Abraham Lincoln & “Forgottonia”

The key to The Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area

Macomb, IL celebrates its designation as an Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area through its role in the “‘Forgottonia’ Looking For Lincoln Self-Guided Tour”. This unique attraction, part of the U.S. National Parks Service, allows users to experience 10 significant sites throughout Macomb and McDonough County directly related to Abraham Lincoln and his unique and remarkable connection to the “Forgottonia” community.

What is “Forgottonia”?

The lore of Forgottoniawas created in what is the very heart of the republic – Macomb, IL. “Forgottonia” is the name given to a fourteen-county region in West Central Illinois in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Trivia surrounding “Forgottonia”:

“Forgottonia” became a fictional political secession movement in the early 1970s. Obviously, it did not achieve actual statehood, but briefly it did crystallize as a state of mind. Residents of the west-central Illinois region even launched a satirical secession movement to protest the region’s stepchild status in Springfield. Learn more!

Getting to Know the Heritage of Abraham Lincoln

During his tour of the state debating Stephen Douglas, senate hopeful Abraham Lincoln made a stop in Macomb where he came to a conclusion that not only changed the course of his political career but also opened the door to the White House and Lincoln’s preservation of the nation during the Civil War.

Highlights of Lincoln’s debate speeches:

  • Lincoln spoke to an audience that filled the Macomb courthouse. Afterwards, a newspaper reported that Lincoln delivered his remarks in a relaxed manner, and that “his speech was more like an earnest conversation with his Old Whig friends.”
    • Following the speech, Lincoln retired to his room at the Randolph House along with Joseph Medill and James Magie to discuss strategies and questions for the Friday debate with Douglass in Freeport. The significance this discussion had on Lincoln’s impending political career and future in becoming the 16th President of the United States cannot be underestimated.
    • Upon leaving Macomb, Medill traveled on the special train carrying Lincoln and the Republicans to Freeport. Lincoln showed him a set of final questions prepared for Douglas. Medill agreed that these were good except the second, which would give Douglas an advantage. According to Herndon’s biography of Lincoln (Albert and Charles Boni edition, page 335) this famous second question was: “Can the people of the United States Territory, in any lawful way, against the wish of any citizen of the United States, exclude slavery from its limits prior to the formation of a state constitution?“
    • Medill knew Douglas would reply affirmatively, strengthening his new hold on the antislavery sentiment, perhaps enough to win the election. He was right – Douglas did win.
    • Medill felt so strongly that Lincoln was making a mistake, he told Judd and Washburne of Lincoln’s intention and they all tried to talk him out of it, but Lincoln would not be moved.
  • Before leaving Macomb upon Lincoln’s first of three 1858 stays, T. P. Pearson, photographer, made an ambrotype of Lincoln, reporting that Lincoln, upon entering, looked at the camera as though he was unfamiliar with such an instrument. Per the report, Lincoln remarked, ‘Well, do you want to take a shot at me with that thing?’ He was shown to a glass [mirror], where he was told to ‘fix up,’ but declined, saying it would not be much of a likeness if he fixed up. The old neighbors and acquaintances of Mr. Lincoln in, upon seeing this picture, were apt to exclaim: ‘There! that’s the best likeness of Mr. Lincoln that I ever saw!’
  • When Lincoln and Douglas met in Freeport for their second debate, Douglas charges, “[Lincoln] will not tell you distinctly whether he will vote for or against the admission of any more slave States.” Lincoln rebuts, “I do not ask for the vote of anyone who supposes that I have secret purposes or pledges that I dare not speak out.” Lincoln encourages voters to “Go for” the candidate whose “views” are “in accordance with your feelings.”
  • Two or three days after the 1860 election, learning that the active workers of the Republican party of IL were calling on Lincoln in Springfield to congratulate him, Medill also made the pilgrimage. Walking up to Mr. Lincoln in the Secretary of State office, Medill recalls that Lincoln bent his head down to Medill’s ear and said in low tones: “Do you recollect the argument we had on the way to Freeport two years ago on my question to ask Judge Douglas about the power of squatters to exclude slavery from territories?” Medill replied yes, he recollected it.

“Now,” said Lincoln, “don’t you think I was right in putting that question to him?”

Medill said, “Yes, Mr. Lincoln, you were, and we were both right. Douglas’ reply to that question undoubtedly hurt him badly for the Presidency but it reelected him to the Senate at that time as I feared it would.”

Lincoln gave a broad smile and said, “Now I have won the place that he was playing for.”

  • True to Lincoln’s prediction regarding the “Freeport Question”, Douglas won the senate seat, but it paved the way to Lincoln’s Republican party nomination for president. He went on to defeat Douglas along with two other contenders, becoming the first US president to guide this nation through a Civil War, preserve the Union and bring an end to slavery, earning him the distinction of one of the greatest American presidents in history.

The “Forgottonia” Looking For Lincoln Self-Guided Tour is Unforgettable.

  • Looking For Lincoln sites – Individual markers designate each of the sites, which include specific QR codes that direct history seekers to detailed, online information on the particulars of each, featuring in depth history, photos, maps and video of “Abe Lincoln” himself giving descriptions of the sites.
    • Sites include:TheLiving Lincoln Topiary Monument, the McDonough County Courthouse, the Randolph House, the Oakwood Cemetery, the Blandin House Museum, the Wm. Painter Pearson Photography Studio site, as well as other significant area Lincoln historic sites.
  • Why the Living Lincoln Topiary Monument is a don’t miss! – This 15-feet high and 8-feet wide bust of our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln is a mixed-media construction of durable cast stone, created through a 3-D printing process, and steel featuring a unique topiary where Lincoln’s beard consists of real flowering plants, making it the only sculpture of its kind in the world!
    • Siting majestically on Macomb’s City Hall lawn this incredible bust of “Honest Abe” was the concept of artist and WIU professor Duke Oursler. The sculpture was created and constructed by Oursler with the assistance of artist Marc Moulton.
    • The Macomb, IL CVB partnered with Oursler on the project with funding provided by Macomb Rotary Clubs in recognition of its 2020 centennial anniversary.

Enjoying the “Forgottonia” Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area many experiences offers something for people of all ages to enjoy in the Macomb, IL area. Upon entering Macomb downtown, you will see the beautiful historic square. Then by taking the Self-Guided Tour, you’ll literally walk in the very steps of Lincoln!