Pontiac in Livingston County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
Fell Leads The Way
—Looking for Lincoln —
Top Section Photo
Lincoln’s good friend Jesse Fell had more to do with shaping early events in Livingston County and Pontiac than any other man. He named the county and, in 1837, was instrumental in having the county seat located here. He named the town “Pontiac,” in honor of the distinguished Indian Chief, when asked by the town’s first settler and proprietor to draft a petition for a post office. City Park was donated to Pontiac by Fell in his first addition to Pontiac. It later was renamed Fell Park in his honor. It is thought Fell named the street on the park’s east side “Court,” thinking the courthouse might eventually be moved to the park site.
Eastern land speculators were among the first white settlers in the newly formed state of Illinois in 1818. The Federal Government was selling land for fifty cents to one dollar per acre. The prairie lands of Illinois, which included the Livingston County region, were among the last to be settled by the pioneers, who avoided the prairie because of the mucky soil and the danger of prairie fires in the dry season. In 1831, a twenty-three-year-old Quaker named Jesse W. Fell walked from Chester County, Pa., to central Illinois. He became Bloomington’s first lawyer and edited the city’s first newspaper,
Many small communities sprang up on the prairies of Central Illinois but were abandoned. It was the railroad that dictated which settlements would survive, and it was Fell who brought the railroad through Pontiac. Fell also assisted Pontiac in securing the State Reform School in 1869. He donated the sixty-four acres on which the first buildings were erected. First constructed was a five-story brick administration building, which included the warden’s residence. It opened in 1871 for boys from six to sixteen. Inmates could complete their education and learn trades. Townspeople came to hear concerts performed by inmates. Baseball teams came from across the country to play Pontiac inmates. Today it is a maximum security prison.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Looking for Lincoln marker series.
Location. 40° 52.785′ N, 88° 38.152′ W. Marker is in Pontiac, Illinois, in Livingston County. Marker is on North Vermillion Street south of West Madison Street, on the left when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is located on the West end of Fell Park. Marker is in this post office area: Pontiac IL 61764, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Citizenry Mourn Lincoln (here, next to this marker); Lincoln Stranded Here (approx. 0.2 miles away); Lincoln Visits Strevell (approx. ¼ mile away); Lincoln Slept Here (approx. 0.3 miles away); W. W. I War Memorial - Livingston County Illinois (approx. 0.3 miles away); W. W. II War Memorial - Livingston County Illinois (approx. 0.3 miles away); Livingston County War Memorial (approx. 0.3 miles away); Desert Storm - War Memorial (approx. 0.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Pontiac.
Also see . . .
1. Visit Pontiac::. This web link has a number of links to other historic items in Pontiac, Illinois. Informative and very helpful. (Submitted on April 12, 2010, by Al Wolf of Veedersburg, Indiana.)
2. Travel with Lincoln ::. (Submitted on April 12, 2010, by Al Wolf of Veedersburg, Indiana.)
3. 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.)
4. Looking for Lincoln::. Many resources for the Tracking of Lincoln through History and Illinois. Aimed at all ages. (Submitted on April 12, 2010, by Al Wolf of Veedersburg, Indiana.)
Categories. • Notable Persons • Politics •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on April 12, 2010, by Al Wolf of Veedersburg, Indiana. This page has been viewed 751 times since then and 13 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. submitted on April 12, 2010, by Al Wolf of Veedersburg, Indiana. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.