Sangamo Town was a settlement on the Sangamon River that for a short time rivaled Springfield as a commercial center.
The man behind Sangamo Town was Moses Broadwell (1764-1827). Born in New Jersey, he was a veteran of the American Revolutionary War who moved to the (now) Springfield area in 1819 or 20 (Sangamon County was incorporated January 30, 1821. Springfield was founded on April 10, 1821 and incorporated on April 2, 1832).
He and his family settled on a farm at the edge of the Richland Creek timber west of Springfield in Clayville, IL. (The original location was the Broadwell Inn & Tavern and is now the home of the Clayville Historic Site.)
Intending to create, in his own spelling, "a plase of buisnis at some futer day not far distant," Broadwell bought a 320-acre parcel of land on the Sangamon River eight miles northwest of Springfield, had it platted and began selling lots. The new village, known as Sangamo Town, thrived for a time and at its zenith was home to perhaps 250 people. It included a gristmill, a wool carding mill (powered by oxen on a treadwheel) a general store, a blacksmith shop, a tavern, and a ferry across the river.
Sangamo Town also served as a shipping port. Commodities such as pork, hemp, lard, and flour were loaded aboard flatboats and keelboats there for markets in St. Louis and New Orleans.
As the population grew, the need for the establishment of a county also grew and on January 30, 1821, a legislative act creating the County of Sangamon was approved.
In the spring of 1831, Abraham Lincoln and two other men were hired to ship a load of hogs to New Orleans, and the three built their flatboat at Sangamo Town. While Lincoln was there, three young men capsized a canoe in high water. Lincoln shouted to them to swim to a nearby tree and hang on. He then mounted a log, tied a rope around himself, and handed the end to some anxious spectators. Braving the current, he risked his own safety and brought the men ashore.
A number of mishaps dimmed Broadwell's dreams for the place. Lumber bought for a planned bridge was rotten, the bustling village of New Salem took away trade, his partners in a milling company reneged on a pledge to buy half the platted land, and the outlying lots were never paid for. The fatal blow was losing the county seat to Springfield in 1825.
Moses Broadwell died in 1827, and the unsold lots ended up in the hands of his son, Charles, who went bankrupt and left Sangamon County. By 1833, most of Sangamo Town had been abandoned. For the next 10 years, the former village became strictly a milling center, the only residents being a few mill hands. The last of the mills probably closed in the early 1850s, and the town site reverted to farm fields and pasture.
The paper records; a few licenses, some voting records, minor lawsuits, and advertisements for at least one mill and a store only proved that the town existed.
In the early 1970s, amateur historian and local physician Dr. Floyd Barringer located a site he believed to be Sangamo Town. What he had found, however, was only a footprint of a dwelling associated with one of the mills.
It was not until the 1990s that the exact location of the town and its structures was known with any exactness. The record now shows Sangamo Town was three miles north of Bradfordton at a bend of the Sangamon River. Nothing remains of Sangamo Town or the Sangamo Town cemetery.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.
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