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Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas probably never debated or gave speeches in the Dimmitt’s Grove neighborhood east of downtown Bloomington, despite the “Lincoln Oak” plaque stating so.
The plaque can be found along East Jackson Street behind the Vrooman Mansion at 701 East Taylor Street. In 1914, Carl Vrooman and Adlai Stevenson invited Illinois Poet Laureate Vachel Lindsay to speak at the dedication of a plaque affixed 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 story of Lincoln and Douglas and placed the plaque, a memorial to Lincoln, a Republican, on the oak tree in Vrooman’s backyard so to get Republicans’ attention in an election year.
In 1966, a 32 square foot section of land behind the Scott-Vrooman House was deeded to the City of Bloomington.
The oak tree, known as “Lincoln Oak”, died in 1976 and a copy of the original plaque is mounted near a replacement tree. Several 1921 affidavits held in the archives of the McLean County History Museum indicate that there is no truth behind the “Lincoln Oak” story.
Among the affiants who testify that no speeches by Lincoln or Douglas were ever delivered at Dimmitt’s Grove were W. B. Carlock, W. W. Workman (who knew Lincoln and Douglas personally), and James M. Fordice.