Springfield, Illinois, (read more about: Springfield, IL — Sightseeing, Lincoln Tomb, Lincoln Home) was founded in 1821 when Zachariah Peter, William Drennan, and Rivers Cormack drove a stake in the ground at a place described when the transaction was recorded as “a point in the prairie near John Kelly’s field on the water of Spring Creek.” By 1837, due in large part to the political maneuverings of a young politician named Abraham Lincoln, Springfield became the State Capital. From that point the City’s history, and indeed its future, has been and will always be inexorably tied to this famous American.
Before moving to Springfield in 1837, Lincoln lived in the nearby New Salem, a thriving village on the banks of the Sangamon River. Lured by reports of rich black soil, the Lincoln family moved to the banks of the Sangamon River, a few miles from Decatur. Lincoln spent a year living with his family, but after a trip down the Mississippi, left and drifted back to New Salem. From 1830 -37, a young Abraham Lincoln tried his hand at a number of endeavors. He clerked in Denton Offutt’s store, ran for the state legislature and lost, became a storekeeper, postmaster, a surveyor, and a law student. In 1834 he was elected to the legislature on his second try. It was during this term in office that he influenced the placement of the State Capital in Springfield.
On April 15, 1837, Lincoln left New Salem to live in the flourishing new state capital. He began practicing law with John T. Stuart, a prominent Springfield attorney. In all, Lincoln had three partners. William Herndon, his last, eventually became his biographer. During the 25 years that Lincoln practiced in Illinois, he spent many days riding the Eighth Judicial Circuit and practicing in county court houses all around central Illinois. Law eventually brought Lincoln a substantial income and provided a status and visibility that contributed to his success in politics.
In 1840, Lincoln met Mary Todd, a Kentucky belle who was then living with her sister in Springfield. After a stormy, sporadic courtship, the couple was married by the Rev. Charles Dresser in 1842, and settled down together at the Globe Tavern. The Lincoln’s first son, Robert Todd, was born on August 1, 1843. Shortly thereafter, the family moved to a more suitable three-room cottage. The next spring, Lincoln bought Rev. Dresser’s home on the corner of Eighth and Jackson streets for $1,200 cash and a small lot worth $300. The Lincolns occupied this brown frame house, the only home they ever owned, for 17 years. It is here that three of their four sons were born and one died.
From 1847-49 Lincoln served in Congress, but an unpopular position on the Mexican War caused him to be passed over for renomination. Upon returning to Springfield, he dedicated himself to enhancing an already successful law practice. But as the issue of slavery began to grow, Lincoln emerged again as a political figure. In 1858, Lincoln challenged Steven A. Douglas for his Senate seat. For three months, the candidates debated the subject of popular sovereignty. Although Lincoln lost the election, the debates brought him wide attention and he was now a national figure under serious consideration for the Republican presidential nomination.
At this time there was a split in the Democratic Party and the winner of the Republican nomination for the Presidency was sure to be the next President. Lincoln received that nomination on the third ballot at the Chicago convention in May of 1860. He was elected President on November 6th of that year.
On February 11, 1861, Lincoln stood on a platform at the Great Western Depot. In a voice filled with emotion, he shared his affection for the city in which he had lived, worked and raised a family. Standing on the rain-swept platform he said, “My friends – No one, not in my situation, can appreciate my feeling of sadness at this parting. To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything. Here I have lived a quarter of a century and have passed from a young to an old man. Here my children have been born and one is buried…To His care I am commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.”
He left Springfield on that day, never to return in his lifetime.
Significant Events in the Life of Abraham Lincoln
February 12, 1809
Abraham Lincoln is born in Hardin County, Kentucky.
Lincoln pilots a flatboat to New Orleans for Denton Offutt and returns to New Salem, 18 miles northwest of Springfield.
Lincoln clerks in Denton Offutt’s store in New Salem.
March 9, 1832
Lincoln becomes a legislature candidate.
January 15, 1833
Lincoln and William F. Berry purchase a store in New Salem.
March 7, 1833
President Jackson appoints Lincoln as New Salem postmaster.
August 4, 1834
Lincoln wins his second bid for election to the Illinois House of Representatives.
February 24, 1837
Lincoln and eight friends are successful in passing a bill to move the state capital from Vandalia to Springfield.
April 15, 1837
Lincoln moves to Springfield, rooms with Joshua F. Speed, and becomes the law partner of John T. Stuart.
November 4, 1842
Lincoln and Mary Todd are married by the Rev. Charles Dresser in the home of her brother-in-law Ninian W. Edwards,.
August 1, 1843
Robert Todd Lincoln, the Lincoln’s first child, is born at the Globe Tavern.
January 16, 1844
The Lincoln’s purchase a home from Reverend Dresser for the price of $1,200.00.
March 10, 1846
The Lincoln’s second child, Edward Baker, is born.
August 3, 1846
With an unprecedented majority of 1,511 votes over his Democratic opponent Rev. Peter Cartwright, Lincoln is the only Whig among seven congressmen elected from Illinois.
February 1, 1850
Edward Baker Lincoln dies after a 52-day illness.
December 21, 1850
Lincoln’s third son, William Wallace (Willie), is born.
April 4, 1853
Thomas (Tad), the Lincoln’s fourth son, is born.
Contractors Hannan and Ragsdale enlarge the Lincoln’s family home from one and half stories to two full stories at a cost of $1,300.00.
June 16, 1858
Lincoln is chosen by Illinois Republicans to run for the U.S. Senate. In accepting, Lincoln gives his “House Divided” speech.
November 2, 1858
Although Lincoln gets a majority of the votes in the election, Stephen Douglas is re-elected because of gerrymandered legislative districts.
May 18, 1860
Lincoln is nominated for President on the third ballot by the Republican National Convention in Chicago.
November 6, 1860
Lincoln becomes the first Republican to be elected President of the United States.
February 11, 1861
President-elect Lincoln delivers his farewell speech to the people of Springfield from the rear of a train car at the Great Western Railroad Station.
March 4, 1861
Lincoln is inaugurated as the 16th President of the United States.
February 20, 1862
William (Willie) Wallace Lincoln dies. He is the second son the Lincolns have lost.
April 14, 1865
Actor John Wilkes Booth shoots Lincoln in Ford’s Theatre.
April 15, 1865
Abraham Lincoln is pronounced dead at 7:22 a.m. in the home of William Petersen.
May 3, 1865
The funeral train reaches its destination in Springfield at 9:00 a.m. The body is escorted to the Illinois State Capitol building.
May 4, 1865
Lincoln is buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield
More about Abraham Lincoln
Read more here: Abraham Lincoln Biography
Read more about Springfield and Lincoln Tomb, Lincoln Presidential Library
Read more about: Lincoln’s Boyhood Home in Indiana