New Podcast Episode: Springfield, Illinois, in Search of Abraham Lincoln, Part 4

Site of Stuart & Lincoln law office at Hoffman’s Row, Springfield, Illinois

Listen to this podcast episode here or on Google Play, or subscribe on iTunes

Springfield, Illinois, Saturday, July 29th, 2017, continued

I leave the Myers Building at the former site of Joshua Fry Speed’s store and Abraham Lincoln’s last law office on S 5th Street, and head north, crossing E Washington St, and continue halfway up the block. On my left (west), at 109 N 5th St / NW Old State Capitol Plaza, is a historical marker for the Stuart & Lincoln Law Office. John Todd Stuart was Lincoln’s first law partner, the man from whom he borrowed the law books he needed for his legal training, and his future wife Mary Todd’s first cousin. Lincoln received his license to practice law two years after he began his studies, and joined Stuart’s law practice as a junior partner in April of 1837. He was living over Speed’s store, having moved here to Springfield to embark on his legal career, so he walked more or less the same route to get to work as I walk today from the Myers Building… Read the written version here

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

New Podcast Episode: Springfield, Illinois, in Search of Abraham Lincoln, Part 3

1880’s Italianate building at the former site of the American House Hotel at 6th and Adams, Springfield, Illinois, renovated and restored by its current occupants, Delano Law Offices

Listen to this podcast episode here or on Google Play, or subscribe on iTunes

Springfield, Illinois, Saturday, July 29th, 2017, continued

After my visit to the Old State House, I notice one of those Looking for Lincoln historical placards on a building to my left as I walk towards my next destination. It’s an attractive three-story red and yellow brick Italianate building from the later 1800’s, too late to be from Lincoln’s time. I draw near and read the placard and the small house-shaped bronze plaque near it.

This building stands at the southeast corner of 6th and Adams, on the former site of the American House Hotel. It was the largest hotel in Illinois, admired for its huge size and praised for its lavish, exotic, ‘Turkish’ interior design. Despite its reputation and the fact that it was the hotel of choice for dignitaries and the better-off, there doesn’t seem to be any easy-to-find photos of it. There’s one on the placard of the Old State House with the plain white walls of the three-story, rather plain Hotel in the distance, but that’s about it. I can find no photos of its splendiferous interior either. It stood here from 1838-1870, a little too long ago for me to find a postcard image of it, my tried and true source type for images of historic buildings… Read the written version here

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

Springfield, Illinois, in Search of Abraham Lincoln, Part 4

Site of Stuart & Lincoln law office at Hoffman’s Row, Springfield, Illinois

Springfield, Illinois, Saturday, July 29th, 2017, continued

I leave the Myers Building at the former site of Joshua Fry Speed’s store and Abraham Lincoln’s last law office on S 5th Street, and head north, crossing E Washington St, and continue halfway up the block. On my left (west), at 109 N 5th St / NW Old State Capitol Plaza, is a historical marker for the Stuart & Lincoln Law Office. John Todd Stuart was Lincoln’s first law partner, the man from whom he borrowed the law books he needed for his legal training, and his future wife Mary Todd’s first cousin. Lincoln received his license to practice law two years after he began his studies, and joined Stuart’s law practice as a junior partner in April of 1837. He was living over Speed’s store, having moved here to Springfield to embark on his legal career, so he walked more or less the same route to get to work as I walk today from the Myers Building.

Sculpture of Lincoln as a soldier in the Black Hawk War at the Lincoln Tomb, Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield, Illinois

Stuart and Lincoln met in 1832 during the Black Hawk War and were friends and colleagues for many years after that. They served together in the same battalion, and their acquaintance turned to friendship when they both campaigned for, and served in, the Illinois State legislature in 1834. Stuart was only two years old than Lincoln, but like his cousin Mary Todd, he was the educated, sophisticated offspring of a well-to-do Kentucky family. So, he assigned himself a paternalistic role in their relationship. Perhaps it was this attitude that caused their friendship to erode once Lincoln eclipsed him in his success as a lawyer and then as a politician. They did not agree politically: Stuart was a Democrat sympathetic to the slaveowners’ cause, and as we all well know, Lincoln was most decidedly neither. But as the example of Joshua Speed demonstrates, Lincoln was ready and able to remain friends with political opponents. As many who knew them both well attest, Stuart was jealous of Lincoln, and at least one friend believed that Stuart even grew to hate him.

