Nicholas Slagle served as the President of the Village of Hilton the first two terms following its formation in 1884. He then served three terms as the President of the Village of East Peoria when Hilton changed its name five years later. Nicholas was born June 10, 1828, in New York City to Alsace, France, immigrant parents, Christian and Catherine Ernst Schlegel. His family, including his brother and two sisters, moved to the Ten Mile Creek area in 1835 following a stop in Toronto, Canada. The family came in the company of Joseph Burkey whom Nicholas’ sister Catherine later married. In 1840 Nicholas’ father patent 40 acres of land in section four of Washington Township that is now occupied by Caterpillar’s proving ground.
Nicholas remained on the farm until he married a German immigrant, Sophia Trimmer, daughter of William and Margaret Trimmer, Feb. 13, 1851, in Tazewell County. The couple purchased a farm near Eureka and set up housekeeping. In the late 1860s, just prior to the birth of twin son Henry and George, the family moved to Fondulac Township and Nicholas purchased acreage just east of Bluetown. He later subdivided a portion of this ground into Slagel’s Addition to the Village of Hilton. This subdivision included Spring Street which would later serve St. Monica Catholic Church.
Nicholas was engaged in farming and, for the sum of $2,500, on Aug. 22, 1869, purchased a grist mill from Robert A. McClellan, who had been appointed postmaster of the Hilton Post Office two months prior. This mill was located near where Stewart Radio Shop is now situated on East Washington Street. It had been constructed by Joseph Schertz on the site of his father’s water powered mill and it is uncertain whether Joseph’s mill was powered by water or steam.
Joseph, the son of David Schertz, constructed the mill in 1850 after returning from the California gold rush. The mill, purported to be three-and-one-half stories high and containing a full basement apparently was not profitable for Slagle and was demolished sometime around 1880. This mill was generally referred to as the Bluetown Mill. Nicholas is believed to have had a partnership with Henry Defenbaugh in this mill as both are listed as millers in the 1870 census of Fondulac Township. The Slagels later operated a boarding house at 725 E. Washington St.
Nicholas and Sophia were the parents of seven children — five who survived to adulthood — four sons, William, Charles, George and Harry and a daughter Julia, who married Jacob Caldwell.
William, Nichols’ oldest son, operated a livery that housed mules for a local coal mine. Charles F. Slagle, their second son, owned a livery located at Four Corners and later at the foot of Springfield hill. Charles also operated hacks that transported passengers from Peoria to Hilton. Nicholas died Feb. 16, 1908, and is interred in Fondulac Township Cemetery with his wife Sophia who died eight years later.
Compiled August 2017 by Frank Borror
The East Peoria Historical Society is located at 324-326 Pekin Avenue. It is dedicated to the collection and preservation of local history. If anyone has information or pictures regarding East Peoria they would share please contact Frank Borror at 696-9227 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.