History of Building
Colonel Matthew Rogers and the City of Athens
Colonel Matthew Rogers, the former New York state militia leader, settled near what would be known later as Athens, Illinois in about 1820. He built the first cabin constructed of clapboard and sawn board lumber in this area.
By 1822, settlers in the area were supporting their own tavern, store, and blacksmith shop.
On January 2, 1828, Colonel Matthew Rogers established the area’s first post office in his home and called it “Rogers post office.”
Athens became a city in 1831. Later in 1831, the same year Abraham Lincoln arrived in New Salem, Colonel Matthew Rogers moved the post office from his home into his newly constructed building and also made it into a general store. Athens is Menard County’s oldest city.
During this period, Lincoln borrowed books from Colonel Matthew Rogers. Historians have written about this interchange and how Rogers’ daughter Arminda taught the future preside
nt as well as Ann Rutledge. The copy of Kirkham’s Grammar, the primary text the used, now resides in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
Lincoln as Postmaster and Surveyor
After Lincoln became New Salem’s postmaster, he would come to Athens to pick up New Salem’s mail because the mail carrier was unable to deliver mail at New Salem because of Sangamon River flooding.
In 1834, Lincoln, the postmaster had also become a skilled surveyor, and he surveyed the Post Road which passed by the front of Rogers’ general store and post office. The survey point Lincoln used, still remains today, just forty feet from the building.
The Long Nine Banquet
On August 3, 1837, the citizens of Athens held a banquet for Abraham Lincoln and the eight other legislators (called the Long Nine) who had successfully worked for passage of legislation that led to the relocation of the state capitol from Vandalia to Springfield.
At this occasion, Lincoln led the Long Nine in a toast to the citizens of Athens, saying, “Sangamon County will ever be true to her best interests and never more so than in reciprocating the good feelings of the citizens of Athens and neighborhood!”
A 6×9 oil painting by Lloyd Ostendorf is now located in the banquet room in tribute to the historic event.
Current Building Condition
As of 2010, this building has had seven total owners including Colonel Matthew Rogers himself. The building was restored in 1972. It currently stands as a museum in tribute to young Abraham Lincoln… the postmaster, surveyor, politician, legislator, and lawyer.