Monday, April 12, 2021

The Reuben Moore Home in Campbell, Illinois, within the Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site.

Moore Home Historical Site, Farmington, Illinois—fully restored the way it would have been in 1861.

John Adams laid out this land in Pleasant Grove Township in 1852 hoping to build a town. Lots were available to anyone who could afford them. First named Farmington after Mrs.Adams’ Tennessee birthplace, this name was not officially recognized as there was already a Farmington in Fulton County. Campbell became the official name after Zeno Campbell moved the nearby post office into town shortly after its organization. The town has since been known by both names, Farmington and Campbell.

An artist conception of Farmington Illinois from an 1869 plat map.

  1. Moore Home - Built in the 1850s by Reuben Moore, Owned by the Inyart family.
  2. W.H. Halbrook - One of the original houses dating to the 1860s.
  3. Presbyterian Church - The location of the second building, built in 1866.
  4. J.J. Adams - An original house dating to the 1850s or 1860s and owned by the town founder.
  5. Dr. G. Halbrook - Probably where this doctor lived and practiced.
  6. Store - May have been run by Halbrook and Reed.
  7. Seminary - Built in 1853, used as a school and church, then later as a store.
  8. Store - Probably owned by Leander Burlingame.
  9. Matilda Moore lived in a log house here by 1869.
  10. Dr. Melson Freeman - Original house owned by the Freemans from 1863 until they moved to Charleston in 1893.
  11. Methodist Church - Location of Church built in 1860, current church dates to 1920s.
Farmington enjoyed its heyday in the 1870s when it had grown to about 100 residents. It boasted four stores, a carriage shop, blacksmith shop, steam flour mill, school, and two churches. The boom days, however, were short-lived. When the railroad passed up Farmington in favor of Jamesville a few miles to the south, local residents moved elsewhere. Today, only a few houses and a church remind passersby of the village.

One of the houses built in the town of Farmington in the 1850s was the house belonging to Reuben Moore. Moore was a well-to-do landowner involved in farming and land speculation. He and his first wife Mary emigrated to Coles County in 1839. In 1840, he traded 80 acres of land to Thomas Lincoln, which today is Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site. After his wife Mary died in 1855, Reuben married Matilda "Tildy" Anne Johnston Hall, Abraham Lincoln’s stepsister.

The Moore Home is a frame house constructed from rough-sawn 2x4 framing, lathe and plaster interior, and clapboard siding. Reuben Moore owned four city lots in Farmington. This included lot numbers 14, 15, 16, and 17, bordered on the east by Main Street, on the west by Washington, and by Jefferson on the north. Many people kept livestock in town so owning several lots was not uncommon. Space was also needed for a kitchen garden and a small orchard. Our concept of space within a town today is much different than that of the 1850s.

The Moore Home prior to 1930s restoration.

On January 31, 1861, president-elect Abraham Lincoln visited the Moore Home and Coles County for the last time before his inauguration as president of the United States. Sarah Lincoln was staying with her daughter Matilda Johnston Hall Moore in Farmington while repairs were being made to the cabin at Goosenest Prairie. Lincoln visited his father’s grave at Shiloh Cemetery while the women of the town “brought their nicest cakes and pies, baked turkeys, and chickens” to the Moore Home. He found upon his return “tables set clear from one end of the house to another,” filled with food for a grand dinner. After dinner, Lincoln bid farewell to his stepmother. She embraced him and said, “My dear boy, I always thought there was something great in you.” He returned to Charleston that night in order to catch the train to Springfield the next day.

Reuben Moore married Matilda Johnston Hall on June 19, 1856. There were six children in the family, three from Reuben’s previous marriage and two from Matilda’s. A sixth child, named Giles, was born to Reuben and Matilda in 1856. The marriage of Reuben and Matilda was not a happy one, for when he died in July of 1859, he had all but disowned her. Matilda sued Moore’s estate for her “dower rights” and won title to the house and one-third of Moore’s estate. Miles Moore, Reuben’s oldest son, inherited most of the remainder of his father’s property.

The smokehouse was used to smoke meats after at-home butchering of a hog. It was common to use hickory wood to flavor the hams, bacon, and such.
The Smokehouse behind the Moore house.

Inside views of the Moore Home show it as a very colorful and beautiful little house. It is quite a contrast to the 1845 log homes on and near Thomas Lincoln's Farm Site.

In an era when log homes with fireplaces dotted the countryside, the Moore Home represented a more urban style of home. It has plaster walls, clapboard siding, wood-burning stoves, and balloon frame construction
The hearth and mantle of the living room are very warm and inviting. Note the stencil designs, not wallpaper, on the walls.

A rope mattress bed with a quilt.

The home consists of four rooms and a loft furnished to show the living conditions of a middle-class family after the Civil War. The State of Illinois acquired the Moore Home in 1929. The Civilian Conservation Corps renovated the home in the 1930s. At that time, the original brick foundation piers were replaced with a concrete foundation and the frame was built with a sag to make the house look “old." 
The Kitchen Stove.
The dining area of the kitchen.

The carpet is made up of woven rug squares. The furniture is like what would be used in the house in 1861.

Beginning in 1996, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency restored the house to its original appearance, complete with a brick foundation, no sagging floor, correctly-sized windows, stenciled walls, and painted exterior.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

The History of the Egyptian Theatre in DeKalb, Illinois.

