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Shelby County

Shelbyville was founded in 1827 and named in honor of Isaac Shelby, hero of the Revolutionary War and Governor of Kentucky. The history of Shelbyville begins with Barnett Bone, a Tennessean who, in 1835, built a log cabin along the Kaskaskia River. As a side note, his cabin eventually became the county's first courthouse. Shelby County was formed in 1827 out of Fayette County and was also named as such as an additional honorific for Isaac Shelby.

Shelby County became a part of the Eight Judicial Circuit Court system in 1841. City natives can be proud that one of the circuit travelers was Abraham Lincoln, who went from town to town for twenty-five years, including four years to Shelbyville. He never complained about the squalid taverns or impassable roads. Rather, it seemed that he thrived in harsh conditions, and his stamina would later support him during the Civil War. Every spring and fall he would start the circuit in a westerly direction. He would leave Paris, some fifty-five miles from Shelbyville. The trip would take him two or three days. During the nights he would stay at way-side inns or homes of settlers

The State of Illinois is renowned as the Land of Lincoln. In Shelby County, finding Lincoln is no problem. Springfield may boast of popular Lincoln sites, but visitors can begin their quest in Shelby County for a little color. While a circuit-riding attorney, Lincoln occasionally visited Shelby County. His political beginnings as a Republican also took root here. Visit the Shelby County Courthouse to see the Robert Root painting of the Lincoln-Thornton debate. While less famous than the later Lincoln-Douglas debates, the Lincoln-Thornton meeting is significant because it marked one of Lincoln’s first public speaking engagements as a Republican. It was also the first time he argues the anti-slavery cause as divisive to the country. Today, Shelby County and Shelbyville are a rich and vibrant mix of small town appeal, recreation and leisure with an historic atmosphere.

By looking at the pictures below, you can get an idea of Shelby County in Lincoln’s time and as it stands today. Maybe you’ll find something unexpected when you go Looking for Lincoln in Shelby County!



Following the route of Lincoln on the Eighth Judicial Circuit is easy, to learn more about the history of the courthouse in this county, just click here!

You may also want to consider a stop by the following sites of interest!

Lincoln Public Square Eternal Flame
Shelby County Historical and Genealogical Society
Thompson Mill Covered Bridge
Lake Shelbyville

For more information on Shelby County or the city of Shelbyville, please visit: