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A few weeks ago, I was hired by various Illinois newspapers to provide articles on Lincoln's experiences in various Illinois counties.
I'm posting some of them; this one deals with my home county, Macoupin, which is southward adjacent to Sangamon.

by Tom Emery
For the Staunton Star-Times

Before his presidency, Abraham Lincoln traveled across Illinois practicing law and campaigning for office, earning countless acquaintances along the way. Some of that time was spent in Macoupin County, particularly in the county seat of Carlinville.

Lincoln visited Carlinville on the circuit as early as April 1837, mere months after he began practicing law. Over the next two decades, he made routine trips to town on the legal circuit and argued cases in the courthouse, then located in the center of the Carlinville square. Over 3,000 Macoupin County court documents with Lincoln’s signature have been uncovered.

In 1991, researchers found a 43-page handwritten document from Lincoln in the current Macoupin County courthouse. It is the largest document in the future President’s handwriting in existence.

While in Carlinville, Lincoln visited John M. Palmer, one of his few close friends. Palmer welcomed Lincoln both in his home at 305 South East Street in Carlinville and law office on the town square.Palmer, a local attorney and delegate to the 1847 state constitutional convention, became a political ally of Lincoln in the late 1850s and served as governor of Illinois from 1869-73.

In the Civil War, Palmer was the original colonel of the 14th Illinois and ascended to major general and corps commander, becoming one of the highest-ranking commanders from Illinois. A statue of Palmer adorns the grounds of the current Illinois statehouse.

During his campaign for the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 1858, Lincoln delivered an address on East First South Street in Carlinville, a spot now commemorated by a stone marker. Lincoln arrived on the Chicago and Alton depot that morning and was taken to the American House on West Main, and his speech began at 3 p.m., followed by an address from Palmer.

Contrary to popular belief, the appearance was not one of the famed debates with Stephen A. Douglas. Accounts of the reception to Lincoln’s speech vary. The Carlinville Democrat, a Republican paper owned by Palmer and not true to its name, lauded the speech as “honest, logical, and telling.” Other sources note that Lincoln spoke to a “scattered and not overly sympathetic audience.”

During the war, Palmer wrote Lincoln regularly and visited the President in the White House. In 1865, Lincoln appointed Palmer military governor of Kentucky.

A sketch by the late Lloyd Ostendorf, a leading Lincoln artist, depicts Palmer meeting Lincoln at the Chicago and Alton depot in Carlinville, presumably in the mid-to-late 1850s. Lincoln had been a vocal proponent of the proposal to build that railroad, which reached Carlinville in 1852. The Macoupin County towns of Shipman, Plainview, and Virden were developed along the railroad.

Though the town of Gillespie owes its development to a different railroad, there is still a tie to Lincoln. When the town was founded in 1853, it was named for Judge Joseph Gillespie of Edwardsville, a Lincoln friend and associate. According to local legend in Staunton, Lincoln was a friend of Dr. John Binney and a regular visitor in the Binney home in Staunton.

One of the hallmarks of Macoupin County owes its existence to a Lincoln courtroom defeat. In 1837, the Deed of Trust was established for Blackburn Theological Seminary (later Blackburn College), but by 1845, the school existed only on paper. As a result, the Blackburn Board of Trustees, in an effort to fulfill at least a portion of the College’s mission, determined to transfer the massive Blackburn land holdings to Illinois College in return for the creation of a Blackburn Chair of Theology at the Jacksonville school.

In 1850, the Blackburn heirs decided that the Deed of Trust had been violated, and filed suit for return of the lands. Illinois College retained Lincoln as one of two attorneys to argue their case, which became known as Gilman v. Hamilton. In 1855, the court ruled against Lincoln, and the formation of Blackburn proceeded.

Like most surrounding counties, Macoupin County, a Democratic stronghold, voted against Lincoln in both the 1860 and 1864 Presidential elections. His assassination, though, ensured him as a martyr, and in 1904 a statue of Lincoln in Bunker Hill was erected through the efforts of local Civil War veterans.

In recent months, Carlinville has launched a marketing campaign that highlights Lincoln’s ties to the city.

