Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas likely never debated or delivered speeches in the Dimmitt’s Grove neighborhood east of downtown Bloomington, despite the “Lincoln Oak” plaque indicating such.
The plaque is found along East Jackson Street behind the Vrooman Mansion at 701 East Taylor Street. In 1914, Carl Vrooman and Adlai Stevenson invited Vachel Lindsay, poet laureate of Illinois, to speak at the dedication of a plaque attached to a white oak tree behind the Scott-Vrooman residence.
Legend has it that Vrooman and Stevenson, both staunch Democrats, may have made up the Lincoln and Douglas story and placed the plaque, a memorial to Lincoln, a Republican, on the oak tree in Vrooman’s backyard in order to grab attention from Republicans in an election year.
In 1966, a 32-square foot section of ground behind the Scott-Vrooman house was deeded to the City of Bloomington.
The oak tree, known as the “Lincoln Oak,” died in 1976 and a copy of the original plaque is mounted near a replacement tree. Several affidavits from 1921 held in the McLean County Museum of History Archives indicate that there is no truth behind the “Lincoln Oak” story.
Among the affiants who attest that no Lincoln nor Douglas speeches were ever delivered in Dimmitt’s Grove were W.B. Carlock, W. W. Workman (who personally knew both Lincoln and Douglas), and James M. Fordice.