Peoria County, Illinois  Genealogy Trails



Early Peoria Village and City Government



On July 11 1835, the first Board of Trustees of the Village of Peoria were elected. They were Dr. Rudolphus Rouse, Chester Hamlin, R. P. Burlingame, Charles W. McClallen and Isaac Evans, but Evans refusing to serve Cyrus Leland was appointed in his place. Dr. Rouse was chosen President; Cyrus Leland, Clerk; "R. P. Burlingame, Treasurer, and one Jesse Miles, Supervisor and Collector. They held their first meeting on July 18, 1835.

On July 18, 1836, Henry W. Cleveland, George B. Parker, Chester Hamlin, Thomas Phillips and Jacob D. Shewalter were elected Trustees, George B. Parker was. chosen President and J. L. Marsh, Clerk. On February 18, 1837, George C. Bestor took his seat as one of the Trustees, but how or in whose stead he became entitled to the place does not appear. On the same date John H. Lisk was appointed first Town Constable. On March 8th, Elihu N. Powell was appointed Clerk.

On July 31, 1837, James C. Armstrong, John C. Caldwell, Thomas J. Hurd, Samuel H. McCrory, William Frisby, S. S. Veacock, Rudolphus Rouse, Augustus O. Garrett and Cyrus Leland were elected Trustees; Rudolphus Rouse was chosen President; Martin L. Tucker, Clerk; J. C. Armstrong, Treasurer, and Jesse Miles, Street Commissioner, Assessor and Collector. During the year, Charles W. McClallen became a member of the Board of Trustees to fill a vacancy. On January 31, 1838, William C. Terry was chosen Clerk; Lewis Howell, Assessor, and Edward F. Nowland, Collector, Street Commissioner and Town Constable.

On July 30, 1838, Rudolphus Rouse, George B. Parker, James C. Armstrong, Alfred G. Curtenius, J. McClay Smith, James H. Work, Norman H. Purple, Augustus 0. Garrett and Cyrus Leland were elected Trustees; Dr. Rouse was chosen President; J. C. Fuller, Treasurer; Russell Blakeley, Street Commissioner and Town Constable, and John McClay Smith, Clerk. On April 30, 1839, Moses Pettengill was chosen Trustee instead of Cyrus Leland, resigned.

On November 25, 1839, Rudolphus Rouse, George B. Parker, Augustus 0. Garrett, Moses Pettengill, A. Meyer, James Mossman, George C. Bestor, George T. Metcalfe and J. McClay Smith were elected Trustees; Rudolphus Rouse was chosen President; J. McClay Smith, Clerk and Treasurer; George B. Parker, Street Commissioner, and Lewis Howell, Assessor. Daniel Brestle was subsequently chosen Trustee to fill a vacancy.

On November 30, 1840, Rudolphus Rouse, Amos P. Bartlett, James Taylor, Daniel Brestle, Charles W. McClallen, Benjamin White, Isaac Underhill, George W. Reed and George T. Metcalfe were elected Trustees; Rudolphus Rouse was chosen President; Amos P. Bartlett, Clerk; John McClay Smith, Treasurer; George B. Parker, Street Commissioner; Jacob Silzell, Constable, and J. Grabeill, Superintendent of the burying ground. During this year William M. Dodge was chosen Trustee in place of James Taylor (resigned), H. B. Stillman, Street Commissioner in place of George B. Parker (resigned), and Henry Hahn to the same position in place of H. B. Stillman (resigned).

On November 29, 1841, Rudolphus Rouse, Isaac Evans, Isaac Underhill, Aquila Wren, Peter Sweat, Chester Hamlin, John C. Heyl, Jacob Gale, and Amos P. Bartlett were elected Trustees; Peter Sweat was chosen President; Amos P. Bartlett, Clerk; Jacob Gale, Treasurer; George B. Parker, Police Justice; A. Wren, Assessor; Edward F. Nowland, Street Commissioner, and George Divelbiss, Constable. During the year the following changes took place in the. Board: N. H. Purple took the place of Jacob Gale, W. B. Farrell that of N. H. Purple, A. O. Garrett that of Isaac Evans, Lewis Howell that of A. Wren and John Hamlin that of Chester Hamlin, while George B. Parker became Assessor in place of A. Wren.

