Lincoln’s Land in Coles County, Illinois, to Sell at Auction February 12
An interesting bit of history comes up for sale February 12 in Charleston, Illinois.
One parcel of a nine-tract, 590-acre land auction in Coles County is a 30-acre tract that used to be owned by Abraham Lincoln.
Yes, the Abraham Lincoln – the 16th president of the United States.
Scott Wingert, who operates the auction sale bill website Midwest Auction, wrote an interesting blog post about the upcoming sale, which is being conducted by one of his friends, Michael Stanfield of Stanfield Auction.
In short, before Abraham Lincoln became president, he bought 40 acres for his father, Thomas, paying $200 for the lot. He leased the land back to his father for $1 for the rest of his father’s life.
According to Wingert’s blog post, the Best family bought 30 of those acres at a foreclosure auction in January 1989. In all, they bought 125 acres that day, for $98,500 total.
The Lincoln Land
In a phone interview, Stanfield says the upcoming sale has been heavily advertised. The whole package is good farmland, but the aura surrounding the Lincoln parcel is significant. Will that single parcel have extra value due to its historical significance?
“I really feel like, from the interest I have had, there could be,” Stanfield told Successful Farming magazine in a phone interview. “It lays almost totally adjacent to the Lincoln Log Cabin in Illinois State Park.”
According to Ron Best, one of the five siblings who owns Best Farms, Inc., the 30-acre tract his family bought in 1989 was originally part of a 40-acre piece Abraham Lincoln bought in 1841. Ten acres of that tract were split off that piece, with 6 acres becoming part of the Illinois State Park and 4 acres put into a trust.
The Best family bought the land 30 years ago because it is contiguous to the rest of the family farm. The truth is, the land’s primary value is growing corn and soybeans. It isn’t as if Abraham Lincoln’s top hat will be auctioned off, Best points out. “Thirty acres can’t sit on a shelf,” he says. “From my standpoint, it doesn’t have a lot of extra value” because of who owned it.
That doesn’t mean the Best family doesn’t appreciate the historic significance of the property. Actually, the Lincolns and the Bests go back several generations. Thomas Lincoln (Abraham’s father) and Sarah Bush (Abraham’s stepmother) came to Coles County, Illinoi,s from Kentucky. The Best family emigrated from the same area.
“They were close neighbors and the families interacted,” says Best, whose great-grandfather was 12 years old when Abraham Lincoln came through Coles County and stopped at the grade school on his way to Washington, D.C. where he was set to take office as the nation’s president. “My great-grandfather was one of the kids who shook his hands,” Best adds.
Still, based on Best's research, Abraham Lincoln had little to do with Coles County, despite his father and stepmother living there. “According to one account I read, family members were begging Abraham to see his father the last two years prior to his father’s death,” Best says. “He never did.”
Upon Thomas Lincoln’s death in 1851, the lease was transferred to Abraham’s stepbrother, John D. Johnston. Best has a copy of the original deed, as the original is locked away in the Coles County Courthouse.
About the Soil
The Best family is selling the farm simply because the five siblings are ready to retire and liquidate the family corporation.
In a phone interview, Stanfield says he is privileged to sell the Bests’ land.
Ron Best is a “lifelong friend,” he says. “I’m honored to sell the property.”
The land auction – which happens to be on Lincoln’s birthday in a hotel on Lincoln Avenue in downtown Charleston – will feature high-quality land, which Stanfield rates as “very good Class B.”
The entire package is nearly 100% contiguous, with the exception of a 40-acre parcel ½ mile north of the rest of the property. The last three years, corn yields have ranged from 190 to 238 bushels per acre; beans have ranged from 65 to 77 bushels per acre across the farm.
The Crop Productivity Index on the farm across all 590 acres averages 129.2 (on a 0 to 147 scale) with a range between 100 and 144. Predominant soil types are Fincastle, Toronto, and Raub silt loams.
Two tracts have improvements, including 45,000 bushels of grain storage and a machine shed on a 2-acre parcel, and three metal machine sheds on a 70-acre parcel.
There is a history of grid soil samples on the property, and in 2017, about 550 tons of lime were spread across the acreage.
Due to the significance of the property, Stanfield expects a good crowd on Tuesday. As for the Best family, the end of an era means the family members can have a good life.
“We have a long connection to the ground, but it’s just business,” Best says.