By Norman V. Kelly
I started researching the history of Peoria, Illinois back in the winter of 1982 by reading the 1845 newspapers. It dawned on me then that the real historians initially were newspaper reporters. After all, where do the historians get their initial material? That’s right, from the newspapers and then a more in depth search is made of the subject. I certainly started with the local newspapers, and from there I went to the criminal archives in our courthouse. In researching murder cases I headed to the coroner’s office for the inquest and to the old court files for court testimony. I spent a lot of time researching the man that lived here in Peoria and was known among other names as the “railroad man.”
The man’s name was George Plummer McNear Jr. He was born in Petalum, California in 1891 and a graduate of Cornell University in 1913 with a degree in engineering. McNear was an active, excellent student, and a member of the rowing crew. After college he was employed as a broker in New York City where he married Elizabeth McKenzie, the daughter of a New York architect. He served in France during World War I, including some activity in local railroads. Once his tour was over he headed back to New York where he worked for the Guaranty Trust Company. Never a slacker, George started on the bottom and worked his way to the top, heading the division in the bank that dealt with reorganization of companies that went bankrupt. What possible reason would this man want to come to the small town of Peoria, Illinois? Why indeed. Click on the boxes below to learn more about George McNear.
Editor’s Note: orm Kelly is a Peoria historian and author of 7 books on the history of Peoria, Illinois,
all available in the Peoria library. Norm welcomes your comments and you can also e-mail him: firstname.lastname@example.org