The Sangamo Archaeological Center began testing the site of Sangamo Town in the early 1990s. One of the first sites investigated was that of Jacob Carmen’s tavern, where Lincoln boarded in 1831. Carmen had opened one of the first businesses at Sangamo Town, building his tavern at the corner of Mill and Bridge Streets. He was born in New York in 1785, and he and his wife Mahala moved west around 1820. 

In the spring of 1831, Abraham Lincoln and his crew were sent to Sangamo Town to construct a flatboat for Denton Offutt. While building their boat down by the water, a traveling magician visited town and gave a performance in Jacob's tavern. Caleb Carman (one of Jacob’s nephews) remembered the visit and described the event to Lincoln’s biographer William Herndon 35 years later. It seems that Lincoln was in the small audience that had gathered in the tavern when the magician asked for Lincoln's hat, into which he was going to break several eggs. As Caleb remembered, Lincoln declined the invitation - not out of concern for his hat, but for the magician’s eggs.
Our excavations encountered a large, earthen walled cellar once located below the tavern. The site had been heavily impacted by erosion, which appears to have begun shortly after downtown Sangamo was abandoned in the mid-1830s. The cellar was filled with layers of rain-washed silt and thick yellow clay, which had slowly filled the cellar over a period of years. Mixed in with that soil, however, were artifacts associated with the life of the tavern. Not surprisingly, the tavern assemblage included the highest number of fragments of whisky flasks found at Sangamo. The Carmen’s were also using plain creamware plates longer than their neighbors, perhaps as part of serving food to their guests. Also found in the cellar were fragments of eggshell – maybe those that narrowly avoided Lincoln’s hat in 1831. Crossection drawing of the tavern cellar. The yellow zones represent clay washed into the cellar immediately upon its abandonment, and also much later, capping the fill of the old ground surface depression. The darker zones contained period artifacts. JACOB CARMEN’S TAVERN
A detailed overview of the discovery and excavation of the tavern site is include in Mazrim’s 2007 book, The Sangamo Frontier, published by the University of Chicago Press. FrontierBooks.html shapeimage_5_link_0
Redware jug and pictorial whisky flask. A Fragment of a pearlware teacup, decorated in the “University of Maryland” print.