Our Town history includes Lincoln-Douglas debates

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BEMENT — There’s a spot in Our Town where it feels like time has stood still for the last 150 years. The Bryant Cottage wasn’t just one of the first homes built in the village. It’s also the site of a major political meeting. That’s where Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas got together before their big debates. Those set the stage for Lincoln’s road to the White House.

When you walk around Bryant Cottage, you can tell it’s something special. As Marilyn Ayers would tell you, it was a big deal then and still is today. She’s the sole historian who takes people on tours around the building.

“When this house was built in 1856, it became house number 7 in this community,” said Ayers. “So when our locals come to visit, they come to reconnect with their history.”

The home still has original pieces, like some of the furniture in the rooms, but even the replicas tell a special story. Lincoln and Douglas met in the cottage on July 29, 1858. They figured out the details for what we now call the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

“It’s very important in our national history to realize that series of debates had to start somewhere, and that would be right here in Bement,” said Ayers.

Those debates put Lincoln in the limelight, leading him to the presidency a few years later.

Lincoln and Douglas weren’t the only famous visitors at the Bryant Cottage. Marilyn Monroe, Carl Sandburg and Congressman Ed Madigan stopped there through the years.

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