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X L I B R.ARY

OF THE

U N IVERSITY
OF ILLI NOIS



BSSh



T II E



HISTORY OF PERU,



BY HEiW 8. BBEBE.



PERU, ILLS.

J. F. IjNTnx, PinXTKK \M) PriJI

1858.



7-3*7



EKE AT A.



On page 7, it is mentioned, incidentally to the
O main fact that II. P. 'Wood worth received 528
** votes for the Legislature that he was elected.
~ Tliis is an error. He was defeated, notwithstand-
ing the large and almost unanimous vote he re-
tvivcd in Peru.

On mature reflection the writer concludes that
he will mitigate his statement concerning the
" breadth " of that cake of ice described on page,
.'>!>. For "length and breadth" the reader will
please substitute "extent" this is positively all
the abatement that can be made.

On line 5, page 04, the word "upon" and on
^ line 17, page 77, the word, "but" have intruded
/otJiernselves very mysteriously. Please to consid-
Jj <;r them as omitted.

\ With these emendations he commits his firist-

j born to the waters of public approval or condem-
"" nation, begging for it all the indulgence which
- X conscious incapacity can justly claim.

^ * *

0) 4

<Q r~)





INTRODUCTORY.



IT can hardly be said that a towg: of a popula-
tion of three thousand six hundred and fifty-two
souls, dating back but about twenty years to its
first rude tenement and solitary family, can have
any history. The events of any public interest
are so few, and their importance so small, that no
reasonable hope can be entertained that their re-
cital will be any thing but a matter of indiffei>
ance to others than the present or former resi-
dents, or those connected with them by ties of
consanguinity, or having an interest in its advance-
ment and prosperity. It is true that at some future
time, the record may be useful to the historian,
if it should be so fortunate as to survive. The
statistics have been collected with care and con-
siderable labor, and are believed to be correct and
reliable. Beyond this the writer claims no merit
for the work. The anecdotes and events related'



mot strictly statistical, have all transpired under
his personal observation and knowledge, during
a residence dating back to the embryo town.

Most persons who have had the temerity to un-
dertake the relation of cotemporary events, and to
speak of cotemporary actors, have received more
kicks than coppers for their pains. How far the
writer will escape their general fate remains to be
seen. Knowing the dangerous ground whereon
he was treading, he has endeavored to confine
himself to the simple relation of undisputed facts,
abstaining from all comments and speculation
thereon. He has not set himself up as a public
censor or a public eulogist. It is not to be sup-
posed that he has been without partisan and pre-
judiced views of public questions. These he has
endeavored to suppress and to " render unto Cse-
sar the things which are Caesars. " NOT has he
undertaken to draw a rose colored picture for the
benefit of Eastern Capitalists, or those seeking a
home in the west to throw bait to Gudgeons.
In fact, it will be admitted, that his picture is of
the soberest and dullest kind of grey. Would
that it could be here and there touched with light-
er and more cheerful hues; but truth i mex-



orable, and demands the strictest loyalty from
those who worship at her shrine.

The people of Peru may be a little curious to
know why a person, whose pursuits in life have
been hitherto very far removed from those of a
writer for the public eye, should have undertaken
a task for which previous practice and experience
have so little qualified him. He begs to assure
them that it was entirely an accident no litera-
ry ambition prompted him at all. To be sure he
had heard that

"'Tis pleasant sure to see one's name in print,
And a book's a book although there's nothing

in't, "

but that was not it. Having a little leisure, he
had undertaken to gather and condense some sta-
tistics of the town for the publisher of a Directo-
ry of La Salle County. Having commenced the
task he became interested therein, and extended
his researches and remarks to a length quite too
formidable for their original purpose. But he re-
solved not to hide his light under a bushel hence
the present infliction which he hopes will be borne
with commendable fortitude.



HISTORY OF PERU,

CHAPTEE I.

Situation of the City Its early Settlement and
Settlers Passage of the Internal Improve-
ment Act and Commencement of work on
the Central Kail Road Election of H. P. Wood-
worth to the Legislature Election for Organi-
zation under the Borough Act First Census
First Election of Trustees First Religious
Meeting.

THE City of Peru is situated in the "Westerly
part of La Salle County, Illinois, on the North-
ern bank of the Illinois River, at the head of
Navigation, and at the Junction of the Illinois
and Michigan Canal. Distance from Chicago 100
miles, and from Saint Louis 230. The territory
embraced within the corporated limits, is Sec. 16
and 17, and all those fractional parts of 20 and 21,
which lie north of the river, Town 33, Range 1,



THE HISTORY OF PERU. 5

East of the Third Principal Meridian, comprising
an area of 1462 Acres.

