The Lincoln Landscape
The Real Lincoln Highway: The Forgotten Lincoln Circuit Markers
GUY C. FRAKER
Imagine a bright, crisp autumn day in Central Illinois,
September 26, 1852. A party of travelers pauses on a ridge,
surveying the sweeping view to the west, miles of prairie
grass as far as they can see. The grass is almost as tall as
their horses, russet in its fall color, spotted with the
yellows of late-season blooms, some as tall as the grass. The
long ridge, made of enormous deposits left by ancient glaciers
as they retreated ten thousand to fifteen thousand years
earlier, will someday be known as the Eureka Moraine. The
scene is unbroken but for the track they are following. The
riders are on the road from Metamora, the seat of Woodford
County, to Bloomington, seat of McLean County. They are in the
vicinity of the county line. Other than an occasional
farmstead and a rare passing rider, they have seen no other
sign of settlement for some time. As they ride, their
conversation is accompanied by the whistle of quail,
interrupted by the flushing of grouse. They have seen
retreating wolves keeping their distance, and they have
frequently startled deer from their grassy hiding places.
The group had ascended the
ridge from the ford on the Mackinaw River, several miles back.
Benign and gently flowing in this drier season, the river
could be treacherous when they cross it in the spring. The
road descended down the bluffs of open timber with
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huge, wide, bur and white oaks, twisted chinquapin oaks, and
shagbark hickories, to the firm gravel of the ford. This
prairie stream, its waters cleansed and filtered by thousands
of acres of wetlands along its course, is teeming with fish,
including small-mouth bass, northern pike, and countless
species of mussels. The river bottoms are guarded by giant
The men are lawyers riding from
the semi-annual court session in one county to that in the
next. The counties of Illinois were organized into circuits by
the legislature. As population increased, not only would
counties be divided, but the number of counties in each
circuit would change to reflect the changes in population.
These lawyers were traveling the Eighth Judicial Circuit,
consisting of fourteen counties containing an area of over ten
thousand square miles—more than twice the size of the state
of Connecticut (
). The population of those counties in the census of 1850 was
approximately one hundred thousand.
Each spring and fall, court was held in consecutive weeks in
each of the fourteen counties, a week or less in each. The
exception was Springfield, the state capital and the seat of
Sangamon County. The fall term opened there for a period of
Then the lawyers traveled the fifty-five miles to Pekin, which
replaced Tremont as the Tazewell County seat in 18
0.5 After a week, they traveled the
thirty-five miles to Metamora, where they spent three days.
The next stop, thirty miles to the southeast, was Bloomington,
the second-largest town in the circuit. Because of its size,
it would generate more business, so they would probably stay
there several days longer. From there they would travel to Mt.
Pulaski, seat of Logan County, a distance of thirty-five
miles; it had replaced Postville as county seat in 1848 and
would soon lose out to the new city of Lincoln, to be named
for one of the men in this entourage.
The travelers would
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then continue to another county and then another and another
until they had completed the entire circuit, taking a total of
eleven weeks and traveling a distance of more than four
Riding in a carriage drawn by
two horses was the judge, David Davis of Bloomington.
He is said to have weighed three hundred pounds, too heavy to
ride a horse.
Davis was born in Maryland, matriculating at Kenyon College
and the New Haven School of Law. He practiced law briefly in
Pekin before moving to Bloomington in 1836, where he practiced
until his election as circuit judge in 1848. Prior to that the
presiding judges in the circuits had been Illinois supreme
court justices, each assigned to a particular circuit. Davis
was the only circuit judge for the entire circuit and would
hold the position until his appointment to the United States
Supreme Court in 1862.
Davis was one of the principal
architects of Lincoln's nomination for the presidency in
Chicago in 1860. Davis amassed a fortune in land, the
"gold" of Illinois at the time, building a huge
mansion in Bloomington in 1872 that today stands as a
state-operated museum. He was nominated for president by an
obscure third party in 1872. In 1877 he resigned from the
Supreme Court after Democrats and independents in the Illinois
legislature elected him United States senator. There he served
as an independent, eventually being elected president pro-tem.
Davis not only ruled the
circuit's courtrooms but also its social hierarchy during the
numerous evenings in country inns, taverns, and hotels along
the route. He was the monarch of this traveling society.
Riding along with him was Abraham Lincoln on his horse,
Lincoln had defended a slander case before a jury the
preceding day, with Judge Davis presiding. Though Lincoln's
client had lost, the verdict was only $13, though the
plaintiff had sought $5,000.
Suits for slander were fairly common in those days. Lincoln
had been riding the Eighth Circuit since his admission to
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the bar in 1837, other than his years in Congress in 1847 and
1848, and would continue to do so until his election to the
presidency in 1860. Most of the lawyers rode only a portion of
the circuit; others went home between sessions. Lincoln, on
the other hand, was one of the few who made the entire tour
without interruption as a general rule.
He was arguably the most prominent lawyer on the circuit,
handling a wide variety of cases, mostly civil as opposed to
Many of the local lawyers would refer cases to the visiting
Lincoln. He was perhaps the lawyer closest to the Judge; this
closeness was apparently not resented by other lawyers.