The Egyptian Theatre has roots back to the age of the pharaohs. This historic structure owes this connection to the discovery of the tomb of King Tut in 1922. That discovery set off a nationwide interest in everything Egyptian. The Egyptian influence reached DeKalb County in 1928 when the DeKalb Theatre Company was trying to settle on a design for a combination motion picture house and vaudeville theatre. Needing a larger facility than its theatre at the corner of First Street and Lincoln Highway, the firm talked with Chicago theatre architect Elmer F. Behrens. Contracts for the new theatre were awarded in 1928, but construction, other than a foundation excavation, did not start until Spring of 1929. Dale Leifheit was president of the DeKalb Theatre Company and served as the building’s first manager when it opened on Dec. 10, 1929. It is believed that the initial construction cost roughly $250,000. The theatre served a population of approximately 8,545 in the city of DeKalb and 32,644 in DeKalb County.

By the 1930s, the theatre was one of over 100 theatres across the country to decorate itself in an Egyptian style. Of all the Egyptian theatres, the DeKalb theatre is one of only 5 remaining and is the only Egyptian Theatre east of the Rocky Mountains. In the original design, additional buildings were supposed to be attached to the existing building, including a hotel on the north side, but they were never built due to the stock market crash in late 1929.

The stock market crash in October 1929 changed some building plans but failed to dampen the opening celebration. The unique broken-tile main lobby floor was a compromise with a dollar shortage; it was originally supposed to be marble.

The theatre opened on December 10, 1929. The first film on the Egyptian’s giant screen was “The Hottentot,” an “all-talking” film about horse racing; general admission was 50 cents for adults and 25 cents for children. The live vaudeville acts generally were reserved for weekends between movie showings. Ownership of the Egyptian changed hands over the years, but for a majority of its commercial life, the building was owned and operated by the Thomas Valos family, who ran a chain of Midwest motion-picture houses.

In the forties and fifties, the Egyptian Theatre concentrated mostly on movies, with an occasional live event. On October 25, 1959, Senator John F. Kennedy made an appearance to a packed house at the Egyptian. A short three months later he would announce his candidacy for president. Throughout the sixties, the Egyptian was a movie house, although some exceptions still did occur.

In the early 70s, the aging theatre continued to show movies and sometimes hosted concerts by popular up-and-coming rock bands such as Journey and Heart. By the mid-seventies, the Egyptian was a ghost of its previous splendor. The plaster walls and interior motifs were crumbling away, the seats were in disrepair, the plumbing rarely worked, the boiler was no longer functioning, and there were holes in the ceiling letting in both rainwater and wild animals. In 1977, the Egyptian Theatre was closed and the property given over to the city of DeKalb.

With the theatre on the verge of being condemned in 1978, a group of citizens banded together to restore and save the Egyptian. The Egyptian was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. In 1982, Preservation of the Egyptian Theatre, Inc. (PET) qualified for a $2.3 million grant from the state of Illinois. This money allowed the restoration of the theatre to begin. Renovations were started in 1982 and finished by the fall of 1983.

When the theatre opened again in 1983, it was host to dozens of events a year. The diversity of events was impressive, with multiple community groups and national groups calling the Egyptian Theatre “home”. The Egyptian season was filled with live events, weddings, receptions, community meetings, and movies. The theatre continues to be home to DeKalb County’s largest movie screen at 35 feet wide and 22 feet tall.

Today, the theatre is utilized by the community for a wide variety of events and also attracts national touring acts. From 2006 – 2012 over $1.5 million was invested in restoration, maintenance, and upgrades to the Egyptian Theatre. In the summer of 2011, the original seats from 1929, which were still in use in the theatre, were sold off to the community and replaced by brand new seats that look nearly identical to the originals. Through the continued support of the community, the Egyptian Theatre is able to not only keep the doors of the theatre open but continue to improve the theatre for all to use and enjoy.

P.E.T.’s vision for the Egyptian Theatre since the beginning has been a community-based one. The success of the Egyptian Theatre has continually been embraced by both the arts community and by the people of DeKalb County. The vision of P.E.T. has grown from just keeping the doors open to opening new doors.

Over the years the Egyptian Theatre has been the stage for performances by Lawrence Welk, BB King, Jay Leno, Ray Charles, Winton Marsalis, Corky Segal, Danny Glover, Ron White, Brian Regan, Lewis Black, REM, Journey, Heart, The Violent Femmes, The Psychedelic Furs, Gaelic Storm and many more.
The Architecture

The architect, Elmer F. Behrns, designed nearly a dozen other art deco theatres across northern Illinois, including the Arcada in Saint Charles. Behrns studied and loved Egyptology and put his knowledge to good use when designing The Egyptian Theatre. Instead of throwing together hieroglyphics, Behrns put together a much more cohesive design than other Egyptian-themed theatres. Mr. Behrns designed this theatre with one central theme, that of Ramses II, also known as Ramses the Great. Ramses was the third Egyptian pharaoh (reigned 1279 BC–1213 BC) of the nineteenth dynasty. He is often regarded as the greatest, most celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire. His successors and later Egyptians called him the “Great Ancestor.”

The Egyptian’s facade is covered with light sage terra cotta and features a 20-foot tall stained glass window bearing the ancient sacred scarab, holding up the sun god Ra while standing on the earth.

On each side of the stained glass window are two huge pharaohs guarding over the entrance of the theatre. The front of the theatre is shaped like the gate of a great temple. The current marquee is the fourth marquee to adorn the theatre and was commissioned in 1982 during the theatre's last large-scale renovation.

Stepping into the quiet small outer lobby is like stepping into the outer chamber of a tomb. With huge sandstone-like blocks for walls, the only adorned piece is the front of the ticket box office, dusky, sienna red with a golden sunburst above the window.

Passing through the glass doors into the main lobby, one finds the original mosaic multicolored tiled floor underfoot. The tiles used in the lobby area called faience tiles or tin-glazed pottery. This type of pottery was found in Egypt as early as 4000 BC. The specific tiles used on the lobby floor in the theatre were gathered from other businesses around DeKalb during construction. Every little piece is a piece of DeKalb's history.

