pub Chas. C. Chapman & Co..

History of Tazewell county, Illinois ; together with sketches of its cities, villages and townships, educational, religious, civil, military, and political history; portraits of prominent persons and biographies of representative citizens. History of Illinois ... Digest of state laws online

. (page 24 of 79)
Online Librarypub Chas. C. Chapman & Co.History of Tazewell county, Illinois ; together with sketches of its cities, villages and townships, educational, religious, civil, military, and political history; portraits of prominent persons and biographies of representative citizens. History of Illinois ... Digest of state laws → online text (page 24 of 79)
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" overcup oak." The Swamp White Oak is a tall tree and grows in
low grounds. The Yellow Chestnut Oak is a tree of medium
height and has leaves like those of the chestnut. The Laurel Oak
is a very common tree on gentle slopes of ground, having the leaves
undivided and somewhat like laural leaves in appearance : whence
the name. In the days before the railroads brought pine so plenti-





fully into this prairie country, the people found this one of the best
trees for making shingles : whence it is also called " shingle oak."
Barren Oak, or " black jack," is found mostly in sandy barrens. It
seldom exceeds 25 feet in height. Leaves, wedge-shaped and three-
lobed. Black Oak, or "yellow oak," has the inner bark yellower
than the other oaks have, and is valuable for dyeing and tanning.
Externally the bark is very rough and almost black. The tree is
large and quite common. Red Oak is a tall, handsome tree on
northern hill-sides and in shady woods. The acorn cup is flat and
saucer-shaped. Swamp Spanish Oak, or " pin oak," is found, but
is scarce. The tree is much like red oak, but is not so tall. All
the white-barked oaks decay on the outside first, and all the black-
barked varieties decay first on the inside. Hence rails made of any
of the black oaks have a hard exterior and seem sound long after
all the inside is rotten, thus being very deceptive ; but white-oak
rails last many years longer in the fence. The up-land black oaks
make a hotter fire than any other kind of wood. The Hazel-nut
and two species of Iron-wood belong also to the oak family, botani-
cally speaking. The iron-wood, which is also called "American
hornbeam," "blue beech," and "water beech," is a beautiful tree,
but is scarce. The more common species have the seeds of the
appearance of hops.

Birch Family. — The Red Birch is the only member of this family
found in Tazewell county. The outer bark peels itself off horizon-
tally around the trunk and limbs, like that of the cherry.

Willow Family. — The Prairie Willow is small, and was very com-
mon before the white man's plow deprived it of its native home.
The Glaucous Willow grows 8 to 10 feet high, and is common. The
Black Willow grows 15 to 25 feet high, twigs brittle at the base,
bark of the trunk somewhat black, and the leaves pointed at each
end. Common. The Long-leaved Willow occurs, growing gener-
ally as a small shrub. The Shining Willow, and possibly one or
two other species, can be found. To the AVillow Family belong also
the Quaking Asp, or Aspen, the Cotton-wood, the Silverleaf Poplar,
Lombardy Poplar, and Balm-of-Gilead, all of which grow spontane-
ously in this county, although the last three have been introduced
by the settlers. Of the Aspen there are two kinds, — The American
and the Large-toothed. The poplars and the Balm-of-Gilead have
a great tendency to sprout from the roots. The Lombardy poplar
does not prosper well in this windy country. It grows too tall.


Walnut Family. — The Black Walnut is a large, noble and most
valuable tree, too well known to need description. It is yet "com-
mon " in this county. A few Butternuts, or " white walnut " are
also found. The wood is of a lighter color and more brittle than
that of black walnut. It is now being used for veneering. Of the
Shellbark Hickory there are two kinds, — one with a scaly bark and
furnishing most of our hickory-nuts in the market, and the other with
a smoother bark and lighter heart-wood, and bearing the largest kind
of hickory-nut. The Bitter-nut Hickory is very common.

Plane-tree Family. — The only representative in America is the
Button-wood, or " Sycamore, " a large, coarse, white-barked tree com-
mon in river " bottoms, " but is of little value.

Nettle Family. — At the head of this family stands the American
or White Elm. Although so common in the forest, it promises to
become one of the most popular ornamental or shade trees. The Red
Elm (" slippery-elm ") is scarce. Called " red " on account of having
red heart-wood, while the white elm has white heart-wood. The
Hackberry is a beautiful tree of full forest height, hardy and tough.
The Mulberry is very scarce.

