Tazewell County Courthouse in Pekin
|Motto: "Community' Opportunity' Home"|
|County||Tazewell; Peoria (small portion)|
|Elevation||481 ft (147 m)|
|Area||15.14 sq mi (39 km2)|
|- land||14.56 sq mi (38 km2)|
|- water||0.58 sq mi (2 km2)|
|Density||2,574.8 / sq mi (994 / km2)|
|- summer (DST)||CDT (UTC-5)|
61555 (P.O. Boxes only)
|Wikimedia Commons: Pekin, Illinois|
The city of Pekin // is the county seat of Tazewell County in the U.S. state of Illinois. Located on the Illinois River, Pekin is the largest city of Tazewell County and part of the Peoria metropolitan area. As of the 2010 census, its population is 34,094. A small portion of the city limits extend into Peoria County. Pekin is the 13th-most populous city in Illinois outside of the Chicago Metropolitan Area.
Pekin's Mineral Springs Park is located near Pekin Hospital and the Miller Senior Center. The city is also home to a high-rise residential facility of the United Auto Workers; the home of the Pekin Federal Correctional Institution; and the headquarters of a regional insurance company, Pekin Insurance.
In Illinois as elsewhere, indigenous peoples lived along rivers for transportation, water, and fishing. At the time of the European incursion, the several historical tribes in the area were of the Anishinaabe-language family, within the larger Algonquian-speaking tribes.
In January 1680, Robert de LaSalle and 33 fellow explorers landed their canoes on the eastern bank of the Illinois River. They built a winter refuge in what is now the southeast quarter of section 1 of Pekin Township. They also encountered historical Kickapoo peoples to the east as far as the Wabash River near the present Illinois-Indiana border.
Pekin and the Pekin area has a rich Native American heritage. South of Pekin on the Mackinaw River was the site of Chief Lebourse Sulky's Village in 1812. This was how it looked to a European American of the time:
At Little Makina, a river on the south side of Illinois, five leagues below Peoria, is a band, consisting of Kickapoos, Chippeways, Ottaways and Pottowottamies. They are called warriors, and their head man is Lebourse of Sulky. Their number is sixty men, all desperate fellows and great plunderers.
Sulky oversaw a village with a mixed population of the Anishinaabe-speaking Pottawatomi, Kickapoo and Ojibwa people. He fought alongside Tecumseh in the War of 1812, as did most of the chiefs of the Illinois Valley area. Later, this area was the site of Chief Shabbona's Pottawatomi village in the period prior to and during the Black Hawk War of 1832. Like Sulky, Shabbona had joined with Tecumseh during the War of 1812 and was with him when he fell at the Battle of Tippecanoe. After the war, Shabbona made peace with the U.S. government and protected white settlers in the Pekin area during the Black Hawk War. (History of Tazewell County (1879), Charles C. Chapman, pp. 195–196, 254–265)
Farmer Elijah Wolfe was the first non-Indian resident, building a log cabin in 1824 near the site where Franklin School would later be erected. For several years after the arrival of European-American settlers, Chief Shabbona's large Indian village of about 100 wigwams, populated primarily by Pottawatomi, was situated along Gravel Ridge, on the eastern shore of what is today Pekin Lake in northwest Pekin. Tharp's log cabin was south of Shabbona's village. Following the Black Hawk War, the State of Illinois re-negotiated treaties with the Native American tribes in the state in order to clear the state of all Indians, so the Pottawatomi village was relocated about a mile north to Worley Lake for a short time, until the inhabitants were deported to a reservation near Topeka, Kansas. Shabbona later moved north to Seneca near the Illinois River, where he died in 1859 on land that the citizens of Ottawa had given him.
After a county surveyor laid out a "town site" in 1829, an auction of the town plat and site was held in Springfield, Illinois. The village site was awarded to Major Isaac Perkins, Gideon Hawley, William Haines and Major Nathan Cromwell. Mrs. Ann Eliza Cromwell selected the name of the city, naming it after Beijing, China, then spelled "Peking" or "Pekin". Cromwell also named many of the city streets after the wives and daughters of early Pekin settlers, and it is an old belief, first expressed in W.H. Bates' history of Pekin included in the 1870 Pekin City Directory, that Cromwell was assisted by his wife Ann Eliza Cromwell in the naming of the streets.
