Traveling through Rochester, Illinois numerous times I’ve seen the sign on denoting the Lincoln-Van Buren Trail, along with the huge stone silo in town with the colorful Lincoln -Van Buren mural on it. Sadly President Van Buren’s face is a bit tattered, but the picture still remains showing this historic meeting!
All these signs prompted me to ask, “What is the story behind the Lincoln-Van Buren Trail?”
Van Buren’s reason for the visit
According to an article in the SangamonLink, Martin Van Buren, the 8th President of the United States, visited Springfield between June 16 and 19, 1842. Visiting He his first cousin George Brunk near Rochester, Illinois this auspicious visit was just a year after his Presidency. President Van Buren served as President between 1837 – 1841 as President
An SJR story shares that Van Buren’s carriage wheels got stuck in the mud. Accordingly that is how he ended up in Rochester for the night! In William Herndon’s book Life of Lincoln, it states, “Knowing accommodations at Rochester were not intended, or suited to the entertainment of an ex-President, they took with them refreshments in quantity and variety, to make up for all he deficiencies.”
The SangamonLink story says President Van Buren’s reason for coming to the Springfield area was, “he recognized it as a strategic political and geographical point in the country and hoped it would help his political comeback.”
Where Lincoln Comes In!
Abraham Lincoln although a political opposite of President Van Buren, was brought in to provide wit and entertainment. On Thursday, June 16, 1842, Abraham Lincoln attended a reception at the home of Mrs. Doty in Rochester. His stories were well received even though the legislator was only 33 at the time.
The SJR story recounts that in his book Herndon said President Van Buren shared political stories and politics from his home state in New York. Lincoln shared stories about “life on the western frontier”.
The party lasted until Midnight.
Friday, Abraham Lincoln accompanied former President Van Buren to Springfield. In the morning where the Sangamon Guards met the party. A welcome address was provided at the Statehouse, and a reception followed at the American House Hotel.
President Van Buren got around during this trip. After inspecting all the rooms of the hotel, on Sunday morning he attended the Methodist church, and Sunday evening the Presbyterian church.
Making the Lincoln Connection
Rochester residents R.L. and Carolyn Moore designated the Lincoln-Van Buren trail. The couple dug into finding Rochester history. In 2006, R.L. read a book where he learned of the Lincoln and Van Buren encounter in Rochester in June of 1842. After confirming it, the couple spearheaded the effort to establish a nearly 8-mile Lincoln – Van Buren Trail.
Besides the trail, there is the mural that was painted on Route 29 by Helen Stannard.
So there is the story! How Abraham Lincoln and President Martin Van Buren came to be in Rochester, Illinois at the same place and time! Drive to Rochester to see the Lincoln Van Buren trail for yourself!
Read about the Lincoln Trail in Carlinville, Illinois as well!