A partial chronology, always subject to addition and
correction, of events and personalities that affected Western Illinois
and Northeast Missouri during Abraham Lincoln's lifespan:
[Note: What was known as
the Illinois country was part of the French colony of Louisiana in
1717, was ceded to Britain by the Treaty of Paris in 1763, was secured
for Virginia by George Rogers Clark in 1778 and was placed in the
Northwest Territory by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. There was
military and civil exploration throughout the Illinois country in these
years and there was conflict with native Americans.]
1809 — Congress organizes the Illinois
Territory out of the Indiana Territory, with Kaskaskia the capital and
Ninian Edwards as governor. Abraham Lincoln is born Feb. 12, 1809, in a
log cabin on Nolin Creek near Hodgenville, Kentucky, a son of Thomas
and Nancy Hanks Lincoln.
1811 — New Madrid (Mo.) earthquake, said to
be the largest in U.S. history, damages Southern Illinois.
1812 — New Madrid tremors reoccur. After
action by Congress, President Madison declares war on Great Britain.
1813 — Stephen A.
Douglas was born April 23 in Brandon, Vermont, a son of Stephen Arnold
and Sarah Fiske Douglass. (As an adult, Douglas dropped the second “s”
of his surname.)
1814 — First newspaper, the Illinois
Herald, is published at Kaskaskia. In September, Major Zachary Taylor
establishes Fort Edwards in Hancock County at Spunky Point, later to be
called Warsaw, overlooking the Mississippi River across from the mouth
of the Des Moines River. On December 24, Treaty of Ghent ends the War
1816 — The Thomas Lincoln family moves to
Perry County, Indiana; first bank in Illinois, at Shawneetown, is
chartered by the territorial legislature; Fort Armstrong is built at
1817 — War of 1812 veterans begin receiving
160-acre land warrants in the Illinois Military Tract, the region
between the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. Frank McWorter, a slave
hiring his own time from his Pulaski County, Kentucky, owner, buys the
freedom of his wife, Lucy.
1818 — Illinois becomes the 21st state,
with Kaskaskia the capital and Shadrach Bond the first governor. The
state’s population is 34,620. Nancy Hanks Lincoln dies in Indiana of
1819 — Illinois Legislature passes the
Illinois Black Code, also known as the Black Laws. Frank McWorter buys
his own freedom and continues commercial farming, saltpeter manufacture
and other entrepreneurial activities in frontier Kentucky for the next
1821 — Pike County is established;
encompasses all of Illinois north of the Illinois River. Following
“Missouri Compromise” of 1820, Missouri is admitted to the Union as a
1822 — John Wood, a surveyor from New York
State, builds the first cabin at what will become the city of Quincy.
1824 — Illinois voters defeat a
constitutional convention call to permit slavery in the state.
1825 — Adams County is formed out of Pike
County, and the two counties become their present size.
1829 — Dr. David Nelson, a native of
Tennessee who served as a surgeon in the War of 1812, arrives in Marion
County, Mo., and founds a manual labor college at Greenfields. Nelson,
an abolitionist, gave up medicine for the Presbyterian ministry, and
was ordained in 1825 at Rogersville, Tennessee.
1830 — Frank and Lucy McWorter arrive in
Illinois from Kentucky. Abraham Lincoln, now 21, arrives in Logan
County, Illinois, with his father Thomas and stepmother Sarah Bush
Johnston Lincoln. The Rev. Asa Turner, a member of the “Yale
(Theological Seminary) Band” pledged to missionary work in the Illinois
wilderness, arrives in Quincy from Templeton, Massachusetts.
1831 — Frank McWorter settles in Hadley
Township in Pike County. Abraham Lincoln leaves his parents in Coles
County, hires on to take a flat boat of produce to New Orleans, then
settles in New Salem. Orville Hickman Browning, a lawyer from
Kentucky, settles in Quincy and opens a law practice.
