Bill Introduced in Illinois Legislature to Incorporate the Vermillion Coal and Manufacturing Company, [30 January - 4 February 1853]1
A bill for an act to incorporate the "Vermillion Coal and Manufacturing Company"
Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois represented in the General Assembly: That John A. Rockwell, his associates successors and assigns, are hereby constituted a body politic and corporate, under the name and style of the "Vermillion Coal and Manufacturing Company" and under, and [by] that name, they may contract and be contracted with, sue and be sued, in all courts and places: they shall have the power to organize such company, by the appointment of a President and such other officers as they may deem necessary, at such time and place as may be designated by notice previously given by them or a majority of them, and when thus organized, they may have a common seal, and alter the same; and shall have power to make such by-laws, rules, and regulations as they may deem necessary from time to time, for the government and management and prossecution of the business of the said company, not inconsistent with the constitution and laws of the United States, or of this State–
Sec: [Section]2. The said Company may engage in the business of the mining of coal, iron, clays, and other minerals; and of welling for salt, on lands now owned in whole, or in part by said John A. Rockwell near the Little Vermillion in the county of La Salle in the State of Illinois, and lands contiguous to the same, which may be hereafter purchased; and in the manufacture, sale, and transportation of the products of their mines, wells, and other commoditites, as the company may think expedient– And the said company shall have power to construct a rail-road from such point or points on said land as they may deem expedient to the nearest convenient point of the Illinois and Michigan canal ^or, in lieu thereof, at their option to the nearest convenient point on the Illinois Central Railroad or on the Chicago, and Rock-Island Railroad; provided they shall not construct more than one such Railroad–^ with branches to the nearest convenient points of the Illinois Central railroad, and the Chicago, La Salle and Rock-Island Railroad– And the right of way and occupancy may be acquired, and damages adjusted under the provisions of the law now in force in relation to the right of way; and when such damages are assessed
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and paid, or payment tendered, according to the provisions of said law, the rights so acquired shall vest in said company for the uses and purposes thereof–
Sec: 3. Whenever any married woman, infant, or person non compos mentis2, shall be entitled to damages on account of the passage of said railroad or it's branches over their land the guardian of such infant or person non compos mentis [or] the husband of such married woman, may release all damages for and in their behalf as fully as might be done by the parties when free from disability–3
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A bill for an act to incorporate the Vermillion Coal and Manufacturing Company–4
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24/ord Eng[ordered Engrossed]6
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SB 307
1Abraham Lincoln wrote the title for this bill, shown at the top of the first image, as well as the text of this bill.
2“Non compos mentis” is a general term used in American law to describe someone who is not of sound mind.
Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, MN: West, 1891), 820.
3Roy P. Basler, editor of The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, dated this bill by the date that it was first introduced in the Illinois Senate—February 5, 1853. The Lincoln Log claims that the bill was written February 4, 1853. As he noted in a February 15, 1853 letter to John A. Rockwell, Lincoln was busy in court when Rockwell’s request to write the bill reached him. Rockwell’s letter to Lincoln making this request has not been located, and it is unclear when Lincoln received it. However, Lincoln was busy with work on various legal cases from at least January 25-29, 1853 and from February 1-3, 1853. Therefore, he most likely wrote this bill either January 30, January 31, or February 4, 1853.
Asahel Gridley introduced the bill in the Illinois Senate on February 5, 1853. The Senate referred the bill to its Committee on Incorporations. On February 9, the committee reported back the bill with amendments, to which the Senate concurred. It passed the bill as amended, then referred it to the Illinois House of Representatives for consideration.
On February 10, 1853, the House was informed of the Senate’s passage of the bill, but no further action was taken before the House session ended. In his letter to Rockwell, Lincoln promised to get the bill passed “at the next Session.” However, the bill did not come before the Illinois General Assembly again until 1857.
On January 15, 1857, Burton C. Cook reintroduced the bill in the Senate, under the revised title “An Act to Incorporate the Big Vermilion Coal Company.” The Senate referred the bill to its Committee on Banks and Corporations. On January 17, the committee reported back the bill without amendment and recommended its passage. The Senate passed it and sent it to the House for consideration.
The House took up the bill on January 21 and referred it to its Committee on Banks and Corporations. On January 23, the committee reported back the bill without amendment and recommended its passage. On February 12, the House passed it and informed the Senate. The bill was signed into law under its new title in February 1857.
The 1857 law differed from Lincoln’s 1853 bill in several ways. First, Rockwell was no longer associated with it. The law instead named Orville N. Adams, James C. Brown, David Evans, James Strain, and their associates as constituting the company, and specified that Adams was empowered to organize it. The law also did not specify the land or lands to be mined other than to note that they were owned by Adams, Brown, Evans, and Strain. Finally, the law awarded the incorporation for a term of 100 years and authorized the company to engage in the transportation of mineral products—including via boat—but made no mention of the construction of any railroad.
Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 2:189-90; The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 25 January 1853,; 29 January 1853,; 1 February 1853,; 3 February 1853,; 4 February 1853,; Illinois Senate Journal. 1853. 18th G. A., 318, 398, 403; Illinois House Journal. 1853. 18th G. A., 588; Illinois Senate Journal. 1857. 20th G. A., 92, 116, 565; Illinois House Journal. 1857. 20th G. A., 202, 248, 747; “An Act to Incorporate the Vermilion Coal Mining Company,” 16 February 1857, Private Laws of Illinois (1857), 999-1000.
4Lincoln wrote this title for the bill. As noted above, the title changed when the bill was signed into law.
5It is unclear who wrote this number.
6It is also unclear who wrote this script in pencil.
7And it is unclear who wrote this script in pencil, shown at the very bottom of the second image.

Handwritten Document, 2 page(s), Lincolniana, Illinois State Archives (Springfield, IL).