The settlement of- the site occupied by this
City was commenced in the Spring of 1 836, short-
ly after the passage of the act incorporating the
Illinois and Michigan Central, which was to
terminate at or near the mouth of the Little Ver-
million, on land owned by the State. It was
probably the most eligible site on lands owned
by individuals. The Southwest quarter of Sec.
16 was laid out and sold by the School Commis-
sioners in 1834, and called Peru. Mnawa Addi-
tion, -located on the South East quarter of Sec.
17, and the North East fractional part of 20, up-
on which -the most business part of Peru is at
present situated, was owned originally by Lyman
D. Brewster, who died in the fall of 1835. It
was plated and recorded in 1836, by Theron D.
Brewster, at present a leading and influential
citizen.

In 1835 the only residents of that portion of
territory now occupied by the cities of Peru
and La Salle were Lyman D. Brewster, his
nephew T. D. BKEWSTER, JOHN HAYS and fami-
ly, PELTIAH and CALVIN BREWSTER, SAMUEL LAP,



6 THE HISTORY OF PERU.

SLEY and BURTON AYRES. In the Spring of 1835,
the first building a store was erected in Peru
by ULYSES SPAULDING and H. L. KINNEY, late of
Central American notoriety. On the 4th July 1836,
the first shovel full of earth was excavated upon
the Canal. No considerable population was at-
tracted to the town until 1837. Among the peo-
ple who made this place their home in that and
the following years, were WM. RICHARDSON, J. P.
JUDSON, S. LISLE SMITH and his brother DOCTOR
SMITH, FLETCHER WEBSTER, DANIEL TOWNSEND,
P. HALL, JAMES MULFORD, J AMES ^ MYERS, WM.
and CHAS. DRESSER, HARVEY WOOD, N". B. BUL-
LOCK, JESSE Puo SLEY, EZRA McKiNziE, NATHAN-
IEL and ISAAC ABRAHAM, J. P. THOMPSON, JOHN
HOFFMAN, C. H. CHARLES, ASA MANN, Lucius
RUMRILL, CORNELIUS CAHILL, CORNELIUS COKELEY,
DAVID DANA, ZIMRI LEWIS, DANIEL McGiN, fS.
W. RAYMOND, GEO. B. MARTIN, WM. H. DAVIS,
GEO. W. HOLLEY, GEO. Low, M. MOTT, F. LE-
BEAU, A. HYATT, WARD B. BURNETT, O. C.
MOTLEY, WM. PAUL, H. P. WOODWORTH, H. S.
BEEBE, HARVEY LEONARD, &c.

At the Session of the Legislature of 1836, the
Internal Improvement act was passed, incorpor-



THE HISTORY OF PERU. 7

; ating the Central Rail Road, which was subse-
quently located upon the same general route as
is followed by the present Illinois Central Rail
Road, crossing the river at Peru. Operations
were commenced on both sides of the river in
1838. During this season very extensive im-
provements were made, large accessions of pop-
ulation took place, and the settlement began to
assume the appearance of a town. In 1839 the
whole country was on the top wave of prosperity.
Large forces were employed upon both the Canal
and Rail Road numerous other works being con-
templated, all terminating at Peru, of course
and the disbursements were large. The town
shared the general prosperity. In this year H.
P. WOODWOTH was elected to the Legislature from
La Salle County, which then embraced the pres-
ent territory of Kendall and Grundy, receiving
in Peru 528 votes, being the largest vote ever
polled in the precinct, before or since.

On the 6th of December 1838 the inhabitants
assembled at the tavern of ZIMRI LEWIS, and or-
ganised a meeting by the appointment of H. S.
BEEBE, Chairman, and J. B. JUDSON, Secretary,
and voted to take the preliminary steps for organ



8 THE HISTORY OF PERU.

izing the town as a borough under the general
Incorporation Act. At a census taken the same
month there were found to be within the limits
proposed to be embraced in the Borough, to-wit :
The South half of Section 16, the South East
quarter of Section IT, and all that part of Sec-
tion 20 lying North of the river about one
square mile.

Males over 21 years of age 175

Females and minors 251

Total 426

On the 15th of December an election was held to
decide upon such organization with the following
result.

