The Sangamo Frontier: History and Archaeology in the Shadow of Lincoln

By Robert Mazrim | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THIRTEEN
Moses's Sangamo
Relocating a Lost Town

Eight miles up river from Springfield, the site of Sangamo Town—the sister city to Springfield in 1823—is a much different place than the site of the Iles Store. The modern appearance of Springfield was assured with the arrival of the county seat early in its history. Sangamo Town, which like Springfield had provided an oasis of goods and services in the ancient forests that surrounded the river, stumbled and fell while the region was still a frontier. A town once inhabited by several businesses and a number of big plans was completely gone by 1850. Today, the old trail that crossed through Springfield is four lanes wide and dotted with government office buildings and fast food restaurants. Eight miles to the northwest, the same trail is only visible in short segments as a slight swale in the forest floor. The town of Sangamo is a field and a pasture, as it has been for 150 years (figure 13.1).

When I first began researching Sangamo Town, I was struck by just how little has been said about the place, and how really forgotten and lost the site had become. A county history published in 1881 referred to the town only briefly, as the one-time competitor for the county seat, and pointed out that less than forty years after its abandonment, there was there was “no evidence” of the town.1 During the 1960s a nearby prehistoric site was listed in the official Illinois Archaeological Survey files as “the extinct village of the Sangamo Indians,” evidently recorded on the basis of some misunderstood oral tradition. In the early 1970s, amateur historian and local physician Dr. Floyd Barringer came closer,

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