following is a story about Abraham Lincoln, describing one of his
visits to Metamora. I am a descendant of Peter Engel (1794-1874),
who was born in France. He is my great great grandfather. He is
buried in the cemetery on the Engel farm, where I grew up. He
immigrated to America, settling in this area with his half brother
John Engel in 1831.
According to a book
published in 1878 (The Past and Present of Woodford County,
Illinois), the first road through Metamora Township was the state
road from Chicago to Bloomington and Springfield. It further states
the road ran through the farm of Peter Engel, who kept a tavern and
the stage stand. The book claims this was the first tavern in the
township, and is mentioned in the general history as the first in
Woodford County. The stage changed horses at Engel’s tavern, and
also carried the mail.
In the Daily Olympian,
Olympia, Washington, in its February 12, 1940 issue, my Great Uncle
Samuel Engel, tells the following story. He was born in 1859 and
lived in Metamora, but later moved to the state of Washington.
Samuel Engel, nearing his 81st year, is quoted as saying,
"My grandfather, Peter Engel, kept a tavern just outside
Metamora. Mr. Lincoln occasionally put up there for the night. Mr.
Lincoln once told a mutual friend, a man by the name of Acey
Andrews, about the first time he stayed at the tavern"
supper", said Mr. Lincoln, "and was sitting by the
fireplace. Pretty soon a man came in and sat down. Then another, and
another, until there were seven or eight bearded, silent huskies
sitting around me. I began to be disturbed. It flashed through my
mind that possibly they were some sort of night riders, as obviously
they had come for some pre-arranged purpose. Then Peter Engel
glanced over the group and said, ‘well gentlemen, I guess its time
to begin’ and he walked over to the fireplace , took his Bible off
the mantle, and proceeded to lead the group through an extended
My great uncle Samuel
Engel had not yet been born at the time this occurred, but his
father, Peter R. Engel, Jr. (1822-1888), who was my great
grandfather, was a young man, and many years later told the
preceding story to his son Samuel, who was a brother to my
grandfather Joseph Engel (1854-1935). This story was re-printed by
editor William Ryan in the Metamora Herald on February 23, 1940.
Lincoln practiced law
in the Metamora Court House from 1847 to 1859. He came twice a year,
traveling the 8th judicial circuit. Metamora was the
county seat at that time. Lincoln’s contacts in Metamora were not
only as a lawyer, but earlier in his life as a Captain in the
Blackhawk War. In Steven Estes book Living Stones, published in
1984, it is noted that Peter Engel and his family brought food and
drink to Captain Abraham Lincoln and his men as they passed the
Engel home on their way to the war.
We have bits and
pieces of information like this because someone took the time to
tell their story. Someone once explained that is what history is. It
is made up of two words ‘ "His" and "Story".
If our forebears had done more of this – told their story, and
more importantly, recorded it in some way, it would have great
meaning for us today. We have, no doubt, lost forever large amounts
of information about our past.
We are grateful for
writers and scholars who have explored the past, and given back to
us some of our history. If we know something about our history, it
should help us understand where we are, and where we are going.