The purpose of this sketch is to describe the visit made by Abraham Lincoln to Evanston in 1860, including such particulars as appear to be worthy of a permanent record. This visit, brief as it was, formed one of the most cherished episodes of our history.
Abraham Lincoln was Nominated for President on May 18, 1860 at the Republican National Convention May 16–18 in Chicago, Illinois.
Many of the particulars have been obtained from those who were living in Evanston at the time and who was present at the informal reception given to Mr. Lincoln on the evening of his one night's stay in our town. Some of these recollections have already appeared in print at different times, but with additions derived from recent interviews and correspondence with those who were participants in the events referred to, are here brought together and formed into a connected account.
In order to provide a proper perspective and background to the incidents related in this account, it seems desirable to describe the state of the country briefly at the period in which they occurred and of Mr. Lincoln's connection with the events of that time as well as some account of Evanston as it was in the year mentioned.
Stirring Events of the Time
During the early months of 1860, the Republican party, which some three years before had suffered defeat in its first presidential campaign under the leadership of John C. Fremont, was anxiously considering who should be selected as the standard bearer in the approaching campaign. It was generally thought that the convention to be held in the following May would name William H. Seward as the candidate. The famous Lincoln and Douglas debates had taken place in the summer and fall of 1858 and had given a national reputation to Lincoln, whose fame had heretofore been confined to his own state. His speech at Cooper Institute in New York on February 27, 1860, caused his name to be frequently mentioned as a possible presidential candidate. Under Buchanan's weak and vacillating administration, the arrogance and hostility of the southern states had become more pronounced. The people of the north found in Mr. Lincoln's clear-cut statements the best expression of the burning issues of the day.
The "Sand Bar" Case
It was soon after Mr. Lincoln's return from the East that he spent a week or more in Chicago in attendance upon the United States District Court as one of the counsels for the defendants in the "Sand Bar" case, referred to in the papers of the time as "one of the most notable trials in the annals of our courts." It was just after the conclusion of this case that Mr. Lincoln made his visit to Evanston.
A few days previously, he had accepted an invitation to address the citizens of Waukegan on political topics, upon which the Chicago Press and Tribune, one of his staunch friends and supporters, remarked: "The announcement will, of course, bring together one of the largest crowds that Waukegan can furnish."
Evanston Assuming Importance
At that time, Evanston was a village of some twelve hundred inhabitants and was developing a boom as a suburb of Chicago. An article in the paper just referred to, which appeared about this time, spoke of Evanston as having the most handsome residences and the best situation of any town in the vicinity of Chicago, and the writer predicted that between the two places would be built up a continuous line of stores and residences. The Chicago and Milwaukee railroad, afterward known as the Chicago and Northwestern Railway, had been open for six years. There was only one track, and trains passed each other at sidings at different stations on the line. Leaving the terminal station at the corner of Kinzie and Canal streets in Chicago, the stations were: Clybourn Junction, Belle Plaine (Cuyler), Chittenden (Rosehill), and Calvary. Ravenswood and Rogers Park had not existed at that time. The village of Bowmanville lay a mile west of Rosehill. All of these places except Bowmanville had come into existence with the opening of the railroad, and Evanston itself had borne that name only some six years. However, under older names, it could claim a greater antiquity.
Becomes a Seat of Learning
Northwestern University was established in Evanston the same year the railroad was opened in 1854. However, its first building had not been completed until the following year. The University, from the beginning, had given the dominant tone to the community life of the place, and many of those who had more recently made their homes there had been attracted by its influence. These, with the families of the sturdy pioneers, who had opened the country to settle in the previous generation, formed a population of a high degree of force and vigor, which has ever since been distinguished for its wide influence and the high character of its people. Besides the one building completed and occupied by the University, situated at the northwest corner of Davis Street and Hinman Avenue, the Garrett Biblical Institute (affiliated with the University) had likewise one building, afterward known as Dempster Hall, completed in the same year that the University's first building was opened.
In determining the date on which Mr. Lincoln visited Evanston, I have fixed it as Thursday, April 5, I860. In an article published in the Century Magazine for December 1881 by Leonard W. Voile (to be referred to presently), the author says that Mr. Lincoln went to Evanston on "Thursday." He says in another place that the visit was made "in the early part of April." There is no conclusive evidence on this point to be obtained either from Volk's article or from any of those whose recollections we shall hereafter refer to.
