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Why East William Street Is Not Straight: Anna Beman & the Eventual Development Called Beman Plac

At the intersection of North Jasper Street & East William Street you encounter the legacy of one widow and her resistance to residential development until the 20th Century. You also encounter it at the intersection of North East Avenue & East William. East William Street is 20 feet further north than its usual path for just 3 city blocks.

It has been a street grid error recognized since at least the 1910s, even mentioned in the City Practical plan of 1923. City officials have been encouraged to do something about it. Ironically it has been the development already placed through the proposed corrected route that has stopped any effort. And probably financial costs involving purchasing the affected lots from homeowners, too.

You can rightly state that Anna Beman's stubbornness is permanently part of the Decatur's physical infrastructure. Now over 100 years after her death in 1900.

Ann Spencer was born in Adelphi, Ross County, Ohio, the daughter of Jesse and Catherine Biedler Spencer around 1822. Her father was a prominent land agent and surveyor in Ohio, and the Spencer home in Adelphi is on the National Register of Historic places. Ann married George Beman in Adelphi on November 7, 1844. George Beman was a physician. The Bemans were unable to have children of their own, but they adopted Martha "Mattie" Roult while residing in Ohio. There were no adoption laws in Ohio at that time. On January 15, 1846, Ann wrote up a will leaving everything to her husband and her in-law family.

The Bemans left Ohio after 1850, settling in Decatur in the middle 1850s. Here, George became a partner in practice with Dr. Silas Thompson Trowbridge. In 1859 George was elected as a permanent member of the Illinois Medical Society. The Bemans purchased several different parcels of land in Macon County, including the 40 acres just at the edge of Decatur between William and Wood, along Jasper Street in 1858. They conveyed the southern edge of their 40 acres for East Wood Street. They did not convey any property on the north edge, where East William Street would eventually continue.

Dr. George Beman became ill and died on December 1, 1862. His estate was handled by Orlando Powers, and a tally of outstanding medical bills by Decatur citizens is filed along with his will. Dr. Beman left his estate to his wife, his adopted daughter Mattie, and his mother.