Railroads Bring Change

Railroads Bring Change (HMFRT)

Location: Monticello, IL 61856 Piatt County
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Country: United States of America
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N 40° 3.247', W 88° 33.593'

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— Looking for Lincoln —

The I.C.R.R. Co. Steam locomotive was popular in the mid 1850's, when Lincoln worked for the Illinois Central. It was named "American Standard," and latter ran from Decatur to Champaign. Locomotives were originally wood burning, and the railroad often purchased wood from local landowners. The crew frequently asked passengers to assist loading wood at fuel stops. Fuel stops were simply a platform located adjacent to a land-owner's timber. Water was stored in a tank by the Sangamon River. Early trains traveled at fifteen to twenty miles per hour, much faster than the horses and stage coaches they replaced.

Before the Railroads arrived in Piatt County, Lincoln and the other circuit lawyers traveled buffalo trails that became Indian trails and later became roads, created by oxen dragging timbers. Lincoln was a great proponent of the railroads, realizing the great advantage they would bring to central Illinois. He started out as a lobbyist for the Illinois Central, and between 1853 and 1860 he handled many cases in the Eighth Judicial Circuit involving the Illinois Central. Lincoln was an advocate of the Northern Cross railroad in the 1850's, wanting it built through Centerville in Piatt County, across the center of Illinois, to link Western Illinois with Eastern Illinois.

Although he had this vision, it didn't quite happen that way. The Northern Cross eventually merged with several other railroads, ultimately becoming the Wabash, running from Springfield through Decatur and Bement. This was the only line in Piatt County that Lincoln rode when he traveled the circuit or later campaigned in the area. At the time (1856-1875) many railroads in Illinois were "paper" only railroads and were concept pending, leveraging locals or land rights and wealthy interests for funding.

Small Towns, like Centerville in Piatt County, prospored or declined, based on the route of the railroad. In 1866 Centerville had a post office, thirty houses, an assortment of businesses, and 200 residents. Lincoln supported bringing the Northern Cross railroad through Centerville, backing it to be the new State Capitol. In 1869 a new law permitted townships to vote bonds to bring railroads through their area. Sangamon Township voted to provide $40,000 to the company that would run the first line through the township. The Illinois Central ran a branch line from Champaign through White Heath and Monticello. Centerville gradually faded away when White Heath was established at the junction of the Monticello Railroad and Havana Line. The first rain ran from Monticello to Champaign in January 1872. Part of this branch line is currently owned and maintained by the Monticello Railway Museum.
Series This marker is part of the Illinois: Looking for Lincoln series
Year Placed2009
Placed ByCity of Monticello and Monticello Chamber of Commerce
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Sunday, September 21st, 2014 at 9:02pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)16T E 366951 N 4434929
Decimal Degrees40.05411667, -88.55988333
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 40° 3.247', W 88° 33.593'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds40° 3' 14.82" N, 88° 33' 35.58" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)217
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 3801-3905 Air Park Lane, Monticello IL 61856, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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