History of Lincoln, Illinois

             In 1852 Logan County was a popular place for settlers. The reason Logan County was so popular was the easy access to the waterways (Kickapoo, Salt, and Sugar creeks) and the abundance of wildlife. However, what made Lincoln so desirable was the future railroad. When the government wanted to connect Springfield to Bloomington they ran in to a small problem. Springfield and Bloomington were nearly 60 miles apart and the steam trains of the day required a water stop point every 30 miles and the railroad required a passenger depot every 30 miles. This water point and passenger depot would be in Lincoln.

When realizing that Lincoln would be the railroad stop, people quickly realized that this would be a great opportunity. Seizing this opportunity became the goal of three business men. These business men created a business venture called the Town Site Company. These three men were Virgil Hickcox, a director of the railroad, John D. Gillett, a cattle raiser known as "Cattle King of the World" in future years and landowner in Cornland, and Robert B. Latham, the Sheriff of Logan County. The first step in creating Lincoln was obtaining the rights to the land. The venture needed to purchase the land that was owned by Isaac and Joseph B. Loose. In order to purchase the land, Sheriff Latham traveled to Franklin County, Pennsylvania where Isaac Loose lived. On February 3, 1853 Sheriff Latham purchased the land from Isaac and Joseph B. Loose for $1,350. In order to continue with the development of the new town of Lincoln, the Town Site Company realized that were need of some legal assistance. So Virgil Hickcox called on his friend and neighbor to help with the legal matters.  The attorney's name was Abraham Lincoln. Then a week and half later after purchasing the land, the proposed town of Lincoln became the new county seat after a bill was passed to move the county seat from Mt. Pulaski to the City of Lincoln.

The next step in the process was to design the City of Lincoln. The County Surveyor, Conway Pence, designed the City of Lincoln around the railroad. All the streets ran parallel and perpendicular to the railroad. In addition, he designed four blocks that were for the county. In these four blocks were to be two parks, one court house and one jail. Now that the city was planned, it was time to bring in the people. On August 24, 1853, the men of Town Site Company met with Abraham Lincoln at his law office. Sheriff Latham was appointed to be the representative and it was announced that the new town would be named Lincoln. There is some controversy over who had the original idea to name the town Lincoln. Sheriff Latham claims that he had the idea. However, John Gillett's daughter insists it was her mother's idea. Unfortunately, no one knows who named the town Lincoln, but Lincoln will always be the first town named after Abraham Lincoln before he became president.

On August 27, 1853, lots for the town went up for sale. On that day over ninety lots were sold with prices ranging from forty to one hundred and fifty dollars. The Town Site Company's proceeds were over six thousand dollars. On this same day after the sale, Abraham Lincoln christened the town by using watermelon juice from a nearby wagon load of melons.  There is a statue of a watermelon near the railroad depot, to commemorate where Abraham Lincoln christened the town. You will find it near the corner of Broadway and Sangamon streets.- http://www.cityoflincoln-il.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=45&Itemid=68

                                               Ghost Bridge- Lincoln, IL 

          The advent of the 1920′s brought about many changes in post WWI America, one of which was the rapidly growing fascination with automobiles. As more people became car owners, the need for roads linking major cities became apparent, and two men conceived the idea to build a ‘super highway’ that would connect all the way from Chicago Illinois to Los Angeles California. Construction on the road began in 1926, and there was some indecision at first as to what to number the route. Eventually it was decided after the initial names of Rt 60 and 62 that the highway would be termed Route 66.

The historic route has certainly had its interesting stops along the way, and much of it in Illinois can still be enjoyed along its remains. One of these places is in the small town of Lincoln and it has a history that goes back further than the inception of the “mother road” which runs through this area.

Salt Creek, originally known as Onaquispasippi by the indigenous people, flows into the larger nearby Sangamon River from the southern border of the town of Lincoln. Part of the original Route 66 as well as Route 4 ran through here and much of the red brick pavement of the old highway remains along with what’s left of the Salt Creek Bridge. The two cemeteries on either side of the road that runs just before reaching the hill (known as Cemetery Hill) have been abandoned for many years, but still draw an interest of onlookers who try to retrace the steps of the old Route 66–and the ghosts that may remain.

