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Normal in McLean County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
 

Illinois State Normal

Looking for Lincoln

 
 
Illinois State Normal Marker image. Click for full size.
By Duane and Tracy Marsteller, October 10, 2021
1. Illinois State Normal Marker
Inscription.  Thanks to the foresight and generosity of Abraham Lincoln's McLean County friends, Jesse W. Fell, David Davis, and others, the Illinois State Board of Education located the first state-supported university near the junction of the Illinois Central and the Chicago and Alton railroads. Under the vigorous leadership of Fell, the county pledged more than $141,000 to finance the construction of the first building on the campus. In order to ensure that the pledges of land and money were fulfilled, the Board of Education engaged Springfield attorney Abraham Lincoln to prepare the bonds to guarantee the funds would be available to construct the university building and make other needed improvements to the grounds.

“I could read, write and cipher to the rule of three;
but that was all” (Abraham Lincoln, Autobiography, 1859).
Despite his limited education, Lincoln was a leading Illinois attorney. Illinois in the 1850's was growing rapidly, but its schools were generally inferior to those of the surrounding states. Illinois had several fine private colleges, but it lacked a state university; which the
Illinois State Normal Marker image. Click for full size.
By Duane and Tracy Marsteller, October 10, 2021
2. Illinois State Normal Marker
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surrounding states had already established. With the creation of Illinois State Normal University in 1857 — the state's first — Illinois, like the other Midwestern states, supported a university. Because the state believed it lacked the resources for a complete university, and because the state badly needed teachers, the Board of Education decided to establish a “normal” school first, with other collegiate departments to follow. Thus, the Board began construction of the first building to educate the teachers badly needed for the newly mandated public schools. Later that year, in order to insure that McLean County guarantors fulfilled their pledges, the Board authorized its treasurer “to employ A. Lincoln, Esq., to collect the several sums due this Board, provided the same are not paid.”

The founders of Illinois State Normal University believed that when Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Land Grant Act into law, in 1862, that their vision for the university would be realized. The Morrill Act had granted 30,000 acres of land to the states to create and support agricultural and technical colleges. The normal university was an innovation in the Midwest; there were a few in the Eastern U.S. But Fell, and others, intended “to draw around the new institution the different colleges —classical, agricultural, industrial, law, medical, and the other departments
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of a university — until in the end the State should have here a grand university.”
Instead, Morrill Act funds were used to start the University of Illinois. The museum seen here was to be a foundation for a science program that included biology and geology.
 
Erected by Town of Normal • McLean County Museum of History.
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Education. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #16 Abraham Lincoln, and the Looking for Lincoln series lists. A significant historical year for this entry is 1857.
 
Location. 40° 30.558′ N, 88° 59.583′ W. Marker is in Normal, Illinois, in McLean County. Marker is on South University Street north of Dry Grove Street, on the right when traveling north. Marker is near DeGamo Hall on the Illinois State University campus. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Normal IL 61761, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Highland Historic District (approx. ¾ mile away); A Station and a Home (approx. 0.9 miles away); Normal, Illinois (approx. 0.9 miles away); Cedar Crest Historic District (approx. 0.9 miles away); Historic Camelback Bridge (approx. 0.9 miles away); Van Leer's Broadview Mansion Bell (approx.
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0.9 miles away); Illinois Soldiers' and Sailors' Children's School (approx. 1.2 miles away); Franklin Square Historic District (approx. 1.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Normal.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on October 13, 2021. It was originally submitted on October 13, 2021, by Duane Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 53 times since then. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on October 13, 2021, by Duane Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

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Oct. 16, 2021