The First Hundred Miles Of Route 66 has quite a history, from the development of the Mother Road to carrying some of our most prestigious figures well before the road was named, none more famous than Illinois own President Abraham Lincoln. Discover the future president’s early days as a young Illinois Circuit Court lawyer in beautiful Pontiac, Illinois.
Young Lincoln Statue-Washington and Mill Streets South of Courthouse
This Lincoln statue depicts the young attorney during his employment as a county circuit court litigator at the young age of 31. Resting against a split-rail fence is reminiscent of the labor he endured as a young man growing up on the Illinois prairie.
Fell Par -200 Block North Vermillion Street
Jessie Fell, friend of Lincoln and a true pioneer was instrumental in the development of the city and county, even the naming of Pontiac after the distinguished Indian Chief. Donating the land for the city park and even having a hand in the naming of some streets, Jessie Fell was truly a visionary for his time.
County Seat Almost Moved-South Side Courthouse Square
Not producing a courthouse as promised back in 1839 resulted in a vote to move the county seat to another location ‘upriver’ as the city of Pontiac was an ‘unhealthy locality, being low and swampy’ as descenders argued. The Lincoln and Pontiac connection would have never been if it were not for Lincoln’s friend, Jessie Fell who led the charge to produce the much needed and promised structure. Although the vote to move was 81 to 56, it failed to meet the two-thirds majority needed and the rest is history!
Livingston County Courthouse-Washington and Mill Streets South of Courthouse
Recently undergoing a multi-million-dollar renovation, this county seat saw the likes of both Lincoln and Douglas as practicing attorneys but never in this building. Erected 10 years after Lincolns death, it remains the site of where he walked as a working man in his 30′s. Little did both men know that they would meet again as adversaries in 1860′s Lincoln-Douglas Debates. Open daily except for Saturdays.
Lincoln Slept Here-West Side Mill Street at Mill Street Bridge
To commemorate where Lincoln slept, Pontiac has made sure to provide visitors with a landmark and wayside exhibit marking the historical spot. Walking distance from the County Court House, these cabins hid amongst the ‘clumps of bushes were rendered almost invisible’ but provided a convenient location for Lincoln and his activities back in May of 1840.
Lincoln Wins County’s 1st Lawsuit-200 Block North Chicago St
This ‘Looking For Lincoln’ Wayside Exhibit marks the spot where ‘the first jury trial in all of Livingston county’ we find Lincoln facing off with his future adversary Douglas in a defamation of character case. Held in a log cabin, Lincoln prevails for his client accused of stealing meat however the $2,000 award is greatly reduced.
Riverbank Debate Site-East Side Mill St at The Mill St Bridge
While trying the first ever jury trial in Livingston County in May of 1840, Lincoln and Douglas carried their differences out into the street with an impromptu debate at this site. A precursor of the senate debates which would come to fruition some eighteen years later, both stood riverside in this same spot atop a dry goods box for all to see.
Historic Strevell House-400 W Livingston St
Pontiac lawyer and friend of Lincoln, Jason Strevell hosted Lincoln at a reception at his home depicted in the mural ‘as was.’ Standing at 6ft tall, Strevell measurers a stocking feet Lincoln to proclaim that his is indeed 6ft 4. Both the Mural and Wayside Exhibit recall details from Lincolns visit in 1860, just months prior to him becoming President.
Lincoln Stranded Here-County Market Grocery-200 North Oak St
One of the worst snowstorms in the history of the area was recorded in February 1855, stopping all activities including a train bound for Springfield and housing none other than Abraham Lincoln. With roads blockaded, a rescue party was formed to recover the freezing passengers. Lincoln was among the group that was housed at John McGregor’s who refused Lincolns offer of payment for his keep. It is said upon his departure, Lincoln gave McGregor’s two daughters a gold coin each of ‘which they did not refuse.’ Wayside Exhibit and Historical Marker.
Citizens Mourn Lincoln-200 N Vermillion St-Chicago & Alton Depot
Passing through the Chicago & Alton Train Depot on May 2, 1865, the body of Abraham Lincoln, Pontiac’s friend and circuit attorney was being carried home. Arriving at midnight, Lincoln’s private coach, appropriately named the ‘United States’ arrived at the station. Reports of the fine upholstery and fittings were included in the descriptions of the day. The railcar constructed for Lincoln as President was never used, only in the end as his funeral coach.