— Looking for Lincoln —
Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas were opposing attorneys during Livingston County's first regular term of circuit court, which was held on this site May 18 and 19, 1840, in Henry Weed's log cabin. In the first lawsuit filed in the county. Lincoln served as attorney for William Popejoy, Jr., who was asking $2,000 damages for defamation of character. Popejoy claimed Isaac Wilson had publicly accused him of stealing meat from Sarah McDowell. Stephen A. Douglas represented Wilson. Lincoln won the case, but the damages were greatly reduced on appeal. The judge and attorneys, including David Davis, a twenty-five-year-old attorney from Bloomington, had come across the prairie in buggies and on horseback. Lincoln, on horseback, was drenched to the skin by a late spring shower. The jury held its deliberations on a pile of saw-logs on the banks of the river; and, afterward, standing on a dry goods box, Lincoln, then thirty-one, and Douglas, twenty-seven, debated political issues of the day to an attentive audience.
Court was held in a twenty-two by twenty-foot room on the upper floor of the Weed cabin, the first cabin in Pontiac Township. It was built in 1833 by Weed and his brothers-in-law, Lucius and Seth Young, for themselves and their families. When Livingston became a county in 1837, the Youngs and Weed, as town proprietors, promised a courthouse and other improvements if Pontiac were named county seat. The cabin was used for county purposes until the first courthouse opened on July 23, 1842.
Weed contracted with John Foster to build the first courthouse before leaving the county in 1839. The Young brothers had died in 1837. Foster leased the Weed cabin to the county, and, later on this site, kept the first hotel, providing rooms for the judge, attorneys, juries, and litigants. He often entertained Lincoln and Douglas as they traveled the circuit with the portly Judge David Davis. The hotel was not luxurious. Lawyers slept two to a bed, and two or three beds were located in one room. Davis, because of his weight, slept alone; but one night the bed collapsed under him, and he had to be rescued from the debris of the destroyed bed. During one term of court, Lincoln paid his hotel bill by attending to a suit in which Foster was concerned.