This collection consists of correspondence between Jesse Fell and various associates.
Jesse Fell was involved in real estate and business enterprises and played a fundamental role in the development of educational and political frontiers in Central Illinois. An early friend of Abraham Lincoln, Fell took part in organizing both the Illinois Republican Party and Lincoln's 1860 presidential campaign. This collection contains transcripts of letters, memoranda, drafts, and telegrams with various correspondents.
Born and raised in Pennsylvania, Fell made his way westward and settled in Illinois in 1832. After passing the Illinois Bar exam, he moved to Bloomington, Illinois, in 1833. At that time, Bloomington had just been founded and Fell became Bloomington's first lawyer. However, Fell's interests soon turned to buying and selling land. Fell's accomplishments in the early development of Illinois was many--he co-founded several towns throughout Central and Northern Illinois, founded Bloomington's first newspaper in 1837, and was involved in the railroad enterprise, particularly with the Illinois Central and the Chicago and Alton lines. A passion for education, Fell was an integral figure in the establishment of Illinois State Normal University (then called the State Normal School) in 1857. Politically, he played a major role in Abraham Lincoln's political career, suggesting to Lincoln that he debate Stephen A. Douglas, and later, run for president.
This collection contains transcripts of Fell's correspondence with various associates, including Orville H. Browning, David Davis, Joseph Duncan, William L.D. Ewing, J.B. Foraker, Abraham Lincoln, John A. Logan, Richard J. Oglesby, John M. Palmer, John Reynolds, N.H. Ridgely, Leonard Swett, and Lyman Trumbull. This collection also contains transcripts of eulogies written for Fell; copies of Fell's obituaries; and an original document nominating Fell as paymaster, signed by Abraham Lincoln, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, and Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas.
Alice and Fannie Fell, of Normal, Illinois, loaned the originals to the Illinois History Survey for copying in 1913. The originals are now held in the Library of Congress. Transcripts of the Iowa manuscripts were acquired in 1957 from Dr. Helen E. Marshall of Illinois State University.