William Holland and the founding of Washington

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

William Holland and the founding of Washington

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tribal customs of the Central Illinois Pottawatomi

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

Tribal customs of the Central Illinois Pottawatomi

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illinois makes it to 10: the state’s first incorporated cities

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Following up on our recent accounts of how Pekin became an incorporated town in 1837 and an incorporated city in 1849, this week we’ll scan a wider vista as we study the incorporated municipalities of Illinois.

The city of Pekin is just one of 1,299 Illinois incorporated municipalities, of which there are three kinds: villages, towns, and cities. Given the usual definitions of those terms, one might assume that the kind of municipality depends on population and geographical size – villages being little, towns being mid-sized, cities being largest. But size has almost nothing to do with it.

For example, Melrose Park near Chicago is a village, but has a population of about 25,000, while the southern Illinois municipality of Nason in Jefferson County is a city, but has only 236 residents, making it the smallest city in Illinois. Meanwhile, both Topeka in Mason County, population 71, and Normal in McLean County, population 54,264, are towns. The largest town in Illinois is Cicero, population 82,992, and the smallest town is Bentley in Hancock County, population 34.

The kind of municipality isn’t a matter of size. Rather, they are three forms of municipal government. The main difference is that villages and towns are governed by boards of trustees, while cities are governed by mayors and city councils. The city form of government may be aldermanic, commission, or mayor/managerial.

Remarkably, there are only three counties in Illinois that have no cities: Calhoun County, which has only five villages, all incorporated in the 1880s and 1890s; Henderson County, which has only eight villages; and Putnam County, which has only six villages.

But Tazewell County has five cities: Pekin, incorporated Aug. 21, 1849; Washington, first incorporated Feb. 10, 1857; East Peoria (formerly called Hilton), first incorporated July 1, 1884; Delavan, first incorporated April 17, 1888, and the youngest of our county’s cities, Marquette Heights, incorporated June 27, 1956.

As noted previously, the 1870 Illinois constitution eliminated the option of “town” as a possible choice when a settlement opts for incorporation, so afterwards there could be no new towns. Many Illinois municipalities started out as villages or towns, later adopting a city form of government, but many have remained villages and a few – only 19 – have decided to stick with their original town charters. Most municipalities (including Pekin) re-incorporated under the 1872 general law of incorporation.

Under current incorporation law, a locale must have at least 200 people to incorporate as a village and at least 2,500 to incorporate as a city. Even if the population later shrinks, the municipality need not give up its form of government, but the choice to unincorporate is sometimes made when a municipality declines.

Most of our municipalities were established after Illinois became a state in 1818, but a few settlements were incorporated when Illinois was a territory – and Illinois’ earliest incorporated settlement was Kaskaskia, the former territorial capital and first state capital, which received its original town charter from King Louis XV of France in 1725 during the colonial period.

Almost a year before Illinois statehood, Kaskaskia was incorporated as a town on Jan. 6, 1818. The following year the state capital was moved to Vandalia, and poor abandoned Kaskaskia eventually was almost completely destroyed by a flood in April 1881, when the Mississippi River changed its course. The 2000 federal census showed only nine people left in the bayou that is all that remains of the first state capital.

Another Illinois city, Golconda in Pope County, was already around by 1816 when Pope County was established. Originally called Sarahsville, the residents opted for the name “Golconda” on Jan. 24, 1817, and they received a town charter on March 1, 1845, becoming a city some time later. Thus, one must not interpret the date of incorporation as the same as the date of founding, because usually a community or settlement existed for several years, even a long time, before finally incorporating.

Of those municipalities that later became cities, Pekin was the 17th municipality to be incorporated since Illinois became a territory — but the earliest one of them to become an incorporated municipality was Shawneetown in Gallatin County, which became a village on Dec. 8, 1814, a town on Feb. 27, 1847, and a city on Feb. 22, 1861.

Old Pekin historical publications say Pekin was the 10th incorporated city in Illinois, a claim that can be confirmed by consulting Illinois state records and old published county histories.

