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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
DeWitt in Dewitt County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
 

The Law and Lodging / Whiskey Mayhem

 

óLooking for Lincoln ó

 
Top Section - The Law and Lodging / Marker image. Click for full size.
By Al Wolf, November 7, 2009
1. Top Section - The Law and Lodging / Marker
(Click on any of the photos to see the details.)
Inscription.
The Law and Lodging
Top Section

During his years traveling the Eighth Judicial Circuit, Abraham Lincoln was the overnight guest of many DeWitt County residents.

As a frontier lawyer, he spent several months per year away from home while making his legal rounds. For travelers spending the night in various DeWitt County private homes, taverns, and hotels, the accommodations varied considerably. The structures ranged from the palatial Argo House to the rustic log cabin owned by George Hill and the often over-crowded Barnett Tavern. According to legend, one of Lincolnís favorite places to stay was the Richter house in Marion (now DeWitt). The home was owned by easterners John and Ann Richter. It offered clean feather beds, fine china, and delicious meals, making it a favorite stop for the men of the Eighth Judicial Circuit. According to Mrs. Richterís obituary, “She was never happier than when dispensing her hospitalities at home . . . . In that day, court at Clinton would only last one or two days (the time was limited by law to three days) and as soon as court adjourned, Judge Treat always and Mr. Lincoln usually, started for Marion.”

Lincoln had both good and bad experiences during his overnight stays in DeWitt County. On at least one occasion,
Full View -The Law and Lodging Marker image. Click for full size.
By Al Wolf, November 7, 2009
2. Full View -The Law and Lodging Marker
Lincoln woke up with bedbugs after staying overnight at one DeWitt County residence. Lincolnís companion, Judge David Davis, once expressed amazement that while other circuit men complained of the unsanitary conditions including greasy tables, dirty linens, bug-infested beds, and poorly roomed waitresses often endured along the way, Lincoln never did so.


Bottom Section
John and Ann Richter, united in marriage in 1820, were natives of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1830, the Richters took up residence in Springfield, Illinois. They moved to Marion in 1840, just one year following the organization of DeWitt County. During his early years in Marion, Mr. Richter was engaged in the mercantile business and held the offices of postmaster and coroner. Of Mrs. Richter it was written, “In early life [she] contributed more than any other woman of that day to make it pleasant to remain in DeWitt County . . . we question whether a better dinner can now be gotten up in this county than she gave the judges and lawyers.” She was hostess to many men who became local and national historical figures, including David Davis, Leonard Swett, Ashael Gridley, Samuel H. Treat, Clifton H. Moore, and Abraham Lincoln.

Whiskey Mayhem

Top Section
Nine women from the village of Marion (now DeWitt),
Close-up Photo - Abraham Lincoln image. Click for full size.
By Al Wolf, November 7, 2009
3. Close-up Photo - Abraham Lincoln
joined by women from Springfield, plotted against the village saloon frequented by their menfolk. The ladies banned together and crusaded against the “Demon Whiskey.” They stormed George Tannerís saloon, rolled the whiskey barrels into the street, destroyed the kegs, and poured the vile liquid onto the ground. In May 1854, the ladies found themselves in the DeWitt County Courthouse for “riotously, unlawfully and with force turning out, wasting and destroying ten gallons of whiskey, of the value of five dollars.” They had not hired a defense attorney, but it just so happened Abraham Lincoln and John T. Stewart were present in the courtroom and offered their services. Lincoln argued the ladies were not criminals but righteous and moral women, attempting to save the men from the evils of alcohol. He declared they had been prompted by the same spirit and conviction as those who cast tea into the harbor during the Boston Tea Party. Lincoln and Stewart lost. A fine of two dollars each was imposed on the accused. The money, however, according to local lore, was never collected.

