Learning Lincoln On-line


Abraham Lincoln in Shelby County, Illinois--  Abraham Lincoln Travels on the Eighth Circuit--

the Route from Shelbyville to Vandalia

Go to the "Lincoln Thornton Debate" Page for More Shelby County Lincoln Information
       The Cowden and Herrick Connection---During the 2001 School Year I was working for Cowden-Herrick Schools in Shelby County, Illinois.  Our district received a large Regional Technology Literacy Challenge Fund grant.  With this the teachers and our students did a year-long study of Lincoln in our county.  Much of the connection with Lincoln is undocumented history, with much legend attached.  One part of this legend is the old community of Williamsburg, on the Williamsburg Hill, north of Herrick and south of Tower Hill.    Howard Taylor, former Tech Coordinator and Librarian of our school district.

    During the time of our year-long study of Abraham Lincoln, we have not been able to come up with any real proof that Abraham Lincoln was ever in our area,  but . . . Since Cowden and Herrick as actual communities were not started until the late 1800's, we have only Williamsburg Hill, north of Herrick, and northwest of Cowden that has any strong indication that Abraham Lincoln as a young lawyer on the Circuit, passed through our area.  Williamsburg Hill descendants have passed this story on to us now.


The Cowden-Herrick, Illinois Connection to Abraham Lincoln, Politician and Circuit Lawyer


       Abraham Lincoln traveled a vast number of miles to a vast number of places while he practiced law in Central Illinois, and even further sometimes.  Our local history likes to think that the lawyer Lincoln, stayed in the Williamsburg Hill in the eight-room inn while traveling from Vandalia to Shelbyville.

       As with a lot of "Lincoln connection" places and events", there is no real physical proof that Lincoln ever stopped in the inn.  Actual witnesses to the history, and their ancestors to pass the stories down are often accurate sources.  The Decatur Herald and Review, Oct. 19, 1958, ran an article about the last remaining structure at Williamsburg Hill, the inn.  The article picture caption (with the photo above) said that "An eight-room building which was once a Vandalia Shelbyville stage coach stop and inn is the only remaining building of the village of Williamsburg.  Local historians believe Lincoln stayed here when he rode the circuit as a lawyer to Vandalia."  The house was to be torn down and replaced with a modern structure.  This was in October of 1958, and no doubt even the new structure built then is now an old one.

       We will never know positively about the trips of Abraham Lincoln on the 8th Circuit, and other trips he would make.  He traveled so much to so many places, that we will never know.

       No doubt Abraham Lincoln had a big influence in Shelby County, Illinois, and could well have stopped in its first settlement:  Cold Springs, later named Williamsburg.  One other well-known person was the Methodist preacher, Peter Cartwright, who included Cold Springs on his circuit.

       This is all we know, and perhaps some of the old generation of Williamsburg Hill/Cold Springs would be able to fill in more details.  Central Illinois communities, and any area close to a courthouse probably had Abraham Lincoln as a visitor.  He was a prolific traveler and loved to stay overnight in any place that would provide comfort.  He was also very popular to have in your home or inn.  Many times, the places would fill up with area people, if word got around Abraham Lincoln was going to be present.

        It was fun for our students to figure out how old Honest Abe got around, and whether he was in our area.  Actually, the students still think he has been here-- in the presence of B.F. McClerren and Dorothy during the past year.  Even some older students were hard to convince he wasn't here.  This indeed was a good experience for our children.  They personally know Abraham Lincoln-- how he sounded, what he looked like, what he thought, and even about his wife, Mary Todd.


The Effingham Daily News and Rana Connolly, reporter, reported of Abraham Lincoln having been at our schools.  Why argue the folklore and legend!


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