Road Trips

Where Lincoln first entered Illinois

I just love to find an old brick road. This one used to be US 50 as it entered Illinois after crossing the Wabash River from Vincennes, Indiana.

Brick segments of old US 50

Notice how the fellow who owns that house parks his cars on the old highway? A roadgeek’s dream! Here’s the road headed west into Illinois. Notice how it flows right into the modern road ahead, a sure sign that this is the old alignment.

Brick segments of old US 50

The bridge that used to connect to this brick road has been gone since the 1930s. I found this postcard image of that bridge. One part of the bridge was a steel arch truss, and another part was a wooden covered bridge!

Since 1933, a series of grand arches has linked Vincennes to Illinois. Here’s the bridge from the Vincennes side. But even this is no longer US 50; the road bypasses town to the north and crosses the Wabash over a bridge named after Red Skelton, who grew up here.

Wabash River bridge, Vincennes

There are lots of photos of this bridge on the Internet, but I’ve yet to see any taken from the Illinois side. I’ve corrected that problem here.

Lincoln Memorial Bridge

I didn’t think much about how the 1933 bridge rose so high above the river until someone commented on one of these photos on Flickr that the area looked pretty good for having been under water so many times. The most recent flood was in June of 2008. Several square miles were under water in Illinois, including the old brick road and the house of that fellow who parked his cars on the bricks. (Suddenly, parking my car there didn’t seem so attractive anymore.) But the 1933 bridge was never under water.

This monument, which stands near the end of the bridge on the Illinois side several feet above the old brick road, wasn’t under water either. When young Abraham Lincoln crossed into Illinois, he and his family did it near this spot, and this monument commemorates it. It felt very cool to walk ground Lincoln walked.

Lincoln memorial

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Last updated on 25 January 2020 by Jim Grey

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9 thoughts on “Where Lincoln first entered Illinois

  1. Lone Primate says:

    I was just watching something about Lincoln on Monday night. It was one of those depressing History Channel things that tries to be fresh by questioning our basic assumptions… you know, is this a real picture of him, was he a bigot, is he the actual author of the letter to the grieving mother quoted in “Saving Private Ryan”, etc. Things like this, though, that are so much more basic and about the man rather than the myth are refreshing. This is something you can reach out and actually touch and know for real. :)

    • There seems to be a move afoot to try to paint Lincoln in a more negative light. We sure have deified him, which I don’t believe is justified. But there’s also some evidence that some of what he did was quite harmful to the country. Still, I think on the balance he deserves the honor and respect he is given.

      I’ve visited Lincoln’s birthplace and boyhood home in Kentucky, his boyhood home in Indiana, and now this place in Illinois, and in every case I felt a kinship to Lincoln by walking ground he walked as his family tried to make a life.

  2. Wow, that house flooded? That means the water was at least 15 feet above the flood level when we were there. Surprised we didn’t see higher water marks on the bridge.

    • How do you figure the water was 15′ above flood level when we were there? Sure, the river road was under water, but it didn’t look like 15′ to me!

      • I meant it would have needed to be about 15 feet higher than what it was when we were there to flood that house. I don’t know what the flood stage was, and river levels don’t seem to be in the weather almanac.

    • Remarkable, especially when you think that this was not an isolated incident. You’d think Westport, IL, would be abandoned by now!

  3. Pingback: Visiting Vincennes on US 50 in Indiana : Down the Road

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