Salt Creek Bridge (also referred to as “Ghost Bridge”) is only in remnants now, but many of them can be seen by following along what is left of that section of Route 66. Before what was left became part of Illinois Business Highway 55, the stretch of the old road that ran through Lincoln near the two cemeteries became known as “Bloody 66″ or “Dead Man’s Curve” because according to legends, wrecks occurred along the curve at the beltline several times a day. These legends gave birth to the many ghost stories that are said to exist there today.

In the findinglincolnillinois.com website, there is a section devoted to the history of Route 66 in Lincoln and the “Ghost Bridge” where conversations and quotes from Illinois state police officers confirm many of the accidents spoken about did indeed occur because of the road’s general design. A sharp curve that grew extremely tight while maneuvering a car through it caused many people looking for a thrill to attempt the challenge–very often ending in fatality.

People that have walked through what remains of the road and the cemeteries have spoken about apparitions, sounds of screaming and breaking glass and the growling engines of vehicles going over a bridge that is no longer standing save for crumbling remains. Are these simply the sounds of a quiet and mostly abandoned area? Nature and the animals of the woods nearby? Active imaginations? Or do the spirits of adrenaline pumped thrill-seekers who met their fate along the curves of the once active road still seek to meet that one last challenge?-  http://4girlsandaghost.wordpress.com/2012/03/04/ghost-bridge-salt-creek-bridge-lincoln-il/

                                        Pool Hill Cemetery- Logan County

          Millions of years ago, when woolly mammoths stomped around these parts, they stopped to drink in Salt Creek.

During the Civil War, there was an important stop on the Underground Railroad along its banks. And Abraham Lincoln probably passed alongside it during his circuit ride.

In the 1920s, Charles Lindbergh regularly stopped at a home near there while flying mail runs in the 1920s.

Today, Salt Creek is a tributary of sewage and storm water runoff, best known for its propensity to flood. Four years ago this week, it caused millions of dollars in damages to the homes and businesses that line its route, and millions of dollars more are being spent to control its flow.

But those homes and businesses and the nearby berms are recent intruders in the path of a waterway that boasts an ancient and grand, but little-known, history.

Its plain is dotted with fossils, Indian arrowheads and pioneer settlement gravemarkers.

Once a sparkling, clear stream, Salt Creek originated some 15,000 years ago from the melt waters of Wisconsin glaciers.

Today it runs some 40 miles from what is now northwest Cook County, through the eastern edge of Du Page County and then into the Des Plaines River near Lyons in Cook.

The Des Plaines River in turn joins the Kankakee River to form the Illinois River, which empties into the Mississippi River and eventually into the Gulf of Mexico.

Although it`s called a creek, it technically can be classified as a river because of its large flow and alluvium (materials deposited by the river), said Wheaton hydrologist Jack Sheaffer, who has studied Salt Creek for more than three decades.

Its bottom used to be gravel and home to a large game fish population including bass, walleye and bluegill. First, Indians and later pioneer settlers lived along its banks. The early pioneers are credited with christening it with its name, when a salt wagon, supposedly on its way to Galena, accidentally dumped its load into the creek.

``That`s the same story they tell about every Salt Creek everywhere in the nation, and just about every state has one,`` said Sheaffer, who pointed out that maps drawn up 100 years ago identify the creek as ``The Little Des Plaines River.``

In the mid-1800s, early German pioneers established a settlement on the creek`s banks called Franzosenbusch. Translated, that means ``Frenchman`s bush.``

Local historians have two explanations for the name.

One story has it that these Germans were fleeing French oppression and they called it that because the banks allowed them a place to hide from the French. The other story is that when the settlers first arrived, there was a French fur trapper living in the woods and trading with the Pottawatomi Indians.

