There are still some loose ends regarding the life of Peter Tourville (1809-1891) that I will look more closely at while at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City later this fall. But let’s put aside the man for now and rather write about the tract of land that he owned in Jersey County, Illinois.
On December 18, 1848, Peter acquired from David Murphy 80 acres of land for $650. The exact description of this tract of land is the West Half Southeast Quarter of Section 2, Township 6N, Range 11W, on the Principal Meridian, in Jersey County, Illinois. In other words, it is in Dow today but the township was identified differently from one census to another (1860-70-80). One not familiar with Jersey County like myself might have thought that Peter moved quite often. Not at all! He actually lived on the same tract of land all these years, his obituary mentionning that he settled on his land 45 years before. Unfortunately, the exact date he first moved down there remains a mystery as he’s nowhere to be found in the 1850 US Census but that’s where indeed he spent the last decades of his life until his death in August 1891.
He must have been sick for a while before his death as he wrote his will on April 13, 1891 in which he declares:
“I give and devise to my grand-son Peter F. Glassbrenner, the West Half of the South East Quarter of Section No two (2) in Township No 6 North of Range Eleven (11) West of the Third Principal Meridian in the County of Jersey and State of Illinois for and during his natural life and after his death I give and devise the above described tract of land to the surviving children of the said Peter F. Glassbrenner Equally share and share alike to their heirs forever. I also bequest to my grand-son Peter F. Glassbrenner all of my personal estate except the household and kitchen furniture.”
From George Glassbrenner obituary who died in 1915 (Peter F. Glassbrenner’s father), we learn that he and his wife, Mary Aspasie Tourville, left Newbern around 1908 to live in nearby Alton, in Madison County, so they could live closer to their children.
What happened to the land afterwards has still to be cleared up but it’s a fact that in 1929 the land or a part of it, we are not sure, was acquired by George Miller, a “former well-known broom man”, from Dr. G. E. Wilkinson, who then “owned it and had built the tourists station on the site of a tavern, run by a Mr. Tourville, a Frenchman, a grandsire of the Glassbrenner family.”
The Alton Evening Telegraph’s article of Tuesday November 26, 1929 cited also that:
“Tourville is on route No. 3, nine miles from the beginning of the route on the North Side, is open and ready for tourists. It is located on what is known as the Rintoul land, a historic spot. […] So Tourville is a man’s name not a touring station name only and on the spot where Mr. Tourville, the Frenchman, gave succor to tourists.”
George Miller ran a modern filling station and lunch stand as well as an auto service station. A dance pavilion was included where he planned an “oldtime barn dance” as the housewarming.
The Alton Evening Telegraph of November 30, 1929 informs us that despite the cold weather, the opening of Tourville drew a large crowd on that Thanksgiving night. About 200 people gathered for the dance and George Miller rented all his roller skates. It seems however that the weather conditions were delaying the filling station and lunch room opening for another two weeks. George Miller was also planning on building cabins for tourists.
Well a year later Tourville had already quite a reputation as it made headlines in November 1930 concerning “4 Held Following Tourville Fracas”. The dance pavilion was closed as it was the scene of several fights and operated without a license. Tourville was still open as a skating rink during that time though.
It reopened in mid-January 1931 and “Dancing, under Guards, resumed at Tourville” announced the newspapers. George Miller indicated he would see that no bootleggers would operate near the premises.
A few announcements let us know that weddings were celebrated at Tourville, like this one from 1931.
In July 1931, Tom Fish of Upper Alton leased the tourist camp and pavilion on Route 3 from George Miller who had decided to go back to resume his work at the factory. Tom Fish was assisted by his brother-in-law, Lee Freeman of St. Louis.
Three years later, in 1934, Harry Scott and Jack Mann purchased the Tourville dance pavilion. They were sponsoring a contest among the patrons for a new name to be chosen for the place (I suspect it had a bad reputation by that time). It seems that they came up with the name of Gables.
Later, in 1938, this announcement indicates that Tourville was still making people dance, this time on Route 67. Has Tourville moved?
I have posted a request a few days ago on the Jersey County Historical Society Facebook Page. Someone was kind enough to photograph the location of the former Tourville Dance Hall. We still have to establish if it is the original building but there is no doubt, it is where Peter Tourville settled more than 160 years ago. And I cannot believe that it is still called “Tourville” today even if no Tourvilles lived on that land for more than 100 years.
And without this article, would have we ever known that Peter Tourville ran a tavern on his premises? Gotta love those old newspapers!