Local city information for Pekin, IL
is a city in Tazewell County, Illinois. It is the county seat of Tazewell County. As of the 2000 census, itss population is 33,857.
Pekin has a large park with a lagoon, Mineral Springs Park, which is located near Pekin Hospital and a senior center. Pekin is home to a high-rise residential facility of the United Auto Workers. It is the home of the minimum-security Pekin Federal Correctional Institution. A regional insurance company, Pekin Insurance, has its home office in Pekin.
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.
Pekin, historically, has a rich American Indian heritage. It was the site of Lebourse Sulky's Village in 1812. Ninian Edwards described the area:
Sulky oversaw a mixed village of the Potawatomi, Kickapoo and Ojibwa people. He fought with Tecumseh in the War of 1812, as did most of chiefs of the Illinois Valley area. Later, this area was the site of Chief Shabbona's village during the Black Hawk War.
Farmer Jonathan Tharp was the first non-Indian resident, building a log cabin in 1824. For some time after the arrival of white settlers, there continued to be a quite large Indian village, populated primarily by Potawatomi, along the ridge of what is today Pekin Lake.
After a county surveyor laid out a "town site," an auction of this 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, the last of whose wife named the City of Pekin after Beijing, China, which was at that time spelled "Peking" or "Pekin," spellings still common in German and French.
Pekin is well-known to historians of Abraham Lincoln for a deal that was struck there in the 1840's. Lincoln was among several local Whig politicians who wanted to serve in the U.S. Congress. In order to keep from splitting the Whig vote, the various factions agreed to serve one term in Congress each. Thus, Lincoln was elected to the 30th United States Congress in 1846, and retired at the end of the term. This pact is called the Pekin Agreement
in Lincoln biographies. This single term in Congress was Lincoln's only experience in Washington before being elected President.
A group of 11 men gathered on June 25, 1862, in Pekin to establish the first council of the Union League of America, to promote patriotism and loyalty to the Union. Its members hoped to counter Northern disillusionment with President Abraham 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. By December 1863, it claimed 140,000 members in Illinois and almost one million nationwide. The Union League movement focused on providing medical supplies, 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 radical Republicans who advocated full equality and voting rights for African-Americans. The Union League played a prominent role in Lincoln’s closely contested re-election in 1864. By the end of the Civil War, the Union League of America movement grew to two million members. The clubs still continue today, for example, The Union League Club of Chicago has been credited with establishing many of the city's major cultural organizations, including: The Art Institute of Chicago, Orchestra Hall, the Auditorium Theater and the Field Museum.
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