In any event, these early settlers used the creek for everything from a food source and recreational area to a natural sewage conduit. The latter wasn`t a problem initially, but as the population increased around the turn of the century, the creek became overburdened with waste and the game fish disappeared.

As recently as the late 1960s, people were still looking to the creek as a recreational outlet, especially at the Fullersburg boat livery near Hinsdale built by the Depression workers in the 1930s. But by 1969, at least a half dozen sewage treatment facilities were dumping daily into the creek and the boat landing was closed. The creek was so polluted, it failed to freeze in the winter.

It was about this time that the Illinois Department of Transportation considered ``turning Salt Creek into a concrete-lined channel`` transforming it into a straight sewer and flood water runoff channel, said Dennis Dreher, director of natural resources for the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission.

``Thankfully, we`ve gotten past that kind of thinking,`` he said.

In the early 1970s, the Environmental Protection Agency was formed and began working on restricting the emissions to the creek and the water quality has improved.

But much of those efforts are counteracted by continual development along the creek. A report by Bauer Engineering for the Du Page County Forest Preserve in 1974 said that in 1953 there were seven structures on the original Salt Creek flood plain. By 1974, that figure had jumped to 500 and current statistics put it at around 1,700.

In addition, Sheaffer said, ``there are now a dozen waste water treatment plants on the creek that dump at least 60 million gallons of partially treated waste water daily into the creek.

The creek in turn has been fighting back by regularly overflowing and flooding the homes and businesses along its banks. To many of the owners, Salt Creek has come to represent a big, expensive headache.

But to those who grew up along its banks, and Valerie Spale, who drives along parts of its length every day, Salt Creek is a misunderstood, under-appreciated, beleaguered wonder. To her, Salt Creek is a marvelous untapped resource overflowing with history and full of environmental and expanded recreational possibilities.-  http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1991-08-15/news/9103280925_1_salt-creek-des-plaines-river-settlers

                                                   The Mill- Lincoln, IL

    The Mill in Lincoln opened in 1929 under the name of the Blue Mill, on Stringer Avenue.  It’s proprietor was Paul Coddington, who would serve patrons grilled sandwiches at any hour of the day or night.  A Dutch themed building with blue trim, it featured at revolving windmill and waitresses dressed in blue with white aprons.  In 1945, Albert and Blossom Huffman purchased the building, added a barroom and dance hall, and then painted the building barn red.  Over the years, the restaurant became famous for it’s fried schnitzel, originally made of veal, and later of pork.  By the mid 1980’s the Mill had lost most of the Dutch themed interior, and was becoming a museum of rather strange objects, including a mechanical leg protruding from a hole in the ceiling.  The Mill closed in 1996, however the building is still standing in its original location. 

