Pontiac in Livingston County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
Lincoln Stranded Here
Looking For Lincoln
In February 1855,Abraham Lincoln was with a group of sixty passengers stranded in Pontiac after a train, bound for Springfield from Chicago, became mired in a snowdrift just this side of where the village of Cayuga was to be platted some two months later. As told in the 1909 “History of Livingston County”,“the storm that was raging at the time was one of the worst in the annals of the county, and the suffering was great. The day was intensely cold, with a strong wind blowing over the prairies from the northwest.” An old newspaper clipping relates that “roads were blockaded, fences entirely covered up and corn shocks in the field did not stand a foot above the drifts. . . and all aboard were in imminent danger of freezing to death or dying of starvation.” When the train crew became convinced that all efforts to proceed were useless, a messenger was sent to Pontiac to secure help. The train agent here at once went to the citizens, and enough volunteers offered their services, together with their teams and sleds, to bring the passengers safely to Pontiac.
The rescue party was made up as quickly as possible and soon was underway. With much difficulty they forced their teams into the frigid winds and deep snowdrifts to the snow-engulfed train. And, also with great difficulty, every person was moved from the train and placed in the sleds, “being wrapped up in blankets from the beds of the citizens of Pontiac.” It took a day for the sleds to make the round trip in such cruelly cold and dangerous weather.
In Pontiac, the passengers were distributed among the settlers to be cared for as best they could. Lincoln and ten others were quartered for about two weeks at the home of John McGregor, Pontiac’s first resident attorney. He had built his home on this site in 1853 and, at that time, it was Pontiac’s finest house. Lincoln, then little known to fame, spent his time, venturing out among the townspeople when weather permitted. When the relief train made it through the drifts from Bloomington, and Lincoln was about to depart for his home in Springfield, he offered Mrs. McGregor “money for his keep,” but this was refused.. As the guests were leaving for the depot, they were accompanied to the gate by the McGregors’ two young daughters, Emma and Elizabeth. Lincoln gave each little girl a gold dollar, which they did not refuse.
Erected 2009 by The City of Pontiac.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Notable 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 February 1855.
Location. 40° 52.81′ N, 88° 37.929′ W. Marker is in Pontiac, Illinois, in Livingston County. Marker is on North Oak Street south of West Madison Street, on the right when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: 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 Visits Strevell (about 700 feet away, measured in a direct line); Livingston County War Memorial (about 700 feet away); W. W. I War Memorial - Livingston County Illinois (about 700 feet away); Desert Storm - War Memorial (about 700 feet away); W. W. II War Memorial - Livingston County Illinois (about 700 feet away); County Seat Almost Moved (approx. 0.2 miles away); Original Washington Street Route 66 Bricks (approx. 0.2 miles away); Original Route 66 Wishing Well & Sign Countryside, Illinois 1941-2007 (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Pontiac.
Also see . . .
1. Looking for Lincoln::. Many resources for the Tracking of Lincoln through History and Illinois. (Submitted on April 12, 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 12, 2010, by Al Wolf of Veedersburg, Indiana.)
Credits. This page was last revised on August 2, 2020. It was originally submitted on April 12, 2010, by Al Wolf of Veedersburg, Indiana. This page has been viewed 630 times since then. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on April 12, 2010, by Al Wolf of Veedersburg, Indiana. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page.