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Fithian
House

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Old Illinois Houses

by
John Drury

reprinted by
The University of Chicago Press
Chicago and London, 1977

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Cannon
House
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

[image ALT: A photograph of a two‑story rectangular brick house, with sloping roofs pitched at about 35° and two chimneys. A corner has been cut out to create a one‑story gabled wooden porch over the front door. It is the Hooton House in Danville, Illinois.]

Tep Wright

Reason Hootona House, Danville, Built 1850's.

p80 Lincoln Sipped Hereb

An old Illinois house associated with a little-known but revealing incident in the life of Abraham Lincoln is the Hooton home in Danville. Standing at 207 Buchanan Street, just east of the business district, this dwelling is one of several historic landmarks in the eastern Illinois city connected with the career of the Civil War President. As a lawyer on the then Eighth Judicial Circuit, riding from county seat to county seat on a horse or in a wagon, Lincoln was often in Danville and here he formed a law partnership with Ward Hill Lamon, whom he is said to have trusted "more than any other man." This partnership lasted for five years and brought Lincoln to Danville at almost regular intervals.

On one of these visits, it is recorded, the Springfield lawyer was taken to the Hooton home by several friends and there occurred the incident which, according to historians, threw much light on one phase of the martyred President's character. This incident had to do with liquor, for it marked the only recorded instance in his life that Abraham Lincoln ever drink anything stronger than tea or coffee. But, according to the story, there was no overindulgence on his part. Indeed, the whole episode is regarded by historians as a light, amusing incident in the life of the Emancipator; as an incident that revealed the essential humanness of America's great national hero. Lincoln himself treated it as something of a joke.

The story of what occurred in the Hooton house on this occasion is told by one of the men who was present; one of Lincoln' closest friends. This man was Henry C. Whitney, a lawyer who also traveled the Eighth Judicial Circuit and who was much with Lincoln. His book, Life on the Circuit with Lincoln, published in 1892, is regarded by authorities as the most voluminous and sometimes imaginative source of information on Lincoln's years as a circuit-riding lawyer.

After pointing out that some drinking was indulged in by the lawyers of the circuit, Whitney says that Lincoln "did not drink at all." He goes on to say, however, that "once I remember several of us drove out to the residence of Reason Hooton, near Danville, where we were treated to several varieties of home-made wine. A mere sip of each affected Lincoln, and he said comically: 'Fellers, I'm getting drunk.' That was the nearest approach to inebriety I ever saw in him."

At that time the Hooton house was out in the country east of Danville. During the many years since, Danville grew and expanded until it engulfed the Hooton abode and now the dwelling stands in the midst p81of a completely built-up residential neighborhood. Situated on a grassy knoll, with only a single oak tree shading it, the house is conspicuous for its obvious great age, although it is maintained in good condition.

When Lincoln and his friends visited the Hooton abode, the master of the house was one of the leading farmers of Vermilion County. Near his house he cultivated a large vineyard and wine making occupied part of his time.

One of the earliest settlers of Vermilion County, coming to the region in the early 1840's, Reason Hooton had acquired a large tract of land and established a family whose descendants helped to build the present city of Danville. The house in which he entertained Lincoln was built in the early 1850's. It is a two‑story home of rusty brown brick with a low-pitched, gabled roof. An addition was built on to the south portion of the house in 1890 by Reason Hooton's son, Sylvester. The fireplaces in the original portion have been removed.


Thayer's Notes:

a Drury has Hooten thruout; but this is a mistake, as I learned from a family member (e‑mail is wonderful, and thank you!):

Reason Hooton was my great-great grandfather and the correct spelling is as I have written it, Hooton. Danville, IL is my home town, and I was last in the old Hooton home in 1968 during a visit there to see my grandfather's cousin Maude Hooton, then 90 years old. She died in October 1971 and the property was then sold by Eunice Hooton, Maude's niece.

Confirmation comes by records at Find-a‑Grave; Reason Hooton (b. Oct. 12, 1812, d. Jul. 27, 1880) and Maude Hooton (1878‑1971) are both buried in Spring Hill Cemetery, Danville.

[decorative delimiter]

b A reader who has lived in Danville pretty much all his life recalls walking to and from school past the old Hooton house; but, sadly, he writes me that not long after the article on this page was written, the old house was torn down and a nursing home was put up in its place, called International Nursing Home. Since then the nursing home in turn has closed and the building houses The Threads of Time, a sewing shop; and a small office. He concludes, "It would have been nice if it could have been saved and restored." A GoogleMaps view of the site (sometimes slow-loading) shows that, apart from the loss of history, the neighborhood was in no way improved by the apparently needless demolition.


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Page updated: 28 Mar 13