Learning Lincoln On-line

Topic Content:  Virtual Field Trip Through Coles County for Lincoln and Grant Sites

#9)  Thomas A. Marshall House-- Exact site and original structure, privately owned as a residence                                                        

Location: 218 Jackson St., Charleston, Il   When visiting Charleston throughout the lawyer years, and culminating with the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, Lincoln would often stay with the Marshalls in this old brick house.

Photos by Howard Taylor

The Charleston friends of Abraham Lincoln during the 1840's and 1850's until he would be elected President in 1861, included lawyers O.B. Ficklin, Usher F. Linder, Alexander P. Dunbar, and Thomas A. Marshall.  This group of Central Illinois lawyers rode the circuit together from court house to court house.  They had close contact when on these trips often sharing sleeping quarters and meals. 

When Abraham was in Charleston he would usually board in one of the Square hotels, including the Clark House, and Billy Collum's tavern.  This Coles historical spot is the Thomas A. Marshall home, and the man in particular.  Thomas Marshall would become a very close friend, fellow-lawyer and political advisor to Abraham Lincoln.  Both shared the same party affiliation:  the new Republican Party. 

Thomas Marshall was a lawyer, but also held office in Illinois as a state senator.  He was a colonel in the First Cavalry in the Civil War.  As far as the slavery issue of the time, Marshall was conservative.  This means that he disliked it, did not want it expanded, but was not an abolitionist.  Both Lincoln and Marshall were Kentucky natives, and had a different understanding of the institution of slavery.  It was constitutional and the law was allowing to go on.  The Illinois Black Laws were written to defend slave-holders rights when taking slaves through free states.  The Fugitive Slave Law forbad people in free states from "stealing" or "taking" slaves from southern state slave owners.  The Illinois laws forbad slave owners to bring slaves into Illinois to free them.  In other words, slavery itself was not the issue, but the spreading of it into new territories was the issue.  Marshall would call on Lincoln to watch what he says and does while campaigning for the U.S. Senate (1858) and the Presidency in 1860.  These letters of advice can be seen on the Lincoln Letters resource site of the Library of Congress.

Usher Linder and O.B. Ficklin would tend to side with Stephen Douglas (the Democrat Party)

The Marshall Home was the host of Abraham Lincoln after he gave his Charleston Debate in 1858.  Dr. Charles Coleman in Lincoln in Coles County, 1855,  page 185, describes the events of the night of the Debate:  "Lincoln remained at the Marshall home as an over-night guest, according to Eliza Marshall, (Thomas' grand daughter)."  According to Eliza Marshall, there were several guest present including Lincoln, Oglesby, John P. Usher, H.P.H. Bromwell and other leaders of importance.  Augustus H. Chapman in 1865 wrote Billy Herndon and told him that Lincoln stayed at their home over-night.  He would leave at four in the morning.  Lincoln had a speech at Sullivan, IL on the following Monday, so as Coleman surmised, Lincoln must have been in Charleston two nights (Saturday and Sunday), and then left very early Monday morning.  That is the only way Abraham Lincoln could stay in two places on that weekend of the great Debate.  That is history for you.  Everyone took claim to hosting the President, and probably were telling the truth.

According to legend, or old Charleston tradition, runaway slaves were held "in safety" in the Marshall House.  I do not know if there is proof of this, but it gives a bit of excitement to the old residents and resident of Charleston in the 19th century.


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