But during the years of their friendship, Stuart did much for Lincoln. He recognized Lincoln’s ability, despite his rough appearance and manners, and liked him personally. Stuart encouraged the precocious young entrepreneur and fellow budding politician to study law, a field that suited Lincoln’s natural abilities as well as the traditional field from which successful politicians so often emerged in those days. And after Lincoln received his law license and completed his last term in the Illinois State Legislature, Stuart accepted Lincoln as a junior law partner. Lincoln’s education in the law continued in Stuart’s practice. He observed Stuart closely and read his legal papers carefully, and during his first years as a lawyer, modeled his own legal practice and language on Stuart’s.

Clipping from Sangamo Journal, Mar 27, 1840 describing location of Stuart & Lincoln office, via the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America

Stuart & Lincoln’s office was also directly over a Sangamon County courtroom. The County occupied Hoffman’s Row starting in 1837, the same year that Lincoln joined Stuart’s practice here, until the first proper Greek-revival Sangamon County Courthouse was completed in 1845. As Lincoln was wont to do, he took advantage of this opportunity to learn by observation. There was a trap door in the floor of their office which communicated with the courtroom below, so Lincoln could easily hear the proceedings. As his later law partner and biographer William Herndon observed, Lincoln was not such an avid reader in the years succeeding his youth and early adulthood as he had once been. It seems Lincoln had become more of a listener.

Photo showing Hoffman’s Row, Springfield, IL 1859. Stuart & Lincoln’s office was located on the third floor from 1837-1841; many years later, Lincoln & Herndon’s office moved here after their tenure at the Tinsley Building. Photo from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library; ‘X marks the spot’ and photo caption by the University of Chicago Libraries

John T. Stuart, Brady’s National Photographic Portrait Galleries, Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection, Allen County Public Library

During my research, I’m rather amused to learn that Stuart was once bitten by Stephen A. Douglas, now most famed for the series of debates between him and Lincoln which so well encapsulated the issues which were tearing the Union apart in the years leading up to the Civil War. Stuart and Douglas were also political rivals, both Democrats, so their political battles took place in the primaries. For the most part, their debates were civil, but on one occasion in the 1838 congressional race, Douglas said something that really enraged Stuart. So the tall Stuart picked up ‘The Little Giant’ and carried him around in front of the crowd. As you may remember, Douglas may not have been tall, but neither was he slim, so Stuart must have been fairly strong. Douglas repaid the insult by biting Stuart’s thumb so severely that infection later set in, and it took some time for that painful wound to heal.

During that healing time, as well as during much of the time Stuart was busy with politics, Lincoln took on more and more of their practices’ legal matters as well as the paperwork. I suppose that the jealous Stuart later regretted giving Lincoln that opportunity to master the skills that helped him eclipse Stuart’s own success later on. On one occasion, Stuart said to a friend, ‘…I believe I am going to live to posterity only as the man who advised Mr. Lincoln to study law and lent him his law books. It is a little humiliating that a man who has served his country in Congress and in his State, should have no further claim to remembrance than that, but I believe it will be so.’ It’s easy to understand, perhaps even forgive, Stuart’s developing antipathy towards his one-time protegee, given he believed Lincoln’s reputation obscured, even erased, his own hard-earned one. Stuart and Lincoln did keep in contact over the years and outwardly, their relationship remained cordial; Stuart visited the Lincolns at the White House on several occasions, as friend and as family. But according to some of those who knew both men, Stuart undermined and opposed Lincoln’s policies when he had the opportunity to do so covertly.