Rose Family. — The Crab-apple, Wild Plum, Wild Black Cheery
and Red Haw (two species) are abundant, — the cherry on high land
and the rest along the streams. There are also found the Choke-
cherry, Nine-bark (a shrub), Black Raspberry, Blackberry, (and pos-
sibly the Dewberry), Chokeberry, two species of wild rose (Early
and Dwarf), and a very few June-berry. The Blackberry has been
very abundant, but its ground the farmer finds more valuable for corn.
The other berries are very scarce. The Dwarf Wild Rose used to
ornament the prairies, especially their margins, but there is scarcely
any room left now-a-days for the modest little thing by the rough
hand of agriculture.

Maple Family. — The White Maple, commonly called "soft maple,"
is by far the most abundant, especially as a shade-tree in the towns
and villages ; but is soft and brittle and the limbs are easily broken
off by the wind, so that it is now about to be abandoned as a shade
or ornamental tree. As an example of the adaptability of the prairie
to the growth of timber, we may refer to the fact that the first set-
tlers here 30 to 40 years ago planted the common locust ; and after it
grew up 20 to 35 feet high the worms and the winds made an un-
sightly tree of it, and the white maple (acer dasycarpum) was next
resorted to, which has already attained the height of 40 and 50 feet,


with top and trunk in due proportion. Box Elder and Sugar Maple
(both members of this family) and white elm are now being substi-
tuted, thus making the third crop of good sized forest trees raised
on the prairies within the short space of civilized life here. The
Sugar, or "hard," Maple makes the most beautiful and durable
shade-tree, as well as ornamental tree, but it is of slow growth.
Indeed duribility and slowness of growth necessarily go together.
Box Elder is of a scrubby form, and the least esteemed of the
three most popular shade trees. As members of this family there
are also the Bladder-nut, a beautiful little bush, and the Buckeye, a
a tree of heavy foliage, soft wood, and large, poisonous nuts, and
growing only in the river bottoms. Like the currant, it sheds its
leaves in August,

Custard-Apple Family. — The Pawpaw is abundant along the Illi-
nois river.

Linden Familu. — Bass-wood evervbodv knows. It is also called
"white-wood," " linden," and " lime-tree," and in the Southern States
it is known by the name of " lin," from its old European name lind,
which gave the family name to the great Linnaeus, the father of botan-

Rue Family. — The Prickly Ash used to be a common bush or
shrub, but is now fast disappearing. It is characterized by a very
rank and pungent odor and taste, is covered with short briers or
thorns, and bears a small brown berry. The Hop-tree, or " wafer
ash," is a small tree sometimes met with.

Cashew Family, or Sumachs. — The Smooth Sumach is by far the
most abundant, growing even as weeds upon prairie farms. The
Fragrant Sumach and the Poison Ivy are also to be found in Taze-
well county.

Buck-thorn Family. — Red-root, or New Jersey tea, was abundant
in the margin of the uncultivated prairies, but is pretty well des-
troyed at the present day. A decoction of its leaves has been em-
ployed as a substitute for China tea. Possibly a species of common
Buck-thorn may be found in this county.

Staff-tree Family. — Burning-bush (" waahoo ") is a beautiful bush,
sometimes cultivated for the fine show of odd-shaped crimson ber-
ries it displays after the leaves have fallen off. The Climbing Bit-
tersweet is also to be found in this county ; but at the most is ex-
ingly rare.

Pulse Family. — Trees and plants of this family are characterized


by bearing pods of seeds like beans. The Red-bud is a shrubby
kind of tree, and, contrary to waahoo, displays a red top in early
spring, before leaves appear on it or any other tree. The color is a
beautiful crimson, and is made by the buds and flowers. The Honey
Locust is famous for its large thorns and long pods, the inner border
of the latter containing a large quantity of a sweet substance which
tastes something like honey. A species or variety is said to occur
which has but few thorns, if any. A few specimens of the Ken-
tucky Coffee-tree grow in this county. The seeds of this tree are
of the size of gum-drops, and have a hard, glossy, beautiful shell.
A small shrub often called "swamp locust '^ is probably False

Saxifrage Family. — The Gooseberry, and Wild and Black Currants
thrive in this section, though the latter are not abundant.

Dogwood Family. — Four species of Dogwood flourish here, the
most abundant of which is the Panijcled Cornel, bearing white ber-
ries about the size of peas.

Honeysuckle Family. — The most "extensive individual" of this
family is the common Elder, growing like weeds in gardens and
farms. The Yellow Honeysuckle and Sweet Viburnum, or " sheep-
berry," are found in this vicinity, but are exceedingly rare. The
Black Haw is a common bush, averaging 10 feet in height, and pro-
ducing very edible sweet fruit.

Madder Family. — The Button-bush flourishes on the borders of
ponds and streams.