For organization 40

Against organization 1

On the same day an election was held for Trus-
tees which resulted in the election of M. Mott,
F. Lebeau, 0. H. Charles, Z. LEWIS and O. C.
Mottley. The Board elected Z. Lewis, President;
T. D. Brewster, Clerk; Z. Lewis, jr. Constable ;
and James Myers, Assessor. On the 1st of April
1839, O. C. Motley resigned and II. P. Wood-
worth was elected in his place. D. J. Townsend



THE HISTORY Otf PERU. 9

was afterwards appointed Street Commissioner.

The first religious meeting assembled in the
locality was held in the early part of this year,
in a log shanty, in the western part of the town.
This meeting was attended by about a dozen
young reprobates who concerted, that if the preach-
er should confine himself to what they should
judge to be the " appropriate sphere of his du-
ties, " should preach piety and righteousness in
the abstract without making any particular ap-
plication thereof, or rebuking any particular prac-
tice cherished by these self constituted censors,
and should abstain from all offensive personal
or local allusions, the most decorous propriety
was to be observed. But if, on the contrary, he
should see fit to indulge in any reproof of evil
practices which they were conscious the commu-
nity had credit for, whether justly or not, the in-
dignity was to be instantly resented. In pur-
suance of this concert they repaired to the place
of worship, each provided with a tobacco pipe
well filled, and a match. During the preliminary
exercises and a portion of the sermon the most
respectful attention and devout bearing were
manifested ; but when the preacher unfortunately



10 THE HISTORY OF PEEU.

indulged in illusions, believed by these cen-
sors to be intended to have a direct local ap-
plication, a rap on the bench was made as a sig-
nal by the leader, and instantly twelve matches
were struck and twelve pipes lighted. No smile
was seen and no word was spoken ; but twelve
sedate and imperturbable smokers tugged vigoro vis-
ly at their pipes. The room was soon filled with
the smoke and aroma ; and after a few attempts
at rebuke, ejaculated between stifled spasms of
coughing, the preacher incontinently left; but
not without making a stand at the door, where a
few comparatively pure respirations were obtain-
ed, and hurling back some rather unchristian
anathemas upon the graceless and sacreligious
scamps, whose scandalous conduct had so uncere-
moniously put him to flight, and upon the peo-
ple by whom they were tolerated. Of course,
" the better part of community " set the seal of
their disapprobation upon such disreputable and
disorderly proceedings.



CHAPTER II.

Election in 1839 Financial Crash Condition of
the Town Anecdote illustrative of the scarci-
ty ol money Hog Story Establishment of
the Mnawa Gazette Building of the first
Church.

At an election held on the 19th December 1839
H. P. Woodworth, Simon Kinney, Z. Burnham,
C. H. Charles, and Isaac Abraham were elected
Trustees. Whole number of votes polled 40.

The Board elected Simon Kinney, President;
M. Mott, Collector; T. D. Brewster, Treasurer;
and Walter Meriman Clerk. In the course of the
year Kinney resigned as Trustee and Meriman as
Clerk, and Cornelius Cahill and James Bradford
were elected to fill their respective places. The
places of Burnham and Charles became vacant by
death, and Ezra McKinzie and Churchill Coffing
were elected to fill them. In 1840 came the grand
financial collapse. The foreign capitalists refused



1 THE HISTOEY OF PEBV.

to lend us any more money. The later residents
of Illinois can scarcely comprehend the condition
of things which preceded and ensued. By the
Internal Improvement Act, which puts all Con-
gressional omnibus bills entirely into the shade, a
system of Kail Roads was to be commenced sim-
ultaneously in all parts of the State, running in
all manner of directions, through regions scarcely
explored ; and counties which were not fortunate
enough to lie in the direction of any place, and
thus not to be traversed by Rail Roads, were
bribed into the support of the bill by distributions
of money ^all to be borrowed on the faith of the
State. Other acts were passed authorizing loans
for prisons, hospitals, assylams and State Houses.
At the same time the Canal was being prosecuted
on State credit. Counties followed the example
of the State by borrowing money to build Court
Houses, Jails &c. But at length the bottom fell
out of the whole concern. Unknown Millions
had been squandered and not one public under-
taking was completed. Public and private credit
were annihilated. Northern Illinois produced
nothing for exportation, and every kind of busi-
ness was dependent upon the disbursements



THE HISTORY OF FEU. IB

'onthe public works. The State, Counties, Towns,
Banks, corporations and individuals were alike
bankrupt. No gleam of light shone in the future.
Repudiation, public and private, appeared to be
the only alternative. Even the vampires who
had been gorged upon the treasury were over-
whelmed in the general avalanche. The few who
had hoarded and possessed the means, left the
State ; and emigration for years avoided it as
though it had been one great hospitalof lepers.

