History of the 1858 DebatesLincoln-Douglas Debate Communities

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates
River Road Tour

Traveling along the stunning National Scenic Byway beginning in Ottawa, the site of the first Lincoln-Douglas Debate, through to Alton, and then on down to Little Egypt in Jonesboro, this route offers visitors and strikingly beautiful setting in which to explore Lincoln.

Day One
Total Time: Just under 9 hours including travel…


Historic Ottawa, Illinois, features a wide range of activities and engaging historical tours, both in person and self-guided, with audio tours and waysides abounding.

Lincoln-Douglas Debate Site (30 minutes)

Ottawa Heritage Tour (45 minutes)


A short trip over from Ottawa is Princeton, the home of the Owen Lovejoy Homestead. A friend and admirer of Lincoln, these two men shared a passionate dislike of slavery that was highlighted during the debates and both helped form the burgeoning Republicans who were still in their infancy.

Owen Lovejoy Homestead (1 hour)


Traveling down the Illinois River Road, you will pass through Pekin, where Lincoln practiced law on the Eighth Judicial Circuit before he took up the mantle and battled Douglas in the debates of 1858. Beardstown was the site of the infamous Armstrong Case, featured in countless books and films and the original courthouse Is still standing today.

Beardstown Courthouse (45 minutes)

End Day One in Jacksonville.

Day Two
Total Time: Just Under Nine hours including travel…


Leaving Beardstown and passing through Havana, another city where Lincoln practiced on the Eighth Judicial, you'll find yourself in just the place for a nice morning walk along the more historic districts of Jacksonville. Jacksonville is also the home to a state-of-the-art audio driving experience, where you will learn about Lincoln and his impact on this city. Whether you want to visit the underground railroad in your car or travel the city by foot, Jacksonville is the perfect spot.

Historical Jacksonville Audio Tour (1 hour)

Woodlawn Farm: Underground Railroad (1 hour)


Alton, Illinois features a wide range of activities for all ages. For the Lincoln afficienado this was the site of the final debate, as well as the site of the infamous duel that almost took place, and the site of the Confederate Prison. Visitors will find Alton bursting at the Lincoln and Illinois History seams.

Elijah P. Lovejoy Monument (15 minutes)

Lincoln-Douglas Square (10 minutes)

Lincoln and the Civil War Legacy Trail (45 minutes)

Alton Museum of History and Art (1 hour)


Established in 1814, this historic community features a pleasant atmosphere amidst historic buildings and antique shopping unparalleled almost anywhere else. While not directly relating to Lincoln, this community will let you know that you have, as its name would imply, entered Little Egypt. A little known gem is the Mermaid house, where Charles Dickens stayed and wrote about in 1842.

Historic Lebanon (1 hour)

Mermaid House (30 minutes)


Hopping on I-64 and then turning south on Highway 127, you will pass through Nashville and then Pinckneyville, where you will drive around an historic courthouse and square at the center of Perry County. Traveling southward, continuing into Little Egypt and Illinois premier wine country, you will venture into Murphysboro and through to Jonesboro, site of the third Lincoln-Douglas Debate, deep in the heart of southernmost Illinois.

Lincoln Douglas Debate Site (30 minutes)

General John A. Logan Museum (1 hour)

Southern Illinois Wineries and Tours (Varies)

Illinois River Road

General John A. Logan

Beardstown Courthouse

Woodlawn Farm: Underground

Lincoln-Douglas Debate

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