Leonard Swett of Bloomington
may have been included in the traveling party of attorneys. He
was a Mexican War veteran from Maine who found his way to
Bloomington in the late 1840s. Younger than Davis and Lincoln,
Swett would become a close confidant of Lincoln's from the
years of traveling together along these roads. They associated
on many cases. He also played a major role in Lincoln's
victory at the Republican convention of 1860.
He was influential in persuading Lincoln, as president, to
appoint Davis to the nation's highest court.
After the Civil War, he would move his practice to Chicago
where he became a nationally renowned criminal attorney,
handling cases that included the appeal of the conviction of
the Haymarket anarchists in the late 1880s. Swett generally
joined Lincoln in riding the entire circuit.
Usually, David Campbell of
Springfield, the state's attorney and prosecutor for all of
the circuit, was also along. Campbell, a native of New Jersey
and a Democrat, had defeated Davis in seeking this post in
1848. He served in that capacity until his untimely death in
His lively fiddle playing helped pass the long evenings on
[End Page 79]
Campbell frequently engaged the services of private
practitioners, including Lincoln, to assist in the prosecution
of important cases.
No doubt others would have also been part of this cavalcade of
talented, colorful, intrepid professionals as they made their
way along this ridge, first heading for the village of Oak
Grove and then on to Bloomington on that September day.
Imagine a similar September day
one hundred and fifty years later in the same area. An
automobile traveling U.S. Route 150 enters the village of
Carlock, which didn't exist in 1852. On the other hand, the
village of Oak Grove is no longer, the former a beneficiary of
the coming of a railroad, the latter a victim. Metamora is no
longer Woodford's county seat, having been replaced by Eureka
in 1896. The nearby Mackinaw River is no longer clear, its
waters now muddy with silt from farm fields and lacking the
cleansing of the long since converted wetlands. Grouse are no
more and quail are unusual. In fact, deer numbers are probably
higher because of the extirpation of the predators. The
population of those fourteen counties in the 2000 census was
more than one million. Each county has its own state's
attorney, each with a number of assistants. The total number
of circuit judges in all of those counties in 2003 is
Slander suits are rare.
The car turns north and soon is
on a lightly traveled county blacktop, the same path that
group of lawyers had traveled so long ago. The road ascends
the same ridge from the opposite direction the lawyers had
been going. The same vista to the west exists, except that the
prairies have been replaced with corn and soybeans, and the
landscape is dotted with farmhouses, grain elevators, and
There, at the county line, on
the west side of the road, is a rather strange monument that
resembles an eight-foot-tall chess piece. It bears an artfully
designed bronze plaque on its face with a profile of Lincoln
and the legend: "ABRAHAM LINCOLN / Traveled this way as
he rode / The circuit of the / Eighth Judicial District / 1847
1859 / Erected 1922." The plaque has the symbol of the
Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) in the left lower
corner and the symbol of a newly formed organization, the
Lincoln Circuit Marking Association, opposite. On the right
side of the base is a bronze plate labeled WOODFORD,
and on the left side, McLEAN.
[End Page 80]
This marker is one of nineteen
placed on the county lines of each of the counties of the
Eighth Judicial Circuit in 1922 and 1923. In addition, a
monument bearing a slightly different profile of Lincoln with
the same legend was placed on the face of a rectangle of
granite at every county seat of the circuit. The creation of
this collective memorial to Lincoln and the circuit's role in
his life began in 1914 when the Alliance Chapter of the DAR in
Champaign-Urbana invited Judge Joseph O. Cunningham of Urbana
The appearance was apparently sparked by the creation of the
proposed Lincoln Highway, a coast-to-coast highway that
ultimately became U.S. 30, crossing Illinois further north.
Cunningham was eighty-three
years old and reputed to be the last surviving attorney who
had practiced with Lincoln. He grew up in Ohio, studying law
at Oberlin College. He arrived in Urbana in 1853, first
purchasing the Urbana Union, a newspaper, before
commencing the practice of law. He practiced in Urbana from
his admission in 1856 until his retirement in 1905, including
service as county judge from 1861 to 1875. Lincoln spent time
with Cunningham in Urbana and in Danville; he was present at
Lincoln's "Lost Speech" in Bloomington in 1856. That
year, his paper delivered the news to Lincoln during the
spring court session in Urbana that he had received votes for
vice president at the Republican's national convention in
Philadelphia. Lincoln wrote him a lengthy letter about the
first Douglas debate from Ottawa. He authored an authoritative
history of Champaign County published in 1905. He died three
years after the DAR speech.
Cunningham's speech opened with
a discussion of the development of early roads in that part of
the circuit, which had evolved from Indian and buffalo trails.
He urged that "... An additional and historical dignity
may attach to what I shall claim and insist had perhaps the
highest claim to be designated and treated as 'The Real
Lincoln Highway of Illinois.'" Citing Henry C. Whitney's
reminiscences of riding the circuit with Lincoln, Cunningham
described an incident that occurred on the way to Danville.
The muddy, narrow, deeply ditched road passed through timbered
[End Page 81]
As it became dark, Lincoln and Whitney stepped out of the
two-seated carriage they were sharing with Leonard Swett and
his wife and piloted the wagon by singing loudly as they
proceeded on foot through the dark and melancholy woods.