The very first incorporated city in Illinois was Cairo in Alexander County, which was granted a city charter on Jan. 9, 1818. In those days, however, Cairo was really only a city on paper. The site was chosen for a city because, as the charter states, the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers was thought an economically auspicious location. In those days, there seemed little grounds to hope for prosperity in a city on the shores of Lake Michigan (the railroad was still a new invention, and the St. Lawrence Seaway was yet future), and Illinois depended on the Mississippi for the movement of people and goods. Nevertheless, no one would be interested in living in the planned and platted city of Cairo for many more years to come. A new settlement at the site was founded in the 1830s, and so Cairo was given a second city charter on March 4, 1837.

Shown is a detail from an 1819 Illinois state law that lists several pre-statehood laws that had been passed by the Illinois Territorial Legislature. One of them, approved Jan. 9, 1818, was “an act to incorporate the city and bank of Cairo” — thus making Cairo at the southern tip of Illinois, then only a proposed city, the first incorporated city in Illinois.

If not for Cairo’s 1818 charter, the honor of being Illinois’ first incorporated city would go to (where else?) Chicago, which became a city on March 4, 1837, the same date as Cairo’s second charter. Chicago was originally incorporated as a town on Aug. 12, 1833. Coming in close behind Chicago as Illinois’ third city is Alton in Madison County, which incorporated as a city on July 31, 1837 (but became a town before Chicago did, on Jan. 30, 1821).

The fourth and fifth cities of Illinois were Quincy and Springfield, but were incorporated by the Illinois General Assembly on the same day, Feb. 3, 1840. Springfield, which incorporated as a town on April 2, 1832, had recently been designated as Illinois’ third state capital. It officially received its city charter on April 6, 1840.

Illinois’ sixth incorporated city was Nauvoo in Hancock County, which served as the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) until the Mormon War. Nauvoo became a city on Feb. 1, 1841.

Next in order came Galena in Jo Daviess County, the home of President Ulysses S. Grant, which was incorporated as a town on Jan. 7, 1835. The path that Galena was forced to take to acquire its first city charter was marred by political tumult and controversy involving a runaway town board. The General Assembly approved a city charter for Galena on Feb. 15, 1839, stipulating that the Galena town board had to place the proposed charter before their residents for a vote. The board members, however, usurped the role of the State Supreme Court and claimed some of the charter’s provisions were unconstitutional. Flouting state law, the board passed a resolution declaring that they would never obey the law requiring them to hold a town referendum on the charter. Legal action immediately ensued, leading to the state’s high court issuing a writ of mandamus (Latin, “we command”) on Nov. 16, 1840, ordering the Galena board to let their constituents vote on the charter. The board again rebelled. The scandal finally was ended by the exasperated people of Galena themselves, who voted out the old board on April 5, 1841. The new board members immediately agreed to hold the vote on the charter, which was approved by a vote of 196-34 on April 26, 1841. So Galena finally became a city. (The full account of Galena’s tortuous path to cityhood may be read in H.F. Kett’s 1878 History of Jo Daviess County.)

After the fireworks of Galena’s city charter battle, Peoria much more quietly became the eighth incorporated city in Illinois on April 21, 1845. Almost four years elapsed until Illinois got its ninth city: Rock Island, incorporated on Feb. 12, 1849. Six months later, in August of 1849, Pekin voted to adopt a city charter, making Pekin the 10th incorporated city in Illinois.

#alton, #bentley, #cairo, #chicago, #cicero, #delavan, #east-peoria, #golconda, #hilton, #illinois-bicentennial, #illinois-municipalities, #illinois-first-10-incorporated-cities, #illinois-three-city-less-counties, #kaskaskia, #marquette-heights, #mormon-war, #nason, #nauvoo, #normal, #pekin-becomes-a-city, #peoria, #quincy, #rock-island, #shawneetown, #springfield, #topeka, #vandalia, #washington