Pekin is known as the site where Lincoln and other ambitious politicians struck a deal in the 1840s. Lincoln was among several local Whig politicians who wanted to serve in the U.S. Congress. To keep from splitting the Whig vote, the competitors agreed to support each other for one term each in Congress. The pact is called the Pekin Agreement in Lincoln biographies. Lincoln ran and was elected to the 30th United States Congress in 1846, and retired at the end of the term. This single term in Congress was Lincoln's only experience in Washington before being elected President.
Although Illinois was a "free" state, pro-slavery sentiment was predominant throughout southern and central Illinois, including the neighboring cities of Peoria and Pekin (see Charles L. Dancey's "Pekin, KKK, blacks: It goes back to Copperheads, Union League," Peoria Journal Star, April 13, 1989). According to the 1949 Pekin "Centenary," p. 15, "Pekin was a pro-slave city for years. Some of the original settlers had been slave-owners themselves, and the overwhelming sentiment in Pekin was Democratic. Stephen A. Douglas, not Abraham Lincoln, was the local hero, although Lincoln was well-liked, and had some German following." However, chiefly due to an influx of German immigrants, abolitionist sentiment began to flourish in Pekin. Among Pekin's abolitionist leaders was Dr. Daniel Cheever, whose home at the corner of Capitol and Court streets was a depot on the Underground Railroad. Other Pekin abolitionists were the brothers Samuel and Hugh Woodrow (Catherine Street in Pekin is named for Samuel's wife, and Amanda Street is named for Hugh's wife).
During the Civil War, the inhabitants of Pekin were divided between the pro-slavery element, who favored the Confederacy, and the abolitionist and pro-Union element. Early in the war, the secessionist "Knights of the Golden Circle" openly supported secession and slavery in Pekin. The 1949 Pekin Centenary, p. 15, says the Knights were "aggressive and unprincipled," and "those who believed in the Union spoke often in whispers in Pekin streets and were wary and often afraid." As a response to the Knights' influence, Dr. Cheever and 10 other men gathered at 331 Court Street in Pekin on 25 June 1862 to establish the first council of the Union League of America, to promote patriotism and loyalty to the Union in the Civil War and the abolition of slavery. Its members hoped to counter Northern disillusionment with President Lincoln's military policies after early Union defeats in the American Civil War. Although closely allied with the Republican Party, the League sought to enroll all Union supporters, regardless of party. The anti-slavery Germans of Pekin took an active role in the Union League in their city.
By December 1863, the Union League claimed 140,000 members in Illinois and almost one million nationwide. The Union League movement focused on providing medical supplies to the Army, training nurses, and advocating equality for slaves. As the War gradually turned in favor of the North, the Union Leagues shifted to political endorsements, favoring Republicans who advocated full equality and voting rights for African Americans. The Union League played a prominent role in supporting Lincoln in his closely contested re-election in 1864. By the end of the Civil War, membership in the Union League of America grew to two million. Most of the clubs continue today, often in prominent civil roles. For example, the Union League Club of Chicago has been credited with founding many of the city's major cultural organizations and venues, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Orchestra Hall, the Auditorium Theater, and the Field Museum.
By the early 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan became an influence in Pekin. It was during this period that leading Klansmen assumed ownership of the city newspaper, the Pekin Daily Times, using it as an organ of Klan propaganda. They sold off the paper within a few years, but the city's identity and reputation as a Sundown Town lingered, despite participation of Pekin church pastors in the civil rights marches of the 1960s and the role of Pekin U.S. Senator Everett Dirksen in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Pekin Marigold Festival
The Marigold Festival was started in 1973 to honor one of Pekin's "favorite sons", Senator Everett Dirksen. While in the United States Congress, Dirksen tried to have the marigold named as the national floral emblem. In support of Dirksen, the community began growing marigolds. While unsuccessful in the national flower contest, Dirksen's hometown of Pekin became known as the "Marigold Capital of the World".