Tom Emery is a freelance writer and researcher from Carlinville. He may be reached at 217-710-8392 or

by Tom Emery
For the Petersburg Observer

Some of Abraham Lincoln’s connections to Menard County are well-documented, including his time in New Salem from 1831-1837, his many friends and acquaintances, and his possible courtship of Ann Rutledge. But there are plenty of other interesting, lesser-known facts on Lincoln’s experiences in the county.

Lincoln surveyed the town of Petersburg in 1835-36, but he also played a significant role in the formation of Menard County. In January 1839, he wrote a bill in the Illinois legislature to create the counties of Menard, Logan, and Dane (now Christian). All three counties were established on Feb. 15, 1839.

Like many others, Lincoln supported advances in infrastructure, and sponsored bills to create roads to and from Petersburg. In July 1837, he sponsored a bill to create a state road from Beardstown to Petersburg, while in January 1840, he wrote and introduced a bill to build a state road from Petersburg to Waverly. Both bills passed the legislature.

While riding the legal circuit in the 1840s, Lincoln visited Menard County twice a year, usually in the summer and fall. Though Lincoln relished the opportunity to visit old friends while in town, he brought a practical approach to his job. In a case in November 1841, he requested an attachment for Mentor Graham, his old teacher from his New Salem days, for contempt for failing to appear as a witness.
In a separate case on Nov. 4, 1845, he represented the plaintiff in a suit against Graham, who was sued for a debt of $112.23.

On the way to Menard County for that session of the circuit, Lincoln apparently thought better of his often-disheveled appearance. The day before the case, he stopped at a store and purchased a pair of suspenders for a dollar.

Lincoln had surveyed the site of the town of Huron in 1836 and owned land there. But on one occasion, paying the taxes slipped his mind. In April 1842, a published list of delinquent Menard County taxpayers indicated that Lincoln had failed to pay property taxes on a lot in Huron that was valued at two dollars. The unpaid taxes on the lot were one cent.

Petersburg was also a frequent campaign stop for Lincoln during his political career, and he relied on his many friends for key support. During his bid for Congress in 1843, he wrote a letter to Martin S. Morris of Petersburg, a Whig delegate and supporter, thanking him for his efforts. “While the people of Sangamon have cast me off,” wrote Lincoln, “my old friends of Menard who have known me the longest and best of any, still retain their confidence in me.” Lincoln did not earn the nomination.

He made several memorable campaign appearances in the late 1850s, including a speech in Petersburg on Aug. 30, 1856 that demonstrated the partisan nature of local media in the era. In Springfield, the Illinois State Journal described Lincoln’s appearance to a “very large and attentive audience” with “most telling effect.”

The Illinois State Register, the rival Springfield paper, printed a letter to the editor mocking Lincoln as “that great high-priest of abolitionism” and his “spasmodic convulsions” during his speech.

However, his New Salem roots helped little in his Presidential campaigns. Lincoln failed to carry Menard County in either of his Presidential elections, losing by 73 votes in 1860 and 221 in 1864. Like most of central Illinois, Menard was highly divided on national issues. Lincoln narrowly lost Sangamon County in both Presidential elections and carried Springfield by a mere ten votes in his 1864 re-election bid. Lincoln also lost Mason, Cass, and Fulton counties in both 1860 and 1864.

Still, an 1858 incident near Petersburg offered a touch of irony. On Oct. 29, Lincoln spoke in town to a “large and enthusiastic assembly” during his legendary Senate campaign against Stephen A. Douglas. After leaving town, a thunderstorm struck the area, and Lincoln sought shelter in a box car on a nearby rail line.

Sitting in the car with Henry Villard, a noted reporter and future railroad baron, Lincoln began discussing his political history and said that his highest political goal as a youth was election to the state legislature.

Now, he said his wife Mary thought he would be both senator and President. Whether sincere or not, Lincoln scoffed at the notion, declaring “just think of such a sucker as me as President!”

Tom Emery is a freelance writer and historical researcher from Carlinville, Ill. He may be reached at 217-710-8392 or

by Tom Emery
For the Sullivan News-Progress

Before his presidency, Abraham Lincoln traveled across Illinois practicing law and campaigning for office, earning countless acquaintances along the way. Some of that time was spent in Moultrie County, particularly in the county seat of Sullivan.

