Research sources

While this list includes some of the more useful general local history resources, it is by no means a complete catalog (for instance, those seeking information on Abraham Lincoln specifically should look elsewhere). Additional suggestions are welcome. 

Offline

 Sangamon Valley Collection, third floor, Lincoln Library, Springfield. Vertical files organized topically, past city directories, local histories in print, thousands of public domain photos, access to newspaper microfilm and other research materials (see outline here), and most of all, expert guidance from Curtis Mann and the library staff. In general: If you don’t know where to start, start here.

Microfilm of local newspapers, also on the third floor of Lincoln Library, Springfield (but separate from the Sangamon Valley Collection). Contemporary reports of history events, though the researcher needs to know the approximate dates.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Sixth and Jefferson streets. Editions of more than 100 Springfield newspapers available on microfilm (although many were short-lived or have few extant copies). The Illinois State Journal and its predecessors are indexed through 1860.  The presidential library’s collection of Sangamon County newspapers also includes publications from Auburn, Buffalo, Chatham, Divernon, Illiopolis, Mechanicsburg, New Berlin, Pawnee, Pleasant Plains, Riverton, Rochester and  Williamsville. Please review the presidential library’s policy on use and reproduction.

Sangamon Sources: A Research Guide to Local History, 1865-1970, James Krohe Jr. (ed.), 1975. Annotated (often acerbically) guide to more than 400 books, articles, pamphlets, monographs, government records, studies and maps related to Sangamon County prepared prior to 1970. Indexed. Remains extremely informative despite being 40 years old. Available at Lincoln Library.

Books and pamphlets (on- and offline)

Here I Have Lived: A History of Lincoln’s Springfield, Paul Angle, 1935. Full text available online.

A New Eden: The Pioneer Era in Sangamon County, Robert Howard, 1974. Short history of the early county published by the Sangamon County Historical Society. Full text available online.

Sugar Creek: Life on the Illinois PrairieJohn Mack Faragher, 1986. Faragher focuses on the Sugar Creek area of southern Sangamon County to examine social, economic and political developments in pioneer America. Partially readable online. In a review published in the Sangamon County Historical Society’s Historico in April 2011, former SCHS president David Scott noted, “The focus of the book is not on the influence of the frontier in creating American individualism, but rather on community and associations.”

The Sangamo Frontier: History & Archaeology in the Shadow of Lincoln, Robert Mazrim, 2007. Partially readable online.

The Sangamon Saga, Bruce Campbell, 1976. Chronologically based episodic history of the county up to 1976; events largely organized by decade. Although Campbell’s chronology is not always totally accurate, it’s usually close enough that a researcher can pin down when an event occurred and then, in turn, check newspaper files or other records to fill in details. The Saga is not available online, but the Lincoln Library catalog lists eight copies, both circulating and (in the Sangamon Valley and juvenile reference sections) non-circulating. The Saga also is available from online booksellers.

The Sangamon Country, Helen Van Cleave Blankmeyer, 1935 (republished 1965 by the Sangamon County Historical Society). Anecdotal history originally written for schoolchildren; as a probable result, Blankmeyer seems to have chosen colorful renditions over documented ones whenever possible. Although portions of Sangamon Country are based on interviews with old settlers, Blankmeyer appears to have invented some details and created many spurious quotations. Use with care, but potentially useful in pointing researchers to aspects of county history. Not available online, but accessible through Lincoln Library; reprint also available for purchase through the historical society (link below).

Springfield Sculptures, Monuments and Plaques, Carl and Roberta Volkmann, 2008. Designed as a complete listing of local statuary; a web supplement includes sculptures added between the book’s publication and January 2012. The original book is not online, but information on it and the supplemental sculptures is here.

Sangamon County Historical Society publications. The Sangamon County Historical Society has published 36 books, pamphlets and program booklets since 1965, on subjects ranging from Abraham Lincoln sculpture to the local chili culture to Springfield’s most powerful crime boss. Most of the publications remain in print and are available through the historical society. Some also can be read online. A full list of SCHS publications is available here.

Online

Early histories

History of Springfield, Illinois, its attractions as a home and advantage for business, manufacturing, etc., by John Carroll Power. Published for the city Board of Trade, 1871. Readable online or as a downloadable PDF. (Editor: In general, downloaded PDFs allow much easier and faster searches and copying.)

History of the early settlers of Sangamon County, Illinois by John Carroll Power, assisted by his wife, Mrs. S.A. Power. Published 1876, 797 pages. Readable online or as downloadable PDF.

History of Sangamon County, IllinoisTogether with Sketches of Its Cities, Villages and Townships, anonymous, Inter-State Publishing Co., 1881. Readable online or as downloadable PDF. The Sangamon County Historical Society calls this “the first real county history,” compiled by “a corps of experienced historians with instructions to prepare a faithful and reliable history of the County.”

Souvenir of Springfield, Published by H. E. Barker, Art Dealer, 1890. Drawings of 89 homes, businesses, churches and other institutions in 1890. Viewable online, images can be saved.

Portrait & Biographical Album of Sangamon County, Chapman Bros., Chicago, 1891. Although the text is florid, lithograph plates in the Biographical Album include portraits of various dignitaries and illustrate dozens of Sangamon County farms prior to the turn of the century.