According to the date on the Chicago Press and Tribune title page, the first Thursday in that month was on the 5th. If the visit had been made a week later, on the 12th, it would still have been possible to speak of it as having taken place "in the early part of April." It seems impossible, however, to place the date of the visit on the 12th because, in the issue of the Chicago Press and Tribune of the 13th of that month, a paragraph is quoted from a Bloomington paper stating that Mr. Lincoln was in that city. It seems safe, therefore, to set the date of the visit as we have given it, namely, Thursday, April 5th, 1860.
The House in which Lincoln Spent the Night
Mr. Lincoln visited Evanston upon the invitation and as the guest of his old friend, Julius White, who afterward became a general in the Union Army. Mr. White was a Chicago Board of Trade member and was harbor master. He lived in Evanston in a house situated at the northwest corner of Ridge Avenue and Church Street, on the lot where Mr. Richard C. Lake's house now stands. It was in this house that Mr. Lincoln spent the night on the occasion of his visit.
The house was built by Alexander McDaniel and by him sold to Rev. Philo Judson, who enlarged it and occupied it for a time. It was a two-story house with a horizontal cornice, the roof sloping upwards from four sides to a short ridge at the top. The front door was in the middle of the east side of the house, with rooms on each side of the hallway. There was no covered porch, simply a platform with steps descending from the front door.
About the year 1884, this house was moved away by Mr. Robert Hill when he erected his residence on the present site, which in later years has become the home of Mr. Lake. When the house was moved, it was separated into two parts, the larger part being taken to the lot now known as 1227 Elmwood Avenue, adjoining the High School on the south, and remodeled into a comfortable residence, and is now occupied by Mr. Albert D. Sanders. It does not, however, at all resemble the house in its original form. A much smaller part of the original house was moved to another location.
RESIDENCE OF JULIUS WHITE IN 1860
In later years, the story and a half house referred to was moved to a location in the western part of the town, now known as 2319 Prairie Avenue. From the fact that General White once lived in the house arose a tradition that this was the house in which Mr. Lincoln passed the night, and later occupants have taken pride in relating this story, for which there is no other foundation than that above mentioned.
Other Houses Claim the Honor
It is remarkable how many houses we have here in Evanston which lay claim to the honor of sheltering Mr. Lincoln during the night that he spent in Evanston. We have shown that the house on Prairie Avenue was not the one, though often claimed as such.
Another house that it is claimed was the one in which Mr. Lincoln was entertained is the cottage at 1513 Greenwood Boulevard, now occupied by Daniel Devine and his family. Mrs. Devine stated in an interview with the writer that at the time Mr. Lincoln visited Evanston, this house stood a short distance east of its present location, on the southeast corner of Greenwood Boulevard and Asbury Avenue. She says that no members of the family who then occupied the house are now living in Evanston and that a number of tenants—a dozen or more—have occupied the house during the fifty years since the visit of Mr. Lincoln. She even points out the living room in her house as the room in which Mr. Lincoln received the guests. Before her marriage to Mr. Devine, Mrs. Devine was a widow, Mrs. English by name, and formerly helped in housekeeping duties at Dempster Hall, when Mr. Langworthy kept a boarding house for students there. She could not recall General White or any member of his family and could not remember having heard his name.
A house known as the old Carroll house, formerly at 1465 Elmwood Avenue, was demolished by the city authorities in August 1909. It was supposed by some that this house was the one in which Mr. Lincoln was entertained.
Still another house, situated at 1028 Judson Avenue, is thought by some as the house in which Air. Lincoln was entertained. As is well known, this house was occupied by General White after the war, when it stood at the northwest corner of Davis Street and Chicago Avenue, and he moved to its present location and practically rebuilt it. The fact that the house was once the residence of General White has given currency to this belief, and it is often pointed out by residents in the neighborhood as having a historical interest for the reason that Mr. Lincoln was once a guest under its roof.
The honor, however, must be denied to all those mentioned above, except the house on the northwest corner of Ridge Avenue and Church Street, as described in the previous paragraph.
