/ A. Lincoln, Lobbyist

In 1834 Elias and Emily N. Haven (often erroneously spelled "Havens") moved to Juliet (later renamed Joliet), Illinois, from New York State. With them came their three sons: Orlando H., Philo A., and James. [1] Evidently, the family had money, because both Elias and Orlando soon became engaged in some sort of commerce. [2] Others by the name of Haven also resided in this area. Certainly they were relatives. In fact, much of what eventually became Will County was settled by New Yorkers.

Elias and his wife became founding members of the Presbyterian Church in the year after their arrival. [3] With money to invest, Elias on March 18, 1836, purchased eighty acres of farm land,[4] and his sons later followed his lead. Politics also ran in the blood of the Havens. When Will County was set off from Cook on January 12, 1836, Elias—certainly a Whig—ran for coroner on August 1 that year, but he lost the race to Ephraim M. Daggett. In fact, Haven garnered only six votes![5]

Within a short time, Orlando and Philo determined to establish a milling business. To power the mill, they needed to dam the Des Plaines River, which ran through the middle of town. The site that they selected had already been sold as school land. On October 20, 1834, the school commissioner for Cook County (it was not yet Will County) had sold Lots 1 and 4 in Block 56 of Section 16 in Township 35 North, Range 10 East of the 3rd Principal Meridian to De La Fayette Wilcox. This land lay almost on the west edge of the river. On that same date, John H. Kinzie purchased Lots 1 and 2 in Page  [End Page 35]

 The Cook County school commissioner's plat illustrating area in
The Cook County school commissioner's plat illustrating area in dispute Page  [End Page 36]
Block 57, which sat exactly on the east bank of the Des Plaines. [6] The Havens later acquired the Kinzie lots, and they purchased the lots in Block 56 at sheriff's sale. The others they obtained from individual owners.

In the spring of 1839, the Havens commenced to construct a dam from Lot 1 in Block 57 to the dividing line between Lots 1 and 4 in Block 56. By October or November that same year they had completed the dam and constructed a sawmill on Lot 1 of Block 57. In 1842, they raised a gristmill on Lot 2 of this block. During the following year, they also built a lath mill. In 1846, a house was erected on Lot 1. A machine shop was added in 1847. It would appear that the Havens were prospering. On May 27 that year, the Havens bid to furnish 116,400 board feet of timber for towpaths along the Illinois and Michigan Canal. [7]

All went well with the mill work until April 20, 1848, when the I and M canal commissioners shut their stone dam in Section 9 above the Havens' mill dam and diverted water from the Des Plaines River into the canal's main channel. This greatly reduced the water power for the mills. So, at the October term of the Will County Circuit Court in 1848, H. O. and P. A. Haven sued the canal commissioners for damages. In this case, the court sided with the plaintiffs and awarded them unspecified damages. Of course, the State of Illinois appealed the ruling. The Supreme Court of Illinois reversed the lower court but mentioned that damages could be sought.[8] Again, the Havens brought suit. In the June 1850 term of the supreme court, the judges declared that the Havens were not entitled to damages because they did not own both sides of the Des Plaines River and thus had no riparian rights. Examining a plat of Joliet, the court discovered that Lots 1 and 4 in Block 56 were separated from the west bank of the river by School Street! Therefore, the Havens could not possibly possess both sides of the river. [9]

Prior to its loss of water power, O. H. and P. A. Havens' mill property in Joliet was valued at $2,030. Their father, Elias, had real Page  [End Page 37] estate worth $780 in that city alone. [10] Then, in 1849, both Philo and James Haven joined the gold rush to California and never returned to Joliet. [11] Orlando was thirty-four in 1850 and listed himself as a mill owner with real estate of $3,000. His wife, Lucia A., was just twenty-three.[12] Like his father, Orlando grew active in politics and replaced a resigned member, Lorenzo D. Brady, as a Whig representative in the 16th General Assembly (1848–1850), but he sat there for just a single term.[13]

Having been denied compensation from the highest court in Illinois, Orlando Haven turned his efforts to the political channel and sought a private act from the legislature to recoup his and his absent brother's mill losses. His brief political experience in Springfield had taught him that such a measure could cure his problem. So on January 16, 1852, he composed a petition to the General Assembly:

To the Hon. The Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Illinois in General Assembly convened—

