<return to main page>


         One of several cast-iron tombstones in the Mt.  Pulaski,       
                            Randolph, Downing & Turley cemeteries


Presiding Judge: David Davis
Defendant:  Reuben Miller, Menard County
Lawyer for Defendant:  Abraham Lincoln
Plaintiff:  Nathaniel Whitaker
Lawyer for the Plaintiff:  David Campbell
Bailiff:  Sheriff John C. Hurt
Preacher:  Rev. Uriah Schwalb
Bartender:  Raspus Finfrock
Wife of Defendant:  Mrs. Miller
Wife of Plaintiff:  Mrs. Matilda Whitaker
Jury -  to be selected that day

- The re-enactment ending will depend 
  upon the voting of this particular jury –

Director: Phil Bertoni
Assistant Directors: Darrell Knauer, Bob McCue

Research Documents:
-Photocopies of 1854 & 1855 Lincoln & Mt. Pulaski Tombstone appeal trials from Ilinois Supreme Court manuscripts
-History of Logan County; Stringer, 1911
-One Hundred Years – Mt. Pulaski, 1836-1936
-James Hickey; former curator of the A. Lincoln Collection at Springfield Library

Abraham Lincoln and his law partner, William Herndon, defended Reuben Miller in two Cast-Iron Tombstone trials alleging that there was no fraud, drunkenness or worthlessness in the patent rights.  While the Lincoln Illinois courthouse fire of 1857 destroyed most of the Mt. Pulaski and Lincoln county seat records, some information of these two trials has been preserved due to their appeals to the Illinois State Supreme Court.  Due to lack of a court transcription, this re-enactment has been edited for entertainment value.  The actual judgment rendered by each trial and its appeal will be revealed at the end of the re-enactment.



Cast-Iron Tombstone Trial  
8th Circuit Court - Mount Pulaski Courthouse - 1854

Re-enactment & Historical Reading
  Mount Pulaski Courthouse
Mount Pulaski, IL.

Show time:  Saturday, Sept. 6, 2008 – 4:00 pm
During Town’s Annual Fall Festival (Sept. 4 – 5 – 6)

Lincoln in 1857.  Davis


Principal participants:

Abraham Lincoln - Lawyer for the defendant, Ruben Miller of Menard County
David Davis - Judge of the 8th Circuit Court, which covered approximately 450 miles through 14 counties
Nathaniel Whitaker - Plaintiff, owner of the Mount Pulaski House Hotel

Page 1 Photos        Page 2 Photos

Page 3 Photos        Page 4 Photos

PHOTOS by Allen Schaal

Cast [Nov. 18, 2006, Mt. Pulaski Courthouse Court Room, Performance #4]

This trial is only one of four known trials held in the Mount Pulaski Courthouse during the mid 19th Century [1848 – 1854].  All paper work of all the other trials and judgments that were written in Mount Pulaski’s courthouse were destroyed in the 1857 courthouse fire in Lincoln, Illinois.  All records from the Mount Pulaski courthouse had been transferred to this new location in December, 1854, when the county seat was voted to be moved from Mount Pulaski to Lincoln, IL.  The town of Lincoln was now more populated.  It was more centrally located and now on the train line from Chicago to Springfield.

he Eighth Circuit was organized March 21, 1839 , consisting of Champaign, DeWitt, Livingston, Macon, Mason, McLean, Menard, Sangamon, and Tazewell Counties. Christian, Logan, Piatt, Shelby and Woodford Counties were added to this Circuit in February, 1841.

In February 1843, Moultrie County was attached to the Eighth Circuit and Edgar and Vermillion in 1845.  In 1847, Livingston County was attached to the Ninth Circuit, and Shelby was attached to the Eighth making the Circuit consist of: Champaign, Christian, DeWitt, Edgar, Logan, Macon, McLean, Moultrie, Piatt, Shelby, Tazewell, Vermillion, and Woodford Counties.  This was the Eighth Circuit so famous in the history of Abraham Lincoln.

By 1857, the Eighth Circuit was reduced to Champaign, DeWitt, Logan, McLean, Tazewell, and Vermillion Countie.  And, in 1861, the Circuit consisted of DeWitt, Logan, and McLean Counties, with the Circuit Judge receiving a salary of $1000 yearly.

In 1873, Ford and McLean Counties were made the 14th Circuit; and in June of 1877, the Appellate Courts were established, and the Circuit Courts were rearranged, with the number of Circuits reduced from 28 to 13. The Eleventh Circuit consisted of Ford, Iroquois, Kankakee, Livingston, and McLean Counties.  Each Circuit had three judges.

The Circuit remained this way until 1897, when the 40th General Assembly passed: "An Act to divide the State of Illinois, exclusive of the County of Cook, into Judicial Circuits."

Section 1. Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly: That in lieu of the Circuit Courts provided by law and now existing, the State of Illinois, exclusive of the County of Cook, shall be and the same is hereby divided into judicial circuits as follows…Eleventh Judicial Circuit-the Counties of McLean, Livingston, Logan, Ford, and Woodford…"