Lincoln at Kelley's Tavern

Lincoln at Kelley's Tavern (HMFRO)

Location: St Joseph, IL 61873 Champaign County
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Country: United States of America
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N 40° 5.486', W 88° 2.944'

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— Looking for Lincoln —

Kelley's Tavern was originally called Strong's Inn after Cyrus Strong, who built a mud-mortar log cabin here in the 1830's. The inn at Strong's Ford was a stop on the Bloomington or State Road from Danville west to Urbana. Kelley's Inn was a stop for travelers on the westward migration - - and for local business. Joseph Kelley purchased the cabin from Strong in 1849, expanded it, and also provided a ferry across the Salt Fork. The four-room tavern standing at the spot was demolished in 1914.

From the late 1840's to 1859, attorney Abraham Lincoln traveled between Danville and Urbana, defending clients at the spring and fall sessions of the Eighth Judicial Circuit. The Bloomington Road, a dirt road between the county seats, had been in use for two decades. Taverns and inns on these muddy roads provided travelers a bed and a place to rest horses. Weather would often slow travel from Urbana to Danville, so overnight stays between the towns were required. One of Abraham Lincoln's frequent stops was Joseph Kelley's Tavern, an inn of excellent reputation in a cluster of dwellings at the ford across the Salt Fork. Lincoln would sit in Kelley's Tavern in his favorite chair, a wide hickory rocking chair with a buffalo robe thrown over it. Lincoln and others would tell tales around the fire, William Starbuck and his father remember hearing Lincoln at the tavern. Judge David Davis observed, "His presence on the circuit was watched for with interest and never failed to produce joy or hilarity."

JOSEPH THORNTON KELLEY was born in Rockingham County, Virginia in 1809, the youngest son of a Revolutionary War veteran. In November 1848, he rented Cyrus Strong's inn and purchased it the following year. He ran the tavern as a bar, an inn, grocery, and a meeting place that became the nucleus of a town. Kelley was appointed postmaster in May 1851, and the post office was named "Saint Joseph."

David Davis, Eighth Judicial Circuit judge would often lie on the floor of Kelley's Tavern, listening to Lincoln's stories by the fire. Davis was judge on the Eighth Circuit from 1848 until 1862. He managed Lincoln's rise to the presidency and was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1862, where he wrote one of the most important legal decisions, Ex Parte Milligan, in 1866.
Series This marker is part of the Illinois: Looking for Lincoln series
Year Placed2009
Placed ByThe Village, Township and Citizens of St. Joseph
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Sunday, September 7th, 2014 at 10:23am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)16T E 410570 N 4438432
Decimal Degrees40.09143333, -88.04906667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 40° 5.486', W 88° 2.944'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds40° 5' 29.16" N, 88° 2' 56.64" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)217
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 2190 Homer Lake Rd, St Joseph IL 61873, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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