Your petitioner respectfully begs leave to represent that he is one of the owners of a water power and mills on the D[es] Plain[es] river in the City of Joliet, and that the water of the river was diverted from their mills into the Illinois and Michigan Canal in the Spring of 1848 and has been so diverted more or less every season since[,] very much to the injury of the mill owners. Your petitioner would further show that a suit was instituted for the recovery of their damages by the said mill owners, which suit has been in the courts now over four years and has been adjudicated six times—twice in the Supreme Court—and the right of the claimants to recover has every time been affirmed. This litigation[,] although it has cost the canal fund[,] as your petitioner believes[,] over $2000—and the claimants over $1000—has not settled the amount of damages for the first summer; leaving four summers already past to the same expensive and tedious process and additional damages constantly accruing. Your petitioner further states that although he ought, as he thinks, to receive pay for his property when it is taken by the public[,] yet not one cent has been received. Page  [End Page 38]

Your petitioner therefore prays for relief by the passage of an act which shall require the Canal Trustees to give to the Mill owners a fair and lawful compensation for their property when taken, without the necessity of endless and ruinous suits at law. Orlando H. Haven.

We are acquainted with the owners of the above mentioned mills and have no doubt of the truth of the facts stated and agree with the prayer of the petitioner as the best measure of guarding the canal fund and securing the interest of the mill owners by preventing a fruitless and reckless waste of money by the agents of the Canal.

Joliet January 16th 1852.

  • Cornelius C. Van Horne Mayor of the City of Joliet
  • Edmund Wilcox
  • Jacob Gorges, Jr.
  • F. L. Cagwin Mayor & Common
  • S. W. Bowen Council of the City of Joliet
  • N. H. Cutter
  • T. J. Kinney
  • P. O'Connor
  • Michael Shields[14]

Actually, the Illinois Supreme Court in its second decision proclaimed that the Havens had no right to build the dam completely across the river in the first place, and thus damages were not allowed. So, the petition was not fully truthful. When this document arrived at the Capitol, it was merely laid aside since the legislature was about to pass a bill, approved by the governor on June 22, 1852, that created a board of commissioners "to collect proofs and testimony, hear and investigate all such claims as shall be presented against the state arising out of transactions by and between the agents of the state ... and all persons who have heretofor presented claims for damages for right of way and injury done to property in the construction of the Illinois and Michigan canal and its feeders...." Named to this board were Abraham Lincoln and Noah Johnston. [15]

Lincoln and Johnston took testimony in Ottawa, Chicago, and Springfield.[16] On January 7, 1853, they finished their labors and Page  [End Page 39] rendered a report to the General Assembly. Toward the end they stated: "In the case of the claim of Haven & Haven, the claimants and the counsel for the state agreed that no further evidence should be introduced on either side in that case." Ninian Wirt Edwards, brother-in-law to Lincoln, declared, as the attorney for the state, that the supreme court had decided that the Havens, having "a right to only one-half of the water, cannot use it, except as it is accustomed to flow down the channel, and that the erection of the dam across the stream, by means of which the head of water was increased, and the value of the site and improvements enhanced, was unauthorized.... [T]hey have no right to any damages from the state." [17] O. H. Haven submitted a one-paragraph rebuttal to Mr. Edwards's conclusion, pretending that damages had been decreed for the mill owners, but the officials for the state had spoken and rendered their last judgment.[18]

Having received this final legal rebuff, Haven asked Senator Uri Osgood from Will County to introduce the petition written on January 16, 1852. He did so in the Senate on January 26, 1853, asking that the legislature pass a private act to pay damages to the Havens. By doing so, he had done the wishes of his wealthy constituent back in Joliet. The Committee on Canal and Canal Lands composed a bill as requested by Osgood. It passed the Senate without opposition on January 31. [19]

Without doubt, somebody—perhaps Ninian W. Edwards—was very closely monitoring the actions of the General Assembly in regard to canal legislation. Edwards resided in Springfield, while the canal office was in Chicago, and he officiated as the lawyer for the canal commissioners. The canal trustees quickly secured the expert services of Abraham Lincoln to lobby against the Havens' proposal for an act. This action tells us that lawyer Lincoln still had great influence in the House of Representatives, even though he had not sat there since 1842. And it is the first known proof that he ever acted as a lobbyist.