No place experienced the general prostration
more sensibly than Peru. The writer of this
with a family to support, did not possess in the
year 1841 in the aggregate, a sum of money
equal to five dollars. Letters lay in the Post Of-
fice from the inability of those to whom they
were addressed to pay the postage. Nor was
this embarrassment confined to individuals.
Gov. Ford once told the writer, that he had been
compelled to allow letters, directed to him upon
official business, to remain in the Federal Post
Office, his own means or credit, or that of the
Sovereign State of Illinois being insufficient to
raise the embargo. Property of no kind had any
apparent value whatever. The town gradually



14: THE HISTORY OF PERU.

lost its inhabitants, until in 1842, probably not
over two hundred souls remained. These were
mainly the. less fortunate portion who could not
get away. One Store, a Drug Shop, the Post
Office, and two Taverns were the only places that
remained open to the public. Society existed
upon a truly republican basis. No envy was
excited in the breasts of the humble and poor by
the brilliant equipages and establishments of
the rich. The creditor who would have seriously
asked payment of his debtor would have been
saluted with one universal shout of derision.
As well might he have asked the sea to give up
its dead. His money was gone to that bourne
whence "nary red" would ever return. It was se-
riously proposed to enact a law making every
man's note a tender for debts always excepting
the notes of the creditor himself. This condition
of things produced a state of society never wit-
nessed by the writer, before or since. The pre-
vailing influence was so universal and complete
as to reduce all to a common level. A sympathy
and community of feeling pervaded all Illinois
humanity. Thanks to a prolific oil and sparse
population, nobody was in danger of starvation.



THE HISTORY OF PERU. 15

The following incident illustrates the scarcity
and value of money about this time. The only
merchants who pretended to keep their stores
open for business, and were able to replenish their
stock, were the brothers A. one of them at present
an estimable and valued citizen, and the other a
worthy farmer living in the neighborhood. Mon-
ey was scarce wherewith to pay freights, and the
only resource was to transport wheat, taken of
the farmers for debts, to Chicago, a distance of
one hundred miles, where it was worth about fifty
cents per bushel. One of the persons employed;
in the transportation was a farmer named M.
One of the brothers and the writer accompanied
the teams. After the wheat had been marketed,
and unloaded, M. with a very grave and serious
face, desired a private conference with A. Ta-
king him a little apart from the writer, and speak-
ing in a voice loud enough to be distinctly over-,
heard, he informed him that he was under the
necessity of asking him for some money. A.
started as if a snake had stung him. He express-
ed surprise at such a sudden call, under the circum-
stances, and reminded M. of the exertions and
sacrifices which he had been compelled to make



16 THE HISTORY OF PERtT.

to raise money for charges, and that withal he
had but barely enough for that purpose ; and
concluded by hoping that his demands would be
extremely limited. M. replied that they would
be no more extensive than his necessities abso-
lutely required, and he thought about " two bits
would do him. " This announcement greatly re-
lieved A. who immediately responded to the de-
mand. When it is understood, that the almost
universal practice in traveling, at that time, was
to " camp out, " the commissary department
drawing its supplies from the domestic larder and
corn crib, it will be perceived that " two bits "
would go a good way in ekeing out the stores and
supplying any deficiency.

Another incident occurred about this time
which also illustrates, in some degree, the spirit
of the times. Two citizens who shall be named
B. and M. had been in the habit of bantering
each other about their poverty. M. persisted in
assuming that he was not as poor as B., and that
it was all owing to his superior address and finan-
cial ability. This ridiculous assumption may be
understood, when it is stated that neither party
could, from every available resource, have raised



THE HISTORY OP PERU. 17

a sum in money equal to the present price of a
barrel of flour. M. complained to B. about his
hogs running at large, and threatened that if they
were permitted to annoy him he would shut
them up and kill them. It so happened that B.
did not own a hog in the world a fact which he
was careful not to disclose. M. commenced to
put his threat in execution by building an en-
closure in which he incarcerated all vagrant hogs,
and proceeded to put them in a condition for
slaughtering by a liberal appliance of corn and
swill. These things did not escape the observa-
tion of B. who waited patiently until the hogs
were in a nice condition, when he called upon M.
and rather angrily remonstrated with him upon
committing so unneighborly an act as to secrete
his hogs, alleging that he had searched dilligent-
ly for them, and that great apprehensions had
existed, lest his family might seriously siiifer for
the want thereof. He reminded him of the cor-
diality and good feeling which had previously
existed between them, of their good natured jokes
and banters, and of the general felicity which
they had enjoyed in each others society ; and
read him a homily upon the advantages to be de-