The ceiling towers above the tile floor some 40 feet. Cream-colored plaster walls on either side are decorated with eight towering ecru-colored pillars adorned with cornices of golden lotus blossoms and palm leaves. This stately hall is quietly elegant and is the setting for many private parties and weddings.

Two-thirds the way up the walls between each pillar are huge golden plaster urns, six in all, adorned with lotus buds and palm leaves. Above each urn are outstretched golden falcon wings with the sun entwined with golden serpents. Below each urn is a frosted sconce that matches the frosted milky-colored commissioned chandelier that also bears the lotus blossom pattern. At the end of the main lobby is the original double staircase that cradles the chandelier, leading to the mezzanine and balcony.

Moving into the auditorium from the quiet and stately main lobby finds a royal Egyptian courtyard. Murals adorn the walls of Egyptian landmarks such as Abu Simbel, The Pyramids of Giza and the Temple of Ramses II. Overhead tiny star-like lights twinkle against the sky blue ceiling. Truly, this theatre is one of the more incredible examples of the Egyptian style.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

President Lincoln’s Office: Favors & Requests

President (13 months) Abraham Lincoln, photographed in Washington D.C. by Mathew Brady, April 6, 1861.

Jobs and promotions were a frequent topic of conversation. A difficult early case was presented in March 1861 by fiery Kentucky politician Cassius M. Clay, who later recalled how protested his appointment as American Minister to Spain and ended up Minister to Russia: “I at once went on to Washington and told President Lincoln that I would not go to an old effete (degenerate) government like Spain. He seemed very reticent (restrained) but he asked me what office I would have. I said, since the Cabinet was full, I would go to England or France as Minister. He said Seward had promised those posts to Charles Francis Adams and William L. Dayton. ‘Then,’ said I, taking, my hat, ‘I will go home.’ Lincoln them said: ‘Clay, don’t go home; I will consider the matter.'” Clay later talked to Senator Edward Baker, who asked if he would accept the Russian post. Clay told Baker his political services were being maligned and rejected the offer, but Baker persisted: “You have made great sacrifices, but does not patriotism require still more? Lincoln thinks your return home would seriously injure the party and the country: and so do I.” When Clay reluctantly agreed, Baker insisted they immediately visit Lincoln in his office.

“He was alone and evidently awaiting us. He was quite sad and thoughtful. With his head bent down in silence, he awaited Baker’s report, who, without sitting down, said, Lincoln, our friend Clay will accept the Russian mission.’ Lincoln then rose up, and advancing rapidly toward me, firmly took my hand and said: ‘Clay, you have relieved me from great embarrassment,'” Clay wrote. The President’s unaffected manner quickly disarmed most visitors. One member of an 1863 Kentucky delegation reported: “Lincoln shook us cordially by the hand and received us in so natural and unostentatious (attempt to impress others) manner, and with that kind of unaffected and plain manner, and native urbanity, as to dispel all embarrassment, and cause us to feel entirely easy.” 

William O. Stoddard (1835-1925)
Presidential assistant Secretary William O. Stoddard [1] wrote that “it is no fault of Abraham Lincoln that [office-seekers] did not kill him, for he listened to them with a degree of patience and good temper truly astonishing. At times, however, even his equanimity (mental or emotional stability or composure, especially under tension or strain) gave way, and more than one public man finally lost the President’s goodwill by his pertinacity (the quality of being persistence) in demanding provision for his personal satellites.” Stoddard noted that Lincoln saw patronage, though important, often boomeranged on the giver. He told Stoddard that successful patronage patrons in Congress were digging their political graves: “You see, every man thinks he deserves a better office than the one he gets and hates his ‘big man’ for not securing it, while for every man appointed there are five envious men unappointed, who never forgive him for their want of luck. So there are half a dozen enemies for each success.” 

John M. Hay (1838–1905)
Aide John Hay [2], a private secretary, and assistant to Abraham Lincoln wrote about office seekers: “There were few who had not a story worth listening to if there were time and opportunity. But the numbers were so great, the competition was so keen that they ceased for the moment to be regarded as individuals, drowned as they were in the general sea of solicitation. 

Few of them received office; when, after weeks of waiting one of them got access to the President, he was received with kindness by a tall, melancholy-looking man sitting at a desk with his back to a window which opened upon a fair view of the Potomac, who heard his story with gentle patience, took his papers and referred them to one of the departments, and that was all; the fatal pigeonholes devoured them. As time wore on and the offices were filled, the throng of eager aspirants diminished and faded away.”

“Hard to refuse were the appeals that came from widowed mothers, pleading that they depended on a son in the army for their livelihood,” wrote historian William C. Davis. "‘Discharge this boy,’ or ‘Let this woman have her boy,’ Lincoln wrote time after time on such appeals, frequently overruling the Secretary of War, Edwin McMasters Stanton. Harder still to resist were the pleas that came from women whose husbands had been killed in the war, and who may have lost one or two sons as well, now begging for their last one to be sent home to them. ‘Let it be done,’ the president would order." Indeed, by 1863, something of a myth had already grown up about widowed mothers’ requests and how the president responded to them; in the later years of the war, it is quite probable that some of the widows’ pleas were from women whose husbands were very much alive.

Stoddard, wrote that Lincoln’s “manner with the softer sex was kind and courteous, and he had a great deal of that chivalrous deference for women which is the invariable characteristic of a strong and manly nature, but here his disposition to yield special privileges terminated. In his eyes, a lady who called upon him in the prosecution of business, public or private was simply 'a lady in business,' and she was little if anything more. Indeed, it seemed an unpleasant and irksome thing to him to have a lady present a petition for any favor when the same duty could as well have been performed by a man; and if there was anything contrary to propriety or policy in the matter presented, or if the petitioner presumed upon her feminine prerogative to press too far upon his good-nature, she was very likely to receive an answer in which there was far more of truth and justice than flattery.”

