Home of one of Looking for Lincoln’s 2015 Signature Events, the Lincoln Days Civil War Reenactment in June, Pittsfield and Pike County is proud to share its Lincoln heritage. All three of President Lincoln’s secretaries hailed from Pike County, and he counted many folks from the area among his friends. The homes of many of those friends are still standing. You can enjoy the stories and learn more about these early Pittsfield residents by taking the Talking Houses of Pittsfield tour. While most of the homes are still inhabited today, one small home, the Shasdid House has been restored and is now open for tours. Stop by the Pittsfield Welcome Center while you’re in town. They’re open M – F, from 8:30 am – 5 pm.
For more information:
- 8th Judicial Circuit
- Friends of Lincoln
- Good for Kids
- Guided/Self-Guided Tours
- Historic House
- Historic Site
- Lincoln-Douglas Debate
- Passport Site
- Route 66
- Top Destination
- Underground Railroad
- Visitor Information
- Wayside Exhibit
William Watson Hotel (Mansion House)
105 East Washington Street Pittsfield, Illinois 62363
Built circa 1838
The hotel was built by William Watson one of the first settler’s in Pittsfield. Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas would gather in the lobby when they were in town. Later Watson would sell the hotel to Joel Pennington whose son Goyn became friends with John G. Nicolay. The hotel was a very active place. Rooms above with retail space below. By the late 1800s one could find lodging, a barber shop, blacksmith and tack shops.
Talking Houses of Pittsfield
Start at the Milton Hay House, 332 West Washington Street Pittsfield, Illinois 62363
Pittsfield is a unique community when it comes to Abraham Lincoln. Between 1838 and 1858 Abraham Lincoln visited Pike County and the Pittsfield community several times. During his visits he became friends with many local men and their families through politics and legal business.
In 2007 an effort was made by the Abe Lincoln Project/Looking for Lincoln in Pike County to mark several of these homes with waysides telling the story of the families that lived in the home and their relationship to Lincoln.
On behalf of the Abe Lincoln Project we invite you to take our Talking House Tour and learn the history of the families that knew Abraham Lincoln personally.
John Greene Shastid House
326 East Jefferson Street Pittsfield, Illinois 62363
Built circa 1838
John Greene Shastid first encounter Abraham Lincoln while living in New Salem, Illinois. In 1836 he moved his family to Pittsfield, Illinois. When Lincoln was in town on legal business it is said that he always called on the Shastids.
In his book My Second Life Thomas Hall Shastid recalls a story about his grandfather (John) coming home with a dozen pigeons after a hunting trip. As the family waited for the pigeons to finish boiling the door to the home was suddenly pushed opened. There stood Abraham Lincoln who took the seat of honor at the table. Mrs. Shastid placed the plate of boiled pigeon in from of Lincoln. Lincoln was very talkative at first but later fell silent as he dove into the plate of pigeons. John Shastid motion to the rest of the family to not ask for any of the wild meat. With one pigeon left Lincoln reached out his fork and placed it on his plate and began to eat it.
As Lincoln ate the last pigeon young Tommy Shastid burst into tears, crying out, “Abe Lincoln you’re an old hog”.
Location of Free Press Newspaper
118 North Monroe Street Pittsfield, Illinois 62363
There are two stories pertaining to how Abraham Lincoln and proprietor and editor John G. Nicolay met. Thomas Hall Shastid grandson of John Greene Shastid tells the story that while Lincoln was in Pittsfield he ran into John Greene Shastid telling him that he needed a good printer. John took him to the office of the Free Press and introduced him to Nicolay.
In 1894 Nicolay granted an interview that went viral in the national newspapers. He was asked about the first time he met Lincoln. Nicolay said that he had been actively serving on a political committee in Pittsfield in the year 1856. That year John C. Fremont was running for president on the Republican ticket and Abraham Lincoln and Lyman Trumbull were canvassing the state of Illinois for votes. It was a large district and they had agreed to not stump together.
Nicolay went on to say that the committee did not know who was coming to Pittsfield so they advertised that both Lincoln and Trumbull would be there. It wasn’t a total lie, one of the men would show at the scheduled date and time. When the time came both Lincoln and Trumbull showed up in Pittsfield. The crowds were huge as the two men gave speeches well into the night. Nicolay stated that he was introduced to Lincoln late that evening.