Macon County Conservation District Explore the Outdoors
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Historic Sites

Bethel School | Homestead Prairie Farm | Governor Oglesby Mansion
Paris-Springfield Road | Rock Spring Bottling Plant | Sangamon River Mill

Bethel School 
Friends Creek Conservation Area

Historic Bethel School in Decatur IllinoisStep back in time in a one room country school. The name "Bethel School" has a long history in Friends Creek Township. The first Bethel School built in the 1850's in Section 7 of the township was a log structure. By 1890 with a donation of land from John Brown in Section 8 the current Bethel School was built.

Historic Bethel School Decatur IllinoisFor nearly 56 years the school served the neighborhood students until 1946 when it was closed. As part of a statewide trend in the 1940's and 1950's most one room schools in Macon County were closed and the students transferred to larger schools. Purchased by Sam Kohler the Bethel School was moved to his property about a mile south to be used as an implement and tool shed.

With the purchase of his property in 1969 by the Macon County Conservation District the school was moved yet again in 1982 a short distance to its present location as part of Friends Creek Conservation Area. From 1982 to 1985 with help from several donors including the Winings Trust along with dedicated volunteers and staff it was restored to its current appearance.

Historic Bethel School is part of the Friends Creek Conservation Area. Bethel School at Friends Creek Conservation Area is 4.5 miles from Argenta. It is accessible by three different routes from Decatur. First, turn off U.S. Highway 51 and go east for 9 miles along County Highway 18 (also known as East School Road) then turn north onto Friends Creek Park Road. You can also take Illinois Highway 48 passing through Oreana and Argenta and then turning north onto Friends Creek Park Road. It is also accessible from Interstate 72. Take Exit 156 and follow the signs leading to the Friends Creek Park Road.

Tours & Programs

Bethel School is open for free tours from 1:00pm to 4:00pm on the first Saturday of each month from May through October.  Programs may be scheduled by appointment at other times for students or various groups. Call (217)423-7708 for further information.

Homestead Prairie Farm
Rock Springs Conservation Area

Homestead Prairie Farm Decatur Illinois
The Trobaugh-Good House

Walk into the past to an exciting place where the days before the Civil War live on. Homestead Prairie Farm is built around the Trobaugh-Good House located at Rock Springs Conservation Area. It has been restored to let visitors explore rural life on the Grand Prairie of Illinois in 1860 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. Homestead Prairie Farm Tours for School Groups

Originally constructed by an unknown builder around 1850 as a one room log house, its name comes from the first two families who lived there.

Joseph Trobaugh from Tennessee, his wife Elizabeth born in Illinois and their family were the first known occupants of the house and owned it from 1853 to 1866. Trobaugh was a farmer and sawmill operator.  He changed the house by adding rooms and making other renovations.

Emanuel Good, a Civil War veteran, along with his wife and children were the second family to live there. The Goods owned the house from 1866 to 1903, selling it one year after Emanuel's death.

Today the house is furnished to reflect the lifestyle of the Trobaughs, their boarders, hired hands, and neighbors in 1860, whose lives were being affected by the important changes sweeping the nation in the last years before the Civil War.

Homestead Prairie Farm is part of the Rock Springs Conservation Area.

Tours & Programs

Free tours are offered June-October from 1:00 pm -4:00 pm weekends.   Special tours and programs may be scheduled by appointment at other times for students or various groups. Call (217)423-7708 for further information.

Governor Oglesby Mansion
421 W. William St. Decatur, IL

Governor Richard J. Oglesby Mansion
Visit the Governor Richard J. Oglesby Mansion Website for more historical information on the Governor & his family, tour and rental information, how you can get involved and an events schedule!

Tours, Programs and Rentals

The Governor Oglesby Mansion is an 1870s Italianate style home of 3-time Illinois Governor, U.S. Senator and Civil War General Richard J. Oglesby. The mansion is located at 421 W. William St in Decatur, IL. The mansion will be open for tours every Wednesday and Saturday from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. in June, July and August and the last Sunday of the month from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. from March through November. Admission is $2.00. For more information call 217-921-0760.

See the Oglesby Mansion schedule of events here!

Oglesby Mansion Decatur IllinoisTo schedule a group tour please call 217-429-9422. To schedule a school group program please call 217-429-9422.

The Governor Oglesby Mansion is available to rent for special events such as receptions, dinners and weddings. Please call 217-423-7708 for more information.

Friend of Abraham Lincoln

Richard J. Oglesby is best known both as a friend and political ally of Abraham Lincoln. Oglesby helped form the "Railsplitter Candidate" image which put Lincoln in the national spotlight during the 1860 presidential election. Oglesby was also with Lincoln when he died in 1865 and as Governor of Illinois he lead the effort to build Lincoln's Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Springfield, Illinois. In his later years Oglesby helped preserve Lincoln's historical legacy and shape the heroic legend of Abraham Lincoln through his speeches and interviews.