Writing of women who sought reprieves for sons or husbands sentenced to death for falling asleep on sentry, Stoddard wrote that Lincoln was invariably solicitous and merciful: “I do not think that these petitioners gained their cases much quicker simply because they were women, but they had less trouble in securing an audience, and Lincoln was always glad enough to find a good reason for exercising the pardoning power. The only men whom he seemed to have very little sympathy for were the spies, and such deserters from our ranks as were afterward taken with arms in their hands fighting their old comrades. Such men got their hanging, or whatever it was, with very little interference on the part of the President, as a general thing.” On the other hand, wrote Stoddard, the President was particularly solicitous to those women who worked as nurses to wounded soldiers: “To such women, Lincoln’s whole heart opened at once, come when and why they would.”

Industrialist Andrew Carnegie often told a story related to him by Congressman Daniel J. Morrell of Pennsylvania. It concerned a young constituent who left the army in winter encampment to return home to supported his widowed mother, intending to return to the army in the spring. The soldier was arrested and sentenced to be shot. His mother asked Congressman Morrell to take her to the White House to beg for her son’s life. Morell did so, leaving the woman in the reception room while he went to President Lincoln’s office and explained the situation. “Now, Dan, that is not kind of you. You know I ought not to see her, but the son did give all his earnings to his mother, and he was a good boy?” asked Lincoln. “Yes, President, I am sure he did and that he is a good boy and ought not to be shot,” Morrell replied. The woman was duly brought into the President’s office and told her her story. After observing that the young man went home to 'save his mother,' Lincoln said to her, “I do not think it would do him any good to shoot him, do you?” He then wrote out a note instructing the soldier to be sent to his regiment at the front and instructed Congressman Morrell not to tell Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton of his action.

According to historian Davis, “Every day that he held open office hours, the line of callers and petitioners coursed through the hallways of the White House, sometimes down to the front door itself, and in every line, there were soldiers, officers and enlisted men alike. Though neither he nor his secretaries ever had the time or inclination to prepare a tally, it is certain that Lincoln must have given brief private interviews to at least two thousand soldiers during the war, and probably substantially more.” The President insisted that common soldiers be treated with the same courtesy as their superiors. But he himself sometimes turned their pleas into humor, noted Davis. “When a soldier who had lost a limb in the war called to ask for a job in the capital, Lincoln asked to see his discharge papers and, told there were none, teased the fellow: ‘What, no papers, no credentials, nothing to show how you lost your leg? How am I to know that you lost it in battle, or did not lose it by a trap after getting into somebody’s orchard?'”

A young woman from Pennsylvania married her soldier boyfriend while he was a patient at a Washington army hospital and then decided to seek a furlough for him from Lincoln. A friend related the story of Mrs. Anna McGee:

“We waited just a few moments when we entered the hallway, for we were told that Lincoln was busy. As I remember there were not a great many people waiting there to see him. Possibly the heat of the day had kept them away. I did not speculate upon that at the time, nor did my friend. Now that we had made the long drive and actually gotten near our goal, Mrs. McGee’s nervousness had increased, and she was a little overawed by her own audacity. The attendant soon told us that the President was disengaged and would see us now.

He showed us into the office where Lincoln was seated behind his desk. Rising as we came in at the door, the President came forward to shake hands with us. I had, of course, seen him before, for I had lived in Washington during most of the time he had been in the White House. But my friend had never, and I think his height overawed her—that and the fact he was President. He was so very plain, though you could approach him without any difficulty whatever. His face was dark and serious as he invited us to be seated, returned to his desk, then asked what he could do for us.

Mrs. McGee was very nervous when she began her story of running away from school to see her John. But she saw that little twinkle that came into the President’s eye, she quickened her story, telling finally of the marriage and of the furlough from active campaigning which she desired for her husband."

I saw the twinkle in the President’s eyes deepening, and when she got to the story of how she and John were afraid of being separated if it was found out that they were not brother and sister and had, therefore, determined to marry, Lincoln laughed out loud.

He started to tease her, asking her if she thought it a nice thing to run away from people who were caring for her and pretending to scold her for doing it. His attitude was so like that of any fatherly man that she was entirely at her ease and answered him quite pertly. And he, still smiling, said he supposed it was no more than could be expected of young people.

Asking her husband’s full name and the number of his regiment, he wrote them down upon a piece of paper on his desk and said he would see what could be done about the desired furlough.

He asked if we would call again upon a certain day about a week later, and this, of course, we gladly agreed to do. He was a man of few words, not at all lavish in his talk but he smiled as he bade us good-day, and rose and walked with us to the door of the office. The heavy, serious look seemed to have lifted from his face, and he had proved to us that he could laugh and make a joke as well as the next.

When the two women returned to pick up the furlough, Lincoln told Mrs. McGee: “I am very glad that it was in my power to make you happy." Doorkeeper Thomas Pendel told the story of another female supplicant:

"She was well advanced in years and was accompanied by her little daughter. She took a seat and waited for the President until he had finished with the other visitors. She then came forward with her daughter. She was tidy and neat in her person, and very modest in manner. She said, ‘President, my husband is down sick at the hospital in Fredericksburg, and I would like to have him discharged, for years have my husband and two sons, all three, in the army, and I need the help of one of them, either one of my sons or my husband’. The President said, ‘You make an affidavit to that effect and bring it back to me.’ In the course of a day or so she returned again, and the president so arranged it that she could go down and take the order for the husband’s or son’s discharge. She had been gone probably three weeks when one day she returned to the White House. When she came to speak to the President her voice was full of sorrow, and she was nearly crying as she said, ‘Mr. President, when I got down there he was dead. Now yers have two sons yet. I want to see if yer won’t discharge one to help me get along, and yers can have the other one’. Then the President said to her as he had done before: ‘You make an affidavit to that effect and bring it to me. She did so and returned with the affidavit to the President. After he had arranged it so that she was to get one of her sons back, she stepped up to him and said, ‘Mr. President, may God bless you, and may you live many long years. After she had left the room and there was nobody in the office with the President but me, he said to me, looking up into my face, ‘I believe that old woman is honest ”

