Visitors Guide to the
Abe Lincoln Talking Houses Tour
Various Locations
Pittsfield, Illinois
217-285-4484
 

 
Street Parking Interpretive Exhibits Illinois Historic Sites

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 knew Lincoln.

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
Built 1847

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 Office
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 fee.

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 Lames.

6 - Michael J. Noyes House
629 E. Washington Street
Built 1841-1846

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, 1872-1887.

9 - John Greene Shastid House
326 E. Jefferson Street
Built 1838

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
     Visiting Hours
         
Visitors can take the tour at any time. Please be aware that the homes are private residences.
         
     Pick up maps and brochures at the Pittsfield Visitor Center from 9 am - 12 pm and 1 pm - 5 pm, Monday - Friday
               Maps 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 Houses Tour.


Location: 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 Pittsfield area.

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