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Pontiac in Livingston County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
 

Riverbank Debate

Looking for Lincoln

 
 
Top Section - - Riverbank Debate Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Al Wolf, April 10, 2010
1. Top Section - - Riverbank Debate Marker
(Click on any of these photos to see details.)
Inscription.  
Photo Text - Upper Section

Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, young attorneys who had faced each other earlier in Livingston County’s first court case, later the same day debated political issues at this very site. At the Old Settlers’ meeting held in Fairbury in 1877, Judge W. G. McDowell, said of it; “They spoke in the street, or rather open prairie, from the top of a dry goods box. Judge David Davis of Bloomington was also there as one of the prominent attorneys. The judge and all attorneys came across country from Springfield and Bloomington in buggies and on horseback. Circuit court seldom lasted over one or two days at each term. . . .”

Upper Marker Text

There was much excitement when the first regular term of circuit court in Livingston County began on May 18, 1840. Pontiac at the time was sparsely inhabited, just a handful of houses on the untamed prairie. But farmland was being settled, and many of these hearty pioneers joined those called as jurors to make the tedious trek to Pontiac for the two-day trial session. They listened attentively as thirty-one-year-old
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Abraham Lincoln and twenty-seven-year-old Stephen A. Douglas debated issues of the day. Little could they realize they were witnessing the birth of an historical era where two thoughtful men would grow in their opposing belief on the morality of slavery and their ability to persuade others to accept those beliefs. As they gathered that evening by the river site, they could not have possibly envisioned that just eighteen years in the future, 1858, these same two men would be vying to represent Illinois in the United States Senate, and in 1860 would be the Republican and Democrat candidates for the presidency of the United States. Nor could they have foretold that the Lincoln-Douglas Debates would continue to be studied and enacted by historians in centuries to come.

Bottom Section

In 1840 jurors retired to this spot by the Vermilion River and deliberated a case they had heard in the small, makeshift courtroom in Henry Weed’s cabin. Abraham Lincoln was serving as attorney for William Popejoy, Jr. Popejoy was seeking $2,000 in damages, claiming Isaac Wilson had publicly accused him of stealing meat from Sarah McDowell. Wilson pleaded not guilty, but later withdrew his plea, confessed judgment, and Popejoy remitted the amount. This wasn’t the first time that the two men faced off. Earlier, Wilson allowed Popejoy to ride his horse from Money Creek
Bottom Section - - Riverbank Debate Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Al Wolf, April 10, 2010
2. Bottom Section - - Riverbank Debate Marker
to Bloomington and back. Popejoy agreed to care for, feed, shod the horse, and to pay Wilson $1, but failed to take care of the horse, and the horse died. Wilson sued for $300, though the jury only awarded $70.25 in damages. Popejoy retained Lincoln and Wilson retained Stephen A. Douglas for both cases.
 
Erected 2009 by The City of Pontiac.
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Government & PoliticsNotable Places. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #16 Abraham Lincoln, and the Looking for Lincoln series lists. A significant historical month for this entry is May 1775.
 
Location. 40° 52.697′ N, 88° 37.78′ W. Marker is in Pontiac, Illinois, in Livingston County. Marker is at the intersection of North Mill Street and Vermilion River Bridge (East Side of Mill Street), on the left when traveling south on North Mill Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: Mill Street & Vermilion River Bridge, Pontiac IL 61764, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Lincoln Slept Here (a few steps from this marker); Mill Stones (within shouting distance of this marker); W. W. I War Memorial - Livingston County Illinois (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); W. W. II War Memorial - Livingston County Illinois
Top Section - Sketch image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Al Wolf, April 10, 2010
3. Top Section - Sketch
(about 500 feet away); County Seat Almost Moved (about 500 feet away); Pontiac (about 600 feet away); Desert Storm - War Memorial (about 600 feet away); Livingston County War Memorial (about 700 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Pontiac.
 
Also see . . .
1. Visit Pontiac: Attractions. This web link has a number of links to other historic items in Pontiac, Illinois. Informative and very helpful. (Submitted on April 11, 2010, by Al Wolf of Veedersburg, Indiana.) 

2. Looking for Lincoln Video - on P. B. S. Follow Henry Louis Gates, Jr. "...from Illinois, to Gettysburg, to Washington, D. C., and face to face with people who live with Lincoln every day..." (Submitted on April 11, 2010, by Al Wolf of Veedersburg, Indiana.) 

3. Looking for Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area website entry:
Many resources for tracking Lincoln through History and Illinois, for all ages. (Submitted on April 11, 2010, by Al Wolf of Veedersburg, Indiana.) 
 
Bottom Section - - "Original Praecipe: Popejoy v. Wilson (1840)" image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Al Wolf, April 10, 2010
4. Bottom Section - - "Original Praecipe: Popejoy v. Wilson (1840)"
Full View - - Riverbank Debate Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Al Wolf, April 10, 2010
5. Full View - - Riverbank Debate Marker
Looking South - - Riverbank Debate Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Al Wolf, April 10, 2010
6. Looking South - - Riverbank Debate Marker
Wide View - - Riverbank Debate Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Al Wolf, April 10, 2010
7. Wide View - - Riverbank Debate Marker
Vermilion River View from Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Al Wolf, April 10, 2010
8. Vermilion River View from Marker
"Mill Street Bridge & Dam" image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Old Postcard
9. "Mill Street Bridge & Dam"
"Mill & Dam" image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Old Postcard
10. "Mill & Dam"
Travel with Lincoln image. Click for more information.
Photographed By Larry Gertner
11. Travel with Lincoln
All the Lincoln Circuit HMDb Markers, and a few others, following Lincoln's travels while a member of the Circuit of the Eighth Judicial District from 1847 - 1857.
Climb into Lincoln’s buggy and take a trip with Lincoln and his fellow lawyers on the job traveling Illinois as Circuit Lawyers. See all the Lincoln Circuit Markers (and a surprise or two), in the order of his travels while a member of the Circuit of the Eighth Judicial District (of Illinois) during 1847-1857. Use the “First >>” button in the upper right to see these markers in sequence, starting from Springfield.
(Submitted on April 11, 2010, by Al Wolf of Veedersburg, Indiana.)
Click for more information.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 11, 2021. It was originally submitted on April 11, 2010, by Al Wolf of Veedersburg, Indiana. This page has been viewed 1,012 times since then and 15 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. submitted on April 11, 2010, by Al Wolf of Veedersburg, Indiana.   9, 10. submitted on June 10, 2010, by Al Wolf of Veedersburg, Indiana.   11. submitted on June 11, 2021, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.

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Apr. 15, 2024