Lincoln passed near the current site of Sullivan as early as 1830 with his family while they were moving from Indiana to Macon County. Between March 12 and 14, the Lincolns crossed the Kaskaskia River at Willow Ford, four miles southeast of Sullivan. The trail then proceeded northwest, passing between Chipps and Lovington before finally settling southwest of Decatur.

While riding the legal circuit, Lincoln visited Sullivan at least fourteen times between 1843 and 1852, normally in the summer and fall. The Moultrie County court usually convened for three days, and when done, the lawyers and judges moved on, often to Macon County.

Lincoln likely welcomed his time in Moultrie County, for it placed him near his family’s homestead south of Charleston. After a year near Decatur, Lincoln’s parents left to return to Indiana, passed through Coles County on the way, and decided to stay. Lincoln’s father, Thomas, lived south of Charleston until his death in 1851, while his stepmother, Sarah, died there in 1869.

Records show that Lincoln visited his parents and cousins on multiple occasions near the dates of his appearances in Moultrie County. Though Lincoln’s relationship with his father has been the subject of much debate – he did not attend Thomas’ funeral – he cherished his close relationship with Sarah.

During the 1858 race for the U.S. Senate, Lincoln made a memorable speaking appearance in Sullivan. There, he appeared just after a lecture from opponent Stephen A. Douglas, though the two did not debate in Sullivan.

They did square off, however, in Charleston in the fourth of their seven debates on September 18, two days before their appearances in Sullivan. Again, Lincoln used the occasion to visit family in Coles County the next day.

On September 20, he was in Sullivan, where he had scheduled an address at two in the afternoon. Douglas was also in town that day, and confusion resulted in the time of the “Little Giant’s” speech.

As a result, Lincoln wrote Douglas a two-sentence note in pencil. “Understanding that Judge Douglas would speak before dinner,” penned Lincoln, “I announced that I would address our friends at Freeman’s Grove, at 2 p.m. As he does not begin until 1 o’clock, if he will announce the fact, so that I can understand it, I will postpone until 3 o’clock.” The note was delivered to Douglas in his room at the Sullivan House, and he complied with Lincoln’s request during his own appearance.

The chivalrous exchange between the candidates was not shared by their supporters. A parade of Republicans marched to the grove on the north side of town, passing near the Democratic supporters of Douglas, interrupting his speech. One source states a brawl was “narrowly averted,” while others note “ample reports” of a fracas. Lincoln was off to Danville the next day, arriving in that city on a 6 p.m. train.

Lincoln failed to carry Moultrie County in either of his Presidential elections, losing by 89 votes in 1860 and garnering less than 40 percent of the vote in 1864. Like much of the state, east-central Illinois was divided on Lincoln. While he handily carried Macon and Douglas counties in both elections, he only won Coles County, site of his family’s homestead, by a mere 28 votes in 1860 (he won by a much larger margin in 1864). However, Shelby County voted 2-to-1 against Lincoln in both elections.

Though he was assassinated three years earlier, the Lincoln influence was also felt in the 1868 governor’s race. The Democratic candidate, John R. Eden of Sullivan, was defeated by Republican John M. Palmer of Carlinville, one of Lincoln’s few close friends. A major general in the Civil War, Palmer wrote to Lincoln regularly and visited him in the White House.

Palmer later served as U.S. Senator from 1891-97 and was a Presidential candidate on the third-party Gold Democrat ticket in 1896. A statue of Palmer adorns the grounds of the current Illinois statehouse.

Eden served a total of five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives before his death in 1909.

Tom Emery is a freelance writer and historical researcher from Carlinville, Ill. He may be reached at 217-710-8392 or

by Tom Emery
For the Taylorville Breeze Courier

Today, Abraham Lincoln’s experiences in Christian County are reflected in the statue of him with a pig in downtown Taylorville, a product of local legend. But there are plenty of other interesting, lesser-known facts on Lincoln’s appearances in the county.

