History

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The Peoria County Bar Association has a long history of Bench and Bar activity and the roots of this Association reach deeply into Indian, French and English History. The Peoria Circuit Court held its first session on November 14, 1825. The Bar of Peoria County operated without formal organization from 1832 until 1879. The first meeting was November 18, 1879, when a constitution and by-laws were adopted with 20 attorneys present. Membership dues were $1.00 per year. The statement of purpose set forth in this constitution of 1879 was: "The Association is formed to promote reform in the law, to facilitate the administration of justice, to elevate the standard of integrity, honor and courtesy in the legal profession, to encourage a thorough legal education and to cherish a spirit of brotherhood among the members thereof." The original minute book containing the handwritten constitution of the Peoria Bar Association with the written signatures of the subscribers is now in possession of the Peoria County Bar Association at its offices at 110 SW Jefferson Avenue, Suite 520, Peoria, Illinois, and pictures of the five courthouses are on display. Since 1906, The Peoria County Bar Association has regularly honored the birth of Abraham Lincoln, feeling that the paths of both had for a time been closely related. Most historians of the highest order now recognize the importance of the speech made by Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln-Douglas debate at the Peoria County Courthouse on October 16, 1854. "It was the starting point of the race which won for Abraham Lincoln the Presidency of the United States, brought on the War of the Rebellion, led to the death of one-half million men and twice that number disabled by disease and wounds, made free men and women of four million slaves and desolated almost every home in the land." The annual celebration of the Abraham Lincoln-Peoria connection has long been a cherished tradition of the Association and many outstanding speakers have appeared at these annual dinners. The work of the Association is carried on under the supervision of a Board of Directors, which consists of four elected officers, 16 committee chairs and four at-large directors. In November 1979, the present Association of more than 500 members celebrated its centennial. From the beginning, over a hundred years ago, the momentum of the Association has been forward and upward.

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