Building on the east side of North 5th St at former site of Logan & Lincoln law office, Springfield, Illinois

To visit the next site on my list, all I need to do is swing on my heels and head directly across the street. The large modular office building that I face stands on the site where the first Logan & Lincoln law office was located.

In April of 1841, Lincoln and Stuart dissolved their partnership, apparently over their political differences, and Lincoln joined Stephen T. Logan’s law practice. Their joint practice lasted three and a half years, until October of 1844. As you may remember from an earlier installment of this Springfield account, Logan was a circuit judge for a time, from 1835-1837, while Lincoln was still preparing to become a lawyer. Logan gave up his judgeship because it paid too little, and redirected all his efforts to making his practice successful and lucrative.

Stephen T. Logan, from the Helm and Todd Family Photographs and Papers at the Kentucky Digital Library

As Logan tells it, Lincoln showed promise very early. Despite his awkward and messy appearance in his too-short pants and coat, rough shirt, and tousled hair, Lincoln displayed the same ‘superior’ and ‘peculiar’ way of putting things, notable for its ‘individuality,’ that would characterize his public speaking throughout his career as a lawyer, a politician, and as President. Since the time Logan met Lincoln in 1832, the same year that Logan moved to Illinois from Kentucky, he acted as friend, mentor, promoter, and colleague. In some ways, they were political and legal rivals, but unlike Stuart, Logan did not let this interfere with his friendship with or political support for Lincoln. Lincoln reciprocated Logan’s ability to maintain a respectful friendship by keeping the personal and the professional separate, and, as President, repaid Logan’s personal integrity by awarding Logan with unsought but desired appointments.

It seems that the main thing that ever came between them to a significant degree was money, with the possible exception of Logan’s rather high-handed style of running his law practice. Lincoln did chafe at times under Logan’s blunt and demanding manner, but Lincoln also considered this partnership a challenge and an opportunity to increase his still limited knowledge of the law. He certainly did rise to the challenge. Logan’s account of Lincoln’s reading habits during his years as a lawyer match Stuart’s and Herndon’s: Lincoln had let go of his old habit of steady book-reading. In his years studying and practicing law, Lincoln turned to learning by observation, by listening to cases as they were argued in court and by closely studying the cases that his law partners prepared, and through practice, by carefully and rigorously preparing for his own. Over time, according to Logan, Lincoln’s method proved itself effective, and he became a ‘formidable’ lawyer in his own right. He never became as knowledgeable about the law as the restlessly intelligent, well-read Logan, but he was often more effective. Lincoln was certainly more successful and effective than Logan politically. Unlike Logan, Lincoln was charismatic and ‘seemed to put himself at once on an equality with everybody,’ and was a popular man as a result. Many of Lincoln’s political races were won on this account alone; his very wide circle of friends and acquaintances would vote for him against their own party just because of the high regard they held him in personally.

Clipping from Sangamo Journal, Feb 18, 1842 describing location of Lincoln & Logan office, via Library of Congress’ Chronicling America

But to return to the subject of the dissolution of the Logan & Lincoln practice: the official reason that Logan gave for it was his wish to partner exclusively with his now-grown son David instead. But some who knew both men and their personalities attribute the end of their partnership primarily to Logan’s tightfistedness with money, which was a hardship for Lincoln. He had a new family to support and was probably still paying off some of his old debts incurred from his failed entrepreneurial efforts in New Salem. Secondly, Lincoln had gained a new confidence with his increasing success and knowledge as a lawyer. This, combined with his ambitious instincts, led to his desire to take the lead in his practice. So, as discussed in the previous installment of this Springfield account, Lincoln took on a young and inexperienced but bright and promising partner, just as Stuart and Logan had done with him. For any conflict they may have had as law partners, Lincoln retained his respect and regard for Logan, and they remained friends both publicly and privately for life.

Union Station and the park before it, with a sculpture of Abraham Lincoln sitting on a park bench to the left.