Wisdom was not a prerequisite to seeking the President’s help. William Stoddard related another story of a woman from Michigan who needed to raise cash to pay her mortgage so she journeyed with her four children to Washington to solicit the President’s help. Lincoln was annoyed but not unmoved. “He did not say much, only muttering ‘children and fools, you know,’ but put his name on a subscription paper for a moderate sum. The subscription so started rapidly swelled to the desired amount, and the poor woman was ticketed homeward over the Government routes, puzzled and yet satisfied. She had spent more money, going and coming, than the whole of her debt twice over.” 

Among those hapless souls who sought the President’s assistance were those who sought to minister to the souls of soldiers: “While many worthy and truly pious men were anxious to serve in that capacity, such men did not always seem able to secure the necessary political endorsement and support, while an endless train of broken down ‘reverends,’ long since out of the ministry for incompetency or other cause, men who could not induce any respectable church to place itself under their charge, crowded forward, clamorous to be entrusted with the spiritual interests of the grandest of all congregations—men going out to die,” observed Stoddard. They so discouraged President Lincoln that he said “I do believe that our army chaplains, take them as a class, are the very worst men we have in the service.” One day, a clergyman came to the White House to complain to the President about the number of battles that were being fought on Sunday. “I think you had better consult with the Confederate commanders a little,” responded Lincoln. 

Other supplicants had even less luck. Maunsell B. Field, an assistant secretary of the Treasury, told about a Treasury Department clerk who decided to go to the President directly with a request for a clerkship for his brother. He was very much angered by the way that Lincoln handled the interview.

Lincoln received him kindly and listened to his request. ‘Why don’t you go directly to the Secretaries?’ he asked. ‘I have been to them all, and failed with all,’ was the answer. ‘Hasn’t your brother sufficiently recovered his health to enable him to return to the Army?’ inquired the President. ‘No sir, he has not,’ was the reply. ‘Let me see,’ continued Lincoln, ‘I believe that you yourself are a clerk in one of the Departments—which one is it? ‘The Treasury Department, sir.’ ‘I thought so. Has your brother as good clerical capacity as you possess?’ ‘Yes, sir.’ ‘I think that I have somewhere met your father. Doesn’t he hold an office in Washington?’ ‘Yes, sir; he is chief of the _______ bureau in the War Department.’ ‘Oh, yes; I now recollect him perfectly well. Has your brother good references as to character?’ ‘Yes, sir; the very best.’ ‘Is there any other of your family hold office the Government?’ ‘Yes, sir; I have a younger brother in the Interior Department.’ ‘Well, then, all I have to say to you, Mr. ________, is that there are too many hogs and too little fodder.’ 

On February 6, 1864, Orville H. Browning, a longtime friend of Lincoln, came in search of a favor—as he often did and often received. This time, he was distinctly unsuccessful, as he related in his diary that night:

“At night went to see the President on behalf of Mrs. Fitz, a loyal widow of Mississippi owning a cotton plantation there, and from whom the U.S. Army had taken all her slaves amounting to 47, and 10,000 bushels of corn—She is now a refugee in St Louis, reduced to indigence. She asks no compensation for her slaves, but wishes the government to give her a sufficient number of negroes out of those accumulated upon its hands to work her farm the ensuing season, and enable her to raise a crop of cotton, she to pay them out of the proceeds the same wages which the government pays those it employs. I made the proposition to the President thinking it was reasonable and just, and worthy at least of being considered. He became very much excited, and did not discuss the proposition at all, but said with great vehemence he had rather take a rope and hang himself than to do it. That there were a great many poor women who had never had any property at all who were suffering as much as Mrs. Fitz—that her condition was a necessary consequence of the rebellion, and that the government could not make good the losses occasioned by rebels. I reminded him that she was loyal and that her property had been taken from her by her own government, and was now being used by it, and I thought it a case eminently proper for some sort of remuneration, and her demand reasonable, and certainly entitled to respectful consideration. He replied that she had lost no property—that her slaves were free when they were taken, and that she was entitled to no compensation."

I called his attention to the fact that a portion of her slaves, at least, had been taken in 1862, before his proclamation, and put upon our gunboats, when he replied in a very excited manner that he had rather throw, than to do what was asked and would not do anything about it. I left him in no very good humor.

Presidential aide Stoddard observed: “The prevailing rage was for ‘cotton permits,’ and I believe the President is responsible for a few of those queer affairs, given before the business of collecting cotton was reduced to a system, and the ‘cotton-thieves,’ as they were not inaptly called, became salaried officers of Government. Her afterward expressed his regret that he had ever meddled with it, at the same time that he admitted the force of the arguments on the cotton side of the question.”

“President Lincoln, when a Congressman came to bore him for an appointment or with a grievance, had a pleasant way of telling a succession of stories, which left his visitor no chance to state,” wrote journalist Ben Perley Poore. “Storytelling was often with Lincoln a defensive weapon, which he employed with great skill. Frequently, when he was unwilling to grant a request, he would tell a story,” noted Maunsell Field. He recalled how President Lincoln once received “a call from a delegation of bank Presidents, at one of the gloomiest periods of the war, when depression and even discouragement prevailed in many places. One of the financial gentlemen asked the President if his confidence in the future was not beginning to be shaken. ‘Not in the least,’ Lincoln answered. ‘When I was a young man in Illinois,’ he continued, ‘I boarded for a time with a deacon of the Presbyterian Church. One night I was aroused from my sleep by a rap at my door, and I heard the deacon’s voice exclaiming ‘Arise, Abraham, the day of judgment has come!’ I sprang from my bed and rushed to the window, and there I saw the stars falling in a shower. But I looked beyond those falling stars, and far back in the heavens I saw—fixed, apparently, and immovable—the grand old constellations with which I was so well acquainted. No, gentlemen; the world did not come to an end then, nor will the Union now!'” Still, noted one Washington newspaper in June 1863, “It is one of the tribulations which must greatly add to the fatigues of office at this juncture, that our amiable President has to give so much of his time and attention to persons who apparently having no business of their own, expend a large degree of their surplus energy in benevolently minding the business of the President.” 