1832 — Lincoln runs for the Illinois
Legislature and loses. Black Hawk War takes place with John Wood,
Orville Hickman Browning and others serving.
1833 — Dr. Richard Eells of Connecticut
settles in Quincy to establish a medical practice, quickly acquires
abolitionist sympathies. Stephen A. Douglas arrives in Illinois
at Quincy in late autumn. He left his mother’s and step-father’s
home in upstate New York in June, traveling to Cleveland, then down the
Ohio River and up the Mississippi to St. Louis where, nearly out of
cash, he bought an upriver steamboat ticket to Quincy.
1834 — Lincoln is elected to the Illinois
Legislature and begins the study of law; gunsmith Jonathan Browning,
inventor of repeating rifles, father of John Moses Browning and a
cousin of Orville Hickman Browning, settles in Adams County near
Quincy. An Association of Congregational Churches is formed in
Quincy in the home of the Rev. Asa Turner in support of the
1835 — In June, Eells buys Lot No. 6, Block
19, and builds the now restored house at 415 Jersey; in November of
this year, Jane Clemens gives birth to a son in Florida, Mo., that she
and husband John Clemens name Samuel.
1836 — Frank McWorter records the plat of a
town in Hadley Township that he names New Philadelphia, believed to be
the first in the United States founded independently by a free African
American; Lincoln is re-elected to the Legislature.
1837 — Now admitted to the Illinois bar,
Lincoln moves to Springfield and begins the practice of law.
1838 — Dr. David Nelson, no longer welcome
in Missouri, purchases land in Melrose Township, Adams County, for a
residence he calls Oakland and a school that is the first Mission
Institute. In Salem, Ind., in October, Helen Leonard Hay, wife of
Dr. Charles Hay, gives birth to a son, John Milton Hay.
1839 — In February and March, members of
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints flee Missouri under
pain of “extermination” to encamp in John’s Square in Quincy; the John
Clemens family moves from Florida, Mo., to Hannibal, and Springfield
becomes the capital of Illinois.
1840 — The Latter-day Saints are
established in the Hancock County city they call Nauvoo; Dr. David
Nelson establishes Mission Institute No. 2 on 11 acres in the vicinity
of 25th and Maine in Quincy.
1841 — Financially ruined “through
securities which he signed for friends,” Dr. Charles Hay moves his
family from Indiana to Warsaw, Illinois. John Milton Hay, now 3, begins
schooling in the “little brick schoolhouse” on Warsaw’s Fourth Street.
1842 — Doctor Eells attempts to get a
Missouri slave named Charlie to Mission Institute No. 2 , but his buggy
is pursued and he is arrested hours later on a charge of harboring a
fugitive slave; in Springfield, Abraham Lincoln marries Mary Todd;
Jonathan Browning, having earlier become a Latter-day Saint, moves to
Nauvoo and builds a two-story brick residence and gun shop (now a
1843 — In the spring of this year, Dr.
Eells is fined $400 by Judge Stephen A. Douglas during Douglas’ regular
court session in Quincy; later in the year the chapel at Mission
Institute No. 2 is burned by a pro-slavery mob from Palmyra, Mo.
Mary Todd Lincoln gives birth to a son, Robert. In December, the
Illinois Supreme Court upholds the circuit court judgment against Dr.
1844 — John Clemens builds the Hill Street
house in Hannibal that we now know as the Mark Twain boyhood home.
Lincoln buys and occupies the only house he ever owns at Eighth and
Jackson in Springfield. In February, Dr. Eells is selected as the
Liberty Party’s candidate for Illinois governor. On June
27, Joseph Smith, the Latter-day Saints’ prophet, and his brother,
Hyrum Smith, are assassinated in the Carthage jail. The abolitionist
leader, Dr. David Nelson, dies on October 17 at Oakland, his farm east
1845 — The Donner party leaves Springfield
by wagon train for California. During the fall, and into the
early months of 1846, the settlement of Latter-day Saints known as
Morley Town, in Hancock County’s Walker Township (near Tioga), is
sporadically burned out by anti-Mormon vigilantes. One Edmund
Durfee is murdered there.