One way, perhaps, to account for these various claims would be to suppose that Mr. Lincoln visited Evanston more than once; it can be positively stated, however, that the distinguished visitor never stayed but one night in Evanston. It is well known that traditions, such as those referred to, grow from small beginnings, originating with half-remembered events often repeated in conversation, and at length have taken on the character of positive statements.
Mr. Volk's Recollections
A reference to Mr. Lincoln's visit to Evanston is found in an article published in the Century Magazine for December 1881 by Leonard W. Volk, the sculptor. Mr. Volk had met Mr. Lincoln during the period of the Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858 and had requested him to sit for a bust. Mr. Lincoln said that he would be glad to do so at the first opportunity.
Mr. Volk, in the course of his article, thus relates:
"I did not see him again for nearly two years. I spent most of the winter of 1860 in Washington, finishing a statuette of Senator Douglas, and just before leaving in the month of March, I called upon Mr. Douglas' colleague in the senate from Illinois [Hon. Lyman Trumbull], and asked him if he had an idea as to who would be the probable nominee of the Republican party for president, that I might model a bust of him in advance. He replied that he did not have the least particle of an idea who he would be, only that it would not be Judge Douglas.
I returned to Chicago, got my studio in the 'Portland block' in order and ready for work, and began to consider whose bust I should first begin in the clay when I noticed in a morning paper that Abraham Lincoln was in town—retained as one of the counsels in the 'Sand Bar' trial. I at once decided to remind him of his promise to sit with me, made two years before. I found him in the United States District courtroom (in a building known at the time as the 'Larmon block'), his feet on the edge of a table, and his long, dark hair standing out at every imaginable angle. He was surrounded by a group of lawyers, such as James F. Joy, Isaac N. Arnold, Thomas Hoyne and others. Mr. Arnold obtained his attention on my behalf when he instantly arose and met me outside the rail, recognizing me at once with his usual grip of both hands. He remembered his promise and said, in answer to my question, that he expected to be detained by the case for a week. He added:
"I shall be glad to give you the sittings. When shall I come, and how long will you need me each time?Just after breakfast, every morning, would,' he said, 'suit him the best, and he could remain till court opened at 10 o'clock.' I answered that I would be ready for him the next morning, Thursday. This was in the early part of April 1860.Very well, Mr. Volk, I will be there and go to a barber and have my hair cut before I come.I requested him not to let the barber cut it too short and said I would rather he would leave it as it was, but to this, he would not consent. Then, all of a sudden, he ran his fingers through his hair and said:"
Wanted to Be Released
"No, I cannot come tomorrow, as I have an engagement with Mr. W_____ to go to Evanston tomorrow and attend an entertainment; but I'd rather come, and sit for the bust than go there and meet a lot of college professors and others, all strangers to me. And I will be obliged if you will go to Mr. W_____'s office now, and get me released from the engagement. I will wait here till you come back.So off I posted, but Mr. W_____ would not release him 'because,' he said, 'it would be a great disappointment to the people he had invited.' Mr. Lincoln looked quite sorry when I reported to him the failure of my mission.'Well,' he said, 'I suppose I must go, but I will come to you Friday morning.'He was there promptly—indeed, he never failed to be on time. My studio was in the fifth story, and there were no elevators in those days, and I soon learned to distinguish his steps on the stairs, and am sure he frequently came up two, if not three, steps at a stride. When he sat down the first time in that hard, wooden, low-armed chair that I still possess and which has been occupied by Douglas, Seward and Generals Grant and Dix, he said: 'Mr. Volk, I have never sat before a sculptor or painter—only for daguerreotypes and photographs. What shall I do?'I told him I would only take the measurements of his head and shoulders that time, and the next morning, Saturday, I would make a cast of his face, which would save him a number of sittings. He stood up against the wall, and I made a mark above his head and then measured up to it from the floor and said: 'You are just twelve inches taller than Judge Douglas, that is, just six feet one inch.' "
In the above extract, which is printed just as it appeared in the Century article, the name of Mr. White is indicated by the initial W followed by a blank line.
Also, it is to be noted that in the last sentence, Mr. Lincoln's height is given as six feet one inch, whereas the fact was that he was six feet four inches in height. This was an error either on the part of the author or the printer.
|HARVEY B. HURD (1828-1906)
He was a resident of Evanston for fifty-two years.
