Land of Lincoln
The Quincy area holds a hefty chunk of Civil War history in the “Land of Lincoln”, and is one of six cities in the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area designated a Gateway Community. These gateway sites serve as entry points to the National Heritage Area and introduce visitors to local and regional Lincoln stories. The other Illinois Gateway Communities consist of Alton, Springfield, Bloomington, Danville, and Charleston. Looking for Lincoln >
Illinois entered the Union as a free state
Quincy founder John Wood successfully fought to prevent Illinois from becoming a slave state
Abolitionist Dr. Richard Eells built his home and sheltered runaway slaves from Missouri
Quincy hosted the Sixth Senatorial Lincoln-Douglas Debate
John Wood became the 12th Governor of Illinois
Quincy was selected as the location for Illinois’ first Veteran’s Home
Quincy's Civil War Era
In 1860, Quincy founder and Lieutenant Governor John Wood inherited the governorship after William H. Bissell died while in office. As a young man, Wood had joined Edward Coles, the state’s second governor, in a successful fight to prevent Illinois from becoming a slave state in 1824, only five years after it entered the Union as a free state.
At the time Wood became governor, he was overseeing business interests and the construction of his mansion, now known as the John Wood Mansion. The Illinois legislature allowed him to stay in Quincy during his tenure, effectively making Quincy a “second” capitol for the state. His absence from the official Governor’s office in Springfield provided his fellow Republican, Abraham Lincoln, a space for planning his Presidential run.
The matter of slavery was a major religious and social issue in Quincy’s early years. The city’s location, separated only by the Mississippi River from the slave state of Missouri, which was a hotbed of political controversy on the issue, made Quincy itself a hotbed of political controversy on slavery. Dr. Richard Eells, who was a staunch abolitionist, built his home in Quincy in 1835 and sheltered runaway slaves on their way to Chicago. Eells and his wife, Jane, were caught trying to help a fleeing Monticello, Missouri slave. An ensuing legal battle was pursued all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to become the most celebrated litigation involving the Underground Railroad.
The divide over slavery climaxed in 1858 when Quincy hosted the sixth Senatorial Debate by U.S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas and his challenger, Abraham Lincoln. With an estimated crowd of 12,000 in attendance, Quincy was the largest community at which Lincoln and Douglas debated.
Lincoln and Douglas would once again confront each other in the 1860 Presidential election and the resulting campaign again divided Quincy and the surrounding region. Lincoln enthusiasts and Quincy’s chapter of the Republican Party’s para-military organization Wide Awakes, while en route to a political rally in Plainville, marched upon nearby Payson, which was a community predominantly filled with Douglas supporters. Although a confrontation was avoided while en route to Plainville, Douglas supporters shot upon the Wide Awakes on their journey back to Quincy, resulting in a skirmish known as the Stone Prairie Riots.
The Civil War brought increasing prosperity to Quincy. Although the battles were held far from the city, Quincy was the site of the organization of several Illinois volunteer infantry regiments. Following the Reconstruction Era, Quincy was selected as the location for Illinois’ first Veteran’s Home in 1886.