Visitors Guide to the
Talking Houses Tour
The people of Pittsfield influenced Abraham Lincoln's early legal and
political career. Two of Lincolnís personal secretaries while he was
president, John Hay and John George Nicolay, befriended Lincoln when he
visited Pittsfield while riding the circuit. Lincoln gave legal counsel
to friend William Grimshaw, a Pittsfield attorney whom he represented in
a federal court case. Grimshaw and Lincoln also served together in local
court cases. Pittsfield founder Colonel William Ross and his wife hosted
Lincoln during his 1858 U.S. Senate campaign. Lincoln was a friend of
John Greene Shastid and visited his home often and enjoyed Mrs.
Shastid's home cooked meals. Another Pittsfield attorney, Reuben
Scanland, hosted Abraham Lincoln in his home during the 1858 campaign.
There are probably more houses associated with
Lincoln in Pittsfield that any other city in the state. A car-radio
audio tour has been developed and takes visitors to eight houses and three
sites where you can hear the stories of the houses and the people that
1 - Milton Hay House
Presidential Secretary John Hay's Home
332 W. Washington Street
Built ca. 1838-1843
This home was built by William Watson, the first
settler in Pittsfield and a prominent Whig member. Watson sold the house
to Milton Hay, who studied law under Lincoln in Springfield, and
practiced law in Pittsfield as the local partner of Edward D. Baker. As
a close friend of Lincoln and a fellow Whig Party member they
participated in several court cases in Pike County. Milton's nephew John
Hay, who would become Lincoln's private secretary, spent much of his
boyhood in this home as he attended the John D. Thompson Academy in
Pittsfield. John later served as U. S. Secretary of State under
Presidents Hayes, McKinley, and Theodore Roosevelt. In 1890, the first
of 10 volumes by Hay of Abraham Lincoln: A History was published in
conjunction with Lincolnís other private secretary John Nicolay, a work
highly regarded to this day. He also authored Pike County Ballads and
Other Pieces, one of the first works of poetry that used both the
language and democratic character of the western frontier. After Milton
Hays moved back to Springfield following his wife's death in the late
1850's, Watson bought the house back from him. His daughter and her
husband lived and raised their children here. Their son Oliver Barrett
became one of the world's foremost collectors of Lincoln memorabilia.
2 - Reuben Scanland House
402 W. Washington Street
Built ca. 1850's
Reuebn Scanland was mayor of Pittsfield and a
prominent attorney and judge. He backed Lincoln in the 1858 Senate race
and Lincoln stayed here during his visit in October 1858. One of the
stories associated with this home is of Mrs. Scanland's turkey dinner.
Mrs. Scanland prepared an elaborate dinner for Lincoln and her husband's
political friends, but they did not return home from a local drugstore
where Lincoln was telling stories for a crowd of men. The dinner was
cold when they finally got there, and Mrs. Scanland called Lincoln "the
laziest man there ever was. Good for nothing except to tell stories."
The bed he slept in at this house is in the Pike County Historical
Society Museum at East Ward School, 400 E. Jefferson Street.
3 - William Grimshaw House
1000 W. Perry Street
This home was called Grimshawhurst, meaning Grimshaw
House. Hurst is
a traditional English name
for a home and the term "hurst" is an English word meaning a grove of
trees or wooded knoll. William Grimshaw was admitted to the bar in
Philadelphia, PA., and came to Pike County in 1833. A prominent local
attorney, he was adjutant of the 17th Illinois Militia and a delegate to
two state constitutional conventions as a Whig Party member. He authored
the provision against dueling in the 1847 state constitution. Grimshaw
participated in several court cases with Lincoln in Pike County and
hired Abraham Lincoln to represent him in a federal court case in
Chicago. Grimshaw's office was in one of the front rooms of his home. He
was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in Chicago in 1860,
which nominated Lincoln for President.
4 - Site of the Daniel H. Gilmer Home and Law
E. Washington Street & S. Monroe Street
Site now occupied by the Community Bank building
Abraham Lincoln visited the home and law office of
Daniel Gilmer often. Gilmer was a leading attorney and Whig supporter.
One day Gilmer's nine year old daughter Elizabeth, known to everyone as
Lizzie, was swinging on the front gate when Lincoln came from the house.
He lifted her high in the air, kissed her, and put her back on the gate
to continue swinging. It was at this house that Lizzie later erected a
makeshift tollgate and October 1, 1858, she charged Lincoln to attend a
luncheon her mother had prepared for her father, Lincoln, friends and
leading political supporters. Later Lizzie's father took her aside for a
severe scolding, because she had asked their special guest for a toll
5 - Charles Lame House
409 E. Fayette Street
Lincoln's 1858 Senatorial campaign visit to
Pittsfield prompted a test firing of the town cannon. Firing the town
cannon was a popular campaign practice of the time. Charles Lame was
seriously injured during the test firing. Later that day, Lincoln walked
down to the Lame house to check on Mr. Lame but was denied admission by
his wife since Dr. J.H. Ledlie had ordered for Lame to have no visitors.
Lincoln had an ambrotype, a photographic image on a sheet of glass,
taken in Pittsfield and had the photographer deliver a copy to the
6 - Michael J. Noyes House
629 E. Washington Street
Michael Noyes was a native of New Hampshire and
settled in Pittsfield in 1841, after having spent years in Pike County,
Mo. In 1841 he founded "The Sucker and Farmer's Record, "Pike County's
first newspaper in 1841. He was the first master of Pittsfield Lodge No.
