— Looking for Lincoln —
When Abraham Lincoln rode into Pontiac that rainy day, he found few cabins, and those were so scattered and hidden among the clumps of bushes that they were rendered almost invisible. Lincoln stayed overnight in a log cabin built on this riverbank site by C. H. Perry to serve as both store and dwelling. Perry hauled the first stock of goods from Pekin to Pontiac by ox team in 1836. In 1837 first merchant Perry, along with James McKee, who was interested in the water privilege at Pontiac, and large landowner Jesse W. Fell, gave bond as sureties that Henry Weed, and Lucius and Seth Young, proprietors of the town, would fulfill their contract with the county in return for Pontiac being named county seat. The proprietors promised to give $3,000, a block of land two hundred feet square on which to erect the Court House, and an acre of land not more than thirty rods distant from the Court House, on which a jail and a pen for stray domestic animals were to be built. Further more, they were to build a good and substantial wagon bridge across the Vermilion River at this point.
'Photo Text' - Upper Section
Lincoln was in Pontiac May 18 and 19, 1840, for the first term of circuit court in Livingston County. He came on horseback, drenched to the skin by a spring shower. Tall and lanky, with pants too short for his frame, his shawl clipped with a safety pin, Lincoln was a sorry sight. Judge Treat (pictured above), Lincoln, and other attorneys, including David Davis and Stephen A. Douglas, crossed the open prairie from Bloomington in buggies and on horseback, following what later became known as the Pontiac Trail, and much later, Route 66. Weather often posed problems for the circuit-riding attorneys as they encountered heat, cold, storms, prairie fires, flash floods, and even snakes and wild animals.
In 1838, C. H. Perry and James McKee built the first sawmill in Pontiac. Perry also kept court records for a time. Sometime later, S. C. Ladd bought Perry's store stock and entered into a partnership with Willet Gray and purchased McKee's interest in the sawmill. C. H. Perry then was acting as the capitalist. He brought to Pontiac the first piano, the first "store-carpet" and the first looking-glass. It is recorded in the 1878 ?History of Livingston County' that a horse once walked in the open door of Perry's cabin and stood surveying himself in Perry's looking-glass all the while swishing flies with his tail. Perry's piano remained the only musical instrument of its kind in the county until he moved to Iowa and took it with him, and it was many years before its place was filled.