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In Illinois as elsewhere, indigenous peoples lived along rivers for transportation, water, and fishing. At the time of European exploration, the several historical tribes in the area were of the Anishinaabe -language family, within the larger Algonquian -speaking tribes.
In JanuaryRobert 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 25N 5W.
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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. This was how it looked to an American of the time:.
At Little Makina, a river on the south side of Illinois, five leagues below Peoria, is a band, consisting of KickapoosChippewaysOttaways and Pottowottamies. They are called warriorsand their head man is Lebourse or 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 ofas 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 Like Sulky, Shabbona had joined with Tecumseh during the War of and was with him when he fell at the Battle of Tippecanoe. After the war, Shabbona made peace with the U. History of Tazewell CountyCharles C. Chapman, pp.
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Following the Black Hawk Warthe State of Illinois renegotiated treaties with the Native American tribes in the state to extinguish their claims and remove all Indians from the state. The Pottawatomi village was relocated about a mile north to Worley Lake for a short time, until the inhabitants were removed to a reservation near Topeka, Kansas.
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Shabbona later moved north to Seneca near the Illinois River, where he died in on land that the citizens of Ottawa had given him. Farmer Jonathan Tharp, who came from Ohio, was the first non-Indian resident, building a log cabin in on a ridge above the Illinois River at a site near the present foot of Broadway Drive.
Franklin School was later erected near this site. Other settlers soon joined him, including his father Jacob Tharp who arrived from Ohio in They lived near Chief Shabbona's large Indian village of about wigwamspopulated primarily by Pottawatomi, which 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. After a county surveyor laid out a "town site" inan auction of the town plat and site was held in Springfield, Illinois. It was long held, as first expressed in W. Bates' history of Pekin included in the Pekin City Directory, that Cromwell was assisted by his wife Ann Eliza in the naming of the streets.
It has been stated that Mrs. Cromwell named the town "Pekin" because she thought Peking was on the exact opposite side of the world from the town she founded. Bathroom Reader's Press.
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This is not as improbable as it sounds: in the late s and early s, China and the United States were often thought to be on the exact opposite sides of the world and towns were often named after locations in China. Another example is Canton, Ohionamed in Pekin is known as the site where Abraham Lincoln and other ambitious politicians struck a deal in the s.
Lincoln was among several local Whig politicians who wanted to serve in the U. 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.
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Lincoln ran and was elected to the 30th United States Congress inand retired at the end of the term. This single term in Congress was Lincoln's only experience in Washington before he was elected President. Although Illinois was a "free" state, pro-slavery sentiment was predominant throughout southern and central Illinois, which had been largely settled by Southerners, some of whom were slaveholders before the state was admitted to the union.
Cities with pro-slavery sentiment included Peoria and Pekin see Charles L. According to the Pekin "Centenary," p. Some of the original settlers had been slave-owners themselves, and the overwhelming sentiment in Pekin was Democratic. Stephen A. Douglasnot Abraham Lincoln, was the local hero, although Lincoln was well-liked, and had some German following.
Chiefly due to an influx of German immigrants after the Revolutions ofabolitionist sentiment began to flourish in Pekin. Among Pekin's abolitionist leaders was Dr.
Daniel ever, 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.
During the Civil War, the inhabitants of Pekin were divided between the pro-slavery element, who favored the Confederacyand the abolitionist and pro-Union element. Early in the war, the secessionist " Knights of the Golden Circle " openly supported secession and slavery in Pekin.
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The Pekin Centenary, p. ever and 10 other men gathered at Court Street in Pekin on 25 June to establish the first council of the Union League of Americato 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 Partythe 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.
In an early 20th-century revivalthe Ku Klux Klan recruited new members as a fraternal organization, opposing new immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, and becoming influential in rapidly industrializing urban areas in the Midwest and West, as well as in the South. It had numerous members in Pekin and other Illinois cities. They sold off the paper within a few years.
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