1846 — The
Latter-day Saints, including the Browning family, complete their exodus
from Illinois and head West. On October 4, Dr. Eells dies “on the
Ohio River near Cincinnati” on his way to Connecticut to seek advanced
1847 — John Clemens
dies in Hannibal and Lincoln is serving a single term in the U.S. House
of Representatives. Joseph Medill founds the Chicago
Tribune. Stephen A. Douglas marries Martha Martin, daughter of a
wealthy North Carolina planter.
1850 — The federal
census of this year reports New Philadelphia has at least 11 residences
and 58 people, with eight homes occupied by whites and a total of 36
persons, and three residences occupied by blacks with 22 persons, two
of the three black families having one white person living in the
household. The population of Illinois is 851,470.
1852 — In its December term, in Moore v. Illlinois, the U.S. Supreme Court
upholds the 1843 decision of the Illinois Supreme Court against
Eells. The Eells estate was represented before the high court by
Salmon P. Chase and William Seward, with George C. Dixon filing a
1853 — Martha Martin Douglas dies on
January 19 after giving birth to a daughter who dies a few weeks
later. Young Samuel Clemens leaves Hannibal for New York City;
the first state fair is held in Springfield; the General Assembly
enacts the Black Exclusion Act, another law intended to prevent free
blacks from settling in Illinois. John Milton Hay enters Brown
1854 — Frank McWorter dies at New
Philadelphia at the age of 77. Augustus Tolton is born to Peter Paul
and Martha Jane Tolton on April 1 in Ralls County, Mo., the property of
slave owner Steven Elliott.
1855 — Illinois General Assembly adopts a
free public school system.
1856 — In November,
Stephen A. Douglas marries Adele Cutts, a grand-niece of Dolley Madison.
1858 — In the fall of this year, Democrat
Stephen A. Douglas and Republican (and former Whig) Abraham Lincoln
hold public debates in Quincy and six other Illinois cities in
campaigning for election to the U.S. Senate; Douglas is elected. John
Hay is graduated from Brown University and returns to Pittsfield where
he works in John Nicolay’s newspaper office until taking up the study
of law in his uncle Milton Hay’s office in Springfield
1860 — Republican Abraham Lincoln is
elected president of the United States, defeating three other
1861 — On Feb. 4, John Hay is admitted to
the Illinois bar and a week later goes to Washington with
President-elect Lincoln as an assistant private secretary. Martha
Tolton takes Augustus, 7, his older brother and two younger sisters and
flees Missouri across the Mississippi River. The family takes refuge in
Quincy and Augustus attends Catholic schools. (Augustus Tolton is
ordained on April 24, 1886, as the first known and recognized black
priest in the United States. He dies in Chicago of heat stroke on July
9, 1897, and is buried in Quincy.)
1862 — The Palmyra
(Mo.) Massacre occurs on October 18. Pro-Union forces execute 10
civilian prisoners with Confederate leanings after a Union spy
disappears. Lincoln decries the slaughter.
1864 — Lincoln is
re-elected president of the United States.
1865 — Lincoln is assassinated in
Washington, D.C., and is buried in Springfield. Illinois General
Assembly repeals the state’s Black Laws against black settlement and
becomes the first state legislature to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment
abolishing slavery. John Hay, at age 26, becomes secretary
of the U.S. Legation at Paris. (Hay subsequently serves as secretary of
State under Presidents McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, and in this
office helps negotiate peace with Spain after the war of 1898, authors
McKinley’s “open door” policy toward China, and is instrumental in
Roosevelt’s diplomacy leading to construction of the Panama Canal.)
[Prepared by Joe Conover; updated 2006]