South Pekin, Illinois

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South Pekin is a village in Tazewell County, Illinois, United States. The population was 1,162 at the 2000 census and is part of the Peoria, Illinois Metropolitan Statistical Area.



South Pekin was founded at around the turn of the 19th century. The Chicago NorthWestern Railroad built a switching yard and roundhouse (destroyed in Midwestern tornado) for its steam trains about five miles south of Pekin, Illinois.

The people of Pekin did not want "railroad people" in their town, and so the first boxcars were taken off the tracks and converted into homes along with some folks living in tents. The Chicago North Western also had a small bunkhouse next to the tracks where railroad worker could stop for the night. (It was demolished in summer of 2008.)

The town of South Pekin, Illinois was a home terminal for Chicago and Northwestern Railroad crews. Trains were made up in the middle of the town in a "Kick" Yard. After the trains were put together train crews would get on the train and proceed south to East St. Louis, Illinois or north to Nelson, Il. where they would be relieved and allowed to sleep for the next tour of operation. In the 1970s train crews would go onward through Nelson, Il. and proceed to Proviso, Il. (a suburb of Chicago) or else to Clinton, Iowa. At times there were as many as 20 + trains either made up at South Pekin, Il or that went through So. Pekin.

There was another railroad line on the east side of South Pekin, Il. that was on the very outskirts of the town. It was the "Illinois Central" at one time. It did not have a terminal. It would just interchange a few cars onto a siding where they would be collated in the Northwestern trains.

In the early 1900s South Pekin grew to be a bustling city with its own bank, store, bakery and all of the amenities. Then came the great Midwestern tornado of 1938, and South Pekin was nearly wiped out. Then during the Midwest Flood South Pekin was one of the hardest hit towns in central Illinois. In the interim it has been a home to motorcycle gangs and the Ku Klux Klan and a recording studio called Golden Voice Recording owned and operated by Jerry L and Mary Anne Milam. [1]

On May 10, 2003 a tornado touched down 3 miles southwest of South Pekin around 9:45 PM. As it crossed Highway 29 it continued to strengthen and was at F3 intensity. It went through South Pekin at 9:50 PM and was a quarter mile wide. There were 23 injuries in South Pekin and no fatalities reported. Today the town is mostly restored and a new warning system was added on each side of the village. (Money donated by residents allowed the new system to be purchased.)

South Pekin has continued to hang on to the Midwestern way and is currently a village of 1400 people and a growing economy.


As of the census[2] of 2000, there were 1,162 people, 417 households, and 314 families residing in the village. The population density was 2,708.2 people per square mile (1,043.4/km²). There were 438 housing units at an average density of 1,020.8/sq mi (393.3/km²). The racial makeup of the village was 99.31% White, 0.09% African American, 0.09% Native American, 0.17% Asian, and 0.34% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.12% of the population.

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