Asked Cunningham, "What other road has been sanctified by
his actual touch in performing a disinterested humble act for
a friend so marked as a Lincoln characteristic. The answer
must be, 'No one.' In conclusion now, let me plead the supreme
claims of this road."
Following the meeting, the
local DARs presented the idea to the state organization. To
broaden the support and effort beyond the members of the DAR,
a separate organization (Under the Auspices of the Daughters
of the American Revolution of Illinois) was incorporated in
1916—The Lincoln Circuit Marking Association.
The bylaws provided for thirty board members, two honorary
presidents, and the usual officers; there was also an
executive committee. Each county of the circuit had a local
organization with two chairmen—one public and one DAR.
Annual dues were two dollars for "governing members"
and one dollar for "sustaining members." The board
was quickly filled, and it elected officers and solicited
members with the aid of a glossy pamphlet produced for that
The first president was Judge
Lawrence Stringer of Lincoln, author of a two-volume history
of Logan County published in 1911. Jessie Palmer Weber,
longtime librarian of the Illinois State Historical Library,
would serve as secretary from that first election in 1916
until her death in 1926. Her persistent, gracious effort was
important in the organization's ultimate success. Over the
years its honorary presidents included, among others, George
Perrin Davis of Bloomington, the son of David Davis who had
occasionally accompanied his father on the circuit. They also
included Judge Cunningham, U. S. Senator William B. McKinley
of Champaign, Joseph G. ("Uncle Joe") Cannon, the
long-time congressman from Danville who served sixteen years
as Speaker of the House, Joseph W. Fifer of Bloomington,
elected governor of Illinois as "Private Joe" in
1888, and Frank Lowden, governor of Illinois from 1916 to 1920
and an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican presidential
nomination in 1920.
[End Page 82]
However, the most influential
and active participant was Lotte Jones of Danville. A member
of the DAR, she was selected as the first chairman of the
executive committee in 1916 and served until her death in
1933. All titles aside, she was the association's
"czar." Jessie Palmer Weber stated in 1917, "It
is her pet scheme and she is full of enthusiasm."
She dominated every phase of the group. For example, the site
of the organization for incorporation purposes was Danville.
The bylaws provided that the annual meeting should be held in
Danville. Efforts to amend the bylaws to move it to a more
central location were defeated by her objections several times
over the years. The annual dinner meeting was, therefore, held
in Danville every year until 1931. It was finally moved by
amendment in 1930, passed in Jones's absence.
Born in 1854 in Covington,
Indiana, Jones moved with her family to Danville in 1871,
where she lived the rest of her life. Attending several
courses at Illinois State Normal University, she became a
grade-school teacher, then administrator. She was known and
respected throughout the state and was considered an authority
on the history and geography of the region. She wrote several
books, including a two-volume history of Vermilion County,
published in 1911. A bicentennial history of the county
described her as "Strong-minded, energetic, but rather
eccentric ... She fought for what she believed in. Sometimes
it did not make her popular, but she did not care."
Correspondence in the records of the organization reflects the
intensity with which she pursued its mission and the
occasional frustration of those who dealt with her.
At the organizational meeting
of October 13, 1916, Jones was already able to report on her
work surveying the roads traveled and the appropriate
locations for the county-line markers. Acting for the
association, she had engaged a young landscape architect from
San Diego, Frederich Gordan Lysle. He came to Illinois in
1916, and the two traveled the entire circuit, working on the
difficult task of deciphering the old roads, many long since
obscured by the settlement and sectioning of rural Illinois.
Jones enlisted the help of noted local historians throughout
the circuit, such as Judge Stringer, L. C. Freese of Eureka,
W. F. Lodge of Monticello, and Judge Cun-
[End Page 83]
ningham. In 1917 she declared, "I now have the Circuit
Road determined without question." She issued a complete
but concise report of four pages entitled, "Report of
Organization of the Lincoln Circuit Marking Association and
location of Roads on the Circuit." In that report she
details her repeated travels to various counties of the
circuit. The report lists the leadership of the
"sub-local" organization in each county and in
limited detail describes the historic roads. It contains a
list entitled, "WHERE THE EIGHTEEN GUIDE POSTS ARE TO BE
PLACED." She concluded that "... The actual compass
of the Lincoln Circuit Road has been clearly determined."
She was also the principle
force behind the solicitation and selection of the markers'
designs. The plan was to mark the circuit in three different
ways. First was the marker at each county seat. Second was the
marker to be placed at the points where the traveling lawyers
traversed each county line. Third was a combination of small,
metal markers and stencils to paint the Association's symbol
on telephone and telegraph poles along the route. This part of
the effort was tried and abandoned fairly early. It became
quickly apparent that these markers would not last.
Advertising was sometimes stuck or painted over them, and
weather quickly obliterated them, making it obvious that
maintenance was not practical.
Jones solicited artists,
contractors, and architects to submit ideas for suitable
monuments. She even wrote to Lorado Taft and Daniel Chester
French without success.
