In researching for a novel, often I gather much more information than needed–partly out of a love for learning about the past, and partly so that I can be as accurate as possible in my writing.
While on our trip to visit the First National Road Interactive Center, my husband and I also stopped in for a tour of the old State House in Vandalia (which I make mention of briefly in my work-in-progress (WIP), Under Moonlit Skies). We were so glad we did. Though its moment of glory was brief, the old State House has a rich, and fascinating history.
Vandalia was the Capitol of Illinois from 1819 to 1839. The first two State House buildings were meager ones and wound up burning to the ground. Then in 1836, in a period of eighty-nine days, this State House was erected in attempt to deter talk of moving the State Capitol to a more centralized location.
Though much grander than previous State House buildings, by 1839 the consensus was to make Springfield the Capitol of Illinois. The reason being, then representative, Abe Lincoln and other statesmen found the building drafty and too inconvenient to travel to.
At the time, Lincoln, then in his mid-twenties, lived at New Salem and had to travel thirty-six hours to get to Vandalia. Springfield seemed a more viable option. And so, in 1840, after only three years of use, the Vandalia State House was vacated by politicians and fell into disuse for many years. Sadly, all of the original furnishings were sold.
Then, in the early 1900’s, the building was restored and many period items were donated. My husband and I were quite impressed with the layout of the senate and Supreme Court chambers. We were thrilled to walk on the actual upstairs planks that Lincoln himself had walked on. While it was exciting to stand where one of our nation’s most renowned presidents once stood, I couldn’t help but think how much grander it will be to someday sit at the feet of Jesus!
It was like a step back in time. I could almost imagine the chairs filled with chattering lawmakers as they decided upon issues facing our country at the time. Most were men of faith, making heartfelt decisions grounded in prayer, God’s Word, and the Constitution.
One question we posed was as to the purpose of the boxes lined along each row of seats. The answer? The sand-filled boxes were used as spittoons. We were told 90% of men at the time either smoked a pipe or chewed tobacco. Yuck! What a nasty habit. A workman was paid $2.50 a month to empty spittoons and stock the more than dozen wood stoves with wood!
At the time of my upcoming novel (1859), Vandalia was no longer the Illinois State Capitol. But I felt compelled to make mention of this bit of forgotten history that stands as a testament of what once was–a view my characters would have witnesses as they ventured down the First National Road.
Read how God works in the lives of Cynthia Roemer’s characters in her Inspirational, Historical Romance (Prairie Sky) Series.
UNDER THIS SAME SKY ~ BOOK ONE
~ She thought she’d lost everything ~ Instead she found what she needed most
UNDER PRAIRIE SKIES ~ BOOK TWO
~ Beyond shattered dreams lies a realm of possibilities ~