John William Dean was born Aug. 28, 1875, in rural Deer Creek, Illinois, son of John D. Dean and Eliza Jane Swayze. The family moved to East Peoria about 1880 where is father died in 1892. John married Eleanor Murray, daughter of John Murray and Elizabeth Eleanor Robbins, on Oct. 17, 1897, in Ambia, Indiana. John worked for Peoria Candy Company, first as a driver, then as a clerk and finally as a salesman and as a salesman for Carl F. Schober Confections before opening a confectionary and grocery at 102 E. Washington St. in East Peoria.
In 1920 he moved his business to 101 W. Washington and remained there until building a new structure at 109 E. Washington St. This two-story brick building was constructed by the Doering Brothers Construction Co. in 1925 and remains today. John operated a successful grocery business and lived above the grocery. He leased half of the building to Levi “Pee Wee” King for a barbershop and when he retired, leased the other half to Frank Brownfield who operated Brownfield’s Restaurant at that location for many years. Brownfield purchased the building in 1945.
John Dean served two one-year terms as trustee on the East Peoria City Council starting in 1904 and was one of the original directors for Tazewell Saving and Loan when it was chartered in 1919. He also served as postmaster during the 1930s and served as a board member of East Peoria High School for a number of years.
It was during his tenure on the high school board that 400 East Peoria High School students protested the release of Byron J. Moore as principal of the high school. Only 10 students remained in class. John Dean was one of the board members supporting Moore retaining his position as principal. Moore, who had been employed by the high school for 14 years and seven years as principal, was subsequently reinstated following a board meeting that drew 1,500 East Peoria residents. This is the same Byron Moore for which the high school auditorium is named.
John and Eleanor had no children. He married widow, Ida Marie Nelson, daughter of Nicolas and Hannah Petri in August 1946, following Eleanor’s death. John died Nov. 26, 1964, and is buried in Fondulac Township Cemetery as are his mother and his two wives.
Compiled April 2019 by Frank Borror
The East Peoria Historical Society is located at 324-326 Pekin Ave. 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.