For the county-seat marker, she ultimately selected a renowned
architect, Henry Bacon. A native of Watseka, he grew up in
Wilmington, North Carolina. He studied for a year at the
University of Illinois before going to work in 1885 for the
prestigious firm of McKim, Mead and White in New York as an
architect in training. He studied in Europe for several years
and finally started his own firm in 1903. He was awarded the
commission for the Lincoln Memorial in 1905 at the age of
Jones went to Washington, D.C., and was given a tour of the
memorial by him in 1921. His design for the county-seat marker
included a specification of the material, Greens Landing
granite 5 feet 6 inches by 2 feet 4 inches and 12 inches
thick. The face of the granite was recessed for the placement
of a plaque (
). Bacon referred to this mon-
[End Page 84]
Figure 1. Map of the 8th Judicial
Circuit (1847–1853). The solid line shows
the route of the circuitriding lawyears. The
broken line shows changes in the route as a
result of county seat relocations.
[End Page 85]
ument as "The little brother of the great
New York sculptor Georg J. Lober designed the plaque and
created the markers in 1921. The total cost for all the
county-seat markers was $4,950.
The design of the county-line
marker was the work of Edgar Martin, supervising state
architect for the Department of Public Works and Buildings.
The county-line marker's design, chosen from several
submitted, is more unique (
). It is made of pressed concrete with a bronze plaque on the
face. The inscription is the same, and both bear the insignia
of the two organizations. The blueprint of the structure of
the marker reveals it is of three different pieces, the base,
the pillar, and the decorative, rectangular top that bears the
plaque. This plaque is of a different profile of Lincoln than
that of the county-seat marker. It is not clear who designed
this graceful profile. The base holds two plates, each
identifying the county of the specific location, so that each
county line marker is unique. Apparently the marker was
assembled at the site. Before manufacture, there was a
question as to which side of the road each marker would be
located upon in order to place the county plates on the
appropriate side of the base. By making the base separate, it
could be turned the proper direction on site before the upper
portion was joined. The blueprints reveal a hole in the back
of the top for bolting the top onto the pillar, specifying
that the hole be filled with matching concrete.
The markers were produced by
Joseph Dux of Chicago. While the records of the association do
not specifically identify the designer of the plaque, it
appears quite likely that it was Dux. A native of
Philadelphia, he came to Chicago in 1880, a graduate of Cooper
Institute. He was an architectural sculptor.
A book of his work is in the collection of the Library of the
Art Institute, entitled Illustrations of Clay Models, Casts
and Wood Carving Executed in the Establishment of Joseph Dux,
The work shown there is of a similar nature to the marker
plaque. It clearly demonstrates Dux to be capable of work of
the quality done on the plaque. Dux died in 1931. The cost of
[End Page 86]
Figure 2. County-seat marker.
Figure 3. County-line marker.
[End Page 87]
markers was $2,272 for the concrete work, $425 for nineteen
sculptured panels, and $5 each for thirty-eight county name
plates. The total cost of the nineteen markers was $2,887. The
DAR estimated a total cost per county of both monuments at
$800, which included the cost of installation. The DAR
requested $600 from each county, with the Circuit Marking
Association contributing the remaining $200.
While there was considerable suspense as each county
considered the appropriation issue, Livingston County was the
only one to decline to participate. That county's
rationalization was that it was only in the circuit for a
short period of time.
The markers were placed in
1921, 1922, and 1923. The placement was generally commemorated
by a dedication ceremony of considerable pomp. An official
program of one of the dedications survives. The cover is the
image of the county-seat plaque; a printed list contains the
counties and seats, the officers and directors, and what
appears to be the members, pictures of both markers, and dates
of all the scheduled dedications around the circuit. The
"Official Programme" noted music by two bands, a
symposium entitled "I Knew Lincoln," and other
speakers of some prominence. Lotte Jones participated in the
ceremony. The unveiling featured children of the community
public schools, and the ceremony included the ritual of the
Grand Army of the Republic.
The dedication of the Woodford/McLean
marker was held on July 11, 1923. The ceremony took place at
nearby Walnut Grove before moving to the marker site for the
unveiling. It included patriotic readings, music, and speeches
by several speakers including the association's president,
Judge Franklin Boggs of Urbana, Joseph Fifer, and of course,
Lotte Jones. The monument was unveiled and presented to the
two counties and accepted by the chairman of the board of
supervisors of each county.
Other dedication ceremonies
featured speakers including Joseph Cannon, Justice Floyd
Thompson of the Illinois Supreme Court, Jessie Palmer Weber,
and Dr. Otto Schmidt. Attorney H. I. Green spoke at the Urbana
dedication. Judge Frances Shonkwiler was the speaker at the
dedication of the Piatt/Champaign marker. His grandson, Judge
John Shonkwiler, repeated that speech in a rededication of
this marker in May 2001.
In November 1923, the dedication of the Vermilion/Edgar County
marker was attended by a large crowd at
[End Page 88]
Ridge Farm. The Presbyterian Ladies served fried chicken and
Once the markers were placed,
the momentum of the Lincoln Circuit Marking Association slowly
waned. Membership dwindled, with the annual meetings failing
to draw quorums starting in 1926. After that year, the
organization neglected to elect honorary presidents. Proposals
to take on other programs related to the circuit met with
little enthusiasm. Efforts to organize an inspection tour were
unsuccessful. Lotte Jones's absence for ill health was noted
in the minutes of the annual meetings of 1931 and 1932, the
last year for which there are minutes.
