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Pittsfield in Pike County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
 

The Pike County Poet

Looking for Lincoln

 
 
John Hay Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Emily Pursley, December 29, 2018
1. John Hay Marker
Inscription.  Abraham Lincoln formed some very close friendships with several citizens of Pittsfield. Among the most prominent ones were Milton Hay, John Milton Hay, and John George Nicolay. Milton Hay was born in 1817, and he moved to Pittsfield in 1840. He was the first law student of Abraham Lincoln. He married Catherine Forbes in 1851, and they lived in this Greek Revival brick residence. Milton's nephew, John Milton Hay, came to live with them and while in Pittsfield attended a brand-new private academy, which promised a preparatory school education. Milton and Catherine had two children who both died in infancy. Catherine died in 1857, and the next year Milton moved back to Springfield. John studied law in his uncle's office, next door to Lincoln's office. After Lincoln was elected president, he hired John George Nicolay to be his private secretary and, because of Milton's recommendations, he also hired John Milton Hay as an additional private secretary.

The house was constructed from 1838 to 1843 by William Watson, the first settler of Pittsfield and a man of considerable wealth and influence. After living elsewhere, Watson returned in 1858

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to live with his daughter and son-in-law, Rev. George and Ellen Barrett, the parents of Oliver Barrett, who owned the largest private Lincoln collection of the twentieth century. During the time that Watson did not reside in this house, Milton Hay did.

John Milton Hay was born in 1838 in Salem Indiana. His parents were Dr. Charles and Helen (Leonard) Hay. For improved schooling, Dr. Hay sent John to the Thompson Academy in Pittsfield, the county seat of Pike County, Illinois, where his lived with his uncle, Milton Hay. At the Thompson Academy, John met John George Nicolay, an editor at the Pike County Free Press newspaper. John Hay worked there on occasion, and it was there that he wrote the first draft of his famous book The Pike County Ballads. (Some of its characters were interesting people he had met while in Pittsfield.) After leaving Pittsfield, John continued his studies in Springfield, Illinois and at Brown University in Rhode Island, where he graduated in 1858. Later in life he would co-author with Nicolay the very popular Abraham Lincoln: A History (1890).
 
Erected by The Abe Lincoln Project and Looking for Lincoln in Pike County.
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Government & PoliticsWar, US Civil

John Hay House image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Emily Pursley, December 14, 2018
2. John Hay House
. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #16 Abraham Lincoln, and the Looking for Lincoln series lists.
 
Location. 39° 36.421′ N, 90° 48.629′ W. Marker is in Pittsfield, Illinois, in Pike County. Marker is on Washington Street, on the right when traveling west. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Pittsfield IL 62363, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Reuben Scanland House (within shouting distance of this marker); John G. Nicolay (approx. ¼ mile away); Pike County's Lincoln (approx. ¼ mile away); John M. Hay (approx. ¼ mile away); Lincoln's Pike County (approx. ¼ mile away); Abraham Lincoln (approx. ¼ mile away); a different marker also named John G. Nicolay (approx. ¼ mile away); Mansion House Hotel (approx. ¼ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Pittsfield.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on August 2, 2020. It was originally submitted on January 14, 2019, by Emily Pursley of Pittsfield, Illinois. This page has been viewed 182 times since then and 5 times this year. Last updated on January 17, 2019, by Emily Pursley of Pittsfield, Illinois. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on January 14, 2019, by Emily Pursley of Pittsfield, Illinois. • Andrew Ruppenstein was the editor who published this page.

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Apr. 20, 2024