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  • The History Center of Lake Forest-Lake Bluff

Did Abraham Lincoln Ever Visit Lake Forest?

By the History Center of Lake Forest-Lake Bluff


Few American historical figures of 150 years ago have had their movements better documented than Abraham Lincoln. In late March 1860, Lincoln was working as a lawyer while preparing for a presidential run. He came up to Chicago to argue a case called Johnston v. Jones & Marsh, which involved title to land north of the Chicago River, before the U.S. Circuit Court.


According to several accounts, on April 2, 1860, Lincoln came up to Waukegan by train to give a speech. He had dinner at the home of fellow attorney (and Waukegan mayor) Elisha P. Ferry.This was followed by a speech at Dickinson Hall, notable to posterity more for an interruption than the future president's oratory. A fire broke out at a nearby warehouse, which ended up resulting in a $7,000 loss of property, oats, wheat and salt.

Though Abraham Lincoln gave a speech in Waukegan in 1860, there's no evidence he stopped in Lake Forest. Image courtesy of The History Center of Lake Forest-Lake Bluff.


Lake Forest resident James Anderson attended the speech. He told his grandchildren that the crowd gradually grew smaller and smaller as people left to go to the fire (whether as helpers or gawkers). Lincoln turned to Anderson, one of the few who stayed, and said, "Well, we might as well all go to the fire."That night, Lincoln returned to the Ferry home (at 308 Julian Street) and slept there; the bed he allegedly slept in is in the collection of the Waukegan Historical Society. On April 3, Lincoln was back at court in Chicago. The reason that the story surfaced that Abraham Lincoln came to Lake Forest on this occasion is likely because he had connections here. Accompanying Lincoln to Waukegan for his speech was Norman B. Judd, chairman of the Illinois State Republican Committee. Judd was a valuable friend and political adviser to Lincoln, and just over a month later he nominated Lincoln for president at the Republican convention in Chicago.Norman B. Judd's sister, Adeline, was married to Gilbert Rossiter and lived in Lake Forest. The Rossiter home faced Triangle Park on the south side of Deerpath. Around the turn of the century, the house was moved and now stands just east of Gorton Community Center at 408 E. Illinois Road.

No evidence has surfaced placing Abraham Lincoln definitively in Lake Forest. However, is there a possibility that Lincoln and Judd stepped off the train in Lake Forest for a brief morning or afternoon visit to the Rossiters and then re-embarked, on the way to or from Waukegan on April 2 or 3? Certainly it can't be ruled out; however, it must be remembered that in 1860 only a small number of trains ran to Waukegan, and the speed was much slower.

In 1976, amidst a revival in interest in historical questions brought by the nation's Bicentennial, local writer Ann Thompson investigated the Lincoln story for the Lake Forester ; feel free to read her article below.

A Lake Forester columnist wished she didn't have to write the words above. Image courtesy of The History Center of Lake Forest-Lake Bluff.


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