The organization was officially dissolved in 1937.
The Marking Association's
memorial commemorating Lincoln's Eighth Judicial Circuit
remains spread across the old circuit. All of the original
seventeen county-seat markers remain, although several have
been moved or modified. Most are at the Lincoln courthouse
sites. These markers are impressive reminders of Lincoln's
connection to these locations, but they tell us what we
already know or could readily find out. This is not the case
with the county-line markers. The efforts and relative success
of Lotte Jones in rediscovering these roads and placing the
markers is the real contribution of the Lincoln Circuit
Marking Association and all those who aided the effort.
Finding the roads then in the 1920s—seventy years after the
fact—was a difficult task. Finding them now another eighty
years later is almost as difficult. Records of the association
refer to maps that were made as the search continued during
the site selection process, but the records do not include
these maps. They do reveal the difficulty of the task. Judge
Cunningham in his initial speech noted the impact of the
settlement of central Illinois on the locations of roads. Land
ownership and creation of farms often moved the roads from the
direct route, frequently diagonal, to following section lines,
on the square, erasing some of the original landmarks.
Later correspondence in the files about the search, with local
knowledgeable authorities, shows how difficult it was.
[End Page 89]
The challenge was worthy of the
indomitable Lotte Jones and her hired assistant, Frederick
Gordan Lysle. They used a map by Peck and Messinger that she
dated as 1844. Perusal of the historic map reveals several
obvious roads that the lawyers would have used.
For the rest of these roads, Jones had to rely on local
sources and her own research. It took her several years and
repeated trips to each of the counties of the circuit. The
original plan was to place nineteen markers; today, fifteen,
or parts thereof, remain. Eleven remain intact, four only in
part. The Henry Horner Lincoln Collection in the Illinois
State Historical Library contains a plaque from one of the
Traveling from marker to marker
creates a sense of what it was like to travel these roads
during the time of Lincoln and his contemporaries. The roads
are little traveled, some are not paved. All are rural,
removed from the frantic pace of today's world. Each marker's
location is so unheralded that it is almost hidden. Though row
crops have replaced the prairie, one still feels the seemingly
endless miles, the gentle roll of the land, and the serene
flow of its streams. It is essentially the same place where
Abraham Lincoln grew from a callow, newly initiated attorney
to a seasoned professional with the qualities that our nation
demanded. The markers and their roads re-create the central
Illinois of that day; traveling these roads between markers
creates a sense of the place that these men traversed so long
The following list of these
markers is in the same order that Lotte Jones listed them in
her report of 1919. This list also places the counties in the
order that the circuit riders traveled from county to county
from 1847 to 1853, and a description of the county-seat
markers by city.
The county-seat marker is
located on a wall of plaques on the south side of the Old
State Capitol square. This is not the original placement of
this monument. Before restoration the marker was located at
the Sangamon County Courthouse, now restored as the Old State
Capitol State Historic Site. The courthouse of Lincoln's day
was across the street at the southeast corner of Sixth and
1. Boundary of Sangamon and Menard counties on the road
[End Page 90]
kin. This marker is located on the county road at the
southwest corner of 2250E and 12N. All that is left is the
base; the plates for Sangamon and Menard counties were at
the site in July of 2002 but now are missing. This route is
shown on the Peck and Messinger map.
1A. Boundary of Menard and Logan counties on the road to
Pekin. This marker was badly damaged by an automobile in
1924. A committee considered replacing it, and it was
determined that the location was not on the original road in
any event, and the proximity of marker number 2 (below)
makes this marker superfluous. It was not replaced.
2. Boundary of Logan and Tazewell counties on the road to
Pekin. This road is known as the Delavan blacktop and
went to Tremont, the county seat before Pekin. The marker is
located at the southwest corner of 300E and 2800N. This
marker is in good condition and is well maintained. The
route is shown on the Peck and Messinger map.
The county-seat marker is
located as originally set on the north side of the present
courthouse. This is the location of the original Lincoln
courthouse in Pekin.
3. Boundary of Tazewell and Woodford counties on the road
from Pekin to Metamora. This marker is on the diagonal
road that runs from Washington to Metamora. It is at the
northwest corner of the intersection of roads 2900 N and
28500 E. The marker is well maintained and in good
condition. It is set off from the neighboring field by a
split-rail fence. This route is shown on the Peck and
The county-seat marker is
located on the front of the courthouse as originally set. This
is one of only two original Lincoln courthouses still in
existence in the circuit. The county seat has been Eureka
4. Boundary of Woodford and McLean counties on the road
from Metamora to Bloomington. This is the marker
described earlier. It is on the county line one-half mile
north of County Road 2250N, north of Carlock. Located on the
west side of the road,
[End Page 91]
it is in good condition and well maintained. At some point
the pillar and base were modified.
The county-seat marker is
located as originally set on the east side of what is now the
McLean County History Museum, formerly the McLean County
Courthouse. This is the location of the original Lincoln
courthouse in Bloomington.
