On June 24, 1837, attorney William A. Grimshaw filed an indenture (formal or official document) with the office of the Deed of Records of Pike County. The purpose of this document revolved around a newly formed group of trustees which included William Ross, William Watson, James Johnson, Robert R. Greene, Archibald H. Argyle, Robert Wills and Eben Abbott. The state of Illinois granted the trustees permission to build a male and female academy in Pittsfield.
On October 25, 1839, William R. Peters of Bloomfield, New Jersey through his wife’s attorney William Watson of Pittsfield, IL, gifted five acres of land for the academy to the trustees. There was a stipulation that William R. Peters put forth in the deed. He required the trustees to build a structure upon the property by January 1, 1839. The trustees met Peters’ stipulation by building the first building on the property before January 1, 1839.
The timing of this transaction was poor. In 1837 the United States begin to slip into a deep depression caused by both domestic and foreign origins. By 1837 the years of ailing economy led investors to panic leading to a run on the banks. By May of that year the New York banks ran out of gold and silver resulting in the value of paper money becoming useless. Between 1837-1844 deflation in wages and prices were also widespread. By 1850 the economy was booming again resulting from the flow of gold from the California gold fields.
During that decade, the trustees were not able to continue the expansion of the academy. In 1844 there was a grass roots movement to raise $500.00 dollars to make repairs to the building built before 1839. A town meeting was held to generate interest in saving the building, but in the end the property was sold at a public auction. Dr. Thomas Worthington of Pittsfield purchased the land for $500.00 dollars in 1847. He spent the first year remodeling the building into a personal residence. Over the decades Dr. Worthington’s hosted political functions and gatherings. The future 16th President Abraham Lincoln visited the home prior to his presidential campaign.
On the 1850 Census, future Lincoln secretary, John G. Nicolay, resided as a boarder with the Worthington’s. He arrived in Pittsfield in 1848 going to work with the Free Press newspaper as a printer’s devil (typesetter). John Hay visited the home while attending the Thompson Academy. Hay would join Nicolay as one of Lincoln’s secretaries in the White House.
Dr. Thomas Worthington passed away in 1888. After his death, the house passed to daughter Emily Worthington who would live there until her death in1902, at which time ownership would pass to Dr. Andrew Worthington of Denver, Colorado until his death in 1935.
In 1940, Carl Sandburg, author and Lincoln scholar, would write a letter stating the history of the home and how important it was to save it. Unfortunately, the house and property were torn down in 1940, making room for Illini Community Hospital that you see before you.
To proceed to the Wm. Grimshaw House exit the hospital parking lot and turn onto N Clinton St which is located on the Western edge of the hospital. Take Clinton St North until you come to a T-intersection. Make a right onto Perry St. The Grimshaw House will be the large brick home immediately on your left.