History of the Oglesby Mansion
The Oglesby Legacy
Historically, Richard J. Oglesby is recognized as Decatur's most distinguished citizen. He served his country well as a U.S. Senator, a Civil War Union General, and a three- time Governor of Illinois.
In 1859 Richard Oglesby married Anna White. They lived in a 7 room, two story frame house in the 400 block West William. They had four children but two died at very early ages. Anna died in 1868 and in 1873 Richard married Emma Gilette Keays, a widow with one son. Richard and Emma had four--the two youngest were born in the Mansion--and these four are pictured at right, some years after they left the house.
History of a Mansion
By 1868-69, Governer Oglesby contacted a Chicago architect, William LeBaron Jenney (father of the skyscraper) to provide plans for a new house. After Anna's death and his return to civilian life in Decatur, the plans were put aside. The governor and his second wife, Emma, brought them back out after their marriage, modified them, and hired D.C. Shockley, a Decatur contractor, as the builder. The new house was attached to the east side of the old house and the old one was used for a kitchen and servants' quarters.
If These Walls Could Talk
The Oglesbys called the mansion "home" until 1882 when they moved to Lincoln, then to Elkhart where they built a much larger house on Elkhart Hill called Oglehurst. The house was sold to James E. Bering in 1882. The Berings and their descendents lived in the house for nearly a century until 1972. One of Mr. Bering's hobbies was photography and he left many glass slides, some which show the mansion's interior. We have been told most of the house was not changed by the first Berings, so these pictures have been followed for the restoration process.
In 1972 the mansion was purchased by the Macon County Conservation District with a state grant. Restoration began in 1976. The care and operation of the house is under the direction of the Governor Oglesby Mansion, Inc.