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.
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.
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.
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
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.
MILE HOUSE TODAY
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Much of the original Five Mile House remains today as it was in pioneer
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