The Marigold Festival is an annual celebration held the first weekend after Labor Day in September. Its activities include the annual Marigold Parade, the crowning of Miss Marigold, live music, and an arts and crafts fair that attracts exhibitors from five surrounding states.
The Pekin Area Chamber of Commerce annually appoints a festival committee, yet most of the work is done by more than 1,000 volunteers. They present the events and concessions to the public. Many organizations use the financial proceeds from their events and concessions to support their charitable not-for-profit organization.
In the early years of the festival, volunteers and residents planted more than two million marigolds throughout the city, creating displays to be judged by the garden club. Today the goal of the festival is to encourage community pride, displayed through marigold plantings and additional events such as a Medallion Hunt, 5 kilometer run/walk, Carnival, Art in the Park, Friday Night Family Fest, and live music. These events bring the people of Pekin together and highlight area businesses.
Food concessions at the Marigold Festival are run by non-profit organizations. Most of the Festive Food booths are located in Mineral Springs Park. Many groups use this as a major fundraising event. They include local churches and Boy Scout Troops, Kiwanis Club of Pekin, Pekin Community High School JROTC Boosters, Pekin Community High School show choir "Noteables", local firefighters, Pekin Lions Club, the Salvation Army, and United Way of Pekin. Over the years the Marigold Festival has grown to attract more than 100,000 people annually.
Government and infrastructure
Pekin is the county seat of Tazewell County, Illinois. Originally under an aldermanic form of government, the city switched to the commission form in 1911 (see Pekin Sesquicentennial 1824–1974, A History, p. 162), but currently has a city manager form of government. (See Pekin
Pekin Community High School District 303 includes Pekin and some nearby areas. The district's high school is Pekin Community High School.
The school teams were known as the Pekin Chinks from the 1930s until 1980 when the school administration changed the nickname to the Dragons. The team mascots were a male and female student dressed as Chinese persons wearing stereotypical Chinese attire. The mascots would strike a gong whenever the team scored. An earlier attempt was made by a visit of Chinese American groups to change the name from Chinks during the 1974–1975 school year; this was voted down by the student body. The event received national attention.
In the 1960s the campus was split into two buildings, with the freshman and sophomores at one campus (West Campus) and the juniors and seniors at another (East Campus). East Campus was expanded in 1997–1998, after which date West Campus closed and all four classes were reunited at the newer campus. Demolition on the west campus began in 2012 and was finished in 2014.
According to the 2010 census, the city has a total area of 15.14 square miles (39.2 km2), of which 14.56 square miles (37.7 km2) (or 96.17%) is land and 0.58 square miles (1.5 km2) (or 3.83%) is water.
Nearby towns include North Pekin, Marquette Heights, Creve Coeur, Groveland, Tremont, Morton, Washington, Lincoln, East Peoria, Peoria, Bartonville, Mapleton, Manito, Delavan, Dillon, Green Valley, Hopedale, and South Pekin.
As of the census of 2010, there were 34,094 people, 13,820 households, and 8,721 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,574.8 people per square mile (994.1/km²). There were 14,714 housing units. The racial makeup of the city was 96% White, 2.6% African American, 0.1% Native American or Pacific Islander, 0.9% Asian, 0.9% from other races, and 1.1% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.4% of the population.
There were 13,380 households out of which 27% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.1% were married couples living together, 13.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.9% were non-families. 31.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.32 and the average family size was 2.88.
In the city the population was spread out with 21.9% under the age of 18 and 16% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38.9 years. For every 100 females there were 96.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 104.7 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $41,913, and the median income for a family was $57,145. Males had a median income of $43,485 versus $30,881 for females. The per capita income for the city was $24,177. About 10.1% of families and 12.3% of the population were living below the poverty line, including 19.4% of those under age 18 and 4.3% of those age 65 or over.