Lincoln proved to be a godsend for the trustees and the State of Illinois. He managed to have the bill killed in a House committee. Grateful canal officials noted in their "Cash Book" on March 16, Page  [End Page 40]

 "Cash Book" of the Illinois and Michigan Canal trustees showing
receipts of Abraham Lincoln
"Cash Book" of the Illinois and Michigan Canal trustees showing receipts of Abraham Lincoln Page  [End Page 41]

 Two receipts recording payment for services to Abraham Lincoln
Two receipts recording payment for services to Abraham Lincoln
1853, in Chicago that A. Lincoln had been issued $25 for opposing the "Havens bill in Legislature." A clerk jotted in pencil that "rec[ei]pts sent to him for sig[nature]." [20] Although the check has not been located, the receipt and its duplicate are now housed in the Illinois State Archives in the I and M Canal documents. Both are signed in Lincoln's hand. These previously unknown records add yet another facet to the legal practice of Abraham Lincoln.

Elias Haven died sometime between 1842 and 1850. In the latter year, the local census taker found his widow residing with her son, Page  [End Page 42] Orlando H. Haven. Orlando died during a cholera epidemic at Joliet in 1854. So ended the saga of the claim for damages. But when the history of Will County was published in 1878, the Haven dam still stood in the Des Plaines River. [21] Page  [End Page 43]


  1. History of Will County, Illinois (Chicago: Wm. Le Baron, Jr., 1878), 280, 368. return to text
  2. U.S. Census 1840, Will Co., Ill., 347, Federal Census Records, Record Series 951.003, Illinois State Archives. return to text
  3. History of Will County, 284–85. return to text
  4. E 1/2 NE 1/4 , Sec. 36, T36N, R9E 3rd P.M., "Federal Tract Book No. 685," 180, U.S. General Land Office Records for Illinois, Record Series 952.134, Illinois State Archives. return to text
  5. "Election Returns," 30:17, Secretary of State, Record Series 103.032, Illinois State Archives. return to text
  6. "School Land Tract Book No. 818," 5, 7, Auditor of Public Accounts, Record Series 105.086, Illinois State Archives. return to text
  7. "Field Book No. 6, Fox River Feeder, B 51," Illinois and Michigan Canal, Record Series 491.108, Illinois State Archives. return to text
  8. The Board of Trustees of the Illinois and Michigan Canal v. Philo A. Haven and Orlando Haven, 5 Charles Gilman, 548–59, Illinois Supreme Court, June 1849 term. return to text
  9. The Board of Trustees of the Illinois and Michigan Canal v. Philo A. Haven and Orlando Haven, 11 E. Peck, 554–58, Illinois Supreme Court, June 1850 term. return to text
  10. Souvenir of Settlement and Progress of Will County, Ill. (Chicago: Historical Directory, 1884), 141. This was in the year 1842. return to text
  11. History of Will County, 284–85. return to text
  12. U.S. Census 1850, Joliet, Will Co., Ill., 203B, Federal Census Records, Record Series 951.004, Illinois State Archives. return to text
  13. Sunderine Temple and Wayne C. Temple, Illinois' Fifth Capitol (Springfield: Phillips Bros., 1988), 235. return to text
  14. "1853 Petitions," General Assembly, Record Series 600.001, Illinois State Archives. return to text
  15. Laws of the State of Illinois (Springfield: Lanphier & Walker, 1852), 152–54. return to text
  16. Wayne C. Temple, Lincoln's Connections with the Illinois & Michigan Canal (Springfield: Illinois Bell, 1986), 73–85. On January 18, 1853, Lincoln drew $149 for his services as a canal commissioner. return to text
  17. "Canal Claims" in Reports Made to the Eighteenth General Assembly of the State of Illinois Convened January 3, 1853 (Springfield: Lanphier & Walker, 1853), 23, 32–33. return to text
  18. Ibid., 52. return to text
  19. Journal of the Senate of the Eighteenth General Assembly of the State of Illinois Convened January 3, 1853 (Springfield: Lanphier & Walker, 1853), 168–69, 228–29, Index ix. return to text
  20. "Cash Book," 93, Illinois and Michigan Canal, Record Series 491.069, Illinois State Archives. return to text
  21. Souvenir of Settlement and Progress of Will County, 141; U.S. Census 1850, Joliet, Will Co., Ill., 203B. As late as 1878, Philo A. Haven still owned holdings in Joliet. History of Will County, 284–85, 914. return to text