Learning Lincoln On-line

Topic- Virtual Field Trip Through Coles County for Lincoln and Grant Sites

#6)  The Coles County Courthouse & the Square

Exact point, but different structure
Location:  center of Charleston, between 6th & 7th Sts., and Jackson & Monroe Sts.

         It is hard to imagine, but in 1830, when the Lincolns, Halls and Hanks passed through Charleston, there was no court house.  Charleston was only a collection of about six log cabins.  Indians and settlers were still conducting skirmishes. 

1832 Coles Courthouse, located between present-day 6th and 7th Streets next to the Town Branch


1835 new brick courthouse, where Abraham Lincoln would practice law


1858 Original brick Coles Courthouse with addition


1860 Neo-Classical Coles Courthouse with wings


The 1860's Coles Courthouse was torn down (remodeled) and replaced by the beautiful structure above in 1890



Civil War Memorial on Court House Lawn




Lincoln plaque attached on Civil War Memorial

 Abraham Lincoln and His Visits to Coles County as a Relative and Lawyer

The Coles court house existed a few years before Abraham Lincoln would enters its' chambers to practice his trial skills.  It would start out as a cabin down by the Town Branch between 6th and 7th Streets, until Charles Morton and other town leaders would plat the town and make a square a little farther north.  This would create an opportunity for businesses to build and locate around it.  The square and the later court house (1835) would become the cultural and business of the little hamlet.  Instead of covering the physical history of the building, this virtual field trip would like to consider the court house and square as a meeting place for one of America's greatest Presidents, Abraham Lincoln, to develop friendships and relationships in politics to mold his future.  He had a whole list of relatives, and lawyers in the county that would actually guide and tutor him to success. Lincoln would practice with all the judges and  lawyers of Coles County, but was actual partners with Orlando Bell Ficklin and Usher Ferguson Linder.  Both of these men were of the Whig party, and then later would join the Democrat party, after the Whigs dissolved.  Lincoln, of course was a Whig and then helped start the Republican Party of Illinois. Ficklin was a year older than Lincoln, while Linder was born the same year as Lincoln.  They were all in their 30's when practicing law in Coles County.  According to Dr. Coleman, in his book Lincoln in Coles County, 1955, Abraham Lincoln's court win/loss record in Coles County was about average and adequate.  Records have been found for twenty-four cases.  Twenty-two were civil cases of a large variety.  Two were criminal cases.  When he represented the plaintiff he won nine and lost two.  When representing the defendant he won four, and lost five cases.  In both of his criminal cases, both defendants lost, but he got pardons for both.  Lincoln can be described as always being well-prepared and always did his share of the work when working with a partner.  Probably his most famous case was representing a slave-owner by the name of Matson (October of 1847), that wanted his slaves returned to him.  Lincoln went against his friend Usher Linder, who was defending the slaves.  Lincoln lost this case.  The slaves were freed. 

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