ILLINOIS STATE ARCHIVES
Abraham Lincoln in Illinois
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives
NOTICE TO INTRODUCE AN ACT TO AUTHORIZE SAMUEL MUSICK TO BUILD A TOLL BRIDGE ACROSS SALT CREEK IN SANGAMON COUNTY
December 9, 1834
On August 4, 1834, New Salem surveyor Abraham Lincoln was one of four men elected to a two-year term as a state representative from Sangamon County. In this, his second attempt to serve in the General Assembly, Lincoln came in second in a field of thirteen candidates.
The state's Ninth General Assembly session began on December 1, 1834. On December 15, Lincoln introduced legislation to authorize Samuel Musick to build a toll bridge across Salt Creek in northern Sangamon County (the present boundary between Menard and Mason Counties). This document is the December 9 note to the Speaker of the Illinois House written by Lincoln stating his intent to introduce the legislation. The bill became the first legislation sponsored by Lincoln that was passed into law.
Musick was an early Sangamon County settler and had been appointed by the county commissioners on March 8, 1826 to operate a ferry across this stretch of the river. On January 7, 1831, the General Assembly passed a law giving him one year to build a toll bridge at this site. We can assume that Musick failed in this first endeavor and sought out Lincoln to give him another chance. Lincoln's bill stated that Musick or his heirs or assignees had one year to finish the project and that no other bridge could compete with his for a mile up or down the stream. The county would set the tolls and Musick had to keep the bridge in good repair or lose his franchise. He also could not interfere with the river traffic in any way. This toll bridge was probably completed because bills were introduced in the next few years to have a state road linked to "Musick's bridge at Salt Creek."
Throughout his political career, Lincoln was a great proponent of improving transportation systems and supported the use of rivers and later railroads in the movement of goods and people. On July 1, 1862, President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act in order to create a rail system that would span the entire country.
Points to Consider
Give several reasons why Lincoln would sponsor a bill like this.
In what ways has the building of roads and bridges changed from 1834 to today?
Why do you think Lincoln's bill prohibited other bridge companies from competing with Musick for a mile on both sides of his proposed bridge?