Lincoln Had a Strong Connection in Edgar County
Good news for local historians and amateur Lincoln scholars in Paris and Edgar County arrived a few weeks ago. The State of Illinois Looking forLincoln (LFL) coalition and organization in Springfield, Illinois recognized us as an official LFL site. This came as a result of a year and a half of dedicated research and work by local citizens and state LFL representatives. Edgar County is now encompassed in the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area, which is a federally designated area to encourage preservation and appreciation of Lincoln’s legacy throughout central Illinois. Sites within the heritage area are not federally or state funded so individual communities are challenged to provide their own support via locally sponsored activities or donations.
Our connection with Lincoln lore took the form of a brick “coffee mill” style courthouse in the middle of our town square. Since there were no courts available for many small rural communities in the mid 1800’s, Springfield supplied that need. Edgar was one of 14 counties in central Illinois on the 8th Judicial Circuit that young Lincoln, in company of other lawyers and judges, would travel in the spring and fall by horseback over rough terrrain to provide a court of law in county seats from 1842 to 1853. Records show that Lincoln was engaged in some 45 cases during his circuit riding days in Edgar County. Much has been written about Lincoln’s law practice providing historians with an abundance of research material.
There are four permanent locations in Paris that have been set up to document our local Lincoln heritage. Folding door size panels with pictures and story lines have been installed at the Paris Public Library, a store window on the south side of the square, and the Bicentennial Art Center and Museum. The Edgar County Historical Society Annex has set up a diorama of Lincoln related artifacts displaying a desk and secretary from the courthouse where Lincoln argued cases. The display also includes a swivel chair in relic condition that was reportedly used by Lincoln when he visited the Paris home of George Rives. Paris native, Colonel Milton K. Alexander, a Lincoln friend and client, built a beautiful brick home in the late 1820’s that Lincoln visited on several occasions. That lovely home survives and has been beautifully restored and serves our community as a gallery for area artists. The Bicentennial Art Center and Museum is the only structure in Paris still standing that is known to have had Lincoln has a guest. The Historical Society has in its collection a small rocking chair belonging to the Alexander family that is identified as being contemporary to the time Lincoln would have been a guest in their home.
The tall, lanky lawyer with the dry wit and homespun oratory turned politician, arrived in Paris for the last time on September 7th, 1858 by train. His popularity had thrown him into the political arena as a candidate for the U.S. Senate from Illinois opposing Stephen A. Douglas. Lincoln spoke at the wooded location referred to as Alexander Grove, not far from Colonel Alexander’s home. On September 15th Lincoln was in Charleston, Illinois to participate in the famous Lincoln-Douglas debate. Douglas eventually won the Senate race; however, two short years later, Lincoln claimed the highest office in the land as the 16th President of the United States. It has been said that his impact and influence within the 8th Judicial Circuit and the proximity of Edgar and Vermillion Counties to Indiana helped garner support for his nomination on the Republican Ticket for the 1860 Presidential election. We in Edgar County can be proud that we played a role in the legacy of one of our most beloved statesmen.
Without the tireless effort of the local steering committee, state recognition would not have been granted. The Historical Society board members who served on the committee were Chuck Hand, Don Wiseman, Roger Stanley and Greg McHenry. Others contributing were Peg Giesler, Tiffany Gale, Ned Jenison, Gary Henry, Christie Russell, Vick Bowyer and Patti McHenry. We hope that a sense of historical pride in our county will grow and our community will be showcased by travelers seeking out the Lincoln legacy.
Diorama at Edgar County Historical Society of Lincoln related artifacts. The desk is from the courthouse where Lincoln argued cases.
This secretary is also from the courthouse where Lincoln argued cases.
ACQUISITIONS AND GIFTS
- Beth Benjamin Toberly: Negatives of one room school houses in Edgar County
- John Ward: 1924 N.Y. newspaper
- Anonymous: Photographs of individuals taken at Paris, IL studios
- Donnie Rowe: electric mangle
- Linda Hall: George Dole’s leather wallet and attorney’s portfolio
- Richard Childress: Picture postcard Edgar County courthouse
- Mr. and Mrs. Phil Lewis: Merkle Broom store display
- Art Reese Lumber Co.: window from Edgar County Courthouse, misc items and map
MEMORIAL FOR HARRY ‘HECK’ PARRISH, JR: Mr. and Mrs. Dale English, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Blanford, Jane Sunkel, Leonard Waller, Mr. and Mrs. Bill Moss, and Angie Hamilton
- Virginia C. Tolford
- Reta Smittkamp
- NEW MEMBERS
- Jane Mangrum
- Susan Saxton
CHECK IT OUT!!! If you haven’t visited the annex lately stop in and check out all the wonderful changes our hardworking volunteers have accomplished. The annex has been rearranged with a better placement of items and some new items added. As always, we have new displays in the cabinets. Our volunteers have also labeled items in the agriculture room.