The Historic Five Mile House  

Five Miles Southeast of Charleston, Illinois

 

 

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A Brief History Of the Five Mile House  

          

EARLY OWNERS         FIRST BUILT         GOLD RUSH         WAYSIDE INN        ABRAHAM LINCOLN       TODAY

See Also:   Historic Photos    Chronology of Owners     Local Legend & Lore    

               

    Five miles southeast of the Coles County Courthouse in Charleston, Illinois, a  stucco-over-brick, two room building (along with its later added kitchen) sits on a corner lot, its front doors facing south.  For almost 170 years, this building, one of the oldest structures in Coles County, has been a familiar land-mark.  People traveling north and south saw the Five Mile House from what was once called the Archer Road, now State Route 130. The road running in front of the house, east and west, is the Westfield-Hutton Road.

    At one time, another well-traveled route called the York Road - no trace of it remains today - joined with the other roads at a point near the center of the lot on which the Five Mile House stands.  That road ran diagonally from the Five Mile House southeast through Hutton Township and past the Stephen Sargent house in a straight line toward Martinsville and West York, Illinois. 

EARLY OWNERS

     A number of prominent pioneer names appear on the title records.  Levin Cartwright was the first settler to own the site, as it was part of a forty-acre purchase he made from the federal government on April 27, 1837.  Some well-known families who owned the Five Mile House included Strader, Rennels, Goodman, Stone, Johns, and Horsley, among others.  All added to the history of the house. 

FIRST BUILT

    It is thought that the Five Mile House was built sometime between the late 1830s and the mid 1840s by two brothers, Rhodes and David Martin.  The two set up their own brick factory nearby to manufacture the bricks used in the structure.  Lumber for the original east and west rooms came from the local Hutton Township area.  Rhodes Martin was an early contractor.  He and his brother built a number of barns, several houses, schools, and churches in the Hutton Township area. 

GOLD RUSH DAYS

     During the Gold Rush Days of 1849 and the early 1850s, Stephen Stone owned the property. It was from this site that numerous wagon trains, filled with area gold seekers, left for California.  Dr. William Stone, Stephen's son, was an animal doctor who owned a blacksmith shop near the Five Mile House.  His forge and animal expertise was a source of support for the Forty-niners, as they out-fitted their teams for the nearly 2,000-mile journey west.

     The Stone Family owned the place until the 1880s when it was sold to Joshua and Isabell Johns and their son, George.  It was next sold to William Rennels, a member of the large Rennels Family.  This family has been greatly involved in the effort to save the Five Mile House as a historical site and tourist attraction. 

WAYSIDE INN & STAGECOACH STOP

     At some time in its early history, the Five Mile House was converted into a wayside inn or tavern, and a stagecoach stop, serving meals and providing lodging to travelers on the York and other roads that convened there.  The name, Five Mile House, also indicates its use as a stopping point for travelers. Another wayside inn on the east side of Charleston was called the Half Mile House due to it's being a half mile from the courthouse.  It was recently torn down. 

ABRAHAM LINCOLN CONNECTION

     Legend and logic agree that Abraham Lincoln stopped at the Five Mile House in his travels on the Eighth Judicial Circuit.  He traveled the York Road to visit his friends James Rennels who lived a couple of miles east and Stephen Sargent who lived near Salisbury (now Hutton). In the last 100 years, some of the other family names associated with the structure are: Baker, McKenzie, Brashears, Boley, Conley, Bell, Hosapple, Nugent, Shoot, Reed, Cobble, Fender, Eaton, Gann and Bates. 

FIVE MILE HOUSE TODAY                                                                                                                     back to the top

     Much of the original Five Mile House remains today as it was in pioneer days.  Restoration efforts preserved the original brick walls and fireplace The ceilings, and some of the window and door casings are original as well.  The kitchen ell - built on the north side of the east room - was likely added on sometime in the 1860s.  Time took its toll on the kitchen's wooden walls and the room was torn down before the Five Mile House Foundation acquired the house.  The frame kitchen has subsequently been rebuilt using some of the original materials.

     Now that restoration of the house is almost complete, the Foundation has turned its attention to furnishing the house and beginning educational and living history activities.  A capital project in 2008-2009 will provide a new parking lot, sidewalks, handicap accessible ramp, interpretive signs and other amenities.  Future work will center on researching and reconstructing outbuildings, landscaping of the grounds and expanding the educational programming.