Lincoln played a significant role in the formation of Christian County. As a third-term member of the Illinois House in January 1839, he sponsored a bill in the Illinois legislature to create the counties of Dane (now Christian), Logan and Menard. All three counties were established on Feb. 15, 1839.

While riding the legal circuit, Lincoln visited Christian County roughly twice a year from 1839-52, usually 2-4 days each in the summer and fall. His experiences in Taylorville reflect the day-to-day nature of his time on the circuit and demonstrate the professional life of Lincoln in his pre-presidential years.

While Lincoln was indeed folksy and wisecracking when he wished to be, he was also an excellent attorney with a strong working knowledge of the law. As a result, he built a successful practice and was known statewide for his legal prowess.

His days in Taylorville were often quite busy. On Nov. 7, 1842 – three days after his marriage to Mary Todd – Lincoln had nine cases called in the Christian County Circuit Court. Five were dismissed, while two were continued. Lincoln won small judgments for his clients in the other two. He usually acquired clients as he came to town, frequently on the day before, or even the day itself, of the court session.

Many Christian County cases were small and mundane. On June 7, 1847, Lincoln sought $100 for the plaintiff in a case that involved a “bright sorrel mare” that the defendant had refused to return. On Aug. 23, 1850, Lincoln argued a case in which cattle had trespassed on the plaintiff’s land and crops.

The previous day, though, brought a more interesting situation. Lincoln represented the plaintiff, Horatio Vandeveer, a businessman, attorney, and former Christian County circuit clerk, who charged the defendants, led by Ahijah Whitecraft, of knowingly felling sixty trees on his property.

Such timber trespass was addressed in Illinois statute, which prohibited such an act without permission and carried a penalty of $8 for high-grade timber such as oak or cherry. A fine of $3 was charged for wood of poorer quality.

Lincoln won the suit in front of Judge David Davis of Bloomington, whom Lincoln appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1862. The defendants’ attorney, however, appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, arguing that Lincoln’s complaint did not specify the trees were cut without permission – only that they were cut. Lincoln lost the case on appeal, and the defendants were required to pay only the market value of the trees.

In November 1851, Lincoln argued for the defendant in Sanders and Sanders v. Dunham, a civil dispute. The plaintiff charged that Dunham had circulated a story that Katherine Sanders, his wife, had bore a child from an adulterous relationship with a black man. Damages of $5,000 were sought, but the case was dismissed at cost to the defendant.

Construction of the county courthouse was the issue in a June 1856 suit in which Lincoln argued for Christian County, the defendants. The county had claimed the foundations of the building were too shallow. Judgment was for the plaintiffs for $657.87, which Lincoln appealed.

Lincoln’s presence in Christian County proved of little help in his Presidential campaigns. He failed to carry Christian both times, garnering only 40 percent of the vote in 1860 and 39 percent in 1864. Most surrounding counties were in agreement, as Lincoln even lost his home county, Sangamon, by narrow margins in both elections. He lost Shelby County by 2-to-1 margins both times and was also badly defeated twice in Montgomery County. Lincoln won Macon County only in 1864.

Today, however, Lincoln’s legacy endures in Christian County and provides a glimpse into his everyday life before he became America’s greatest President.

Tom Emery is a freelance writer and historical researcher from Carlinville, Ill. He may be reached at 217-710-8392 or
Great job Tom!
Tom, thank you for posting your excellent articles. I was struck by the property tax of $.01 on that lot in Huron. I wonder what the penalty was for late payment.

Reminder to all: a third edition of Tom's book entitled Eddie: Lincoln’s Forgotten Son is available.

For anyone who would like to purchase Tom's book here is the ordering information:

Eddie: Lincoln’s Forgotten Son is available by mail through History in Print. Checks, money orders, and PayPal (use the e-mail are accepted. To order by mail, send $5.99 (IL residents add .37 tax) plus $1.25 shipping and handling to History in Print, 337 E. Second South, Carlinville, IL 62626.
It is remarkable to read how many electoral contests AL lost before he eventually won the big prize-the Presidency! It's a wonder he simply didn't give up and stick to his law practice.

But I suppose Mary wouldn't have heard of that.Confused
Never Give Up!
Great stuff Tom!
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