Dr. Hiram Rutherford built his two story frame house off the square in Oakland in 1847. This building forms the core of the Oakland Landmarks, Inc. historic compound. Dr. Rutherford, Gideon Ashmore a local hotel tavern owner, General Robert Matson a slave owner from Kentucky with a farm north of Oakland, and Abraham Lincoln became involved in the Matson Slave Trial in 1847. Each spring Matson would bring some of his slaves to Illinois to work his Illinois farm and then take them back to Kentucky in the fall after the crops were harvested. One family fearing the wife and children would be sold when they returned to Kentucky fled and sought shelter with well known abolitionists Rutherford and Ashmore. Matson filed a suit against Rutherford and Ashmore in the circuit court under the Black Law, demanding damages in the sum of twenty-five hundred dollars, or five hundred dollars for each slave. This trial became known as the Matson Slave Trial and has been called one of the top 5 Legal Cases in Coles County between 1830-1900. The case was heard in Circuit Court in Charleston in October. The case hinged on the concept that if the slaves were only crossing the state (in transit) they would not be free but if they were located for a time by the consent of the master they would be free. Rutherford and Ashmore won, the slaves were freed, and Matson left town without paying his bills (which included Lincoln’s fee).
Visitor Information: Currently open to public.
Location: PO Box 84, Oakland, 61943
National Park Unit: No
Ownership: Eric Coon
Location Type: Site