Sentiments against licensing for the sale of liquor ran strongly in DeWitt County as early as 1839, when the county was first being organized. The sale of alcohol, however, was permitted. Drinking establishments sprang up, and the customers were plentiful.
Bottom Section - The Law and Lodging image. Click for full size.
By Al Wolf, November 7, 2009
4. Bottom Section - The Law and Lodging
On occasion, the ladies were vocal about the evils of alcohol, but that was as far as their protests went until one day in 1854.


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Lincoln grew to manhood on a frontier where whiskey was a staple and a liquid form of currency. During his brief time operating a tavern in New Salem, Lincoln sold whiskey, among other things. In later years, the temperance movement became a volatile political issue. While he did not condemn those who drank in moderation, Lincoln himself was a teetotaler. During his early political career, Lincoln delivered speeches to temperance societies, although he never joined one. Lincoln the politician felt it was not in his best political interest to do so. At least one active temperance society formed in DeWitt County. The earliest known issue of the DeWitt Courier, dated October 1854, printed advertisements for the Sons of Temperance who held weekly meetings in the same courthouse in which the nine ladies from Marion were tried.
 
Erected 2008 by DeWitt County.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Looking for Lincoln marker series.
 
Location. 40° 10.81′ N, 88° 47.196′ W. Marker is in DeWitt, Illinois, in Dewitt County. Marker is on Springfield Street
Close-up Photo - Mr. John Richter image. Click for full size.
By Al Wolf, November 7, 2009
5. Close-up Photo - Mr. John Richter
east of Chicago Street, on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. Located on the North side of the DeWitt Town Park. Marker is in this post office area: Dewitt IL 61735, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 10 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Abraham Lincoln - Eighth Judicial District (approx. 7.7 miles away); On The Campaign Trail (approx. 8.5 miles away); Friends To The End (approx. 9.2 miles away); Lincoln's Hat (approx. 9.3 miles away); a different marker also named Abraham Lincoln - Eighth Judicial District (approx. 9.4 miles away); Lincoln at Work and Play (approx. 9.4 miles away); Lincoln and The Law (approx. 9.4 miles away); War on the Horizon (approx. 9.4 miles away).
 
Also see . . .
1. Travel with Lincoln ::. Climb into Lincolnís 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 November 11, 2009, by Al Wolf of Veedersburg, Indiana.) 

2. Looking for Lincoln Video - on P. B. S.
Close-up Photo - Mrs. Ann Richter image. Click for full size.
By Al Wolf, November 7, 2009
6. Close-up Photo - Mrs. Ann Richter
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 November 11, 2009, by Al Wolf of Veedersburg, Indiana.) 

3. Looking for Lincoln::. Many resources for the Tracking of Lincoln through History and Illinois. Aimed at all ages. (Submitted on November 11, 2009, by Al Wolf of Veedersburg, Indiana.) 
 
Categories. Notable Places
 
Top Section - Whiskey Mayhem image. Click for full size.
By Al Wolf, November 7, 2009
7. Top Section - Whiskey Mayhem
Full View - Whiskey Mayhem image. Click for full size.
By Al Wolf, November 7, 2009
8. Full View - Whiskey Mayhem
Close-up Photo - Illustration of 'Womans Holy War.' image. Click for full size.
By Al Wolf, November 7, 2009
9. Close-up Photo - Illustration of 'Womans Holy War.'
Bottom Section - Whiskey Mayhem image. Click for full size.
By Al Wolf, November 7, 2009
10. Bottom Section - Whiskey Mayhem
Close-up Photo - Bottom of Marker image. Click for full size.
By Al Wolf, November 7, 2009
11. Close-up Photo - Bottom of Marker
South/West View - Whiskey Mayhem - Marker image. Click for full size.
By Al Wolf, November 7, 2009
12. South/West View - Whiskey Mayhem - Marker
DeWitt Post Office can be noted in the extreme backgound in this photo.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on November 11, 2009, by Al Wolf of Veedersburg, Indiana. This page has been viewed 1,529 times since then and 39 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. submitted on November 11, 2009, by Al Wolf of Veedersburg, Indiana. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page.
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