The true story about Lincoln’s jump

While looking through back issues of The Ramsey News-Journal, I came across an article in the Aug. 8, 1939, issue submitted by Will F. Jordan of Pana. The writer had spent some time in the log cabin home of George Jackson of Carson Township and wished to share his experience with his neighbors.
He wrote, “Down in what is known as ‘the sticks’ in Carson Township, Fayette County, is located the humble but hospitable old cabin home of George Washington Jackson, retired farmer.
“It is one of the few really primitive cabins in Southern Illinois and one in connection with which there is interesting history.
“This nut of history is the story, not authenticated, but long said to have been based upon fact that the night in 1836 when Abraham Lincoln, then a member of the Illinois legislature, leaped from a second story window of the historic state house of Illinois at Vandalia in order to break a quorum and prevent a vote for the removal of the court house to Audubon Township in Montgomery County, walked all the way to this cabin and concealed himself over night. The cabin is seven miles east of Ramsey about 16 miles from Vandalia.
“When George Washington Jackson was interviewed a few days ago relative to this incident, he admitted that he frequently heard it recited as true but had no authentication of it.
“The Jackson cabin home was erected out of crude hewn logs more than 125 years ago and is in a fair state of preservation. Jackson, now in failing health, but able to be up and about the cabin lives in the cabin structure with his son, Henry, 24.
“Henry farms and does chores for neighbors. He also does some fishing in the classic Kaskaskia River just one mile east of the Jackson cabin and ‘Henry is a fine boy and dutiful son,’ said George Washington’s namesake a few days ago when interviewed as he lay on a cot in his humble log hut.
“George Washington Jackson was born in Bowling Green Township in Fayette County and has resided in that county ever since he saw the first light of day, Aug. 23, 1862. He has made his home in the cabin since his marriage with pretty Caroline Enlow in 1891. She died one year ago this August and is buried in Burrus pioneer cemetery near Herrick, Shelby County.
"Since her death, Jackson has failed gradually and while on his cot spoke feelingly and with tears streaming down his cheeks of his ‘great loss.’
“In this cabin were born to the Jacksons 14 children; 12 of whom are living and all in Fayette County. All are married save Henry. There are 24 grandchildren, the majority of them born in the cabin home, with grandmother as attendant and nurse. There are also two living great-grandchildren.
“Jackson’s cabin is built on a small prominence and is surrounded by deep dales and timber in a unique and long-to-be remembered setting. It is in the primitive state just as it was built more than 125 years ago, and there is a legend that it was originally constructed by the Indians, who, at that period, roamed the hills and angled for fish and hunted game down there in ‘the sticks’ of what is now Fayette County.”
Following up on this old settler, I found that George W. Jackson was married first to Nancy Elizabeth Mahan, by whom he had a son, John, born December 1887.
Nancy died within a few years of their marriage and George married a second time to Caroline, by whom he had a passel of children.
George was a son of John D. and Sarah Ann Beck Jackson, and Caroline was a daughter of Wilson W. and Mahelda Moore Enloe.
It is interesting that the story of Lincoln’s jump was shared by the Jackson’s with their Pana visitor.  The jump did happen – on December 5, 1840.
On that day, the representatives were meeting in the First Methodist Church of Springfield and to avoid a quorum, Lincoln opened the window and jumped out, followed by Asahel Gridley of Bloomington and Joseph Gillespie of Edwardsville. The Springfield newspapers estimated the drop at about 4 or 5 feet.
The Jackson log cabin was located not far from the Shelbyville to Vandalia Road, and it is very possible that Abraham Lincoln had, at one time, been a visitor to it.
We know the Indians were living in the area in 1815, when the Paul Beck family was invited to live among them; however, that they built the Jackson cabin is probably just a family tale.
The visit by Mr. Jordan to the Jackson home and his subsequent article in the Ramsey newspaper is a treat to those of us who enjoy learning more about the people and places of Fayette County.

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