The 8th Judicial Circuit changed several times during the two decades that Mr. Lincoln travelled around it twice a year. For the latter half that period, Mr. Lincoln’s friend, David Davis, was the presiding judge. Occasionally, Mr. Lincoln sat in for Judge Davis. The courthouses on the circuit also often served as the backdrop for political events and rallies. As organized in 1839, the Circuit included Champaign, Dewitt, Macon, Mason, McLean, Menard, Sangamon and Tazewell. Three years later, Christian, Logan, Shelby and Woodford Counties were added. In 1853 State’s judicial circuits were realigned. The new Eighth Circuit was limited to Sangamon, Logan, McLean, Woodford, Tazewell, DeWitt, Champaign, and Vermilion. The usual route for Mr. Lincoln was:
It was part of the Eighth Circuit for seven years until 1857 when Tazewell County was removed from the Circuit. The courthouse was constructed in 1849 after the legislature approved switching the county seat from Tremont.
This was the site of one of the circuit’s busiest but less pretentious courthouses, completed in 1836. It was home to David Davis, Jesse Fell, and Leonard Swett – all legal and political collaborators of Mr. Lincoln.
The courthouse went into operation in 1856, burned in 1857 and was replaced the following year. It was the third county seat. A reproduction of the first courthouse in Postville, where Mr. Lincoln practiced in the 1840s, was built in 1953.
The courthouse for two decades was the site of many Lincoln trials — and supposedly his first meeting with future Civil War General George B. McClellan. It was located on what is now called “Mr. Lincoln’s Square.”
Less is known about the courthouse here than about the nearby Bryant Cottage in Bement, where plans for the Lincoln-Douglas Debates were formulated.
A simple log courthouse was under construction when Mr. Lincoln first visited the community as a 22-year moving with his family from Indiana.
Springfield was Mr. Lincoln’s home town as well the state capital as well as the county seat of in Sangamon County. It was also the site of the U.S. District Court and the Illinois Supreme Court, before which Mr. Lincoln often practiced.
Courtesy of The Gilder Lehrman Collection, New York
For more information about each town, please rollover the name of each town. If you click on the town, you will be transferred to a variety of outside links, that are not associated with The Lincoln Institute. Each page has information we feel is interesting and/or relevant.