5. Boundary of Logan and McLean counties on the road from
Bloomington to Lincoln. It is located on the south side
of road 2500 N, one-half mile east of 2200 E. It was
severely damaged by vandalism in 1977 and was restored
through the efforts of local farmers and the Abraham Lincoln
Chapter of the DAR. The plaque was newly designed and cast
without the Lincolns profile. The restored monument was
rededicated in a ceremony on September 18, 1983.
Lincoln and Mt. Pulaski
County-seat markers were placed
at both county seats, Mt. Pulaski and Lincoln. In Mt. Pulaski
it is located at the southwest corner of the square, and in
Lincoln, on the west side of the courthouse, the site of the
original Lincoln courthouse in Lincoln. Mt. Pulaski is the
other original Lincoln courthouse that remains.
6. Boundary of Logan and DeWitt counties on the road from
Lincoln to Clinton. Take Illinois Route 54 to Kenney,
then go west on county road 350 from the north edge of
Kenney, a distance of approximately 1.5 miles. The marker is
located on the north side of the road. The base and the
pillar are intact but the top, including the plaque, is
The county-seat marker is
located on the southeast corner of the Lincoln courthouse
square, which is no longer the site of the courthouse.
7. Boundary of DeWitt and Piatt counties on the road from
Clinton to Monticello. Turn south off of Illinois Route
10 on 2400E. It is located at the intersection of 300N and
2400E. It is in good condition and well maintained, having
been recently restored and rededicated as noted above.
[End Page 92]
The county-seat marker is
located on the west side of the courthouse. This is the site
of the original Lincoln courthouse.
8. Boundary of Piatt and Champaign counties on the road
from Monticello to Urbana. Exit I-72 at Illinois Route
47, go north on 47 to the first left at county blacktop, go
west on that road to the intersection of 000E and 1675N. It
is located on the southwest corner of the intersection. The
plaque bears some grafitti scars, but it is otherwise in
good condition and well maintained.
The county courthouse marker is
located at the north side of the courthouse, the site of the
original Lincoln courthouse.
9. Boundary of Champaign and Vermilion counties on the
road from Urbana to Danville. This is located on the old
state road between the two cities, which was replaced by
U.S. 150, which is now obsolete by virtue of I-74, all three
of which parallel each other as they travel through Illinois
at this point. It is on the Peck and Messinger map. It is a
gravel road. The marker is located at the intersection of
2800E and 1350N, on the north side of 1350N. It is in good
condition and well maintained. It is modified in that the
pillar is shortened and placed in an additional base.
The courthouse marker is not at
the site of the original Lincoln courthouse in Danville, which
is the location of the current courthouse. The marker is
located to the east on the same street, at the intersection of
Route 150 and Logan Street.
10. Boundary of Vermilion and Edgar counties on the road
from Danville to Paris. The road from Danville to Paris
is Illinois Route 1 and is the only marker located on a
highway. This was originally the historic Hubbard Trace, an
early trade route that ran from Chicago to Vincennes. The
road is shown on the Peck and Messinger map. Lotte Jones
noted that it was paved to the southern border of Vermilion
County at the time of her work. The marker is located at the
southeast corner of 2800N and is in good condition and well
[End Page 93]
The county-seat marker is
located on the northwest corner of the courthouse, which is
the site of the original Lincoln courthouse.
11. Boundary of Edgar and Coles counties on the road from
Paris to Charleston. This is located on the Old State
Road from Paris to Charleston, which continues on to
Shelbyville. This historic road is shown on the Peck and
Messinger map and parallels the current road, Illinois Route
16, which is located several miles to the north. It is on
the north side of the road about one-half mile west of
county road 1450. The marker is in good condition and well
maintained, with recent plantings and landscaping around it.
Though Charleston was never in
the Eighth Judicial Circuit, Lincoln had a great deal of
business in this county during his career in central Illinois.
Therefore, the Lincoln Circuit Marking Association considered
it appropriate that Coles County be part of the memorial. The
courthouse marker is located on the south side of the current
courthouse, which is at the location of the original Lincoln
12. Boundary of Coles and Shelby counties on the road
from Charleston to Danville. This marker was also placed
on the Old State Road at its intersection with the County
Line Road. Although the marker has not been totally
destroyed, all that is left is the base including the county
plates. The plaque has been resurrected by placement in a
brick marker located on the south side of the same road
about one mile east at the intersection with county road
100E. This was rededicated in a ceremony in June 1979.
The county-seat marker is
located in a small plaza, known as Lincoln Square, across the
street to the south from the present courthouse, which is the
location of the Lincoln-era courthouse.
13. Boundary of Shelby and Moultrie counties on the road
from Shelbyville to Sullivan. The author has been unable
to locate this marker. The Jones list of markers includes
one on this county
[End Page 94]
line, however it is not certain that it was ever installed.
At the November 13, 1923, meeting of the Association, it was
noted that all of the markers had been placed except this
one and the McLean/Logan marker, which is now in place.
Minutes of the organization as late as January 5, 1927, show
that it still wasn't set.