I continue my journey north towards Union Station, heading north on 5th St about a block and a half and then through the park south and in front of the station. The station and the park occupy the whole block bounded by 5th and 6th Sts to the west and east, and Washington and Jefferson Sts to the north and south. There are various plaques scattered around the building recounting interesting tidbits about Springfield history, but the station building itself is closed for the day. It’s no longer a train station: it’s been incorporated into the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum complex and serves as a visitor center and venue for special exhibits.

Acts of Intolerance by Preston Jackson, a commemorative sculpture for the 1908 Springfield Race Riots

Historical plaque for the 1908 Springfield Race Riot and Preston Jackson’s memorial sculpture

As I wander around the building and park, seeing what there is to see outside, my attention is caught by two sculptures, placed side by side at an angle, their shapes reminiscent of two giant, stylized, square-sided bottles, with images of people and objects over their surfaces in high relief. I read the large bronze plaque accompanying the sculptures, and learn that they are entitled Acts of Intolerance, a two-part sculpture commemorating the Springfield Race Riots of 1908. I’ve been noticing sites commemorating events and people related to the race riots all over downtown, and I’m glad to learn more about the story here since my curiosity has been aroused repeatedly throughout the day.

The shapes of the sculpture’s two parts, in fact, echo the shape of a burned-out home’s two remaining walls and chimneys in a photograph taken in the aftermath of the riot. This was only one of the multitude of homes and shops of Springfield’s black population that had been damaged or destroyed. The riot started on Friday evening, when the sheriff refused to release two black men, one jailed for the murder of a white man who caught him trying to assault his daughter, and another accused of attempted rape, to the justice of a gathering mob. (The second of these was later proved to be wrongly accused so as to divert blame from a white man.)

When they discovered that the sheriff had secreted the men away to a secure location, the mob decided to turn their rage on the entire black population of Springfield, shouting curses on the day that Lincoln freed their people from slavery. They lynched two black men. One was an elderly barber named Scott Burton, tortured and killed for daring to try and defend himself from the mob who were shooting at him and burning down his home. The other was 84-year-old William Donegan, strung up, his throat, body,and limbs sliced for the perceived crime of having been married for over 30 years to a white woman. There were tales of white heroism too, of which Lincoln, turning over in his grave, would surely have been comforted to hear. One was Henry Loper, who had his restaurant and car destroyed for daring to drive the accused black men to safety. Another was prohibitionist presidential candidate Eugene Chafin, who shielded a black man with his own body, his face badly bruised from the stones thrown by the crowd at the Court House Square.

Photograph showing the remains of a home in the aftermath of the 1908 Springfield Race Riot

Historian James L. Crouthamel writes that the mob

 

‘wrecked almost every building on Washington, Jefferson, and Madison Streets between Eighth and Twelfth Streets. It appears that the mob leaders were careful in destroying only homes and businesses which were either owned by Negroes or served a Negro clientele. (White handkerchiefs marked the homes and businesses of whites, and these were left untouched in the midst of the general destruction.)’

Around two thousand black people were driven from town, terrorized, their homes and means of making a living destroyed.

Although about 150 people were arrested for taking part in the riots, all escaped conviction and punishment except two: Kate Howard, who committed suicide by poison on her way to jail, and Roy Young, who confessed and was convicted of burglary, arson, and rioting. On the whole, sadly, the citizens of Springfield showed little remorse for their behavior, editorializing that the black people of Springfield brought it all on themselves. The press hailed Kate Howard as a ‘new Joan of Arc‘ for the role she played in attacking Loper’s restaurant and in lynching Burton. They certainly did no justice to the memory of their most famous and beloved citizen Lincoln.

The Lincoln Depot at 930 E Monroe St, Springfield, Illinois

Great Western Depot historical placard, which includes a photo of the depot more or less how it appeared in Lincoln’s time.