Olive Family. — It would sound more natural to Westerners to call
this the Ash family, as the ash is the principal representative here.
The White Ash is the most prevalent kind, and is valuable on ac-
count of its strength, hardness, durability and freedom from warp-
ing, as well as its quality for making a blazing fire. The Blue Ash
is about as good. Distinguished from the White by having square
twigs. Perhaps two other species of ash can be found in the county,
— the Green and the Swamp.

Vine Family. — The Winter or Frost Grape is common, and the
Summer Grape rare. The Virginia Creeper is also common.


We will name only about 200 of the most common, growing spon-
taneously, and give them, as nearly as we can conveniently estimate,
in the order of their abundance, the more common first :


Grmoing Wild. — Besides several species each of grass, sedge, ferns,
aster, golden-rod, wild sunflower, evening primrose, cone-flower,
fleabane, cinquefoil, tick trefoil, violet, crowfoot, milk-weed, cress,
loosestrife, and beggar's lice, there are the sneeze-weed, wood sorrel,
wild bergaraot, strawberry, wild cranesbill, boneset, spring beauty,
clear-weed, arrow-head, tick-seed, blue cardinal flower, May apple,
self-heal, scouring rush, spider-wort, ginseng, sweet William (two
species), meadow parsnip (two or three species), cow-bane, wild
onion, louse- wort, vetchling, ditch stone-crop, cardinal flower, milk-
vetch, three-seeded mercury, pepper root, wild-mint, spotted touch-
me-not, soft rush (and probably one or two other species of rush),
rue anemone, liver-leaf, marsh marigold, early meadow rue, blood-
root, Indian turnip, mitre-wort, white and purple trilliums, cat-tail
flag, cup-plant, everlasting, avens, bell-flower, ox-eye, blue-joint
grass, white lettuce, hawk-weed, lobelia (medical), gentian, yellow
adder's tongue, harbinger of spring, skull-cap, hare-bell, stone-root,
groundsel, catch-fly, false Solomon's seal, Gerardia (two species),
dodder, wild senna, wood sage, American pennyroyal, wood nettle,
black snake-root, water plantain, rattle-snake master, Dutchman's
breeches, button suake-root, Solomon's seal, blue cohosh, Seneca
snake-root, bastard toad-flax, arrow-leaved tear-thumb, iron-weed,
water star-grass, peppermint, Greek valerian, trumpet-weed, hop,
bell-wort, rosin-weed, prairie dock.

Growing in Cultivated and Waste Places. — Blue-grass, white clover,
dandelion, water smart- weed, hog- weed (" rag- weed"), plantain,
door-weed ("goose-grass," two species), sneeze-weed, wire-grass,
panic-grass (several species), fox-tail grass, hair-grass ("tickle-
grass"), spear-grass, shepherd's purse, green pig- weed, Spanish
needle (three species), chick-weed, purslane, common smart- weed.
May -weed, goose-foot ("lamb's-quarter"), ground ivy, blue vervain,
hedge mustard, yarrow, nightshade, cinquefoil (two species), mild
water-pepper, mallow, burdock, white pig-weed (" tumble-weed "),
wild sunfloAver (several species), mother-wort, black mustard, cheno-
podium urbicum and murale, Euphorbia maculata, orchard grass,
wood sorrel, polygonum Pennsylvanicum, clear-weed, wild pepper-
grass, black bindweed, barnyard grass, biennial wormwood, sow
thistle (?) (two species), scurvy grass, convolvulus bindweed (three
species?), catnip, cockle-bur, common thistle, three-seeded mercury,
toad-flax, false red-top (grass), fescue (grass), jimson-weed, red-top
(grass), red clover, bouncing Bet, curled dock (" yellow dock "),


mullein, great rag-weed ("horse-weed"), white vervain, timothy,
cirsiiim altissiraum, Indian mallow, ground cherry, hemp, fetid mari-
gold, cut-weed, bugle-weed, wire-grass (two species), swamp milk-
weed, horse-tail, green milk-weed, morning-glory, speedwell, silk-
weed, hop, scrophularia nodosa, verbena Aubletia hoary vervain,
climbing false buckwheat, wild balsam-apple, sida, hedge nettle,
fire-wood, tansy, chess, wild rye, buckwheat, white sweet clover,
asparagus, white mustard, poke, prince's feather (polygonum orien-
tal e).