56 AFAM when it was organized in 1848. Noyes family history says Lincoln
gave a speech on the front lawn on one occasion.
7 - Colonel William Ross House
IL-106, Ĺ mile E. of Pittsfield
Built 1845-1846, partially destroyed by fire and
rebuilt in 1896. Abe Lincoln stayed here during his 1858 Senatorial
campaign visit. Ross served as an aide to Gen. Atkinson and was
responsible for Lincoln's appointment to company captaincy during the
Blackhawk War. Colonel Ross held several government positions in Pike
County including Judge of Probate, Clerk of the Circuit and County
Courts, Colonel of Militia, and Justice of the Peace. He was a member of
the Illinois House and Senate having first been elected in 1835. Ross
was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in Chicago and
helped secure Lincoln's nomination for President of the United States.
Other delegates from Pike Co. were Reuben Harch, Daniel Gilmer, and
William A. Grimshaw
8 - Zachariah N. Garbutt House
Home of Presidential Secretary John Nicolay
500 E. Washington Street
Built ca. 1841-1846
All 3 of Lincoln's Presidential secretaries came from
Pike County. John George Nicolay was one and lived here, 1848-1855.
Nicolay started his career when he answered Zachariah Garbutt's
advertisement for a printer's devil in the Free Press: "Wanted-an
intelligent boy, from 14 to 17 years of age, who can read and write, to
learn the Printing Business." Nicolay walked Pittsfield, spent the night
sleeping on sacks of wool in the "Carding Machine" and got the job the
next morning. Mr. and Mrs. Garbutt, who founded the newspaper in 1839,
took a liking to Nicolay and took him into their home and became his
foster parents when he was 16. Nicolay succeeded Garbutt as editor.
Thomas Shastid (house on Jefferson St.) introduced Lincoln to Nicolay.
Nicolay later moved to Springfield where he served as clerk to Illinois
Secretary of State, Oziah M. Hatch of Griggsville. On a visit back to
Pittsfield in 1860, Daniel Bush, editor of the "Pike County Journal",
asked him to write an article advocating Lincoln as President of the
United States on the Republican ticket. This editorial is believed by
some to be the first to suggest Lincoln for President. Nicolay served as
U.S. Consul at Paris, France, edited the Chicago Republican newspaper
and served as Marshall to the Supreme Court of the United States,
9 - John Greene Shastid House
326 E. Jefferson Street
Built by John Greene Shastid of New Salem where he
and Abraham Lincoln became close friends. Shastid moved to Pittsfield in
1836. Lincoln consistently visited when he came to town as an attorney.
Thomas Hall Shastid recalls many stories of his grandparents visits with
Lincoln in the book, "My Second Life." "On one such occasion it happened
Grandfather (John) Shastid had just come in from the country,...and had
bagged a dozen pigeons. Wild meat was on that day...the only meat this
family had. Grandfathers numerous progeny stood about, hungry wide-eyed,
waiting for the pigeons to finish boiling. All at once, as the custom
was then, somebody pushed the door open without knocking. And behold!
there stood Abraham Lincoln. Abe was offered the place of honor at the
head of the table and the platter of pigeons was placed before him. Abe
talked vivaciously, then fell completely silent and started eating
voraciously as pigeons disappeared into the vast Lincoln reservoir. A
gesture from my grandmother kept all the rest from calling for pigeon.
After a short time Abe, still abstracted, reached out his fork for the
last pigeon, took it to his own plate, and began to eat it. Then my
father, Tommy, who at this time was still very young, burst suddenly
into tears, and cried out 'Abe Lincoln, you're an old hog.Ē
10 - The Star Hotel
N. Monroe Street & E. Jefferson Street
Built ca. 1840's
Built by Captain George T. Edwards, born March 25,
1814, who emigrated from Tennessee in 1828, and settled in Pittsfield in
1835. He was the half-brother of Dr. Thomas Shastid. Captain Edwards was
active in a number of businesses, including teaming, farming, grocery,
mail-contracting & hotel keeping. He served as a constable, deputy
sheriff and sheriff. Captain Edwards enlisted in the army at the age 48
and served in Company A of the 99th Ill. Regiment during the Civil War.
The Watson family eventually purchased the Star Hotel and re-sold it to
Dr. Thomas Wesley Shastid. The Watson's told the Shastids "Abe Lincoln
used to stay in the hotel when he was in Pittsfield."
11 - Site of Joseph Heck Bakery
Madison Street & E. Adams Street
The current building of Irving & Irving was the site of the first Pike
County courthouse in Pittsfield. The courthouse building was sold to
Joseph Heck, born in 1822 in Durmersheim, Germany. Heck emigrated to
America in 1846, moving first to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and then
here to Pittsfield in 1855. He was a grocer, baker and confectioner.
John Nicolay took Lincoln to "Penny Hecks" for cider and gingerbread Oct
1, 1858, during his Senatorial campaign visit.
Taking the Abe
Lincoln Talking Houses Tour
Visitors can take the tour at any time. Please be aware that the homes
are private residences.
up maps and brochures at the Pittsfield Visitor Center
from 9 am - 12 pm and 1 pm - 5 pm,
Monday - Friday
and brochures are always available at lobby that is open at all times
The tour begins at the Visitor Center
There is no charge for the Abe Lincoln Talking
The houses are on the tour are at various
locations in Pittsfield, IL. The Pittsfield Visitor Center is located
just west of
the downtown area of Pittsfield at 224 W. Washington Street (US-54, IL-106.)
Learn more about the