On November 28, 1842, George T. Metcalfe, H. B. Stillman, J. W. Caldwell, G. W. Reed, William E. Mason, Lewis Howell, L. O. Hulburt, Daniel Brestle and Amos P. Bartlett were elected Trustees; L. Howell was chosen President; A. P. Bartlett, Clerk; Jacob Guyer, Treasurer; Thomas Bryant, Police Justice; Charles Kettelle, Assessor; Henry Hahn, Street Comsioner and Town Constable. During the year John Hamlin was chosen Trustee in place of G. T. Metcalfe (resigned) ; A. A. Benjamin, Street Commissioner and Town Constable in place of Henry Hahn (resigned), and William M. Dodge, Clerk in place of A. P. Bartlett (resigned).

On November 27, 1843, Henry B. Stillman, William M. Dodge, William E. Mason, George W. Reed, John King, E. N. Powell, Lewis Howell, L. O. Hulburt and Charles T. Steams were elected Trustees; John King; was chosen President; Lewis Howell, Clerk and Treasurer; George C. Bestor, Assessor; Thomas Bryant, Police Justice, and S. DeWitt Drown, Street Commissioner, Town Surveyor and Town Constable.

In December, 1844, the last Board of Trustees was elected. Its members were Halsey O. Merriman, William M. Dodge, Charles T. Steams, Charles Cox, George W. Reed, Samuel B. King, John Rankin, Benjamin White and Philip J. Mosher. Halsey O. Merriman was elected President; Charles T. Steams, Clerk, and Lewis Howell, Treasurer.

The citizens having voted in favor of the adoption of the City Charter, the Board of Trustees held their last meeting on April 29, 1845, at which time they closed up the business, ordered the expenses of the election paid and adjourned to no definite time.

During the period in which Peoria was governed by a Board of Trustees two important questions of jurisdiction arose between that Board and the County Commissioners' Court. It has already been noted that, when the latter body laid out the town plat, all the ground between Water Street and the river was reserved from sale until the village should become incorporated. It was claimed by the Board of Trustees that, when incorporated, not only that ground but the streets, and even the Court House Square, had become the property of the Village. This claim having been asserted, the County Commissioners requested the Board of Trustees to execute to the County a deed of conveyance for the public square. This was at first refused unless the county would yield up all right to the license fees for ferries, dram-shops and the like, as well as all fines imposed for violations of law within the village. The controversy grew very spirited and it does not appear just how it was settled, but sometime thereafter the Trustees did cause a deed to be made to the county for the public square.

The Legislature of 1844-5, passed an act entitled, "An Act to Incorporate the City of Peoria," one of the provisions thereof being that the charter should be submitted to a vote of the people and, if a majority should vote for it, the same should immediately take effect as a law, but, if a majority should be against it, the same should Devoid. In. pursuance of the provisions of this act an election was held at the Court House on April 21, 1845, to decide whether or not the charter should be adopted, at which election the vote stood 162 in favor to 35 against it. An election was held on Monday the 28th of April, for one Mayor and eight Aldermen, at which time William Hale was elected Mayor and Jesse L. Knowlton, Peter Sweat, Charles Kettelle, Clark Cleveland, Chester Hamlin, John Hamlin and Hervey Lightner were elected Aldermen. Jacob Gale and Amos P. Bartlett having each received 168 votes (and being the next highest), there was no choice as to the eighth man. On May 5th, 1845, William Hale was sworn in as Mayor, as were all the Aldermen elected. The. first ordinance adopted was one providing that, in case of a tie-vote for alderman, the lot should be cast by the Mayor. No sooner had the ordinance been adopted than the lot was cast by the Mayor and it having turned out in favor of Mr. Bartlett, he was
declared duly elected and sworn into office. At the same time, Jesse L. Knowlton was elected City Clerk, and thus was inaugurated the. City Government of the City of Peoria.