Mr. Hurd's Description
When the day arrived for Mr. Lincoln to go to Evanston, he was taken in charge by Mr. Harvey B. Hurd, who had been designated to act as his escort. Mr. Hurd has left on record an account of this journey, which is as follows:
"On his return from his stumping tour through New England in the spring of 1860, ringing back with him the fame of his great Cooper Institute speech, he [Mr. Lincoln] was given a reception in Evanston at the home of my then next-door neighbor, General Julius White, and it was my good fortune to be designated to escort him from Chicago to his house. On the way, Mr. Lincoln and I occupied the same seat on the railway car next to the stove. Putting his long legs up behind the stove and leaning down toward me, he related to me some of the more amusing episodes in his New England tour, such as he thought I would recognize as characteristic of Yankeedom ( I had told him I was a native of Connecticut), some of them bringing out in strong light the issues of the campaign and how he had presented them.Calling to mind his great debate with Mr. Douglas and how he had grown in popularity all over the country and that he was being talked of for the presidency, I could not help a passing analysis of his characteristics. The way he impressed me at that time was well summed up by a countryman at another time. 'Not that he knew it all and that I knew little or nothing, but that he and I were two good fellows, well met, and that between us, we knew lots.' His bearing at the reception, while easy, was at the same time dignified and pleasing. It required no stretch of the imagination to think of him as the coming president of the United States. He inspired in all a desire to see him nominated and elected to that high office. There was no lurking doubt as to his fitness."
|General Julius White (1819-1890)
He was a resident of Evanston for thirty-one years.
Many of the old residents of Evanston still vividly remember, after a lapse of half a century, the occasion of Mr. Lincoln's visit here, and the accounts which are here gathered are mainly compiled from their recollections of that most interesting event. They are not all livings whose testimony is here given, but the privilege they enjoyed of meeting and grasping the hand of the greatest American of the nineteenth century was a rare one. The occasion forms one of the most interesting episodes in our history.
On Mr. Lincoln's arrival in Evanston, he was taken for a carriage drive about the village by Mr. White and then to the residence of the latter. A general invitation had been extended to the people to come in the evening and shake hands with the distinguished visitor. It was easy to spread the news of anything of the kind in a small community such as Evanston at that time, and the people were quick to respond to the invitation. The house was well filled with visitors, and Mr. Lincoln stood in front of the fireplace in the drawing room and conversed with the people as they arrived. Many did not enter the house but contented themselves with standing outside on the lawn and giving vent to their enthusiasm by blowing horns, singing and shouting, which was called "serenading" in the parlance of the time. These "doings" were naturally followed by calls for a speech, a request which the visitor complied with by appearing on the front steps of the house and addressing the people assembled on the lawn. "I have a sort of general recollection of his speech," relates Dr. Henry M. Bannister, who was present. "He spoke in a high, clear voice explaining his standpoint in politics and the reasons for it, making a special point that he had been guided by his sense of right." There was a general handshaking and exchange of greetings, usual on such occasions. Afterward, a number of those outside went into the house and were presented to the visitor.
Did Not Speak in Church
It is frequently stated that Mr. Lincoln made a speech in the old Methodist church, which at that time stood on the lot where the Evanston Public Library now stands, but this is not so. Mr. Lincoln made no speech there. None of those whose evidence has been given regarding his visit mentions his having done so, and it was vigorously denied by the late Mr. Frederick D. Raymond, who was an indefatigable investigator in the field of local history. A picture of the old Methodist church was printed in one of the papers some years ago with the statement that here, Mr. Lincoln made a speech when he visited Evanston, which seemed to give authority for the belief entertained by many persons. Still, it may be positively stated that no speech was made by Mr. Lincoln in the church.
In an interview with William Carney in 1901, Mr. F. D. Raymond asked him about his recollections of the Lincoln visit to Evanston, which he said he remembered, and that Mr. Lincoln made a speech from the front steps of General White's house. Mr. H. E. Lombard, now living in Kansas, was a resident of Evanston at that time and, writing in regard to Lincoln's visit, says: "A number of us serenaded him, and he made us a talk from the porch."
