget Mansion. “Then and Now” says, “Around 1912 George Herget bought and then converted the house to its current appearance.” George, founder of Herget National Bank and donor of the land on which the Pekin Public Library was built, was Carl Herget’s uncle. The 1912 construction of the Herget Mansion was the erecting of a new structure from the ground up, not merely a major remodel of a previously existing structure.

RoseVilla

This engraving of Rose Villa, mansion of Henry P. Westerman, was published in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County.” The Carl Herget Mansion on Washington Street stands on the site today.

#carl-herget, #carl-herget-mansion, #george-herget, #h-p-westerman, #old-settlers, #pekin-history, #rose-villa, #w-h-bates, #william-h-bates

H. P. Westerman, whiskey and the Pekin press

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

The November 2015 issue of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society Monthly, page 1466, includes an excerpt and a reprint from two vintage newspapers that tell of Pekin alcohol distillery owner Henry P. Westerman (1836-1922). It’s not really the kind of news about one’s self that one likes to see in the newspaper.

The excerpt, headlined “H. P. Westerman in the Toils,” comes from the Delavan Times of Dec. 11, 1875. It reads as follows:

“The Pantagraph is responsible for the statement that a warrant was issued out of the United States District Court Saturday for the arrest of Henry P. Westerman, of the Pekin Alcohol Company. It is charged that there were frauds perpetrated by the Pekin Alcohol Manufacturing Company up to last January, when the name of the company was changed to the Pekin Alcohol Company. It is for refusing to produce the books of the old company showing the transactions during the time of the crooked work, that he is to be arrested. The penalty is from $500 to $5,000, and six months to ten years imprisonment.”

The significance of that piece of news is explained by a previous From the Local History Room column, “Pekin was encircled by the Whiskey Ring,” published in the April 7, 2012 Pekin Daily Times. The federal warrant issued for Westerman’s arrest was a part of U.S. Treasury Secretary Benjamin Bristow’s efforts to put a stop to a widespread conspiracy to evade the federal whiskey tax. The 1949 Pekin Centenary describes the Whiskey Ring’s activities in Pekin, which included “emptying the vast city cisterns built for fire protection here in Pekin, and filling them with highly inflammable bootleg whiskey instead of water.”

The Pekin Centenary continues, “Liquor was also cached in corn shocks, and kegs were sealed and sunk in the Illinois river, here and at Peoria and other locations.”

The Centenary’s account of the Whiskey Ring does not name any of the Pekin conspirators, but we know Westerman was involved, because, as the TCGHS Monthly’s reprint of an editorial column from the Nov. 3, 1881 Washington Republican informs us, Westerman was “the old head of the Pekin whiskey ring.”

This engraving of Henry P. Westerman was published in the 1873 "Atlas Map of Tazewell County"

This engraving of Henry P. Westerman was published in the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County”

Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County, Illinois,” page 1083, mentions that John L. Smith (who served as Pekin mayor in 1885 and 1886) sold his distillery to Westerman, which may be how Westerman first got into the distilling business. Westerman’s Pekin Daily Times obituary also mentions that he “was an early resident of this city and for many years was prominent in its affairs. He at one time conducted the old Crown distillery here and was actively engaged in business here for many years.”

Allensworth’s history, page 905, says Westerman was elected Fourth Ward alderman for Pekin in 1861, but he resigned the same year. He later moved to San Francisco, Calif., where he died, his body being brought back to Pekin and buried in Oak Grove Cemetery (now Lakeside Cemetery). As an aside, Oak Grove Cemetery began as Temperance Cemetery, founded by the Pekin Sons of Temperance, so the burial of an old Pekin distiller there makes for something of a humorous irony.

Charles C. Chapman’s 1879 “History of Tazewell County, Illinois,” page 611, includes this short biographical notice of Westerman:

“H. P. Westerman was born, Aug. 25, 1836, in St. Louis, Mo., and is the son of Conrad and Margaretha (Lang) Westerman. His father and his family came to Pekin in 1846, and old Father Westerman died here in 1873. H. P. attended the common schools of Pekin, and then entered Bell’s Commercial College, from where he graduated. In 1848 he embarked in the dry goods business as clerk, and from that time his active business career began. He was united in marriage with Mary L. Gregg, Oct. 13, 1856. Three children were born to them, two of whom are living.”

