We’re travelling to Lincoln, IL (pop. 13,969) for today’s #SmallTownSaturday feature. (It also happens to fit in with our Abraham Lincoln theme for January, what a coincidence!)
While there are many towns in the United States named after the 16th president, Lincoln, IL is the only town that was named after Abraham Lincoln before he was elected president in 1860.
Abraham Lincoln’s involvement in the area now known as Lincoln, IL (then named Postville, IL) goes back to his days as a lawyer in the 1830s and 1840s. At that time, Postville was located in Sangamon County, the same county as Springfield, IL, where Abraham Lincoln lived and worked. As a lawyer, Lincoln surveyed towns, farms, and roadways in the area around Postville. Although Logan County separated from Sangamon County in 1839, Lincoln continued to provide legal assistance to its residents.
In 1852, rail surveyors determined that it was necessary to build a train station for the Chicago & Alton Railroad at the center of Logan County, near Postville. Steam locomotives needed to stop every 30 miles for water, and this area seemed an ideal location for a station since it was 30 miles south of Bloomington and 30 miles north of Springfield. At this time, Abraham Lincoln was acting attorney for Logan County as well as the attorney for the Chicago & Alton Railroad. Three proprietors, Virgil Hickcox, John D. Gillett, and Robert B. Latham, approached Abraham seeking legal assistance in order to lay out a new town for the railroad.
On August 24, 1853, the three men met in Abraham’s law office in Springfield to draft a power of attorney. They also informed him that the town would be named Lincoln. Abraham’s alleged response to this announcement was negative. He said that he “never knew anything named Lincoln that ever amounted to much.” Regardless of his feelings, Lincoln christened the town 3 days later on August 27, 1853, by breaking open a watermelon from a nearby melon wagon and pouring the juice on the ground.
Lincoln, IL also became home to Lincoln University (now Lincoln College), the only higher education institution named after Abraham Lincoln during his lifetime. Chartered on February 6, 1865, groundbreaking for the main building was held six days later on February 12, 1865, Abraham Lincoln’s 56th birthday.
Want to learn more about Lincoln, IL? Stop by the IHLC!
You can find the above image and other digital photographs of Lincoln online here.
- Dooley, Raymond, ed. The Namesake Town: A Centennial History of Lincoln, Illinois. Lincoln, IL: Centennial Booklet Committee, 1953.
- Gleason, Paul E. Lincoln, Illinois: A Pictorial History. St. Louis: G. Bradley Publishing, 1999.
- Henson, D. Leigh. The Town Abraham Lincoln Warned: The Living Namesake Heritage of Lincoln, Illinois. Springfield, MO: D.L. Henson, 2011.
- Stringer, Lawrence Beaumont. Abraham Lincoln and the City of Lincoln, Illinois. 1938.