                                              Al Capone and Lincoln, IL

Legend has it that Al Capone was an occasional tourist in the Lincoln-Logan County area as the guest of his local beverage distributor, John “Coonhound Johnny” Schwenoha.
Coonhound Johnny took Capone hunting and arranged for other entertainment. After Coonhound Johnny was arrested for bootlegging, according to legend, he was pardoned by the President of the United States for health reasons — allegedly the only bootlegger to receive this perk.
A previously unpublished source of information about the Capone-Coonhound Johnny connection comes from the family history of Joyce Ogden Gibson, Lincoln Community High School Class of 1959, now of Monrovia, Calif. Recently, Gibson emailed me about her mother and father’s eyewitness accounts of Capone as a visitor to the roadhouse known as Hutton’s Lodge (on Illinois Route 121 between Lincoln and Hartsburg), and I have added that information to my community history of Lincoln in a Web site chapter titled “Watering Holes of the Route 66 Era.”
Gibson’s father, Jerry Ogden, operated Hutton’s Lodge when Coonhound Johnny took Capone there for refreshments and entertainment. Her mother, Jennie, was the cook and waitress. Capone praised Jennie for her potato salad and slaw.
This new information complements other information from two published sources that tell of the Capone-Coonhound Johnny connection: Paul Beaver’s “Logan County History, 1982,” and William Kaszynski’s biography of Ernie Edwards titled “Pig-Hips on Route 66” (2006).
My chapter includes a photo of Coonhound’s roadhouse, established north of Lincoln on Route 66 (now Interstate 55) after Prohibition ended in 1933. Coonhound died in 1944. In 1947 this building was moved to Clinton Street in downtown Lincoln and became the community recreational center (the “rec”).
In the mid-20th century, Hutton’s Lodge was known as Lonnie and Mae’s. Since the late 20th century, this establishment has been known as Tom’s Lodge, and remarkably it continues to operate — a rare roadhouse remnant of the Capone era.
Coonhound’s summer home, located in “Coonhound’s Grove,” was just a couple of miles away from Hutton’s Lodge near the Sugar Creek bridge.
Coonhound Johnny’s son, Vince, was known as “Little Coonhound,” and he built the Tropics restaurant — which later became world famous — on Route 66 in 1950, the very same year in which Governor Adlai Stevenson’s state police gambling raids ensnared him and motivated him to leave town.
Gibson’s father, Jerry, was a friend and hunting companion of Coonhound Johnny. Jerry Ogden trained his own hunting dogs and bought all of them as pups from Coonhound.
Gibson emailed me two very rare photos of Coonhound Johnny with some of his dogs, and in the background of the photos are guns and raccoon pelts. These are the only photos of Coonhound Johnny I have ever seen.
Gibson’s mother, Jennie, also liked to hunt; and Gibson provided me with photos showing her mother with trophy deer and Lady, her mother’s favorite hunting dog. She included a childhood photo of herself with Lady, her “babysitter.”

Read more: http://www.lincolncourier.com/x1362396286/Scarface-Al-hung-out-here#ixzz2pHwn6O7D

You can read more about Lincolns History and how Al Capone was associated with Logan County @  http://findinglincolnillinois.com/wateringholes.html

Lincoln College

Lincoln College

Lincoln College was established in 1865 to fill the need for an institution of higher learning in central Illinois. Commissioners investigated several sites, and in December, 1864, selected Lincoln, Illinois. On February 6, 1865, a charter for the new university was secured from the Illinois General Assembly. Ground was broken for University Hall, the first college building, just six days later on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.

By September, 1865, the foundation had been completed and the cornerstone was laid. In November, 1866, instruction for men and women began. The first commencement in 1868 honored three graduates. Thus Lincoln College took its place among the pioneer educational institutions of Midwest America.

     In 2000, Attorney John Gehlbach of Lincoln, Illinois, donated rare Abraham Lincoln memorabilia to the Lincoln College Museum.  Mr. Gehlbach served on the Lincoln College Board of Trustees for forty-seven years.

     Most of the items in this donation relate to Lincoln's assassination and consist of letters, photos, commemorative ribbons, mourning cards, and pieces of fabric from Lincoln's coffin.

     Documents in this collection include "some first-hand accounts of Lincoln's assassination by men who were in the audience at Ford's Theatre on the night of April 14, 1865. . . .  One very interesting account is a signed document written by the only man known to have actually taken shorthand notes about what transpired that night as Lincoln lay dying. . . .  Corporal James Tanner, who had lost both legs on active duty during the war, had learned shorthand to qualify for a government post."  The Gehlbach Collection is estimated at $76,000.

Other acquisitions in the last few years include gifts from Elsie Olin Sang and James T. Hickey.  Mrs. Sang and her late husband, Philip D. Sang, were long-time friends and benefactors of Lincoln College.  Mrs. Sang's gifts in the late 1990s were a carved crystal vase commemorating Abraham Lincoln and "an autograph manuscript in the hand of Abraham Lincoln, circa 1855, of one of his favorite poems, "Mortality."   The vase, which Mr. Sang commissioned in 1950, is the creation of world-renowned artists of J. & L. Lobmeyer of Vienna.  The vase, six and on-half inches tall by three and one half inches in diameter, depicts the profile head of Lincoln and the opening lines of the Gettysburg Address" (New Acquisitions at the Lincoln College Museum," The Lincoln Newsletter, 14.3, p. 3).

