Looking for Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln visited the city of Macomb twice in 1858. His first visit lasted from August 25th to August 26th, and it was unexpected. The Randolph House was the place that attracted Abraham Lincoln to Macomb. Lincoln had just spoken in Augusta, and he was actually headed to Freeport to debate Stephen Douglas. Lincoln needed a place to prepare his thoughts for his imminent debate. The Randolph House was just a year old, and it was generally considered to be the best hotel between Chicago and Quincy.
Lincoln rested and gathered his thoughts in Room 31 of the Randolph House for the upcoming historic debate with the Little Giant, Stephen A. Douglas. As soon as Lincoln arrived in town, the courthouse bell was rung, and messengers spread the word that he would speak. Lincoln gave a rather short talk from the veranda of the Randolph House to an "enthusiastic multitude gathered in front of the hotel,"
inspired by the impromptu welcome.
The Randolph House was one of the grandest hotels in downstate Illinois in the year 1858. The hotel featured nineteenth-century style valet parking. Thus, an attendant met arriving guests at the curb and led their horse and buggy to the livery stable, while the guests themselves entered the hotel to register for their rooms.
On the next morning, August 26, 1858, Abraham Lincoln went for a walk around Macomb with his fellow Republican James K. Magie. At Magie's insistence, Lincoln had an ambrotype photograph taken at T. P. Pearson's studio. When confronted with the new camera contraption, Lincoln was reported to have asked, "Well, do you want to take a shot at me with that thing."
Abraham Lincoln was then shown a mirror so that he could "fix up.
" But he declined, saying it would not be much of a likeness if he "fixed up any.
" Abraham was famous for his rather casual manner of dress and his unruly shock of dark hair.
The McDonough County Courthouse area looks much as it did in the year 1858. The geographic area is almost the same as that of the early plat map. The cornerstone ceremony for the present McDonough County Courthouse occurred on August 14, 1869. After four years of construction, the McDonough County Courthouse was finally completed in 1872, at a total cost of just over $155,000.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN, THE TALL, UNKEMPT LAWYER FROM SPRINGFIELD, paid a second visit to Macomb on October 26, 1858, registering again at the Randolph House, under the name, "A. Lincoln, Springfield." The charge for his room was $2.50. This second visit to Macomb was a grand affair, indeed. Lookouts were posted on the road to alertMacomb residents of Lincoln's approach. The cannon was brought up from the cemetery and fired ceremonially as Lincoln entered the city limits. A parade was formed along the way with several hundred walkers, floats, and well-wishers marching along. Abraham Lincoln arrived on horseback and stopped at the first McDonough County Courthouse yard in the southwest corner. He then proceeded to give a two-hour speech to a crowd numbering nearly 4,000 people. The day itself was a rainy one. Women who wanted to hear Lincoln, but still stay out of the rain, were seen in the open windows of buildings around the square. Because of the rain the streets were extremely muddy.
ONE OF THE CROWD members who heard Lincoln speak at the McDonough County Courthouse on October 26, 1858 was a man whose name was W.H. Champ. Mr. Champ had actually been born in a log cabin, which was located just south of the city of Macomb. Champ retained several impressions of that memorable wet day when Lincoln spoke to the crowds gathered in Macomb. According to Mr. Champ, Lincoln appeared to the crowd as a rapid speaker, "who always hit the nail on the head." The rainy day of Lincoln's speech also stuck in W.H. Champ's memory because on that day he purchased the very first overcoat he had ever owned. The two events were linked forever after in his memory.