By several acts of the Legislature thereafter passed, the charter was, from time to time, changed, the boundaries extended and the jurisdiction of the City enlarged. These amendments were, however, all swept away by a general revision of the charter in the year 1869, which was soon followed by a revision of the entire body of ordinances.

The most important change, however, took place in the year 1892, when a vote was taken in pursuance of law upon the question of adopting the provisions of the Revised Statutes relating to the government of cities and villages. Since that time the City of Peoria has been governed by this general law.

The original charter provided that an election for a Mayor and eight Aldermen should be held on the last Monday in April, 1845, the Mayor to hold his office for one year and the Aldermen for two years, but that the terms of the Mayor and one-half of the Aldermen should expire at the next regular election, and thereafter only four Aldermen should be elected each year. The annual elections were to take place on the last Monday in November. The first Mayor and four Aldermen therefore held their respective offices for only seven months.

By an amendment of the charter, passed February 20, 1861 the time for the annual elections was changed to the second Tuesday in March, the first election to take place on the second Tuesday in March, 1862, and the terms of the offices to begin on the third Tuesday of the same month, the incumbents to hold their offices until that time.

There was only one election held under the charter as amended, for, on February 12, 1863, another amendment was adopted fixing the time of the annual election on the second Monday in April, the term of office to commence on the third Monday of that month.

In 1867, another change was made fixing the time of the annual election on the same day as the township election, but only one election was held under that amendment.

The Legislature of 1869 revised the entire charter and fixed the time of the annual election on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, the same day on which the general elections were held, the officers elected to take their seats on the first Tuesday in January ensuing. This continued until the adoption of the general incorporation law, since which time the elections have been held on the third Tuesday in April.

The terms of office specified in the following table must be referred to the above provisions of the charter, where not so specified.

Mayors—William Hale, April 28, 1845; Charles T. Steams, November, 1845; William Mitchell, 1846; Jacob Gale, 1848; Dennis Blakeley, 1849; George C. Bestor, 1850; Jonathan K. Cooper, 1851; George C. Bestor, 1852; Charles Ballance, 1854; Gardner T. Barker, 1855; William R. Hamilton, 1857; John D. Arnold, 1859; William A. Willard, 1860; Gardner T. Barker, March 11, 1862, (time changed) ; Matthew W. McReynolds, April 13, 1863, (time changed); Jacob. Gale, 1864; Henry T. Baldwin, 1865 ; Philip Bender, 1867; P. R. K. Brotherson, 1868; Gardner T. Barker, November, 1869, (time changed) ; P. R. K. Brotherson, 1870. (For the years following, the term of office was two years, the elections being held in November of the odd years, but the Mayors elect did not take their seats until January following) ; P. R. K. Brotherson, 1872; John Warner, 1874; Leslie Robinson, 1876; John Warner, 1878; Frank Hitchcock, 1882; John Warner, 1884; Samuel A. Kinsey, 1886; John Warner, 1888; Charles C. Clarke, 1890; John Warner, April, 1892 (time changed) ; Philo B. Miles, 1893; William M. Allen, 1895; John Warner, 1897; Henry W. Lynch, 1899; William F. Bryan, 1901.

City Clerks—Jesse L. Knowlton, 1845-6; John A. McCoy, 1846-7; James M. Cunningham, 1848-1856; James S. Barkman, 1856-7; James M. Cunningham, 1857-60; Casper W. Rees, 1860-5; Henry H. Forsythe, 1865-76; Charles T. Luthy, pro tern, 1876-8; Henry H. Forsythe, 1878-86; S. F. Flint, 1886-8; Michael Fay, 1888-93; Frank Lukens, 1893-5; James R. Conway, 1895-7; Robert M. Orr, 1897—.