Governor Richard J Oglesby
Governor Richard J. Oglesby

The Life of Richard J. Oglesby

Richard J. Oglesby came to Decatur as a young orphan from Kentucky and became one of the city's most prominent and best loved citizens.

His life was filled with many accomplishments including being elected three times as Governor of Illinois and appointed a United States Senator. Oglesby made a small fortune in the California Gold Rush and also fought in both the Mexican War and Civil War eventually becoming a general.

In his family life Oglesby was a father and stepfather of several children and married again after the death of his first wife.

Read more about the life and history of Richard J. Oglesby and his family.

History and Architecture of Oglesby Mansion

Governor Oglesby had the Mansion built around 1874. The highlight of the Mansion's history is a visit by former Civil War General and United States President Ulysses S. Grant in 1880. From one of the Mansion's verandas Grant spoke to a crowd of people during a Civil War regimental reunion.

The Mansion possesses features of the Italianate style including brackets under the eaves, the low-pitched roof with belvedere (a flat deck area at the roof's center with a balustrade), bay windows and verandas. The interior features vibrant parquet wood flooring, seven fireplaces and a walnut staircase. Throughout the house are furnishings of the era including several items owned by the Oglesby Family.

Read more about the Oglesby Mansion's History

How You Can Help

The Mansion depends on the dedication of a group of volunteers called "Governor Oglesby Mansion, Inc". Volunteer opportunities include being a tour guide, researching history and antiques, cooking and serving meals for events and maintaining the interior.

If you would like to become a volunteer or If you can help financially to support the restoration efforts and educational programs at the Mansion, please visit the Oglesby Mansion website or call 217-429-9422.


Abraham Lincoln
Photo by Virginia Dahms

Walk in the Footsteps of Abraham Lincoln
on the Paris-Springfield Road

Sand Creek Conservation Area

The Paris-Springfield Road was one of the earliest roads in Central Illinois . Named for the two towns it ran between (Paris, Illinois and Springfield, Illinois) the road gave settlers a way to move farm products and other goods between nearby towns and states as it connected with other roads. Locally, it ran through Macon County and helped Decatur grow before railroads were built.

The Paris-Springfield Road's most famous traveler was Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln and his extended family used the road when they made their first Illinois home in Macon County in March of 1830. Lincoln later used the road as a politician and as a lawyer on Illinois' eighth judicial circuit when he tried cases in many towns including Decatur.

One part of the road is now preserved and open to visitors at Sand Creek Conservation Area. You can learn a piece of Illinois history by walking in the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln. At the east end of the parking area look for a large informational display which tells more of the story of this important road.

The Paris-Springfield Road is part of the Sand Creek Conservation Area.


Rock Spring Water Company and the Bottling Plant

In 1969, the first piece of land acquired by the Macon County Conservation District was about 40 acres of section 19 in Decatur Township. It included the bottling plant and the springhouse containing the Rock Spring. In the 1970s the bottling plant was secured with metal covers over its doors and windows. The bottling plant and the springhouse are on the south bank of the Sangamon River just east of the Wyckles Road Bridge.

Read more about the Rock Spring Water Company and the Bottling Plant here.

Sangamon River Mill

Shortly after the first pioneers arrived in Macon County mills were built to grind their harvests of grain. One of the first was Sangamon River Mill. The mill and its dam were probably built sometime between 1836 and 1839 on land that was bought by members of the Miller Family and Elisha Freeman in 1836. It is not known how long the mill operated but by 1902 only the dam remained. Archaeological searches found metal and wooden pieces of the mill and dam in the riverbed. These artifacts helped confirm the location of the mill and dam and gave clues on their probable designs.

Read more about the Sangamon River Mill here.


Today's Sunrise Sunset in Decatur, IL:
    Sunrise is at: 5:35 AM
    Sunset is at: 8:10 PM

What can you do at the Nature Center?

Visit Our Conservation Areas

Rock Springs Conservation Area
Friends Creek Conservation Area
Sand Creek Conservation Area
Griswold Conservation Area
Fort Daniel Conservation Area



The Macon County Conservation District invites you to visit the many natural areas in Macon County, Illinois, including Rock Springs Nature Center, which offers nature programs, special activities, nature hikes, summer camps, music programs, conference rooms for all ages throughout the year in Decatur, Illinois.
Macon County Conservation District
3939 Nearing Lane
Decatur, IL 62521
(217) 423-7708

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