James T. Whitleys Uncle Sold It Sentiment Prompted Decatur Lawyer to Buy Back the Farm Where He Was Born

Land entered by Perry Strickland, May 31, 1836, and bought from him in 1843 by James Whitley and Shelton G. Whitley, will pass finally to a Whitley of the fourth generation, the young son of Attorney James T. Whitley, 300 North Pine street. This tract is half of section 28 in Harristown township. The conveyance of this land in 1843 was really to Shelton G. Whitley, the bachelor brother of James Whitley, who had come up from Kentucky in advance of his brother to find a suitable location for his kinsfolk. When James Whitley came to Macon county he had a horse, a yoke of oxen and forty dollars in money. He also had his good wife, Phoebe.


It did not take the Whitleys very long to know that they had found the right location for themselves. They liked their neighbors, the Millers, the Hostetlers, the Hankses and the Harrells. They liked the soil. They liked the climate. The yoke of oxen went as part payment for eighty acres of land. In a year or two the tract was freed from all encumbrance. When James Whitley died in 1872 he left an estate of 550 acres of land.

Mr. and Mrs. James Whitley had two sons, Richard T. and W. Lafayette Whitley, who grew to manhood, and a third son who died at seventeen. Richard T. Whitley was the father of the Decatur lawyer. When James Whitley died in 1872 the son Richard sold his half section and moved with his family to Vernon county, Missouri, to live for a while. The other son, Lafayette, lived there until he sold his part of the farm to Thomas J. Scroggin.


James T. Whitley, now of Decatur, was born within two hundred yards of the old Lincoln log cabin and remembers it well. After some years in Missouri he returned to Decatur to practice law. After he returned to Decatur he bought back the half-section of land which his father had sold, for sentimental reasons, and he has told his son that he wants him to pass it on to his own son someday.

The Lincoln log cabin was on the land owned by Lafayette Whitley and sold to the Scroggins, the other half of section 28 in Harristown township. The exact location where the cabin stood is just over the fence from James T. Whitleys tract. The soil around that spot was what Abe Lincoln plowed for the first time in 1830.

The house which James T. Whitleys grandfather built of boards hewed with his own hands has always been kept up and is in good condition today.


One of the first mills in Macon county was built by the first Whitley. He dammed the river and put up a little water-power mill, where the settlers from miles around brought their grain to be ground. Many a time the son, Richard, had to take fish out of the mill wheel when it could get clogged with them. The river was full of fish in those days.

Of course there is no dam there any more, but there are reminders of the old mill along the river bank, and old settlers remember it well.


The first Jim Whitley was a great Lincoln Democrat. Lincoln was his friend and had been his neighbor. He carried some of the rails that Lincoln and John Hanks had split to the convention in the Wigwan at Decatur when Lincoln was first mentioned for the presidency. James T. Peake used to recall how Old Man Whitley dragged the rails into that hall and tried to get onto the platform with them. He toppled and fell backward in doing so, but that did not dull his enthusiasm for Abe Lincoln.


This tract out in Harristown township has been in the Whitley name since 1843 with the exception of twelve years, when the title was held by Pegram & Hostetler. James T. Whitley, son of Richard T., who was the son of James Whitley, thought about that old farm when he was down in Missouri. He wanted to own it and one of his early vows was that he would buy it back some day. And he did.

Decatur Review, 23 Jan 1924


    1. Private road to the site of boulder placed by the Stephen Decatur chapter of the D.A.R. in 1904 to mark the site of the Lincoln cabin in Macon County. The map disputes this placement.

    2. Farm house on land owned by the John Dipper family. The boulder was placed four feet north of this house.

    3. Farm house on Whitley land with private drive.

    4. Old Whitley dam placed for operation of the mill. In 1930, when the river was low, traces of the dam could still be seen.

    5. Abandoned public road.

    6. Old river ford, now washed away.

    7. Bridge over the Sangamon River, the only one in that area.

    NOTE: Lines of small squares were gravel roads.

Information about the Whitley land map was extracted from Centennial History of Decatur and Macon County 1930, p. 69.

Click photo to enlarge. This photograph was taken overlooking the Sangamon River where the Old Whitley dam and mill was located. At the bottom of the photo can be seen the remains of the dam and mill. Today this area is part of the Lincoln Trail Homestead State Memorial and is approximately 200 feet south of the area where the Lincoln Cabin once stood.

Photo taken by DualFreq and is used with permission.

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