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  • Writer's pictureNatalija Ugrina

Abraham Lincoln's Springfield and the Mystery of His Tomb

Springfield, Illinois, is not just a city steeped in American history; it's also the place where Abraham Lincoln left his mark both in life and in death. As I walked through the streets of this historic city, I couldn't help but feel transported back to the mid-19th century, a time of profound change and challenge for the United States. In this blog post, I'll take you through Lincoln's life in Springfield, the city he called home, and unravel some of the mysteries surrounding his final resting place.

Abraham Lincoln's Home in Springfield, Illinois
Abraham Lincoln's Home in Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln's Springfield Beginnings

Abraham Lincoln moved to Springfield in 1837 at the age of 28. This move marked a significant transition from a young man working various jobs in New Salem to a practicing lawyer who was quickly making a name for himself in Illinois politics. Springfield offered Lincoln the perfect platform to grow professionally and personally. It was here that he solidified his legal career, entering into partnerships with several prominent attorneys, including John T. Stuart and Stephen T. Logan.

Lincoln's home at the corner of Eighth and Jackson Streets, now the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, is a must-visit. This is the only house he ever owned and where he and Mary Todd Lincoln nurtured their family. The beautifully preserved residence offers a glimpse into Lincoln’s life during these formative years, revealing insights into his family life, his evolving political views, and the societal context of the time.


Lincoln's Springfield Beginnings

Political Ascension and the Lincoln-Douglas Debates

Springfield was not just a backdrop but a catalyst for Lincoln's burgeoning political career. It was from here that he launched his unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate in 1858, engaging in the historic Lincoln-Douglas debates with Stephen A. Douglas. These debates are famously known for their depth of discourse on slavery and states' rights—issues tearing the country apart. The Old State Capitol, where Lincoln delivered his famous "House Divided" speech, stands as a testament to his profound oratorical skills and his deep convictions.


Illinois State Capitol
Illinois State Capitol

The Presidential Years and Return to Springfield

After being elected the 16th President of the United States, Lincoln left Springfield in 1861, but his connection to the city remained strong. His farewell speech at the Great Western Railroad Station, expressing his uncertainty and resolve, is etched into the memories of those who study his life. Lincoln's presidency was marked by the Civil War and significant national turmoil, but his leadership helped preserve the Union and emancipate millions of slaves.


The Mystery of Lincoln’s Tomb

Lincoln's final resting place, the Lincoln Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery, stands as a grand monument to a pivotal figure in American history. However, the solemnity and respect that we see today at the site belies a past fraught with drama and intrigue, particularly highlighted by an audacious crime attempt.


The Mystery of Lincoln’s Tomb

In 1876, eleven years after Lincoln’s assassination, a bizarre and audacious plot unfolded. A group of Chicago-based counterfeiters, led by the notorious Big Jim Kennally, concocted a plan to steal Abraham Lincoln’s body from its tomb. Their motive was desperate but clear: they intended to demand a hefty ransom from the government. The ransom terms were $200,000 in cash and the release of the gang's best counterfeiter, Benjamin Boyd, from prison.

The plot reached its climax on the night of November 7, 1876. The grave robbers, including a small-time criminal named Terrence Mullen and saloonkeeper Jack Hughes, entered the cemetery ostensibly to carry out their plan. However, unbeknownst to them, the Secret Service had infiltrated their gang through an informant, a fact that turned the heist into a fumbling failure. The agents arrested the criminals during the act, thus foiling the grave robbery.

The Mystery of Lincoln’s Tomb

This shocking attempt led to several repercussions concerning the security of Lincoln's remains. To protect against further attempts, Lincoln's body was moved multiple times within the monument. It was finally placed in a steel cage and entombed under 10 feet of concrete, securing the remains in a way that no would-be thief could ever again contemplate disturbing.



Today, Lincoln's Tomb not only serves as a sacred memorial but also as a reminder of the lengths to which admirers and malefactors alike have gone in relation to the legacy of one of America's most revered Presidents. The story of the tomb’s past adds a layer of depth to the site, transforming it from merely a place of mourning to one of mystery and undying vigilance. As visitors walk through the peaceful grounds of Oak Ridge Cemetery and gaze upon the imposing structure of the tomb, they are reminded of the profound impact Lincoln had on the nation and the extraordinary measures taken to safeguard his legacy.


The Tradition of Touching Lincoln's Nose

The Tradition of Touching Lincoln's Nose

A visit to Springfield, Illinois, is incomplete without a stop at the Lincoln Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery, not just to pay respects but also to engage in a unique local tradition: touching the nose of Lincoln’s bronze bust. This bust, positioned at the entrance of the tomb, has a shiny nose that stands out against the otherwise patinaed bronze, a testament to the countless visitors who have rubbed it for good luck.


The tradition of touching Lincoln’s nose stems from a superstition similar to that of touching the Blarney Stone in Ireland. It is believed that rubbing the nose of this statue brings good fortune. This practice has been embraced by visitors from around the world and has become a cherished ritual for many who come to honor Lincoln’s memory. The shiny spot on the nose, worn smooth by years of hopeful touches, reflects the deep connection and reverence people feel towards Lincoln.


Reflecting on Lincoln's Legacy

Walking through Springfield, from the Lincoln Home to the Old State Capitol and finally to his tomb, provides a comprehensive journey through the life of a man who shaped the nation with his unwavering resolve and principles. The experience is not merely about viewing historic sites; it's about feeling the presence of Abraham Lincoln in the quiet moments spent by his tomb, in the echoes of his words at the Capitol, and in the preserved rooms of his family home.

Springfield encapsulates the essence of Lincoln not just as a revered leader, but as a man who faced immense personal and national challenges with courage and humility. Exploring this city enriches one’s understanding of how deeply Lincoln is woven into the fabric of American history and the continuing relevance of his legacy in today’s world. Whether you’re a history buff, a political enthusiast, or simply someone curious about the life of one of America’s most iconic figures, Springfield offers a pilgrimage that is both enlightening and inspiring. As we reflect on his legacy, we find lessons in leadership, resilience, and the enduring power of a legacy well-crafted and fiercely protected.


Where to Stay in Springfield, Illinois


If you're looking for luxury accommodations, the options are somewhat limited, but here are some solid choices for hotels (affiliate links):


President Abraham Lincoln Springfield - DoubleTree by Hilton (perfect location to explore, rooms are a bit outdated but overall probably the best option)


Inn at 835 Boutique Hotel (old Springfield vibes)



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May 07

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May 05

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May 05

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3amirikian
May 02

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Guest
May 01

Hello beautiful, how are you today?

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