Champaign County's Lincoln

Why Lincoln in Champaign County?

Champaign County was always on Lincoln's circuit

Abraham Lincoln spent nearly 20 years of his life practicing law on the 8th judicial circuit, traveling from one county seat to another. Even as the circuit shrank while population grew (from 8 counties in 1841 to 15 counties in 1845 to 8 in 1853 to 5 in 1857) the county seat of Urbana in Champaign County was always on Lincoln’s circuit. Each fall and spring, Lincoln traveled the dusty roads from Decatur to Urbana to Danville often with a group of lawyers and a judge assisting in whatever civil and criminal cases were before the court.

Lincoln unsuccessfully defended the first person accused of murder in Champaign, he defended the interests of the Illinois Central Railroad at the Urbana courthouse. All the while Lincoln was becoming a familiar face in the county and a friend to many early residents.

Lincoln not only practiced law, he also politicked in Champaign County. He was in Champaign County when he heard about the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, and spoke against it. Lincoln spoke for Fremont (in his presidential campaign against Buchanan) at an all day rally in Urbana. In his famous senatorial campaign against Stephen Douglas, Lincoln gave an impassioned defense of his “House Divided” speech at the county courthouse. Douglas had spoken on the last day of the county fair, September 23rd, 1858 and ­although the fair was over ­Lincoln spoke the next day to nearly as many people. Enthusiasts escorted Lincoln in a full-scale parade from the Doane House to the fairgrounds to the courthouse. By the 1860 Presidential election, all townships, save Stanton, would vote for Lincoln.

Lincoln Wayside Signs

The Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition, is sponsoring Wayside Signs throughout Central Illinois detailing Lincoln-related history in Central Illinois. Two wayside signs have already been put in place at the Museum of the Grand Prairie (formerly the Early American Museum) and the Museum of the Grand Prairie is a Looking for Lincoln Site.

Looking for Lincoln Signs can also soon be found in:

Nine Gal Tavern
Nine Gal Tavern

--Mahomet, marking the site of the Nine
Gal Tavern, where Lincoln stayed

--Urbana, at the courthouse and in the
business district celebrating Lincoln's career
as a lawyer and also his political dealings in
the county. One sign marks the spot where Lincoln's photograph was taken by Samuel
Alschuler in 1857/1858.

--St. Joseph, near the site of Kelly's Tavern

Kelly's Tavern

Tolono Depot
Tolono Depot

--Homer Lake, near the site of the Bloomington Road, where Lincoln traveled

--Tolono where Lincoln made his last stop before leaving Illinois forever.

--Champaign, near the site of the Goose Pond Church, where Lincoln gave his speech in support of John C. Fremont's presidential campaign.

Goose Pond Church



Abraham Lincoln: Large Presence in a Small Town

Visit the Champaign County Courthouse in Urbana to experience
the sights and sounds of Lincoln’s legal career near the spot where he
tried the cases of the day. Enter the 1850s courtroom, hear Lincoln's voice,
and witness a fascinating object theatre presentation about Lincoln’s legal
career in Urbana.

Lincoln Exhibits Brochure

Lincoln Legacy Committee - Who We Are

The Lincoln Legacy Committee is a collaborative committee of the Champaign County Forest Preserve and the Champaign County Board formed for the purpose of promoting the Bicentennial Celebration of Abraham Lincoln's birth through the creation of exhibits at the Champaign County Courthouse and the Museum of the Grand Prairie. The committee continues its work with other Lincoln-related projects. Its members are: Barbara Wysocki, chair, Kent Tucker, Heather Tucker, Raymond K. Cunningham, Jr., Chris White, Anke Voss, Kay Grabow..