"I remember as though it was but yesterday," wrote Mr. Martin Mohler, a former student at the university, in an article printed in The Evanston Index in 1903, "the tall, lanky form of Lincoln and his expressive countenance as he stood shaking hands with admiring friends, while a stream of wit and humor, and story and laughter, came bubbling up from the great soul within."
Mrs. Bannister's Account
Mrs. Emma White Bannister, a daughter of General White, wrote recently, giving an account of the visit, which she remembers distinctly. <l Father told us one day that he would bring Mr. Lincoln up to spend the night, adding, 'he may be our next president.' He arrived on the evening train and dined with us, after which he addressed the Evanstonians from the front porch. Word had been sent to the leading citizens that Mr. Lincoln would speak, and they soon assembled in goodly numbers in front of the house. At the conclusion of his address, my father invited all who desired to come in and meet Mr. Lincoln. They surged into the house, were introduced by father, and all received a cordial greeting and handshake from Mr. Lincoln. My father's house at that time was full of children, and during Mr. Lincoln's visit, he endeared himself to us all by his individual and kindly notice."
Mr. Pearsons' Story
Mr. Henry A. Pearsons' memories of the occasion are extremely interesting. At a banquet of the Men's Club at the First Methodist church in February 1906, he spoke as follows:
"Mr. Lincoln came to Evanston in 1860, soon after he began to acquire a national reputation and had been mentioned as the man whom Illinois would bring out as a candidate for president. Evanston was then only a village of some 1,200 inhabitants, and, of course, all who could get there went to the house of Julius White to meet the distinguished guest, we boys to cheer and make a welcoming noise and our elders to shake his hand. I have a photograph of him taken in 1858, which pictures him as I remember him. The characteristics which I remember most distinctly were the pleasant smile and kindly greeting he gave us, the cheerful speech and apt words of his address, the exceeding tallness of the man, and the awkward way he had of turning himself one way or the other and bending his knees a little when emphasizing a point or coming to a climax. A really good quartet, led by our long-time friend and fellow citizen, Charles G. Ayars, called for Lincoln's special commendation; and I recall how he put his arms around Avars' shoulders and said: 'Young man, I wish I could sing as well as you. Unfortunately, I know only two tunes. One is "Old Hundred," and the other isn't."
Mr. J. Watson Ludlam was then, without doubt, the tallest citizen of Evanston. Mr. Lincoln stood up against him, back to back, to see which was the taller." Mr. Pearsons, on several occasions afterward, while an officer of the Eighth Illinois Cavalry, saw Mr. Lincoln at reviews and was one of the guards of honor at the time his body lay in state in the Capitol at Washington.
Mr. James D. Ludlam's Story
Only a short time before his death in the fall of 1908, Major James D. Ludlam wrote his recollections of the visit in a letter to Mr. Frank R. Grover, to whom he had promised to furnish the details for the records of the Evanston Historical Society. "In redeeming my promise to you," he writes, "to furnish my recollections of Abraham Lincoln's visit to Evanston, I send the following, only reminding you that fifty years is a long time for one's memory to be exactly accurate." He said he received an invitation from Mr. Julius White, "who lived, I think, in the house built by Mr. Judson over on what we then called the ridge." He met there "some twenty or thirty friends," some of whom he mentions by name: Mr. and Mrs. John L. Beveridge, Rev. Philo Judson, Harvey B. Hurd, Mr. and Mrs. N. P. Iglehart, Mr. and Mrs. John A. Pearsons, Mrs. Appleton, Miss Mattie Stewart and Miss Isabel Stewart. "Mr. Hurd led the conversation principally with the help of Mr. Beveridge at the start, but soon Mr. Lincoln had full control, and in conversation and storytelling captured the whole company."
Later in the evening, someone proposed having some music, and Miss Isabel Stewart was invited to play the piano, which she did in a very delightful manner. Do not let the young readers of this sketch imagine the young lady seated at an "upright," for pianos of that form were not made in those days. Square pianos were in use, and the one in Mr. White's house was probably of this pattern, the kind we used to call "megatheriums," which we used to behold with awe and admiration, including the player.
Chopin and Grieg on an 1864 Steinway Square Grand Piano.
Listen to the unbelievably deep rich sound.
