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This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Old Illinois Houses

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,
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This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

[image ALT: A photograph of a large two‑story rectangular brick and stone house, seen from one of the narrow ends, intended as the front: it is in the form of a Greek 4‑column pedimented temple; the pediment has an oeil-de‑boeuf window, and the gabled roof behind it, pitched at about 30°, has four chimneys. On the long side of the house, a one‑story porch occupies about half the length. It is the John Wood House in Quincy, Illinois.]

John Wood House, Quincy, Built 1835.

 p67  Quincy Museum

It was a fortunate choice when, in 1907, the Quincy Historical Society selected the old Southern-style mansion at 425 South Twelfth Street, in Quincy, for its headquarters and museum. For this is the city's most historic dwelling. It is also a landmark of the state. The man who built this house more than a hundred years ago was not only the founder of Quincy, as well as of Adams County, but he was a state senator, friend and supporter of Abraham Lincoln, one of the organizers of the Republican Party, and governor of Illinois just before the Civil War opened.

That man was John Wood. As an outstanding public figure of central Illinois during ante-bellum days, he was host in his Quincy mansion to many well-known personages of the time. And it was from this mansion that, following his term as governor, he led the "one hundred day regiment," the 137th Illinois Infantry, into action in the Civil War. At that time (1864) he was sixty-six years old.

 p68  Although his mansion was designed in the Southern Colonial style, which was a style that copied the Greek temple mode, Governor Wood was not a native of the South. He was born in Moravia, Cayuga County, New York, on December 20, 1798. His father, Dr. Daniel Wood, was a surgeon and captain in the Revolutionary War. He was also noted as a scholar and linguist.

When John Wood was twenty years old, he left his home in New York state, came west to Illinois, met one Willard Keyes, and the two located on farms in Pike County some thirty miles southeast of the present Quincy. A year or two later Wood visited the place where Quincy now stands, was impressed with its location, and set about establishing his home there. It is recorded that Wood built a log cabin there in 1822 — which was the first house to be erected on the site of Quincy. A little later Keyes built a cabin at the same place.

Soon other settlers came. As Quincy grew, John Wood's fame and fortune increased. He served as a trustee of the village and was elected mayor for several terms. In 1850 he served his first term in the state Senate. But by this time he was living in his two‑story Greek Revival mansion. It was built in 1835 when Quincy was a village of log and frame houses on the east bank of the Mississippi.

From this house John Wood saw Quincy rise as a river shipping center, gazed at the great white packets going up and down the Mississippi, and witnessed the coming of the first railroads. He was elected lieutenant governor of the state in 1856 and was serving in that office when Governor William H. Bissell died on March 18, 1860. He filled out the unexpired term of Governor Bissell and then was appointed quartermaster general of the state, a position he held throughout the Civil War.

As a historical museum, the Wood home contains not only relics and mementos of Quincy's early days but also household articles, pieces of furniture, and personal belongings of Governor Wood and his family. Here is the Governor's cabinet, made by a pioneer Quincy cabinetmaker, as well as his compass, record books, mahogany desk, decanters, and a brace of Civil War pistols. Here, too, are the sword and medicine book carried by John Wood's father in the Revolutionary War.

The interior of the house, which contains seventeen rooms, is attractively outfitted with historic pieces of furniture. From the ceiling of the drawing room hangs a chandelier of French drop crystals which once graced the salon of a palatial Mississippi River steamer. The museum is open to the public. Few houses in Illinois offer a more authentic atmosphere of ante-bellum days than this old Quincy mansion.

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Page updated: 7 Dec 07