Minutes of the Shelby County Board of Supervisors throughout
the 1920s made no reference to it, though they do show
placement of the marker at the courthouse on November 2,
There is no trace of the monument today, and a number of
knowledgeable people in both Shelby and Moultrie counties
have no information that it was ever in place. The same
people are aware of the other marker in each of their
counties. The records of the LCMA raise questions on
December 1, 1926, as to whether it was ever placed.
The county-seat marker is
located at the northeast corner of the courthouse square, the
site of the Lincoln-era courthouse.
14. Boundary of Moultrie and Macon counties on the road
from Sullivan to Decatur. The county-line marker is
located on the north side of the Moultrie County Road 2400,
two miles west of Lake City on the county line. This stretch
of road on the Lincoln Heritage Trail is part of the route
of the Lincoln family's move to Macon County in 1831. The
entire marker is structurally intact, but badly damaged with
chunks knocked off the top, the plaque entirely missing, and
the concrete fill of the hole knocked out, leaving a hole in
the center. The county-name plates remain.
The courthouse marker is not at
the site of the Lincoln courthouse in Decatur, which is
different than today's courthouse location. A bronze model of
the Lincoln courthouse stands on the southwest corner of
Lincoln square, marking the location of the Lincoln
courthouse. The courthouse marker is located on North Pine
Street in Millikin Park. There is a log courthouse, which
includes remnants of the Lincoln building located at the Macon
County Historical Museum.
[End Page 95]
15. Boundary of Macon and Christian counties on the road
from Decatur to Taylorville. This marker is located on
the Mount Auburn blacktop between Decatur and Mount Auburn.
It demonstrates how Illinois roads have evolved. The logical
location is seven miles to the south where the current
direct route between the two cities enters Christian County
(Illinois Route 48). This marker is in good condition and
well maintained. It is at the southwest corner of the
intersection of two Macon County roads—Mount Auburn Road
(11000) and Meridian Avenue (44000).
The county-seat marker is
located on the northwest corner of the courthouse square,
which is the site of the original Lincoln courthouse. The
Lincoln courthouse, a frame building, has been moved to the
County Historical Park in the northwest corner of Taylorville.
16. Boundary of Christian and Sangamon counties on the
road from Taylorville to Springfield. This is the most
curious of all the county-line markers locations. It is
located on a creek bank on the north side of Christian
County Road 2300N at its intersection with the marked but
non-existent 600E on the county line. There is also a pair
of Sangamon County road signs for 8S and the non-existent
12E. The marker is located west of the direct route now
existing between the two cities (Illinois Route 29). The
pillar and the top including the plaque are in good
condition. The original base has been replaced with a new
base in which the pillar is inserted. The county nameplates
17. Boundary of Sangamon and Menard counties on the road
from Springfield to Petersburg. The author has been
unable to locate this marker, although an old photograph of
it exists. Local residents recall its location on the county
line on the east side of Route 97, which is consistent with
the scene in the photograph. There is an oral account of the
marker's destruction several decades ago.
This marker is located at the
southwest corner of the courthouse square, site of the
original Lincoln courthouse.
18. Boundary of Menard and Mason counties on the road
[End Page 96]
Petersburg to Havana. A 1934 letter from Paul Angle
describes the fate of this marker. It had been placed on the
Sangamon River at the site of the ferry on the road just
northwest of Oakford. The river is the county line. Angle's
letter indicates that Etta M. Neer had brought in the marker
several days earlier. He states that it had been destroyed
by vandals two years earlier.
The county-seat marker is
located on the west side of the courthouse.
[End Page 97]
1. This is a
description of an imagined event in a locale that the
circuit-riding lawyers would have encountered. September 26,
1852, was the day between court sessions in Metamora and
Bloomington, so it was a travel day. Earl Schenk Miers, ed. Lincoln
Day by Day, a Chronology 1809–65, 3 vols. (Washington,
D.C.: Lincoln Sesquicentennial Commission 1960), 2: 84. The
lawyers here often did travel together. Leonard Swett, David
Davis, Address before the Bar Association of the State of
Illinois (n.p., 1886).
2. The number of
counties varied over the years. The Eighth as described here
from 1847 to 1853, encompassed the most counties it would
include. The only county in the Eighth throughout Lincoln's
career was McLean; even Sangamon was moved to a different
circuit in 1857. Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis, eds. The
Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln, Complete Documentary Edition
(Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999). (Hereafter cited
as Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln).
3. John Moses, Illinois
Historical and Statistical, 2 vols. (Chicago: Fergus
Printing, 1895), 2: 1137.
4. Lincoln drafted
legislation reducing the size of the circuit to eight counties
in 1853, at the request of Judge Davis. Law Practice of
Abraham Lincoln, ID N05293.
5. Susan Krause, From
Log Cabins to Temples of Justice, Courthouses in Lincoln's
Illinois (Springfield: Illinois Historic Preservation
6. Ibid., 28.
7. John J. Duff, A.
Lincoln: Prairie Lawyer (New York: Rinehart, 1960), 2.
8. Swett, David
9. Henry Clay
Whitney, Life on the Circuit with Lincoln (Caldwell,
Ida.: Caxton, 1892), 65.
