Timothy B. Blackstone

Timothy Beach Blackstone (March 28, 1829 – May 26, 1900) was a 19th century railroad executive, businessman, philanthropist, and politician. He is descended from one of the earliest British settlers of New England, William Blaxton. Blackstone worked in the railroad industry for most of his life. At the time of his death, his estate was worth US$6 million. Blackstone served as president of the Chicago and Alton Railroad from 1864 through 1899, was a founding president of the Union Stock Yards, and served one term as mayor of La Salle, Illinois. An active philanthropist, Blackstone was the benefactor of the James Blackstone Memorial Library in Branford, Connecticut. A nearly identical library, Blackstone Memorial Library, was donated to the Chicago Public Library by Timothy Blackstone's widow in 1902. The Blackstones also funded Blackstone Hall for the Art Institute of Chicago Building. Chicago's Blackstone Library is the first dedicated branch of the Chicago Public Library system, and later his mansion became the site of the Blackstone Hotel and the Blackstone Theatre.

Blackstone’s association with Mendota

According to the “Tracks of Times,” a publication commissioned in 1978 by the Mendota Chamber of Commerce, Timothy Blackstone’s association with Mendota began in the 1850’s when the Illinois Central was chartered. Two lines crossed in the prairie north of LaSalle in the northwestern corner of LaSalle County. One line ran from Galena by the way of Freeport and Dixon and then south to the Illinois River and from there it continued south toward Cairo, IL. Another line branched off at Centralia and ran toward Chicago.

The labor for building these railroads was supplied by manpower from many European nations. The chief construction engineer was Roswell B. Mason and one of the division engineers was Timothy B. Blackstone, who later became president of the Chicago and Alton Railroad.

Blackstone laid out the town on section 33 of the township. The Illinois Central Railroad and John West owned the other parts of this section. Blackstone is presently remembered in Mendota in the name of a school and a park.

Abstracts and deeds from Mendota Township High School, in the collection of the Mendota Museum & Historical Society, demonstrate Timothy Blackstone’s reputation as a philanthropist. Much, if not all, of the land on which the high school was located on the north side of 16th Street in Mendota, IL was given to the district by Timothy and his wife.

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