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

[1] William O. Stoddard (1835 – 1925) was assistant secretary to Abraham Lincoln during his first term. He first served as a clerk in the Interior Department. On July 15, 1861, he was appointed Secretary to the President to sign land patents. He personally made the first draft copy of the Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862. After two bouts of typhoid fever (a bacterial disease spread through contaminated food and water or close contact), Stoddard left his White House post in July 1864.

[2] John Milton Hay (1838–1905) When Lincoln was sworn in on March 4, 1862, John Hay and John Nicolay (signing Nicolay's appointment was President Lincoln’s first official act after inauguration) moved into the White House, sharing a shabby bedroom. As there was only authority for payment of one presidential secretary (Nicolay), Hay was appointed to a post in the Interior Department at $1,600 per year ($42,100 today) to the White House. They were available to Lincoln 24 hours a day. As Lincoln took no vacations as president and worked seven days a week, often until 11 pm (or later, during crucial battles) the burden on his secretaries was heavy.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Mary Todd Lincoln Injured in an 1863 Carriage Accident.

On July 2, 1863, while Mary was traveling on Rock Creek Road from the Soldiers' Home back to the White House, the driver's seat became detached, and he was thrown to the ground. Mary jumped from the carriage when she realized that the horses were running off.
Abraham Lincoln's Barouche Carriage (1861-1865)

The accident occurred near Mount Pleasant Army Hospital where the road bent into Fourteenth Street. A little past that was Carver Army Hospital — just about where Mary hit the ground. Help rushed to her immediately. She was personally cared for by a Dr. Judson C. Nelson, a surgeon with the Seventy-Sixth Regiment of New York Volunteers, who was on temporary assignment to the U.S. General Hospital Department in Washington. The name of this doctor was discovered because a newspaper reporter of the day erroneously printed his first and last name.

Mrs. Lincoln suffered bruises and a severe cut to the back of her head. She was treated at Carver Army Hospital. Dr. Nelson then drove her back to the White House. All this was going on while the President was monitoring the Battle of Gettysburg. Mary's wound became infected and had to be lanced on July 9 to release the large amount of pus that had built up. By July 20, the First Lady was sufficiently healed to desert Washington and head for the White Mountains of New Hampshire. 

Years later, son Robert would say that she was never the same after she hit her head in the carriage accident.

Here are some other thoughts about Mary Lincoln's carriage accident. 

From what I gathered, the Lincolns had continued "issues" with the stable personnel. These issues involved behaviors such as excess drinking, tardiness, and not carrying out requests. It is told that Lincoln once asked one of the coachmen to get the morning paper. Although the coachman told Lincoln he'd do it, he didn't because he didn't think it was 'his job to run errands.' Lincoln was not pleased. 

Coachman Patterson McGee was fired by Mary Lincoln on February 10, 1864. That night there was a suspicious fire in the White House stables that tragically killed several horses and ponies, one pony was Willie's pony (William Wallace Lincoln at 11 years of age, died on February 20, 1862). McGee was arrested but released because of a lack of evidence. It seems likely there were ongoing issues between the stable personnel and Mary.

So who loosened the bolts on the driver's seat? Why was it done? Could have it some sort of assassination attempt? There may be other possibilities. Perhaps the coachmen themselves had an argument, and one secretly tried to give another a "surprise jolt." Perhaps the anger was actually directed at Mary, and this was a purposeful attempt to hurt her.

The accident remains suspicious. But the possibilities and speculation it was an assassination attempt seem plausible.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Lincoln in Despair—A Time When He Was Tempted To Commit Suicide.

An Instance When he Was More Serious Than the Case Warranted
Story Told by Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton.

President Lincoln during the war was very sensitive of the criticisms on his administration by the newspaper press, believing it to be, as he asserted, the true voice of the people. The failures of McDowell, McClellan, Burnside, and Poe with the Army of the Potomac and the criticisms made thereon by the newspapers almost crazed him. Time and again he would free himself from the Executive Mansion and seek my little office, the only place in Washington, he often said, where he could be absolutely free from interruption. When he became closeted with me on these visits Mr. Lincoln would unbosom himself and talk of his cares and woes. Several times he insisted that he ought to resign, and thus give the country an opportunity to secure someone better fitted to accomplish the great task expected of the President. Or, if he did not resign, he thought he ought to impress upon Congress the propriety of giving the absolute control of the army to some purely military man. It was during one of these moods that he conceived the idea of placing Joseph Hooker in command of the Army of the Potomac, and of vesting him with such power that, in his opinion, he could not fail of success.
Brigadier General Joseph "Fighting Joe" Hooker of The Army of the Potomac. It was the principal Union Army in the Eastern Theater of the Civil War. It was created in July 1861 shortly after the First Battle of Bull Run and was disbanded in June 1865 following the surrender of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in April.

He had a great idea of Hooker's ability as a soldier, and in addition, he believed him to be an honest man and a sincere patriot. He wanted him to fight what he intended should be and what he felt would be, the closing battle of the war. Accordingly, when Hooker got underway, and the news came that at Chancellorsville he would make his fight, Mr. Lincoln was in the greatest state of mental excitement. From the time that Hooker's army began its march until the smoke of battle had cleared from the fatal field of Chancellorsville, he scarcely knew what it was to sleep.