Krause, Judging Lincoln: The Bench in Lincoln's Illinois
(Springfield: Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, 2002);
Willard L. King, Lincoln's Manager, David Davis
(Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1960).
Trevor Hill, Lincoln the Lawyer (New York: Century,
Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Simon & Shuster,
Practice of Abraham Lincoln, Ramsey v. Marteny, ID L01812.
14. Whitney, Life
on the Circuit, 62.
Practice of Abraham Lincoln; Paul M. Angle, Abraham
Lincoln: Circuit Lawyer (Springfield, Ill.: Lincoln
Centennial Association Papers, 1928), 33.
16. Hill, Lincoln
the Lawyer, 180.
17. Robert S.
Eckley, "Leonard Swett: Lincoln's Legacy to the Chicago
Bar," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society
92 (Autumn 1999): 274–88.
18. Letter of
Henry C. Whitney to William H. Herndon, Aug. 27, 1887, and
letter of Leonard Swett to Herndon, Aug. 29, 1887, both in
Douglas L. Wilson and Rodney O. Davis, eds. Herndon's
Informants, Letters, Interviews, & Statements about
Abraham Lincoln (Champaign: University of Illinois Press,
1998), 627–34, 636–37.
19. Swett, David
Practice of Abraham Lincoln, Biography section; John
Palmer, The Bench and Bar of Illinois, Historical and
Reminiscent, 2 vols. (Chicago: Lewis Publishing, 1899), 1:
21. Duff, A.
Lincoln: Prairie Lawyer, 71.
22. Ibid., 302.
Illinois Legal Directory 2002 (Dallas, Tex.: Legal
Directories Publishing, 2002).
24. Rose Moss
Scott, ed. Daughters of the American Revolution
(Danville, Ill.: Illinois Printing, 1929), 102.
Miller O'Donnell, Joseph Oscar Cunningham (Champaign,
Ill.: Champaign County Historical Museum) 1976; Willis C.
Baker and Patricia L. Miller, A Commemorative History of
Champaign County, Illinois, 1833–1983 ( Illinois
Heritage Association 1984).
Courier-Herald, Nov. 14, 1914.
27. Whitney, Life
on the Circuit with Lincoln, 436.
of Incorporation, Aug. 29, 1916, Records of the Lincoln
Circuit Marking Association, Illinois State Historical
Library, Springfield, Ill. (hereafter cited as Records of the
29. Records of
30. Ibid., Weber
to Lee Boland, Jan. 19, 1917.
Minutes of the annual meetings from Oct. 13, 1916, to Dec. 2,
Stapp, Footprints in the Sands; Founders and Builders of
Vermilion County, Illinois (Danville, Ill.: Interstate
33. Records of
the LCMA, W. F. Lodge (Monticello) to Jessie Palmer Weber,
June 4, 1921.
34. Ibid., See
Minutes of Nov. 14, 1922, meeting.
36. Ibid., Jones
National Biography Online, "Bacon, Henry Jr."
(by Christopher A. Thomas),
(accessed Feb. 2000).
38. Records of
the LCMA, Lotte Jones to Jessie Palmer Weber, Jan. 21, 1921.
Contract between Lober and LCMA, May 23, 1921.
blueprints of marker.
Nelson Marquis, ed. Who's Who in Chicago, The Book of
Chicagoans, 1926 (Chicago: Marquis, 1926).
42. Joseph Dux, Illustrations
of Clay Models, Casts, and Wood Carving Executed in the
Establishment of Joseph Dux, Chicago (n.p., 1894).
43. Records of
the LCMA, Invoice certificate from State Department of Public
Works and Buildings, Edgar Martin, dated May 25, 1923,
reflecting contract with Joseph Dux, dated Oct. 15, 1921.
45. William B.
Carlock, A Compilation of the Historical and Biographical
Writings of William B. Carlock (Bloomington, Ill.: Self
News-Gazette, May 18, 2001.
Farm: 100 Years on the Ridge; 1874–1974 (Newport, Ky.:
Bluegrass Printing, 1974).
48. Records of
the LCMA, Minutes, 1926–1932.
Secretary of State, Corporation Records, Springfield, Ill.
Courier-Herald, Nov. 14, 1914.
51. Records of
the LCMA, Minutes of Nov. 15, 1921, Nov. 16, 1921; Thomas B.
Shoaff to Jessie Palmer Weber, Oct. 7, 1922; Lawrence B.
Stringer to Jessie Palmer Weber, 11/28/[?]; W. F. Lodge to
Jessie Palmer Weber, June 4, 1921.
52. Peck and
Messinger Map (1836), Illinois State Historical Library,
53. Records of
the LCMA, Report of David F. Nelson, July 7, 1929[?].
Courier, Sept. 8, 1983.
Journal Gazette, June 7, 1979.
56. Records of
LCMA, Minutes of Nov. 13, 1923, Nov. 2, 1926.
County Board, minutes of Nov. 2, 1926, meeting, County Clerk's
Office, Shelbyville, Ill.
58. Records of
the LCMA, Paul Angle to David Nelson, Jan. 15, 1934.
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University of Illinois Press on behalf of the Abraham Lincoln
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