City Treasurers—Ralph Hamlin, 1845-6; Jonathan K. Cooper, 1846-7; William M. Dodge, 1847-8; Clark B. Stebbins, 1848-50; John T. Lindsay, 1850-2; Zenas Hotchkiss, 1852-3; John King, I853-5; Zenas Hotchkiss, 1855-6; John King, 1856-7; A. O. Garrett, 1857-8; Owen Dunlevy, 1858-9; Matthew W. Reynolds, 1859-60; Augustus O. Garrett, 1860-2; Philip Bender, 1862-6; Peter Sweat, 1866-7; Tobias S. Bradley (elected in 1867 but soon afterwards died and William Rounseville was chosen for the remainder of the term); John Schwab, 1868-70; Otto Treibel, 1870-2; Barnhart Meals, 1872-6; Philip Bender, 1876-8; Frederick D. Weinette, 1878-83; Henry Detweiller, 1883-4; Charles Jaeger, 1884-6; Henry Detweiller, 1886-8; John W. Brauer, 1888; Charles Ulrich, 1889; Henry Detweiller, 1890-94; Joseph Gillig, 1894-6; Will O. Clark, 1896-7; A. Gerdes
(first chosen in 1897, but dying soon afterwards was succeeded by Henry Pothorf, who having resigned, John J. McDonald was chosen for the remainder of the term) 1897-9; Adolph Trefzger, 1899; John Thode, 1901.

The official positions above mentioned have had a continued existence from the beginning. In the meantime many offices have been created by charter or by ordinance, some of which still exist, but they have been too numerous to be here mentioned. In 1892, the Council relieved the City Clerk of a portion of his duties by the creation of the office of Comptroller. Since that time there have been appointed to that office the following: Norman K. Smith, 1802-4; Jacob Heim, 1895-6; William D. Meisser, 1897-8; James R. Conway, 1899-1900; James E. Pillsbury, 1901—

There have been three general compilations and revisions of the ordinances of the city. The first was made by James M. Cunningham, City Clerk (being also an attorney), in the year 1869, immediately after the adoption of the Revised Charter. The entire code, as revised, was adopted by a general ordinance, passed October 15 of that year. The original charter and all amendments thereto, the amended charter, all general laws affecting the govern- ment of cities, the ordinances as revised, together with a list of all the Mayors and Aldermen, were then published, the book being known as the Revised Ordinances of 1869.

The second revision and compilation was made by John M. Tennery, Michael O. Shaughnessy and William G. Randall, in the year 1884, and was adopted by the Council in a general ordinance, passed October 15 of that year. It is not so comprehensive a work as the former, but in addition to the revised ordinances it contains much useful matter, including a list of Mayors and Aldermen down to that year.

The third revision was made by Wilbert I. Slemmons, Israel C. Pinkney and Daniel F. Raum, in 1892, and was adopted by the Council by general ordinance passed April 16th of that year. This is a comprehensive work embracing, besides the revised ordinances, all ordinances relating to special privileges and grants made by the city, and all general and special laws relating to the government of cities and villages.


The first building erected by the City of Peoria for public use was probably the market, which was situated in the middle of Washington Street between Main and Hamilton Streets. It was of the prevailing style of market-houses of its day, being an open shed with pitched roof supported by upright posts or columns, with the usual appliances of such structures. The general dimensions, the time of its erection and its cost are all unknown to the writer; but, from what is reported, it must have been a structure of very modest dimensions and of moderate cost. For a time it served the double purpose of a market and a shed for the fire engines.

On March 21, 1848, a committee consisting of Lewis Howell, Charles W. McClallen and Dennis Blakeley was appointed to purchase, for $300, lot number 3, in Block 6 (where the Dewein Building now stands), for an engine house and City Hall. The building there erected was a two story brick structure with gable looking towards the street. The first floor was used for an engine house, the second for Council Room, Police Magistrate's Office, City Clerk's Office and other purposes appertaining to the City Government—the city prison or calaboose being in the cellar. This building was occupied until the year 1859.

