Tuesday we didn’t have anything really planned, so we just set out to take a ride around north-central Illinois and Indiana. First we went across the line into Indiana and took some of the lesser roads through farm country. We happened upon a lovely little lake, which turned out to be named “Cedar Lake”.
From Cedar Lake we headed back into Illinois, and travelled along the perfectly straight roads along the section lines, between fields that were just planted and those that were waiting to dry out enough to get a tractor in. We found an area called the National Tall Grass Prairie Reserve, an enjoyed seeing some of what was left of the prairie. The road took us to Wilmington, where we stopped for lunch. We didn’t think we were very hungry, but they had stuffed peppers, and
Big Al couldn’t resist them. The plate turned out to have two enormous bell peppers, stuffed with ground beef and rice mixture, with a gigantic mound of mashed potatoes, and the whole thing sprinkled with little green peas. I, on the other hand, had a chicken salad sandwich on croissant. It was probably bigger than I had anticipated, but the croissant was flaky, fresh, and home-made. YUM!
While we were eating lunch we noticed a sign that said, “Historic Rt. 66”
I consulted the map and found that – yes, there was a stretch of Rt. 66 still in existence there. So of course, we had to ride on it for a couple of miles.
By that time, we decided it was time to head back to the motel. We took a little nap and went to supper just up the road from the motel.
On Wednesday we got up early and headed for Peoria/Pekin, Il, to search for my great-grandfather’s naturalization paperwork. He must have been naturalized in a county court before that was done centrally, because I can’t find any information in the federal records.
We arrived at the Tazewell County Genealogical Society office a little before noon, and we started to look for any information about him or any of the family. We couldn’t find anything, even though I had federal tax records of him in Morton in Tazewell County in the mid-1860s, and the whole family in Morton in the 1870 census. I then tried to find some information about his wife and her family, but the society didn’t have anything on them either.
By this time I was beginning to feel like everything I thought I knew about Papa’s family was false. Finally the ladies at the society suggested that I should try the Public Library in Morton. Since there was a Cracker Barrel over there and Big Al’s stomach thought his throat had been cut, we drove over to Morton, had lunch, and then found the library. I joked that if we ever found out anything about Frank Griesser’s general store it would turn out to be where the current Cracker Barrel sat.
At the library, I hit pay dirt. For the Centenial of the town in 1977, the paper had published a history of the early years of Morton.
I was afraid I wouldn’t find anything there, because the families were all gone from Morton by 1877. Frank Griesser died in 1875, and his widow moved to Peoria across the river, and her parents and siblings moved to Chenoa some time between the 1870 census and the 1880 census. Luckily, the newspaper included some “pre” history, and I found out Joseph Evans was the first postmaster for the area in the early 1850s and he also established the first library that he ran out of his home. My sister Harriet, who is a librarian, will be pleased to learn that the she comes by the profession naturally. Harriet Evans was was Joseph’s wife, and their daughter Harriet was Frank Griesser’s wife.
Frank Griesser’s store was located near the present day intersection of I-75 and the main road into Morton – right where the Cracker Barrel is today!
In 1859, the post office was moved from Joseph Evans’ house at Evan’s Corner to Frank Griesser’s General Store, and Frank became the post master.
Later, in 1870, Frank became the town clerk of Morton.
The newspaper had a picture of his headstone from the cemetery, although we didn’t have time for me to look for it myself.
For all the Genealogical Society didn’t have any record of the families, it turned out they were important people in the early days of Morton, and in the society of Tazewell County.
We got back to Matteson in time to meet Ray, Kathy, and Katie for supper at the Irish Pub. Big Al got shepherd’s pie with a glass of cider (hard). I have been eating so much, I chose a Cobb Salad for dinner, but it was so big I couldn’t finish it. We headed back to the motel, got packed and had a good night’s rest before Sonnie picked us up and drove us to Chicago to Union Station where we caught the Texas Eagle, back to Texarkana.
Right now Big Al is sacked out on the seat, snoring softly, while I finish up this post.