Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas probably never debated or delivered a speech in Dimmitt’s Grove east of downtown Bloomington, despite the “Lincoln Oak” plaque indicating it.
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 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. to grab the attention of Republicans in an election year.
In 1966, a 32 square foot section of land behind the Scott-Vrooman House was ceded to the Town of Bloomington.
The oak, known as “Lincoln Oak,” died in 1976 and a copy of the original plaque is mounted near a replacement tree. Several affidavits from 1921 in the archives of the McLean County History Museum indicate that there is no truth behind the story of “Lincoln Oak”.
Among the deponents who attest that no speeches by Lincoln or Douglas were ever made at Dimmitt’s Grove were WB Carlock, WW Workman (who knew Lincoln and Douglas personally) and James M. Fordice.