The last Lincoln site I visit for the day is the Great Western Railroad Depot, now called the Lincoln Depot. Since I’m heading back to my lodging directly afterwards, I take the car which I had parked near Union Station earlier today and zigzag a few blocks southeast to get here. This railroad station, at 930 E Monroe and the railroad tracks, is the site of Lincoln’s ‘Farewell Address’ to the city of Springfield. On February 11, 1861, Lincoln left for Washington, DC for his first inauguration as President. That morning, he delivered a speech of farewell to the city he had begun life in as a lonely and broke young man and was about to leave as a father, husband, successful lawyer, congressman, and President-Elect.

The Lincoln Depot is one of the few original buildings in Springfield to survive to this day to actually host Lincoln, though it’s quite altered. The red brick building was restored following a 1968 fire. The originally very small, one-story structure became the larger two-story structure we see here today around 1900. Though is it very much altered, it retains its original general shape and style, even to the curved metal supports for the roof.

Lincoln delivered a very moving speech that day, which moved very many in the sizable crowd to tears. We don’t have Lincoln’s original written text for this address, but several newspapers printed it, each with slight to moderate variations. One version is inscribed on a plaque in the Lincoln Tomb:

Abraham Lincoln Farewell to Springfield Address on a plaque at the Lincoln Tomb, Springfield, Illinois

It was understood and expected by all that Lincoln would return one day, including Lincoln himself. He did indeed return, but not in the way that anyone hoped or expected.

I’ll return to downtown Springfield tomorrow to visit a few more places on my itinerary. Stay tuned!

*Listen to the podcast version here or on Google Play, or subscribe on iTunes

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

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Sources and inspiration:

Abraham Lincoln Online: Lincoln Family TimelineLincoln Legal Career Timeline,  Lincoln Timelines and Highlights, and Three Versions of Lincoln’s Farewell Address

Andreasen, Bryon C. Looking for Lincoln in Illinois: Lincoln’s Springfield. Southern Illinois University Press, 2015

Brink, McCormick & Co. ‘Springfield Township, Springfield City.‘ from Atlas of Sangamon County, 1874.

Brown, Caroline Owsley. ‘Springfield Society Before the Civil War.’ Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1908-1984), vol. 15, no. 1/2, 1922, pp. 477–500. JSTOR

Burlingame, Michael, ed. An Oral History of Abraham Lincoln: John G. Nicolay’s Interviews and Essays. Southern Illinois University Press, Jan 2006

Carwardine, Richard. Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power. New York: Random House, 2003

Central Springfield Historic District‘ National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, Prepared by Nicholas P. Kalogeresis for the National Park Service.

Crouthamel, James L. ‘The Springfield Race Riot of 1908.’ The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 45, No. 3 (Jul., 1960), pp. 164-181

Deming, Henry Champion. ‘Eulogy of Abraham Lincoln: before the General Assembly of Connecticut, at Allyn Hall, Hartford, Thursday, June 8th, 1865.’ Hartford: A.N. Clark & Co. State Printers, 1985

Donald, David Herbert. Lincoln. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995

Elijah Iles‘. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia

Giger, Henry Douglas. ‘The Story of the Sangamon County Court House.’ Via the Sangamon County Circuit Clerk website, originally published Apr 29, 1901

Hart, Dick. ‘Lincoln’s Springfield: Hotels and Taverns.’ Lincoln’s Springfield blog

Havlik, Robert J. ‘Abraham Lincoln and the Reverend Dr. James Smith: Lincoln’s Presbyterian Experience in Springfield.Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1998-) Vol. 92, No. 3, A Lincoln Issue (Autumn, 1999), pp. 222-237

Herndon, William H. and Jesse W. Weik. Herndon’s Lincoln: The True Story of a Great Life. 1889

History of Sangamon County, Illinois; Together with Sketches of its Cities, Villages and Townships … Portraits of Prominent Persons, and Biographies of Representative Citizens. Chicago: Interstate Publishing Co.,  1881

Illinois, Springfield: Tinsley Building. Excerpts from newspapers and other sources compiled by the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana, 1993

John Todd Stuart,’ Sangamon Link: History of Sangamon County, Illinois, Oct 6, 2013.

