Illinois History Minutes

February 17 Illinois History Minute


It’s February 17th. And on this day in 1836, surveying work was completed on Petersburg, a brand new town on the Sangamon River that would soon become the county seat for Menard County. The surveyor hired to lead the platting of the new community was a 27-year-old law student and state representative named Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln lived upriver in the small village of New Salem. He had moved there in 1831, thinking his career would grow along with the town. But New Salem did NOT grow. By 1840, its remaining residents had abandoned the town for Petersburg. As for Abraham Lincoln, he moved to Springfield, finding success there as an attorney and politician.

Today, many of Lincoln’s friends and associates are buried in Petersburg’s cemeteries, including Ann Rutledge, the woman Lincoln is believed to have been in love with until her premature death.