In fact, Westerman is known to have had four children: a son, Don Heaton Westerman, who died when only 9 months old in August 1866, and three daughters, May Leslie Westerman, who died at age 9 also in August 1866, Alice Breimar Westerman Chain, and Susan Leslie Westerman Brown.

Though Chapman devoted only a single paragraph to Westerman himself, Chapman continued with two pages of a biography – more of a panegyric, perhaps – of Westerman’s wife Mary, who served locally in the Soldiers Aid Society during the Civil War for four years, two as president and two as secretary. Chapman tells of dissension in the Society over how best to spend their donations, which led some local newspapers to denounce Mary Westerman unjustly, accusing her of “striking hands with the Copperheads.” (She was a Democrat, and many Democrats in Pekin during the Civil War were Copperheads, that is, they had Confederate sympathies.)

Besides Chapman’s information, the 1873 “Atlas Map of Tazewell County,” page 38, features a lengthy biography of H. P. Westerman and his wife Mary, while engravings of their mansion and of Henry’s distillery are found on pages 8-9.  Mary Westerman is also important to the history of the Pekin Public Library due to her prominent role in the founding and promotion of the Ladies Library Association, forerunner to the public library.

This detail of an 1881 newspaper column in the Washington Republican tells of an altercation between a Pekin alcohol distiller and a prominent Pekin newspaper publisher and printer. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

This detail of an 1881 newspaper column in the Washington Republican tells of an altercation between a Pekin alcohol distiller and a prominent Pekin newspaper publisher and printer. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Given the number of newspaper articles over the years that showed Henry Westerman in a negative light, it’s perhaps understandable that he wouldn’t be on the friendliest of terms with the local press. It’s in that context that the first paragraph of the Washington Republican’s above quoted editorial column of Nov. 3, 1881, may be understood. The Republican editor’s column reprinted a couple items from a recent issue of the Peoria Journal, in which the Journal (and the Washington Republican) enjoyed some jokes at the expense of their Pekin newspaper rivals:

“J. B. Bates, of the Republican, who was threatened at his very domicile by H. P. Westerman, the old head of the Pekin whiskey ring, evidently wished the people to know that he carried no concealed weapons, as he marched from and to his home with the immense Missouri bush-whacker’s rifle over his shoulder. Armed with such a murderous-looking weapon, we are rejoiced to know that he will hereafter walk in the paths of peace.”

The Journal mixed up the initials of the editor of the Tazewell Republican – he was W. H. Bates, while J. B. Irwin was then editor of the Pekin Daily Times. In any case, the Washington Republican’s editorial writer remarked, “Nor is Bates the only Pekin editor who is fearful of being blown into kingdom come. Hoffman, also, sees danger ahead and while he has no fears of the hereafter he don’t propose to take passage across the rolling Jordan until he gets a good ready, and woe be unto him who tackles the Dutchman. See what the same [Peoria Journal] writer says of Jack:

“Jack Hoffman of the Freie Presse, with blood in his eye, and his ears flopping, marched boldly down Court street with a shot gun over his shoulder a la Bates. All the editors here appear to be on the war path. Peace! peace, brethern (sic), let not your angry passions rise, for we think too much of you all, to have even one of you pass out of the world in a hurry, besides you would be missing heaps of fun up here on earth.”

The Washington Republican’s editorial writer then added, using colorful language that would likely result in a libel suit today, “Bates and Hoffman are not alone in this, for Irwin has been in hot water ever since he went to Pekin, and has had more trouble with his neighbors than all the others put together. He fears neither God, hell nor the devil, and, in fact, the nearer he gets to the latter the more he feels at home. The old man will reach for him though some of these days, and then heaven pity the unfortunate imps who must endure his company throughout eternity.

#copperheads, #h-p-westerman, #j-b-irwin, #pekin-history, #w-h-bates, #whiskey-ring, #william-h-bates