Original Abraham Lincoln Farm Property Sold At Auction

Not Thomas Lincoln

There’s the Lincoln Property Company I typically have a beef with, and then there’s Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States. We’re talking about the latter here.

Back in 1841, Lincoln’s father, Thomas, wasn’t rolling in dough, and a 32-year-old Abraham helped him out by purchasing 40 acres of farmland outside Charleston in central Illinois. At the time, Lincoln was a state representative for Sangamon County (home to state capital Springfield) some 90 miles away. What’s also chronologically interesting is that 1841 was also the time Lincoln called off a marriage with Mary Todd before a reconciliation and the birth of their first child, Robert Todd Lincoln some two years later.

Yesterday, the original 40-acre parcel is now 30, and has for the past 30 years been part of a 590 acre farm that was sold at auction (on Lincoln’s birthday). The Times-Courier and Mattoon Journal-Gazette reports that on Feb. 12, 2019, 560 acres sold for $7,000 per acre, or $3.9 million. The Lincoln 30 acres were sold separately for $10,000 per acre, or $300,000 to an unnamed buyer with unknown plans for the site.

How the 40 acres became 30 is just what happens over time.

After Lincoln, ownership passed to the Phipps family sometime after the Civil War, who kept it until 1989 when 30 of the 40 acres were sold and incorporated into Ron Best’s family farm. The 10 Phipps acres were eventually divided. Six of the lost acres wound up in the hands of the Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site. They carved up the plot into 1-inch squares and sold them as a promotion to raise money to build a log cabin visitors center. The remaining four acres were sold to Dan Arnold in 2007. Both Phipps and Arnold, founder of Road Ranger truck stops, had plans for a historic site that never materialized. And truthfully, Abraham Lincoln is a name on a deed, but it was his father who farmed the land. Arnold’s estate retains ownership of those four acres.

Best retired from farming four years ago and his siblings agreed it’s time to sell the farm. There’s no way of valuing something like this. It took an auction to find market value. After all, it’s farmland with no historical structures with a claim to fame in that Abraham Lincoln purchased it for his father to farm. It will be interesting to see if the new owner can realize the tourist attraction plans abandoned by others.

Mattoon Gazette, January 19, 1933

Perhaps to start that quest, the new owner can make use of a copy of the original deed for the land sale to Lincoln plus other Lincoln press clippings from the era being offered by the seller. They’ll also get to talk with Best himself. He grew up on a nearby farm whose ancestors arrived from Kentucky around the time of Lincoln’s father. In 1859, before Lincoln left Illinois for Washington, D.C., to assume the presidency, he stopped in Charleston to visit the graves of his father and stepmother. Best’s great-grandfather met Lincoln during that visit when he was 12 years old.

In a Twilight Zone moment, the last direct Lincoln descendant was Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith, who was born in Riverside, Illinois, in 1904. Some 90 years later, I became a Riverside resident for the better part of a decade.


Remember: When I’m not stirring up trouble in Dallas, Texas or Honolulu, Hawaii for Candysdirt.com and SecondShelters.com, I’m off scouting interesting locations for a second home.  In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the National Association of Real Estate Editors recognized my writing with three Bronze (2016, 2017, 2018) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards. If you’re a Realtor with second home clients who’d like me to feature their journey, shoot me an email sharewithjon@candysdirt.com. Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.