The part of Vermilion
County known as Danville once belonged to the Miami, Kickapoo, and Pottowatomie
tribes of the Algonquin Indians. The salt deposits located on the
attracted a variety of
wildlife, providing a plentiful food supply to the Indians. These salt wells
also attracted the first white settlers to this region to develop a salt
works. A monument, located at the Vermilion County Museum, recognizes the
Salines of the Vermilion and is referred to in French records as early as
Click to enlarge
In 1818, the Kickapoo Indians
ceded a large area of land to the federal government, including the area now
County. In 1827,
early settlers Guy W. Smith and Dan W. Beckwith donated land near the mouth of
the North Fork of the Vermilion River. This became the county seat. In the
mid-1800's, coal miners settled in Danville and Vermilion County, ranking the
area as the top coal producer in Illinois. The strip-mined areas have grown into
today's sprawling, beautiful chain of State and
From 1841 to 1859,
practiced law in Danville. In 1852, he established a local law
firm with Ward Hill Lamon. This was Lincoln's only permanent law office on the
circuit. While on his senatorial campaign in September of 1858, Lincoln stepped
through a window onto a balcony at the home of his longtime friend, William E.
(See the home and
balcony). Standing in his stocking feet, Lincoln proceeded to give a speech to
the residents of Danville.
Lincoln's opponent, was also campaigning the area, giving speeches in the wooded
area now known as Douglas Park. Established in 1864, Springhill Cemetery is
located between English and Voorhees Streets. Here, one can find the graves of
Danville's founders as well as those of historical figures such as
General John C. Black and
Joe" Cannon. Also, friends of Abraham Lincoln are buried here. The
Fithian home is now the site of the area's premier historical collection,
Located on Gilbert Street
in Danville, the Vermilion County Museum is listed on the National Register of
The Vermilion County Museum formerly was the
home of Dr.
William E. Fithian. The bedroom that Abraham Lincoln used while visiting Dr.
Fithian contains the bed that he slept in, and memorabilia representing
Lincoln's connections to the Danville Area. Dr. Fithian's former office and a
1911-era dentist's office have been recreated. Other rooms at the museum are
filled with period antiques and historic artifacts. The
Joseph G. Cannon room
contains many of his personal artifacts. Cannon was a member of the U.S. House
of Representatives for 46 years, and Speaker of the House from 1903-1911. The
Carriage House behind the museum contains a turn-of-the-century kitchen, a
1900's school room, a president's room, and an extensive doll collection. An
annual Christmas walk takes place at the museum in early December, with special
appearances by Abraham Lincoln and members of the Illiana Civil War Historical
Society. The museum is open for tours year around.
1840's cottage-style home of Joseph Lamon and Melissa Beckwith Lamon is believed to be the oldest
frame house in the Danville area. Joseph Lamon was the cousin of Abraham
Lincoln's law partner, Ward Hill Lamon. Melissa Beckwith Lamon was the daughter
of one of Danville's founders, Dan Beckwith. The home originally stood near
downtown Danville on North Street, but was moved to its present location in
Lincoln Park and was completely restored in the early 1980's.
Harmon Mansion was a
30-acre farm built around 1850. Originally owned by Colonel Harmon, an attorney
and friend of Abraham Lincoln, the mansion is now a private business. Lincoln
was reported to have once visited the residence for Thanksgiving.
Vermilion Chapel, built
in 1868, is the oldest frame structured church in Vermilion County. Restored by
the Danville Altrusa Club, it is located in the
Kennekuk Cove County
The chapel is open to the public during the summer and is available for
weddings. Also at the park is the restored
Red Oak School
built in 1917.
Another popular historic
site for weddings is
located 10 miles north of Danville. Built in 1857, it was designed to look like
a rural English chapel.
Stoney Creek Bridge is
one of the few stone arch bridges of its design in the United States. Built in
1895 by John Beard, a former mayor of Danville, it is the only standing
segmental-arch bridge in east central Illinois.
built in 1884 as Heinley's Grand Opera House, and was used for many years as a
movie theater. The Fischer is currently undergoing
Vermilion County War
is located in the Carnegie Building that was formerly the Danville Public
Library. Housed on two floors, the main level contains memorabilia covering more
than 200 years of U.S. military history, from the Revolutionary War to Desert
Storm. The exhibits include medals, uniforms, field equipment, flags, and much
other memorabilia shown at the museum are the histories of Vermilion County's
five Congressional Medal of Honor recipients. The Congressional Medal of Honor
was established in 1863 as a means of recognizing actions above and beyond the
"Call of Duty." Actions considered by Congress worthy of special recognition.
Since its inception, slightly more than 4,000 medals have been awarded, a great
many of which have been awarded posthumously. Vermilion County's Congressional
Medal of Honor (CMH) recipients are:
brothers, Lt. Col. John C. Black and Capt. Wm. P. Black, were presented the CMH
in the Civil War when they were serving with Co. K, ILL 37th Infantry.
Sgt. Joseph F.
Knight of Danville was awarded the CMH while with the 6th US Calvary in May 1891
at White River, South Dakota.
Major Kenneth D.
Bailey, USMC, of Danville received the CMH for gallantry in action and was
killed in the Battle for Guadalcanal in 1942.
Lt. Carlos C.
Ogden of Fairmount was awarded the CMH while serving with the US Army near
Cherbourg, France in 1944.
Danville Junction Chapter
of the National Railroad Historical Society operates the
Railroad Museum in Rossville, Illinois. The depot, built by the Chicago and
Eastern Illinois Railroad in 1903, has been restored to the 1950's era of that
former road. The building sits adjacently to the Chicago-Nashville mainline of
CSX Transportation, formerly known as Seaboard System and earlier the Louisville
and Nashville Railroad. The depot has been leased from these lines since 1976.
The museum features a
collection of railroad material from various railroads in the area. Those
featured include the C&EI, Wabash, Illinois Terminal and NYC. The operator's
bay has been restored with operating telegraph keys and sounders. Dwarf signals
of several styles light the agent's room. The collection includes many lanterns,
the bass drum from the C&EI "Flyer Band" of the 1920's, and a four
foot high replica of the front end of a C&EI F-unit from the 1949 Chicago
For additional History visit the
ILLIANA Genealogy & Historical Society
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