Mr. Lincoln then asked for some vocal music, and Mr. J. D. Ludlam was invited to sing. This he consented to do on condition that someone would play for him. He was then introduced to the young lady at the piano, whom he did not know before, and after a song or two, the singing became general. It should be noted here that this introduction to the young lad}', Miss Isabel Stewart, was more important in its results than seems at first sight, for in about a year after that, the singer and the player were married. Thus the Lincoln visit has a particular interest as the starting point of a romance.
Measured with Watson Ludlam
James D. Ludlam and J. Watson Ludlam were brothers, both tall men, the latter the taller of the two, and with them was John L. Beveridge, who was over six feet in height. Another tall man was present by the name of Homer Curtice, a conductor on the Chicago and Milwaukee Railroad, the name by which the present Chicago and Northwestern Railway was then known. Poor Curtice was killed by the cars up near Kenosha some years later.
Mr. Lincoln had the habit of taking notice of men of unusual stature, as is recalled by an incident occurring a few weeks later than the events of which we are here writing. It is related, in Holland's "Life of Lincoln," that when Judge William D. Kelley of Pennsylvania, himself a man nearly as tall as Mr. Lincoln, called on him at Springfield at the head of a committee to notify him of his nomination, Mr. Lincoln, after the introductions had taken place, inquired, "What is your height, Judge?" "Six feet, three," replied the Judge; "what is yours, Mr. Lincoln?" "Six feet, four," responded Mr. Lincoln. "Then, sir," said the Judge, "Pennsylvania bows to Illinois. My dear man," he continued, "for years, my heart has been aching for a president that I could look up to, and I've found him at last,—in the land that we thought there were none but Little Giants."
It was not strange that Mr. Lincoln, having this habit of observation, should notice the presence of so many unusually tall men, including himself, in the rooms of Mr. White's house. He proposed that they should measure up and compare their heights. This was done accordingly, and it was found that Mr. Lincoln and Mr. J. Watson Ludlam were exactly the same height, namely, six feet and four inches. The company remained until quite a late hour and, at length, dispersed to their homes throughout the village.
An Interesting Sequel
The sequel to Major Ludlam's story is very interesting. During the following year, events succeeded each other with startling rapidity. Mr. Lincoln was nominated and elected president, and the tremendous drama of the Civil war had opened. With many other young men from Evanston, J. D. Ludlam had joined the army of the Union and became an officer (finally major) in the Eighth Illinois cavalry. This was the only Illinois regiment in the eastern army in the early part of the war, and Mr. Lincoln came out to their encampment near Washington to visit them and made a short speech to "his boys," as he called them. He recognized Ludlam at once and asked after Miss Stewart, who had furnished the delightful music on the occasion of his visit to Evanston and invited him to call at the White House. He made calls several times, and after lunch with Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln one day, Mr. Lincoln asked him to sing for Mrs. Lincoln the same songs which he sang when he visited Mr. White's house in Evanston, a request with which he complied. This echo of the Lincoln visit to Evanston, and the romance that had its beginning at that time, throws a golden haze of sentiment over the event we have been describing and heightens the interest that the episode otherwise possesses for all who take a pride in our Evanston annals.
Mr. Lincoln's visit to Evanston was made when he had reached a period in his life when all was fair. He was at the height of his fame as the most distinguished political orator of his time. He had become the rising hope of the new Republican party and was often mentioned as a possible presidential candidate. The law case, which had required his presence in Chicago for the preceding two weeks, had just been decided (the day before) in favor of his clients. He was in the full maturity of his manhood, and he was probably as near "carefree" as he had ever been in his life.
Six weeks later, Mr. Lincoln was nominated for the presidency and, in the following November, was elected to that high office. He evidently did not forget his Evanston friends and his visit among them, for soon after he became president, he began to show his appreciation of the friends he met here. White and Beveridge became generals in the Union Army. As we have seen, the house's homely songs and good cheer in Evanston, where Mr. Lincoln was so pleasantly entertained, were repeated at the White House in Washington.
Compiled and Edited by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.
 A Brevet was a warrant giving a commissioned officer a higher rank title as a reward for gallantry or meritorious conduct but may not confer the authority, precedence, or pay of real rank. An officer so promoted was referred to as being brevetted.