Lehrman Institute articles ‘The Lawyers: John Todd Stuart (1807-1885)‘ and ‘Stephen Trigg Logan’ from Mr. Lincoln and Friends, and Visitors from Congress: John Todd Stuart (1807-1885) from Mr. Lincoln’s White House

Lehrman, Lewis E. Lincoln at Peoria: The Turning Point. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2008.

Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Illinois. Website, National Park Service

Looking for Lincoln: various historical/informational placards throughout the Springfield, Illinois and surrounding areas about the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln at their associated sites

MacLean, Maggie. ‘Elizabeth Todd Edwards: Sister of Mary Todd Lincoln.’ Civil War Women blog, Jul 28, 2013

Memorials of the Life and Character of Stephen T. Logan‘ by Stuart, John T.; Edwards, Benjamin S.; Cullom, Shelby; Davis, David et al. From Lincoln/Net by Northern Illinois University Libraries

Nicolay, John George. An Oral History of Abraham Lincoln: John G. Nicolay’s Interviews and Essays. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2006

Springfield Race Riot‘, in the Encyclopædia Britannica

Yu, Karlson. ‘Springfield Race Riot, 1908.’ BlackPast.org

Springfield, Illinois, in Search of Abraham Lincoln, Part 3

1880’s Italianate building at the former site of the American House Hotel at 6th and Adams, Springfield, Illinois, renovated and restored by its current occupants, Delano Law Offices

Springfield, Illinois, Saturday, July 29th, 2017, continued

After my visit to the Old State House, I notice one of those Looking for Lincoln historical placards on a building to my left as I walk towards my next destination. It’s an attractive three-story red and yellow brick Italianate building from the later 1800’s, too late to be from Lincoln’s time. I draw near and read the placard and the small house-shaped bronze plaque near it.

This building stands at the southeast corner of 6th and Adams, on the former site of the American House Hotel. It was the largest hotel in Illinois, admired for its huge size and praised for its lavish, exotic, ‘Turkish’ interior design. Despite its reputation and the fact that it was the hotel of choice for dignitaries and the better-off, there doesn’t seem to be any easy-to-find photos of it. There’s one on the placard of the Old State House with the plain white walls of the three-story, rather plain Hotel in the distance, but that’s about it. I can find no photos of its splendiferous interior either. It stood here from 1838-1870, a little too long ago for me to find a postcard image of it, my tried and true source type for images of historic buildings.

Battle of Stillman’s Run Site in Stillman Valley, Illinois, USA, by Ben Jacobson, 2007, via Wikimedia Commons

The American House Hotel was built by Captain Elijah Iles (who was also buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery), who also had the distinction of being the owner of the oldest house that still stands in Springfield and of being Abraham Lincoln’s commander in the Black Hawk War. Lincoln was also elected captain in that war for a time, of which he was very proud, but the lanky 23-year old youth never saw combat. He did, however, help to bury some of the men who did and died for it. There’s a monument at the site of the Battle of Stillman’s Run that memorializes the men who died and that particular man who helped bury them. I find the words on the monument rather interesting: ‘The presence of the soldier, statesman, martyr Abraham Lincoln assisting in the burial of these honored dead has made this spot more sacred.’ Lincoln himself said in his address at the battlefield of Gettysburg ‘…We can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.’ So if Lincoln saw the words on this monument, he would likely look at them askance. But as the Stillman Run’s monument says, Lincoln is himself among the slain, slain in another struggle perhaps, but no less a patriotic one. So it seems he does qualify as a consecrator of sacred ground, too, according to the terms he laid out in the Gettysburg Address.