In view of a pressing necessity for enlarged accommodations, the City Council, about the year 1858, purchased the lots (144 feet on Madison Avenue by 171 feet on Fulton Street) and, in March, 1859, passed an ordinance for the erection of a City Hall, to include an engine-house, police office and city prison. The plans of the new building were furnished by Valentine Jobst, architect, and the contract for the erection of the building was let to Joseph Miller—Smith and Murden laying the stone and brick work. It was a brick building, with stone trimmings, two stories, with tower for alarm bell 60 feet in height. It is said to have been of Italian style of architecture, built of pressed brick, fifty-two feet front by sixty feet deep and cost about $10,000. On the first floor were located an engine-room, the police and Mayor's offices, and, in the rear, the city prison. On the second floor were the Council room, the Clerk's office, the City Engineer's office, and apartments for several other officials connected with the administration of city affairs. It continued to be occupied until the year 1898 when it was superseded by the present elegant City Hall.

On the corner of Madison Avenue and Fulton Street and adjoining the City Hall there was erected, about the year 1859, an extensive market-house, costing about $10,000. It was of brick, built in the form of a cross, one story with high roof, the floor paved with brick and the whole divided into stalls which were rented to the market men. This market was never very popular nor productive of much revenue to the city, the citizens being able to purchase at the groceries everything needed.

The present City Hall was erected in the years 1897-8, at a cost of ,$234,592.09. It has an assembly room for public meetings, a Council Chamber and offices for all departments of the City Government. It is four stories high and is built of pressed brick trimmed with stone from Lake Superior. It is surmounted by a bell tower, in which is hung the old alarm bell formerly used in the tower of the old City Hall. The City Prison, erected at the same time as an adjunct to this building, is located on the same lots.

The Coliseum.—The City being in great need of a hall of dimensions suitable for the accommodation of large public meetings, conventions and the like, the City Council, in the year 1900, took steps to erect a large hall, and to that end purchased for $12,000 lots at the corner of Adams and Hancock Streets, upon which "the Coliseum" now stands. The building was partly erected during the fall and winter months of that year, finished about the first of May, 1901. It was inaugurated by holding therein a musical festival lasting several days. It contains one main audience room with stage, galleries on three sides, and suitable ante-rooms, dressing rooms and stair cases.

The Work House.—In the early part of the year 1878, a movement was set on foot for the establishment of a Work House, or House of Correction, for the imprisonment of persons found guilty of violations of the ordinances of the City of Peoria, or of the lower grades of public offenses. On the 8th of May, of that year, a joint meeting of the City Council and of the Board of Supervisors of Peoria County was held, and an agreement entered into, for the erection of such a building at the joint expense of the City and County. A committee of six, three from each body, was appointed to select and purchase grounds and to erect the building. A small tract of land, adjoining the Water Works, part of that formerly known as Plum Point, and embracing six and one-fourth acres, was purchased. A brick building two stories high was erected, the whole cost of which, with the grounds, was about $18,000, of which the county paid $8,000. It was completed and first occupied by Alexander Furst, superintendent, on the 9th day of April, 1879. Its management is placed under a Board of Inspectors consisting of the Mayor, who is ex-officio President, and three persons appointed by him with the approval of the City Council. Their term of office is three years. Under the joint agreement between City and County, each of these municipalities has a right to send persons there and to have them kept, subject to the rules and regulations prescribed. By entering into an agreement with the Board of Inspectors, the same privileges may be acquired by other municipalities. The inmates are kept at work at some suitable occupations that can be carried on upon the grounds, the occasions having been very rare when they have been set at work outside the prison limits. The beneficial influence of this institution upon the various classes of petty offenders has been of a marked character, and has tended greatly to the lessening of the commission of crimes of the lower order.

From Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Peoria County, Edited by David McCulloch, Vol. II; Chicago and Peoria: Munsell Publishing Company, Publishers, 1902.




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