Saturday, March 11, 2023

2021-03-29: Touring More Abraham Lincoln and Route 66 Sites in Illinois on Day 7 of Turning a 1400 Mile Road Trip into a 3404 Mile Adventure!

So today as we geocached more Illinois counties, we followed more footsteps of President Abraham Lincoln historical sites and jumped onto the Historic Route 66 to continue our southwest roadtrip. There's a LOT to see and do today, so let us go for a drive and get on down the road...

Waking up in Peoria County, Illinois this morning, it was still cold but not like it was yesterday morning. First thing first... breakfast, coffee, and hey look there's a geocache right there in the parking lot (GC42BCA)! Then next door into East Peoria and Tazewell County, we made a quick exit off the highway in this industrial area for a creative geocache (GC24KTM) that had a lot of favorite points. Luckily, truck traffic wasn't that busy. Parked on a side street and a short walk across the grass. Found the container quickly and another minute to figure out log sheet retrieval.

Southbound on I-55 into Logan County, we exit into the small town of Elkhart. A couple of blocks off of the Old Route 66 and near the town square, is this Veterans Memorial Statue honoring those in the community who have served in the various wars.

Just outside the east side of town are my next two geocaches (GC4MYJP, GC8P1YG). The first settler in the Elkhart area was James Latham. In 1824 he was appointed by President John Quincy Adams to the position of Indian Agent at Fort Clark (now Peoria). He moved the family there and in two years took ill and died. They brought him back to the hill and buried him in Latham Cemetery (not far from where his first cabin was built) which has the distinction of being the oldest cemetery in Logan County.

One of the highest points in the state is Elkhart Hill. Abraham Lincoln often stayed in the Kentucky House, a stagecoach stop on Elkhart Hill owned by his friend Richard Latham. He was also a friend of John Dean Gillett, who was once known as the “Cattle King of the World.” Gillett was the primary financier of Lincoln, IL, the Logan County city that bears Abraham Lincoln’s name.

The Elkhart Cemetery is located on the south side of Elkhart Hill. Near Gillett’s grave, is the Saint John's Chapel. It was built in 1890 by the Culver Stone Co. in memory of Gillett. Still owned by the Gillett Farm, it is the only privately owned chapel in Illinois.

Richard J. Oglesby, three term governor of Illinois and a close friend of Abraham Lincoln, married the Gillett's oldest daughter, Emma. They built their home across the hill from the Gillett house. Known as Oglehurst, the 46 room mansion had a pipe organ in the Great Hall, a fourth floor school room where the children were tutored and a music room with a musical score detailed in the gesso work around the ceiling. The Oglesby's are buried in a tomb on Elkhart Hill.

The cemetery is also the final resting place of Capt. Adam H. Bogardus, who toured with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show and was known as the “Wing Shot Champion of the World.”

Connecting Elkhart Hill to Elkhart Cemetery is this bridge which was erected in 1915 by Emma Gillett Oglesby. It is said to be the only private bridge over a public highway in the state. 

This time I decide to stay on Old Route 66 instead of jumping onto the Interstate. Crossing over into Sangamon County and the town of Williamsville, I spot The Old Route 66 Gas Station and Garage. I couldn't buy gas at 31 cents a gallon, but I did drive away with some good photos.

Now moving down the road into Springfield, Illinois. Settling began in 1810 and eventually the town of Springfield became the state capital of Illinois. Abraham Lincoln lived in the Springfield area from 1837 until 1861. In May of 1839, construction began on this cottage for Reverend Charles Dresser. It wasn't until 1844 when Abraham Lincoln moved his family, wife Mary and son Robert, from a rural community on the outskirts and purchased a small cottage house within Springfield. The Lincoln's made multiple renovations and expansions over the next 17 years while they lived in the home. In 1861, now President Abraham Lincoln moved the family to Washington D.C.

Several tenants occupied the house up until Robert Lincoln deeded the house to the state of Illinois in June of 1887. President Nixon established the house as the Lincoln Home National Historic Site in 1971/72 (GC963C).

Pictured below is Abraham Lincoln's "campaign bus" which he used to travel around in while running for office. A big difference compared to today's 45 foot luxury motorcoaches!

Two blocks away from the Lincoln House is Union Square. Union Station opened in 1898 as the passenger terminal for the Illinois Central (IC) Railroad. Francis T. Bacon, an IC architect, designed the station. The current 110-foot-tall clock tower is a reconstruction replacement of the original which was removed in 1946.

Vacated by the railroad in 1971, Union Station was rehabilitated by the Scully family in 1985 for retail use. The State of Illinois leased the building for offices in 1990, eventually purchasing it in 1990. A rehabilitation began in 2005 returning the train station to the turn-of-the-century appearance.

On this public square and in surrounding buildings (GCMNH3), Lincoln and his family and friends purchased goods, attended parties, enjoyed picnics and parades, watched theatricals, and listened to concerts and lectures.