It will be remembered that the fight lasted three days. During the first two days it looked as if Hooker was about to accomplish what so many generals before him had failed to do; but, early on the third day, the usual half-hour dispatches began to make matters look dark and ominous of defeat. The whole day Mr. Lincoln was miserable. He ate nothing and would see no one but me. As it grew dark the dispatches ceased coming at all. 
White House, 1865

Mr. Lincoln would walk from the White House to my apartment and anxiously inquire for news from Hooker. With the going down of the sun a cold and drenching rain set in, which lasted through the night. At about 7 o'clock Mr. Lincoln ceased his visits to my apartment and gave orders at the Executive Mansion that he, would see no one before morning. An hour afterward a dispatch of indefinite character was received from Hooker, and I hurried with it to Mr. Lincoln's apartments. When I entered I found him walking the floor, and his agonized appearance so terrified me that it was with difficulty that I could speak. Mr. Lincoln approached me like a man wild with excitement, seized the dispatch from my hand, read it, and, his face slightly brightening, remarked: "Stanton, there is hope yet!" At my solicitation, Mr. Lincoln accompanied me to the War Department, where he agreed to spend the night, or until something definite was heard from Hooker. For five hours, the longest and most wearisome of my life, I waited before a dispatch announcing the retreat of Hooker was received. When Mr. Lincoln read it he threw up his hands and exclaimed, "My God, Stanton, our cause is lost! We are ruined—we are ruined; and such a fearful loss of life! My God! this is more than I can endure!" He stood, trembling visibly, his face of a ghastly hue, the perspiration standing out in big spots on his brow. He put on his hat and coat and began to pace the floor. For five or ten minutes he was silent and then, turning to me, he said: "If I am not around early tomorrow, do not send for me, nor allow anyone to disturb me. Defeated again, and so many of our noble countrymen killed! What will the people say?"

As he finished he started for the door. I was alarmed. There was something indescribable about the President's face and manner that made me feel that my chief should not be left alone. How to approach him without creating suspicion was the thought of a second. Going up to him and laying my hand on his shoulder I said: "Mr. President, I, too, am feeling that I would rather be dead than alive; but is it manly—It is brave—that we should be the first to succumb? I have an idea: "You remain here with me tonight. Lie down on yonder lounge, and by the time you have had a few hours' sleep, I will have a vessel at the wharf, and we will go to the front and see for ourselves the condition of the army."

The idea of visiting the army in person acted like a tonic. Mr. Lincoln immediately adopted the suggestion. The next morning we left Washington on a gunboat for Hooker's command. On our return trip Mr, Lincoln told me that when he started to leave the War Department on that evening he had fully made up his mind to go immediately to the Potomac River and there end his life, as many a poor creature—but none half so miserable as he was at that time. 

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Friday, April 2, 2021

The Precise Location of Lincoln's Birthplace Farm.

When Abraham Lincoln prepared a brief sketch for the artist, Thomas Hicks on June 14, 1860, he wrote in referring to his birthplace, "I know no means of identifying the precise locality." It was not until the editor of Lincoln Lore made his documentary researches in Hardin County, Kentucky that the "precise locality" of the Lincoln farm was established by duly authorized court records.
The Lincoln's log cabin in Kentucky where Abraham was born. Illustrative purposes only.

When Richard J. Collier purchased what was known as the birthplace farm in 1905, he had no assurance but tradition and folklore that the land he acquired was once in possession of Thomas Lincoln, father of the 16th President. One newspaper account of the Collier purchase stated that "Since the birth of Lincoln on February 12, 1809, the farm has changed hands only twice. 

Thomas Lincoln sold the land to Richard Creal about the time the family moved to Indiana in 1816." Richard Creal did not acquire the part of the Lincoln farm where the cabin stood until August 26, 1867, fifty years after the Lincolns left Kentucky. By that time the cabin tract had changed hands eleven times. Creal added this tract to a hundred-acre survey he had previously acquired and after some changes in the boundary sold 110½ acres to A. W. Dennett in 1894, specifying in the deed that it was the farm on which Abraham Lincoln was born.

When the United States came in possession of the traditional birthplace farm in 1916, there was no abstract title available which proved that the farm was once in possession of Thomas Lincoln. In fact, there were those primarily interested in the project who claimed that Lincoln lived on a squatter's domain so the boundaries of any specific piece of ground surrounding the cabin were of no importance. 

But Abraham Lincoln was not born on a squatter's domain. Thomas Lincoln paid $200, "cash in hand" in December 1808 for a 300-acre tract on which the birthplace cabin stood. The document showing Thomas Lincoln's ownership of the land is in the Hardin County Circuit Court records, a copy of which follows with the endorsements of David Vance and Isaac Bush:

"Articles of agreement made this First Day of May 1805 between Richard Mather of the County of Hardin, and the State of Kentucky and David Vance of the County and State aforesaid witnesseth that I have sold to the said David Vance a certain parcel or tract of land on the waters of the South Fork of Nolin containing 300 acres beginning near or at a spring called the Sinking Spring, to be twice as long as wide and including as much of a grove called the Little Turkey Grove, as will fall within the boundary as aforesaid and I do obligate myself to make a deed with a general warranty to the said David Vance when the said David Vance has made full payment to Richard Mather or his order for the aforesaid land, in witness whereof we have inter-changeably set our hands the day and year above written. Signed Richard Mather. Witnesses: John Gum, Shepherd Gum."

Endorsement. No. 1. "For value received I assign the within the agreement to Isaac Bush, given under my hand and seal this 2nd Day of November 1805. Signed David Vance. Witnesses: Ben Helm, John Miller."