JL8 THE HISTORY OF PBBTJ.

rived from the practice of honesty and integrity.
He insisted, however, upon the unconditional lib-
eration of four particularly promising specimens
of the genus, porker. To this M. demurred.
While he admitted that what B. had taken so
much pains to remind him of, was in the main
true, he urged that the corn wherewith he had
fed the hogs was difficult to be obtained, that he
had spent much time in feeding and taking care
of them, and that it was not right for one man to
take advantage of anothers' wrong act for his
own|benefit. These arguments somewhat molli-
fied B. who finally agreed to a compromise by
which M. was to continue feeding the hogs for a
specified time, and then kill and dress them, and
bring the carcasses of the two best to the house
of B. This compact was carried into effect in
good faith. Shortly afterwards B. disclosed the
history of this little operation which came to the
ears of M. It is confidently believed that he
never afterwards boasted of his peculiar gifts of
finesse. It is but fair to say, that the real owner
of the hogs who had no share in the spoils, pock-
eted his loss with admirable grace.

In the course of the year 1839 the first news-



THB HISTORY OF PBKU. 19

paper published in Peru, was established by
Ford, now Editor and proprietor of the " Lacon
Gazette" in connection with Geo. "W. Holley
who acted as editor, and was called the " Ninawa
Gazette. " Mr. Holley was a gentleman of con-
siderable literary reputation and made a paper
which was eagerly sought for. His writings were
principally distinguished for their peculiar vein
of humor and pleasantry. The paper was con-
tinued until 1841, when the press and materials
were removed to Lacon.

The first Church built in the town, was erect-
ed by the Methodist's m the fall of 1838.



CHAPTEK III.

Election in 1840 Tho Bangs Enterprise Erec-
tion of the Stone Church Donation of the
Bell Visit of Messrs. Yan Buren and Paul-
ding.

AT an election held on the 18th December 1840,
H. P. Woodworth, Churchill Coffing, Ezra Mc-
Kinzie, Isaac Abraham and Geo. Low were elec-
ted Trustees. "Whole number of votes polled 32.
This Board elected Isaac Abraham their Presi-
dent ; James Bradford Clerk ; James Myers, As-
sessor; F. Lebeau Constable, T.D.Brewster Treas-
urer; and M. Mott Street Commissioner. Subse-
quently F. Mills was elected Constable in place
of Lebeau who resigned, and John Hoffman. Fire
Warden.

On the 27th February 1841 an act passed the
Legislature chartering the La Salle and Dixon
Bail Road, giving to the Corporation created, the
right of way and materials belonging to that part
of the old Central Kail Road lying between the



THE HISTORY OF PERU. 21

two points named. During the year operations
were recommenced on this work, and a Bank of
issue, pretended to be authorized by the Charter,
was opened in La Salle. These operations for a
short time galvanized into life the prostrated ener-
gies of the remaining inhabitants of Peru, but
were shortly succeeded by the bursting of the
whole concern. The leading spirit of this move-
ment was a man named A. H. Bangs, who suc-
ceeded in making dupes or accomplices of several
leading and influential inhabitants of La Salle and
Lee Counties. After the explosion it was found
that he was a mere adventurer, without character,
reputation, capital or credit. Not an hundred
dollars in cash or a dollar of good and reliable pa-
per had been used in starting and continuing the
construction of forty miles of Rail Koad, and
putting into operation a Bank which soon flooded
the whole country with its worthless promises to
pay, and draw liberally upon its imaginary eas-
tern and foreign correspondents. The contrac-
tors were, of course, unable to pay the laborers,
and the farmers who had supplied them with pro-
visions. The former, enraged by their wrongs,
attempted to wreak their vengeance upon the per-



22 THE HISTORY Otf PBBtT.

son of the culprit, Bangs. They seized and drag
ged him through the muddy streets of the town
He was finally rescued by the citizens, partly
through menaces and partly through intercession,
without material injury, placed in a skiff, and sent
down the river. Had he possessed one thousand
dollars in real cash, there is not a doubt but that he
would have been able to finish and put in opera-
tion the road, and to have gone on swimingly with
his Bank for years ; such was the confidence, and
it might be added, reverence, which a real " cap-
italist " would at that time have inspired. The
relapse was, if possible, more depressing than the
former experience.


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