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Early Jewish Families of Peoria, Illinois

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  • Adolph Szold (1862 - 1946)
  • Rachael Szold (1865 - 1956)
  • Abel Aaron Gibian (1875 - 1939)
    Residence : 1910 - Chicago Ward 15, Cook, Illinois, USA* Immigration : 1891* Race : White* Ethnicity : American** Updated from 1910 United States Federal Census via son Mortimer B Gibian by SmartCopy :...
  • Tillie Kaminski (1857 - 1925)
    See attached obituary.Four children:# Harry, married to Fannie Wallk of Peoria, living in Atlanta# Henry# Minnie (Mina Rivka), married to Fannie's brother, David Wallk, living in Peoria# Sarah, married...
  • Nathan Kaminsky (1856 - 1941)
    Reference: Ancestry Genealogy - SmartCopy : Apr 28 2018, 5:32:26 UTC

The oldest Jewish community outside of Chicago is Peoria, where the first Jews arrived in 1847. Abraham Jones was Illinois first Jewish legislator, elected in 1842. A benevolent society was organized in 1852 and the first congregation, Anshai Emeth, was formed in 1859."

Rabbi Benjamin Moses Frankel, raised in Peoria, was the founder of the world's first Hillel, at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.

Congregation Agudas Achim

"Congregation Agudas Achim was the realization of an early group of Peoria settlers, 18 in number, who in 1886, gathered to form and establish the first Traditional Orthodox Jewish Congregation in this part of the country. The house of worship was located at what is now State and South Jefferson Avenue. From that small beginning, the Congregation grew to be the largest Traditional Congregation in the state of Illinois, outside of Chicago. During the next decade of existence, the Congregation grew in numbers and moved to the building on Monson Street (now Kumpf Boulevard), between Fourth and Fifth Streets, currently occupied by Busey Bank, which is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places."

"With an influx of newcomers to Peoria and the constant shifting of the Jewish population to the new area, the facilities of the Congregation became inadequate. In 1911, plans were made to erect a new synagogue on Sixth and Monson Streets, and it was completed a year later."

Early Families


Five Frankel brothers and a Frankel sister arrived in Peoria between 1880 and 1891 from Przerosl, in the Suwalki Gubernia, in what is now Northeast Poland, on the Lithuanian border.

The Frankels started a clothing store

One of the Frankel brothers, Joseph, moved shortly to Iowa and another brother, Isaac, moved to New York and eventually to Huntington, West Virginia where a son had moved. Isaac's grandson became the mayor of Huntington decades later.


Abe Gibianski came to Peoria from Sejny, in the Suwalki Gubernia.


Nathan Kaminsky



David Wallk came to the U.S. at age 9 with his mother, Cype and older brother, Meier. The Wilkowski family lived in the Suwalki Gubernia, in Seirijai, about 70 km from where the Frankels lived in Przerosl.

Bell Clothing and Shoe Store, a century-long Peoria institution

Julius Frankel and Sons was the original name of this men's clothing store that was established in the late 1890s and continued to be run by the Frankel family until it was sold and demolished for the downtown ballpark in the early 2000s.

The Frankel brothers are listed in the late 1800s in the Peoria business director as rag peddlers. They worked on the 300-400 block of South West Adams in what is now downtown Peoria. Julius Frankel found a storefront in the 400 block of S. W. Adams, and from there, the store was transferred to the 600 block where it remained the Peoria store until 1970.

"From a pushcart that sold just a few items, Bell Clothing morphed into a full-line men’s store that has everything from underwear to ties, suits, casual attire, hats, shoes, belts, hankies and silk robes. They can completely outfit a man who walks in the front door."

David Frankel, the last president of Bell Clothing and Shoes says: “We keep a wide variety of inventory so we can satisfy everyone’s needs.”

“A well dressed man is a Bell dressed man” is a motto tagged on the board above Frankel’s office desk. Another motto that was supposedly thought up by Bob Carlson and his sidekick on WMBD in the early ‘70’s was, “The store for men and the women who love them.”

Eventually the store moved to the 600 block of South West Adams Street. The store was originally called Julius Frankel and Sons, and then when Harry Frankel (Julius’s brother) bought out Julius’s interest in the early 1900’s, it was re-named Bell Clothing & Shoe House, Inc.

“There was a 90-year-old man in here from Canton recently who said he was one of the people Grandfather would pay to stand outside the store with one of those slate sandwich boards where you could chalk daily specials and ring the bell. And we believe that this was what brought people up to the store-ringing the bell,” said Frankel.

The line of succession goes like this: Harry Frankel died in 1948; then his sons Silas and Abe took over. Abe died in 1968. Then Silas’s son Bruce took over. Lastly, Bruce and his son, David, plus David’s mother Dolores ran the store until it's closing