In law offices and courtrooms overlooking this square he honed his skills of persuasion. In storefront discussions and street corner gatherings he perfected the art of politics. Then, as his understanding matured and his convictions deepened, he took his place among the leaders of his time, addressing the people of the nation in powerful and eloquent words that echoed beyond this small prairie capital.

Our next stop in Springfield, Illinois along our President Abraham Lincoln Sightseeing History Tour was at the Oak Ridge Cemetery. Upon entering the cemetery, there are multiple veterans memorials near the entrance. This one pictured below is the Illinois Vietnam Veterans Memorial (GCE6FF).

After Lincoln's assassination and services in Washington D.C., his body was placed on a train for his final trip back home to Springfield. His casket, along with his son Williams who died at the White House in 1862, was placed in this receiving vault at the Oak Ridge Cemetery in May of 1865. They remained here under guard until December of 1865 when the construction of another temporary tomb was completed.

The granite monument below, erected in 1900, memorializes the location of the temporary second tomb. The temporary vault held the bodies of President Abraham Lincoln and his sons Edward and William from December 1865 until September 1871, when they were moved to the partially completed tomb. Built into the lower portion on the left side of the monument, is the marble slab which used to be inside the receiving vault upon which his casket was first put to rest. (looks like a white door in the photo)

In 1871, three years after construction began, Lincoln's body and three of his sons were placed in crypts in the unfinished structure. The memorial was completed in 1874. Now, you would think that this was the FINAL resting place of President Abraham Lincoln. However, I leave you to read "the rest of the story" as Paul Harvey used to say. Go to the National Park Service website to read about the attempted theft of Lincoln's body and that it was moved 5 more times before being placed ten feet below the floor of the burial chamber as requested by his only remaining son, Robert Todd Lincoln.

In the center of the chamber is this huge sarcophagus, ten feet above Lincoln's body. Along the back wall are five chambers, one for his wife Mary Todd Lincoln, three of his four sons, and a grandson.

Finally moving on into Decatur and Macon County. This Texaco Gas Station (GC7B80A) originally opened in the 1930's. Having changed hands several times, it eventually became an automotive detail shop. The building was in pretty bad shape until the current owner purchased it. Over a period of 6 years, the property was brought up to code and the whole place was restored to it's original 1930's state you see today. The station is slowly being filled with period equipment and furniture. The only thing missing now is the gas pump itself.

Also in Decatur at the Greenwood Cemetery is the Illinois Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers Memorial and another geocache (GC32HMJ).

Heading southeast down State Road 121 into Moultrie County, we make a quick geocaching roadside stop (GC3MV8K) at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Public Archery Range.

I had decided to take this little detour south-eastward before continuing southwest in order to stop for more historical places along the Lincoln History Tour.

Reaching Coles County near the towns of Lena and Campbell, is our next geocache (GC1MEC5). It is here where you'll find the Shiloh Presbyterian Church and the Thomas Lincoln Cemetery. Thomas Lincoln died in 1851 and was buried in what was then called the Gordon Burial Ground. As was common in many poor rural communities, Thomas Lincoln's marker was probably no more than a simple rock placed to mark the gravesite. Many years later, however, Abraham Lincoln's nephew, John J. Hall, would tell a Lincoln biographer that Abraham had carved the initials T. L. onto a board which he placed upon the grave during his last visit in January 1861 before heading to the White House.

Whether Thomas Lincoln's marker was a stone or a board, no permanent marker could be placed by local friends and by Thomas' grandson, Robert Todd Lincoln. Those donation ensured the tombstones eventual erection in 1880. The current marker was actually installed later by the Illinois Lions Club to replaced the original, which unfortunately, had been chipped away at by souvenir seekers over the years.

Located on the Lincoln Highway, just down the road from the cemetery, the Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site preserves the last farm and home of Thomas and Sarah Bush Lincoln. The Lincoln family moved to the farm in 1837 and after Abraham had established his residence in Springfield. Although Lincoln never lived here with his father and stepmother, he stopped here to bid farewell to his stepmother on his way to the White House in January of 1861. There are also three geocaches here on the Lincoln Farm (GC8B2NZ, GC8B2WM, GC891A4).

From the Lincoln Farm, we drove south towards I-70 because we were running out of daylight and needed to put some miles behind us. We crossed over into Cumberland County and the town of Greenup for our next county geocache. It was located at the Greenup Cemetery (GC5C8CE). Located along the Old National Road, burials date back to the early 1800's. No time to look but just a quick glance around. Nothing got my attention so onto the Interstate westbound.

We drove straight through Effingham County because I had already completed that one from back in my truck driving days. Then stopping in Fayette County for two geocaches. The first was in the Guy Cemetery (GC2J8TY) in St Elmo. Again just a quick glance around and moved on.

Two exits later, we got back off into the town of Vandalia for a geocache with hundreds of favorite points. The Great Kaskaskia Dragon (GCHWFZ) is this huge metal sculpture of a fire-breathing dragon and knight in armor. Unfortunately the dragon's fire had been extinguished during our visit.

Now the camera brightens it up a bit and, at 7:30 PM, it was darker than it appears. Time to find some dinner and get some sleep!

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