To this place, and the kindness of these people I owe everything.

A. Lincoln, speaking of McLean County

As you travel on Rt. 66, you are driving along a historic railroad line. Abraham Lincoln often used this line while on legal business from 1853 to 1860. Lincoln wrote the laws which formed parts of this railroad corridor, and without that start, Rt. 66 would not have been built here.

Abraham Lincoln in 1846

Increase of business would naturally follow the building of a good (railroad) in any country; and this applies especially to this (railroad), by the facts that the country of its line is unequaled in natural agricultural resources, is new and is yet very partially brought into cultivation.

written words of Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln Traveled this Way Often

In Lincoln's time, a traveler observed that in Illinois there are not roads, just places they call roads. Lincoln traveled horseback or in a buckboard. He liked the wagon, because it was easier to read while traveling.

Lincoln fueled his horse by letting it graze along the way. The inns where he stayed overnight offered both the horse and its owner an evening and morning meal.

Lincoln traveling in his bucketboard buggy c. 1845. Illustration by Lloyd Ostendorf. Courtesty of The Lincoln Picture Studio

Jesse and Hester Fell house, c1860

Dining in Bloomington

When court was in session local families would host attorneys for dinner. Lincoln had dinner with David Davis at his place, Clover Lawn; and Jesse Fell hosted Lincoln at 'Fell Park' in Normal. Lincoln dined with the Fells Jesse and Hester Fell grew vegetables and fruit for the table, but they also liked ice cream! Hester was from Pennsylvania. She had the first ice cream freezer in the community. It is quite possible that Lincoln first enjoyed this Pennsylvania-born treat while visiting Jesse and Hester in Normal.

Once as Judge Davis was making his dinner at Barnett's at Clinton out of boiled cabbage alone when everything else on the table seemed uneatable, vile, but the bill was not extravagant, only seventy five cents. As we were driving off, Mr. Lincoln said to me, ‘pretty cheap for supper, breakfast and lodging and horse keep,’ then apparently remembering the coffee and yellow biscuit for breakfast he said with a laugh, ‘But considering what we got, it was enough.’

Ezra Prince

Fine Hotels in Bloomington

Bloomington has long been noted for excellent hotels.

The Pike House

Abraham Lincoln was a frequent guest at the Pike House, a four-story wooden structure “considered palatial in its day." It opened in 1854 and was located on the corner of Monroe and Center streets. The Springfield Illinois State Register wrote in late May 1856 that Lincoln spoke from the balcony and talked about the violence in Kansas, saying “ a man couldn't think, dream or breathe of a free state there, but what he was kicked, cuffed, shot down and hung. . . ." On one occasion, Sen. Stephen and Mrs. Adele Cutts Douglas had recently returned from an extended European tour and met Lincoln for dinner at the Pike House. During their dinner with Lincoln, as Mrs. Douglas described the trip to Lincoln, she also inquired about his travels. Lincoln replied: “Madam, not to be abrupt, but to cut the matter short, the truth is I have never been anywhere."

The Pike House, corner of Monroe and Center streets

The Illinois House, Jefferson and Center Streets, c1940

The Illinois House, Jefferson and Center Streets, c1940

The Illinois House, Jefferson and Center Streets, c1940

The Illinois House

Opened in 1902 the hotel ran for 75 years and was considered the best place in town. In 1940 it had 175 rooms, 75 of them with bathrooms. The rate was $3.00 a night, unless you wanted a bathroom, then it was $4.00. Parking was available for an extra 50 cents. And pets were allowed.

Looking for Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln's legacy and legend are intricately woven throughout a tapestry that is the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area. Look for Lincoln through the places where Lincoln lived and traveled for almost 30 years of his life. Walk in Lincoln's footsteps and gain insights into his personal life and political career. Experience firsthand the rugged pioneer life of his early years.

To visit Lincoln sites in McLean County, click here [link to L4L page]

© 2018 Cruisin' with Lincoln on 66