Past and Present of Springfield and Sangamon County, Illinois, Joseph Wallace, 1904. Although the entire two-volume work apparently has not been digitized, an index to Past and Present’s biographies is available, and many of the biographies themselves can be accessed from there.

Historical Encyclopedia Of  Illinois and History of Sangamon County, Newton Bateman and Paul Selby, 1912. Two volumes, both available online, but separately. The first volume is general history; Volume II is made up of biographical sketches. Researchers may have to check both volumes to find references. (These can be slow to load.)
Vol. 1: https://archive.org/details/historicalencycloisc01bate
Vol. 2: https://archive.org/details/historicalencyclv2bate

Newspaper articles

Newsbank (available free to anyone with a card from Springfield’s Lincoln Library) is a searchable database of The State Journal-Register and its predecessors covering the period from 1831 through 1922 (in the case of the Illinois State Register or through February 1986 (the Illinois State Journal). Researchers should read Newsbank’s terms of use prior to using material from the database.

The State Journal-Register’s computer archives can be used to access news stories after July 1, 1985; Lincoln Library card holders also may do that for free.

In addition, if you know approximate dates, both Lincoln Library and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library have microfilm of local newspapers.  (See list of newspapers available at the presidential library under Offline resources above.)

Genealogybank, related to Newsbank, provides similar online access to archives of more than 6,100 newspapers throughout the country; final available dates vary. There is no need for a library card, but there is a fee to subscribe. Genealogybank’s terms of use are similar to Newsbank’s.

Photos

See Photograph collections online in SangamonLink’s Index to Entries.

General resources

Illinois Digital Archives, maintained by the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office. The Digital Archives, while not the easiest site to search, contain an enormous amount of information. A search engine (i.e., Google) is often the best way to locate Digital Archives material.

Oral history interviews, available online both through the Illinois Digital Archives and via the University of Illinois Springfield. The interviews — hundreds of them, most (though not all) directly related to central Illinois — were originally done under the aegis of UIS’s predecessor, Sangamon State University. Interviews are indexed both by interviewee and by subject.

History of the Great Lakes States:  Online historical library covering the old Northwest Territory (Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin). Antique web design, but site offers more than 100 pages with links to 1,300 online books and other resources. Free, no registration required.

Specialty resources

Illinois African-American Resource Guide, part of the Illinois Digital Archives (below). Guide to Springfield resource material relating to or compiled by African Americans. Springfield is covered on pages 44-48. Compiled in 1999, so not all information is current. Does not include, for instance, the Springfield African American History Museum.

Directory of Sangamon County’s Colored Citizens, Springfield Directory Co., 1926-29. Apparently lists all black residents of Springfield in the mid- to late 1920s. The directory’s advertisements also help illuminate black life in the city during the period and suggest that the buying power of  the local African American community was significant.

Illinois High School Glory Days, website devoted to remembrances of closed high schools statewide, including 15 former high schools in Sangamon County.

Illinois State Fair Museum Foundation; of particular interest are five slide shows (compiled by Tom Fitch) of State Fair photographs, old-time and recent.

Lithuanians in Springfield, website created by Sandy Baksys with more than 100 years of family, church and business history focused on Lithuanian immigrants in central Illinois. Includes photos, obituary info, veterans listings for World Wars I and II and news up to the present. (The full depth of material here is not immediately obvious from the home page; check sections of LithSpringfield, especially Sandy’s Blog, News and Profiles, for additional entries.)

Springfield City Directory for 1902, R.L. Polk & Co. “Containing an alphabetically arranged list of business firms and private citizens; a street and avenue guide; miscellaneous directory; city and county officers; terms of court; churches, colleges, public and private schools, buildings, banks, incorporated institutions, railroads, secret and benevolent societies, etc. And a complete classified business directory.”

Fever River Research. The firm “specializes in cultural resource management projects that are associated with historic properties that date to the recent past.  We conduct a variety of projects that include historical archaeology, architectural studies, National Register of Historic Places nominations, and traditional history.” Fever River has performed several very detailed studies of Springfield neighborhoods; however, its website was hacked in 2014. As of this writing (March 2015), the website had been restored, but few of the individual studies had been reposted. Most, if not all, remain available in the Sangamon Valley Collection.

The Springfield Survey: Groundbreaking in-depth examination of social services available in Springfield in 1914 and where they were succeeding or falling short. See the encyclopedia entry for individual reports.

The Illinois State Capitol, privately produced, but well-researched and illustrated website with information on the construction, history and artwork inside and outside the Statehouse. Also covers some related topics, including news stories about events in Springfield history.

Diocese of Springfield in Illinois Diamond Jubilee History, Joseph J. Thompson, 1928. Readable online or as downloadable PDF.

Wicked Springfield: Crime, Corruption & Scandal During the Lincoln Era, Erika Holst, 2010. Twenty-one brief accounts of some of Springfield’s less creditable moments between 1837 and 1861. Not available online. As of 2014, Holst was the curator of collections at the Springfield Art Association.bridge

Original content copyright Sangamon County Historical Society. You are free to republish this content as long as credit is given to the Society.

 

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