All plants growing in cultivated and waste grounds, except four
or five repeated in each of the above lists, may be considered as
introduced by Anglo-Saxon civilization. While the wild plants in
the woods are supposed to be the same now as originally, the prairie
has changed its grassy clothing for cultivated crops and hundreds of
different weeds. Before settlement by the whites the prairie was
mostly covered by one kind of grass. Several other kinds could be
found, especially in places here and there, notably the blue-joint,
which grew the tallest of any. Along the sloughs and in other wet
places there was the slough grass and several species of golden rod,
aster and wild sunflower. All other kinds of weeds were scarce.
Here and there were patches of rosin weed. But the golden-rod,
aster, and sunflower made beautiful yellow stripes across the prairies
in low places, which were peculiarly charming. In the earliest
stages of the growth of prairie grass it was interspersed with little
flowers — the violet, strawberry -blossom and others of the most deli-
cate structure. Soon these disappeared, and taller flowers, display-
ing more lively colors, took their place, and still later, a series of
still higher, but less delicately formed flowers appeared. While the
grass was green the prairies were adorned with every imaginable
variety of color. In the summer the plants grew taller and the
colors more lively ; in autumn another generation of flowers came.
A poetess beautifully writes :

Where'er I turn my eyes

There springs a lily : here the wild pink vies

With clustering roses and the rich blue-bell,

The morning-glories and the daffodil,

And countless others. How and whence they came,

I leave for botanists, to tell and name.

The original prairie grass can scarcely be found anywhere now. It
cannot stand close pasturage. The blue or June grass bears pastur-



age the best of any ; but where live stock are kept oif this grass it
will be eradicated by other kinds of grass. A curious fact similar
to this, and of interest to botanists, is the eradication of the May-
weed along the road-sides by hog-weed, smart-weed, and Spanish-
needles. Possibly this has been aided by the greater amount of wet
weather for a few years past.

The most troublesome weeds which are on the increase at the
present time are the common and the tall thistle, Indian mallow,
toad-flax, wild lettuce or sow thistle, and jimson-weed. Clear-weed
and mercury are becoming abundant in the gardens and door-yards
where shade trees are plentiful, but they are not troublesome.



John Wood.

THE first indictment for murder in this county was against John
Wood. It was made by the grand jury at the April term of the
Circuit Court, 1844. Wood had caused the death of his own child
by throwing it up against the ceiling. He was tried, found guilty
and sent to the penitentiary for four years.


Henry Berry, a young man, was stabbed at a house of ill-fame in
Pekin, Sept. 29, 1859, by a man named Bulger. Berry was an im-
portant witness against two men who were confined in jail for com-
mitting larceny.


John Ott.

On Friday morning, Oct. 12, 1860, George W. OrendorfP, who
lived about four miles southeast of Delavan, left his family, consist-
ing of his wife and two little girls, Emma aged nine and Ada seven
years old. On his return in the evening he found his entire family
murdered. This is the most hellish, fiendish murder ever commit-
ted in the county and after a lapse of twenty years the feelings of
sympathy and indignation has not died out, nor will it as long as
the sad, sickening affair remains pictured in language.

When Mr. Orendorff reached home he found his wife lying upon
the floor lifeless, and by her side lay her elder daughter, and near them
lay little Ada moaning piteously in the agonies of death, which soon
relieved her of the pains of the mortal wound she had received on
the head. On the floor a few feet from where the mother was lying
was found an old rusty axe stained with human blood. It was with


this weapon that this triple murder was committed. Mrs. Orendorft*
had been engaged in washing in the back part of the house, and the
bodies were all found in the front room with the door closed. Mrs.
Orendorff had received upon the head eight distinct strokes with
this axe, either of which was sufficient to have produced death.
She was a most estimable woman, and the little girls were at such an
age as to make them peculiarly interesting to the bereaved father.
One of them had apparently been out getting flowers, as she had a
bunch of flowers in her hand when the assassin struck her down. It
was indeed one of the most heart-rending sights that could have been
witnessed, — to see a poor defenseless mother and her two unoffend-
ing little children lying in their own blood upon their own

Diligent search was at once made for the perpetrators of this terri-
ble deed, which resulted in finding a young man named John Ott.
He was concealed in a shock of corn near Lincoln and brought back
to Delavan. Many of the best citizens were so infuriated that
strong feelings of lynching him were displayed, but at the urgent
solicitation of Mr. Orendorff*, the bereaved husband and father, Ott
was handed over to the civil authorities to await trial. A man
named Green, a cousin of Ott's, was also arrested.

The Board of Supervisors of the county offered a reward of $2,000
for the capture of the murderer, and requested the State to offer an
additional reward.

Wednesday, Feb. 6, 1861, John Ott was arraigned before the
Circuit Court and pleaded guilty to the murder of Mrs. Orendorff
and het" two daughters. He was then immediately sentenced to be
hung Friday, Mar. 1, 1861.