Endorsement. No. 2. "For Value received I assign the within the article to Thomas Lincoln. Witness my hand and seal the 12th Day of December 1808. Signed: Isaac Bush; witness, Sam Haycraft."

It was not long after Thomas Lincoln acquired the land that it was in litigation over payments Vance had failed to make to Mather. The court decreed Thomas Lincoln should receive from William Bush the $200.00 he had paid for the land, and he moved from the premises in 1811. This tract of land, originally in possession of Thomas Lincoln, was surveyed by order of the court in 1837 and was found to contain 348½ acres instead of the designated 300 acres. 

The boundaries follow: 

"Beginning at a large white oak (1) 13 poles (214.5 feet) above the sinking spring, running thence North 9½ degrees West 155 poles (2,557.5 feet) to a stake (2) in John Taylor's field, thence South 89½ degrees East 155 poles (2,557.5 feet) to a forked blackjack oak (a small red oak tree) (3), thence South 9½ degrees East 310 poles ( 5,115 feet) to a blackjack oak (4), thence North 89½ degrees West 155 poles (2,557.5 feet) to the beginning." (Poles or rods: multiply the length value by 16.5 to get feet.)
The above survey was divided into several smaller tracts including one of nine acres surrounding the Lincoln cabin, which at the time designated has been in possession of the following property holders since it was first patented as part of a 30,000-acre survey:

William Geenough, February 20, 1786; 
John Dewhurst, June 15, 1786; 
William Weymouth, October 15, 1791; 
Joseph James, June 11, 1798; 
Richard Mather, December 23, 1802; 
David Vance, May 1, 1805; 
Isaac Bush, November 2, 1805; 
Thomas Lincoln, December 12, 1808
Commander Benjamin Wright, September 12, 1816; 
Gabriel Kirkpatrick, December 19, 1816; 
John Welsh and William Duckworth, December 19, 1816; 
George Burkhart, July 16, 1822; 
Henry Thomas, January 28, 1824; 
John Gash, October 14, 1830; 
Henry Brothers, April 7, 1835; 
Charles F. Huss, March 25, 1840; 
William Huss and William J. Thomas, February 15, 1845; 
Henry D. Horn, September 27, 1852; 
R. P. Hankla, December 14, 1853; 
Richard Creal, August 26, 1867; 
Alfred W. Dennett, November 23, 1894; 
Commander L. B. Hanley, May 1905; 
R. J. Collier, August 28, 1905; 
Lincoln Farm Ass'n., November 9, 1907; 
United States of America, April 11, 1916.

The titles to the other tracts cut out of the original Thomas Lincoln 348½ acre survey have been traced through the court records so that it is now, documented proof for the "precise location" of the Lincoln Birthplace Farm.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

43 Story Plunge! 3 Killed Inside Marina City Tower Core Construction Site.

Three workmen plunged 43 floors (of the final 64-floors when completed) on September 15, 1961, in the fall of a scaffold-elevator inside the core for the east tower (completed before tower 2) at the new Marina City (aka Marina Towers) apartment project (converted to condominiums in 1977).
Marina City's East Tower core (foreground) where three men fell to their deaths.

The victims, all carpenters, were going up the core shaft with forms for concrete when the scaffold slipped off a hoisting cable hook from which it was suspended. A workman 5-feet above them was the only person who saw the scaffold fall.

The dead were identified as James R. Toner, 24, of 10605 Throop street; Wallace E. Kumpula, 42, of 3231 N. Racine avenue; and Homer Fields, 33, of 8911 Normandy Avenue, Oak Lawn.

They were the first fatalities in the construction of the twin 64-story apartment towers on the north bank of the Chicago River between State and Dearborn streets. The towers are destined to become the first large circular apartment buildings and the world's tallest (at 588-feet each) reinforced concrete structures.

"We were raising forms inside the core and I was about 5-feet above them," said Mike Einsele, 26, of 7206 S. Western avenue. "They were standing on the scaffolding, and I guess a cable slipped. I heard a loud noise and I turned around to look. The bodies bounced crazily, hitting one obstruction after another until they hit bottom. I heard the thuds when they hit and I got sick. I got out of there then."

A carpenter foreman standing on a ladder above the scaffold had a narrow escape. The ladder, which was supported by cables at the 46th floor and extended below the 43rd-floor level, was jerked from under him when hit by the falling platform.

"I grabbed a beam right there and hung on," said Ed Schreck, 32, of 3024 Jonquin lane, Downers Grove. "I thought I was a goner, for sure, but I wasn't going to let go. An ironworker on a deck at that level worked his way over and got hold of by back and dragged me up to the deck."

Will Bridges, 42, of 6039 Vernon Avenue, said he was 10 stories below the scaffold level and had stepped out of the line of the scaffold's fall to get a drink of water. "Everyone inside the core heard them fall," Bridges said. 

Lee Bronson, superintendent for the McHugh Construction Company, general contractor, directed workmen who dug into debris at the bottom of the core to recover the bodies. All were taken to Henrotin Hospital, where they were pronounced dead.

James McHugh, an officer of the company, said the hook holding the scaffold sling had apparently moved or tilted in such a way that the sling slipped off the hook. He said the heavy wooden forms being taken up on the elevator may have jammed along the wall on the way up, causing tension on the hook and possibly bending it enough to permit the cable to slip off.

"One of the workers heard a carpenter on the scaffold say, just before the fall, 'It jammed a bit'," McHugh said. He described it as a freak accident that did not involve any structural failure or failure of safety devices.

All workmen were called out of the core and work was halted for the day after the tragedy. One workman on the project, unable to find his brother who also worked there, rushed to the hospital and identified one of the dead men as his missing brother. A few minutes later, the brother was found safe at the building site.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.