Learning Lincoln On-Line

Topic Lincoln Heritage Trail Part 4 (Coles County Thomas Lincoln Farms)

& Coles County Virtual Fieldtrip

The Lincolns, Halls and Johnstons Move to Illinois

THE LINCOLN WAY:  THROUGH COLES COUNTY, 1830

Abraham Lincoln & U.S. Grant Historical Locations in Coles County Illinois
In Chronological or other Order
  State Official

Historical Markers are indicated by *

#1   Description of Lincoln entering into Coles County for the First Time
(March 10-12, 1830) 

These are geographical points only.  No markers or structures exists

Dennis Hanks, Charleston resident in his 90th year, credited John Hanks with the original suggestion to move from Indiana to Illinois.  Dennis told Eleanor Atkinson that he reckoned "it was John Hanks 'at got restless fust an' lit out fur Illinois, an' wrote fur us all to come, and He'd get land fur us."  The fear of the milk sick that was hitting Indiana again is thought to be the motivating factor for the Lincolns moving into Illinois. 

There are multiple versions of just how the three families traveled into Illinois.  The families were the Halls, the Hanks and the Lincolns.  They were all related by blood or through marriage.  13 persons would be in the group, including a small baby and several children.  The journey would take two weeks, and required blazing of the trail to Coles County and finally Macon County (Decatur).

1.) Thomas Lincoln, age 52;  2.) Abraham Lincoln, age 21; 3.) Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln, age 41; 4.) Sarah Elizabeth Johnston Hanks, age 22; 5.) Dennis Friend Hanks, age 31; Dennis and Sarah's children--6.) Sarah, 7.) John, 8.) Nancy, 9.) Harriet;  10.) Matilda Johnston Hall, age 20; 11.) Squire Hall, age 25 and their son 12.) John; and 13.) John Davis Johnston, age 19

The route through Coles County is difficult to determine.  Recollections were told and re-told by many that change the route.  Some say that the group came through Charleston and then over to Dead Man's Grove (now Dead Man's Turn on old Rte. 316) and then pretty much the present Rte. 121 highway to Decatur.  We are only concerned in this information page with the route through Coles County.

The Lincoln Way is the one chosen for this "Historical Marker" page.  Thomas Lincoln and Augustus and Harriet Chapman have left us with two slightly varying descriptions.  A professor at the University of Illinois made a study of the Lincoln way, and attempted to reconcile the differences Thomas Lincoln's description and the Chapman's description. 

A brief description of the "Lincoln Way:"

Click this map Here to see the large version

A map depicting the way Coles County would have been (geographically and botanically) in the early 1800's.  It is hard to imagine the wildness of the county in those early years of Illinois statehood.

The group 1.) passed into Illinois at a point on the Illinois bank of the Wabash river opposite Vincennes, Indiana; 2.) traveled to present-day Lawrenceville; 3.) a Christian community; 4.) Russelville; 5.) Palestine; 6.) Hutsonville; 7.) York; 8.) Darwin; 9.) Richwoods; 10.) McCann's Ford; 11.) Paradise; 12.) Mattoon; 13.) Dead Man's Grove; 14.) Nelson; 15.) Decatur and 16.) "Lincoln Farm," in Macon County, on the bank of the Sangamon, near Decatur.  This Coles Historical Marker resource will include the links #10 through #14.

The Lincoln Way would have been the shortest route and would have taken the group into the small hamlet called Charleston.  There were only about six log cabins in Charleston in 1830.  The Paris-Shelbyville road (old Rte. 316 now).  This was considered a pioneer trail or "trace" in 1830, which was finally recognized as a state road in 1831.  Dead Man's Grove is located on the road.

A SUMMARY OF THE 1830 TRIP THROUGH COLES COUNTY

. . . as provided by Dr. Charles Coleman in his Abraham Lincoln in Coles County, 1955, page 14 (Click Here to read the book online):

". . . the party entered the county south of but near what is now Westfield, crossed at Parker's (also known as Blakeman's) Ford, spent the night of March 10 (1830), near the ford after crossing, proceeded via Charleston and the Paris-Shelbyville road or trail to the vicinity of Wabash Point where they spent the night of March 11, and proceeded northwesterly toward Nelson, possible touching the western edge of what is now the city of Mattoon, and probably not touching Dead Man's Grove."

Blakeman's Ford as now exists (2007) Photo taken from old 1907 bridge toward the present-day Rte. 130 bridge.  This location is at the entrance to Lake Charleston                          

Photo by Howard Taylor

MAP OF COLES COUNTY IN 1830

with markings indicating the original routes of the Lincoln family group through Coles County.  

(From page 8 of the Coleman book, Abraham Lincoln in Coles County, 1955)