At eleven o'clock, Friday morning. Mar. 1, 1861, John Ott was
publicly executed for the murder of Mrs. Mary Orendorff and her
two little children. When arraigned Ott obviated a protracted trial
by pleading guilty. An effort was immediately made to have him
executed in public, by applying to the Legislature for a special act,
but failed. Preparations were then made for executing him in ac-
cordance M'ith the existing law. A scaffold was erected in the yard on
the east side of the prison and enclosed with a wooden structure to
exclude the public gaze. As soon as this was determined on, rumors
began to circulate that a portion of the people of the county


would band together and demolish the structure. With this rumor
came also some of a more startling import, involving the safety of
the other prisoners confined in the jail. These rumors assumed such
an alarming shape by the Wednesday preceding that the Sheriif was
induced to apply for assistance from abroad, A request was sent
to Capt. Miles, of Washington, to secure the attendance of his rifle
company. The Peoria National Blues were also notified that their
services would be needed, and, after receiving orders from the Gov-
ernor, they held themselves in readiness to come. On Thursday
evening the Washington Rifles, accompanied by the Quarter-Mas-
ter General, arrived, and the men marched to the American house to
await further orders.

During the early part of Thursday night, the crowds which gath-
ered about the jail and along Court street, gave evidence that some
unusual excitement was anticipated. The impression prevailed that
a concerted attack would be made before sunrise upon the enclosure
at the scaffold. The arrival of the troops from Peoria was anxious-
ly looked for, but they did not reach Pekin until about three
o'clock. They consisted of three companies, the National Blues,
Emmett Guards and German Rifles, and were accompanied by the
Adjutant-General. They were marched to the court-room to await

At that time quiet prevailed throughout the city. But between the
hours of five and six o'clock a startling noise was heard in the vicin-
ity of the jail, and upon investigation it was found that the entire
structure surrounding the scaffold was leveled to the ground.
The actors in this affair had done the work completely and quickly,
and quietly dispersed. After the demolition of the temporary
structure the military were posted in position to protect the jail, but
no demonstration was attempted against the building.

At an early hour Friday morning, people came pouring in from
all parts of. the country, and by ten o'clock it was estimated that at
least five thousand had assembled in the city.

About ten o'clock preparations for the execution were commenced.
The number of persons indicated by the law, with a few others, were
invited to witness the proceedings in the jail. The prisoner, who
up to that time had been engaged in religious exercises, was brought
from his cell. Some time was occupied in removing the manacles
from his ankles. During this operation, and while the Sheriff" was
robing him for the grave, Ott exhibited considerable firmness, but


he looked subdued and resigned. At a quarter before eleven he was
led forth to the place of execution. He was passive in the hands of
the Sheriff, and it seemed as though 'he had determined to meet his
fate without exhibiting any evidence of fear or trepidation. Besides
the officers the Revs. Messrs. Sawver, Rvbolt and AVindsor, with a
few others, ascended the scaffold with the prisoner. A dense crowd
filled the streets in the vicinity, and the tops and windows of many
neighboring houses were occupied with spectators. The military
were drawn up around the scaffold to prevent the crowd from pass-
ing the fence. At the close of the prayer offered by the Rev. Mr.
Rybolt, the prisoner stepped forward and addressed a few disjointed
remarks to the people. With much calmness he declared that he
alone was guilty of the crime for which he was about to die ; that
Green was innocent ; his doom was just ; and he hoped to be for-
given in heaven, where he hoped to meet those who were there to
witness his death.

As he closed he was placed upon the trap, the rope adjusted about
his neck, the cap drawn over his head, the trap fell, and with a mut-
tered prayer on his lips for mercy the spirit of John Ott passed into
eternity. His neck was broken by the fall and life was soon ex-
tinct. After hanging nineteen minutes the body was taken down,
placed in a coffin and removed to the jail yard. Soon the crowd
began to disperse and all was quiet. Thus terminated the first
and only legal execution for murder in Tazewell county.


John Ott was born near Dayton, O., Nov. 6, 1839, and conse-
quently was not twenty-one years old when he committed the fearful
crime for which he suffered death. While quite young his parents
removed to Iowa, and soon to Indiana, where they were living when
their wayward son was hung, both old and feeble. John remained

Online Librarypub Chas. C. Chapman & Co.History of Tazewell county, Illinois ; together with sketches of its cities, villages and townships, educational, religious, civil, military, and political history; portraits of prominent persons and biographies of representative citizens. History of Illinois ... Digest of state laws → online text (page 24 of 79)