 "The Hall of Presidents, located just outside the main museum area, was designed to honor all those who have served in the position of chief executive of this country.  On display are documents signed by every president and almost every first lady, together with their pictures and commemorative medals" (Lincoln College Museum brochure). 
In 2000, Ron Keller was appointed to the Newman Chair History Instructor at Lincoln College and designated as the curator of the Lincoln College Museum.  This chair is named for Historian Ralph G. Newman, who served for forty-seven years on the Board of Trustees of Lincoln College.  Mr. Keller and Assistant Museum Curator and Historian Paul Gleason have aggressively promoted research and educational outreach as central to the museum's growth and development.

Haunting History of Lincoln College

A monster from Logan County’s past has died in prison. And before his death this week, convicted cold-blooded killer Russell Smrekar confessed to Lincoln Police Department officials that he had killed Lincoln real estate broker Ruth Martin in the mid-1970s and had buried her body under the Interstate 55 construction that was taking place at the time. Weeks before he died, Smrekar was brought back to Logan County, where local authorities hoped he could pinpoint the location of Martin’s makeshift grave.  The effort was fruitless. Smrekar died Wednesday in Menard Correctional Center where he was serving a 300-year sentence for the 1976 shotgun murders of Lincoln couple Jay and Robin Fry.  He was 56. Jay Fry and Ruth Martin were scheduled to testify in the ‘70s against Smrekar, who was facing trial on misdemeanor charges of shoplifting some steaks from the Lincoln Kroger store. “The Lincoln Police Department was notified in September about Smrekar's deteriorating condition,” Lincoln police detective Sgt. Paul Adams said Friday afternoon in a news release. “Detectives from the Lincoln Police Department, along with two detectives from Rolling Meadows Police Department, interviewed Smrekar in September,” Adams said. “During those interviews, Smrekar confessed to the murder of Ruth Martin of Lincoln. Smrekar also confessed to the murder of Rolling Meadows resident, and Lincoln College student, Michael Mansfield.” Adams said Smrekar admitted to burying Martin under the Interstate 55 construction taking place at that time. “This was done late at night on the day of her disappearance,” Adams said. “Smrekar then dropped the vehicle of Ruth Martin at the Holiday Inn in Bloomington. Smrekar then proceeded back to Joliet, where he resided at the time.” With the assistance of the Illinois Department of Corrections, Smrekar was brought to Lincoln earlier this month and taken to several places in an attempt to narrow the location of Ruth Martin’s grave, Adams said.  “Due to the time that has elapsed since the murder and the fact that the burial took place at night, Smrekar was unable to give detectives a precise location of the body of Ruth Martin,” the detective said. “The family of Ruth Martin has been apprised of every step of the investigation.  Smrekar's confession and details of what happened has brought peace to the family of Ruth Martin,” Adams said. In October 1976, Smrekar shot and killed Lincoln resident Jay Fry and his pregnant wife Robin with shotgun blasts before Jay Fry could testify against him for stealing steaks from the Lincoln Kroger store. He entered their small home on North Chicago Street at night after the couple had gone to bed. Martin, the real estate agent who was also scheduled to testify against Smrekar, disappeared around the same time.

Read more: http://www.lincolncourier.com/article/20111028/News/310289952#ixzz3Q0Y0hWKJ

Haunted Reports

Olin Sang- the oldest dorm on campus there is a ghost that likes to pull pranks. It shuts doors and turns on TV’s when no one is in the rooms. It unplugged on girls computer speakers and plugged them back in the wrong hole. The ghost has not tried to hurt anyone it just likes to play pranks.

University Hall- it is the oldest building on campus and several people have had weird experiences thee. Reports of footsteps and things being knocked over and/or disappear. A face will sometimes appear in the bell tower. At night if you look in the windows you can see white shadows in the second through 4th floor windows. Some people are very sensitive to things and said that they felt something watching them. White shadows have also been reported.

Read more about the Lincoln College please visit http://findinglincolnillinois.com/museumsparks.html

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