Mayors of the City of Pekin
Aldermanic government, one-year mayoral terms
Bernard Bailey (resigned at city council's request) 1849-50; Abram Woolston (special election) 1850-51; James Harriott 1851-52; Middleton Tackaberry 1853; Merrill C. Young 1854-55; Leonard H. Wilkey 1856; Middleton Tackaberry 1857; Peter Weyrich 1858-59; Isaac E. Leonard 1860-61; Benjamin S. Prettyman 1862; Samuel E. Barber 1863; Thomas C. Reeves 1864; William W. Sellers 1865-66 resigned 1866, to state legislature); J. Cohenour 1867 (resigned 14 Jan. 1867, to state legislature); Columbus J.D. Rupert (appointed) 1867-68; William T. Edds 1869; David T. Thompson 1870-71; John Stoltz 1872; John Herget 1873-74
Aldermanic government, two-year mayoral terms
Columbus R. Cummings 1875-76; Abial B. Sawyer 1877-78; Herman W. Hippen 1879-80; Thomas Cooper, 1881–82, 1883–84; John L. Smith 1885-86; Albert R. Warren 1887-88; Ernest F. Unland 1889-90; Thomas Cooper, 1891–92; Everett W. Wilson 1893-94; Charles Duisdieker 1895-96; Daniel Sapp 1897–98; Everett W. Wilson 1899–1900; William J. Conzelman 1901-02, 1903–04; Daniel Sapp 1905–07; Henry Schnellbacher 1907-09; William J. Conzelman 1909-11
Commission government, four-year mayoral terms
Charles Duisdieker 1911-15; Charles Schaefer 1915-19; William Schurman 1919-23; Benjamin F. Michael 1923–1927; L.B. Kinsey 1927–1931; Benjamin F. Michael 1931 (died in office Nov. 1931); R.L. Russell (appointed) 1931-35; W.E. Schurman 1935-39; John Norman Shade (resigned April 1954) 1939–1954; John J. McGinty (appointed) 1954-55; Norman E. Wolfer 1955-59; John Norman Shade (resigned Oct. 1966) 1959-66; William L. Waldmeier 1966-1979 (appointed 1966, elected 1967); Willard E. Birkmeier 1979-87; Larry Homerin 1987-1991; Don Williams 1991-1995
City manager government, four-year mayoral terms
David Tebben 1995–2003; Lyndell Howard (removed from office upon felony official misconduct conviction) 2003–2005; Frank Mackaman (appointed) 2005–2007; David Tebben (died in office 12 Dec. 2008) 2007–2008; Rusty Dunn (appointed) 2008–2011; Laurie Barra 2011-
(See The Bates Historical Map of Pekin (1923), William H. Bates, for mayoral list from Bailey to Michael; see Pekin Sesquicentennial 1824–1974, A History, p. 162, for mayoral list from Bailey to Waldmeier)
- Scott D. Altman (1959–), astronaut
- Sol Bloom (1870–1949), US Congressman (D-NY), music publisher, and entertainment impresario
- Mark Staff Brandl (1955–), artist
- Erik Brann (1950–2003), guitarist with Iron Butterfly
- Hank Bruder (1907–1970), player for the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers
- Wyllis Cooper (1899–1955), writer for radio
- Susan Dey (1952–), actress
- Head East, 1970s rock band, most notable song "Never Been Any Reason"
- Everett McKinley Dirksen (1896–1969), congressman and senator
- Ethyl Eichelberger (1945–1990), noted figure in experimental theater
- Th. Emil Homerin (1955–), scholar of religion and mysticism
- The Jets, 1970s rock band (not the 1980s pop band)
- John Johnson (1869–1941), 19th century Major League Baseball player
- Charles "Buffalo" Jones, frontiersman born in Tazewell County; co-founded Garden City, Kansas
- Larry Kenney (1947–), voice actor and radio host
- Seth Kinman (1815–1888), mountain man and Presidential chair maker
- John T. McNaughton (1921–1967), Harvard Law School professor and Vietnam War planner
- D. A. Points (1976–), PGA Tour golfer
- Jerald D. Slack, U.S. Air National Guard Major General, Adjutant General of Wisconsin
- Jack Stephens, guard and forward with the St. Louis Hawks
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