Looking for Lincoln placard at the former site of the American House Hotel at 6th and Adams, Springfield, Illinois

Lincoln may have visited the American House Hotel on at least two occasions, though there’s no evidence that I could find, again, besides local lore repeated in blogs and in the Looking for Lincoln book and placard. One purported occasion was the November 1838 grand opening dinner, which served 200 people. The other was the time that former president Martin Van Buren came to Springfield for a visit in June of 1842. Van Buren was on tour seeking to revive his political career. According to that legend, Lincoln was called upon to help welcome and entertain Van Buren while he was visiting his cousin in the vicinity of nearby Rochester, Illinois. He spent a day there tickling Van Buren and company’s ribs with his jokes and anecdotes. (See what I did there? That’s my own little joke, leaving the sentence constructed that way so that you’re left with the weird mental image of Van Buren being tickled.) The next day, the tradition goes, Lincoln escorted him to the Hotel.

The Tinsley Building, aka the Lincoln-Herndon Law Office Historic Site, Springfield, Illinois. You can just see the Old State House in the background to the right. It’s currently closed for renovations, but historically it’s been open for tours.

I turn towards the destination I was initially headed for: the Tinsley Building, now called the Lincoln-Herndon Law Office State Historic Site, right across the street. This large, handsome Greek-Revival red brick building was built in 1840-1841 at the southwest corner of 6th and Adams Streets. S.M. Tinsley & Co’s retail business occupied part of the two lower floors, which were also occupied by the U.S. Post Office (1st floor) and the U.S. Federal Court (2nd floor). The third floor was rented out as offices.

William Henry Herndon, 1818-1891, halftone reproduction of photoprint by L.C. Handy Studios, Library of Congress

When this mixed-use building was only about three years old, Lincoln and his senior law partner Stephen T. Logan moved their successful practice to the grander accommodations in the Tinsley Building’s large third-floor front office. Their joint practice here only lasted from the summer of 1843 to early winter of 1844, when Logan opted to practice with his son instead. Lincoln kept the large front office while the Logans moved to another in the same building, and he offered a partnership to William H. Herndon, a relatively inexperienced but intelligent, studious young lawyer. Herndon jumped at the chance since by this time Lincoln was very well known and respected. In fact, many were surprised at Lincoln’s choice: at this point, Lincoln could have had his pick of many distinguished local lawyers. But Lincoln wanted to be the senior partner this time. As Herndon and many others described him, Lincoln had great confidence in his own abilities and his own unique way of doing things. So it’s no surprise in that regard that Lincoln preferred to take the lead role this time around.

Two views of the Lincoln-Herndon Historic Site / Tinsley Building

Lincoln and Herndon knew each other for a long time. Herndon’s father Abner G. Herndon was one of the Long Nine, the 1836-37 Illinois State Legislature which was responsible for moving the state capital to Springfield. Lincoln was twenty-seven, young Herndon seventeen when Lincoln became one of his father’s co-legislators. After the legislature adjourned that spring, Lincoln moved to Springfield on April 15th, 1837, and lived for a time in Joshua Speed’s room over his store. Herndon roomed with them for a time, too, and worked for Speed as a clerk. While Lincoln was serving in the legislature, he was also teaching himself law and had obtained his license the previous fall. Lincoln came to Springfield to establish a practice and inquired about the cost of a bed, a mattress, and their accouterments. He couldn’t afford the named priced so Speed offered to let him share his bed and room upstairs since Lincoln didn’t have a home yet either. The awkward, unrefined, autodidact, perennially broke Lincoln and the handsome, cultivated, well-educated son of wealthy parents Speed became very close friends. I’ll return to that story soon.

Lincoln the Circuit Rider by Fred M. Torrey, 1930, bronze sculpture at the Lincoln Tomb in Springfield, Illinois

Herndon and Lincoln also became very good friends, Lincoln with a fatherly affection, Herndon admiringly. Their partnership was successful and harmonious, despite the fact that neither of them were orderly with their paperwork or tidy in their office. Perhaps their harmoniousness was enhanced by the fact that Lincoln was often away ‘riding the circuit.’ Most practitioners of law, in order to make a sufficient living, found it necessary to travel throughout their judicial district to argue and hear local cases. Lincoln was the public face of Lincoln & Herndon, meeting with clients, arguing their cases in court, and writing the most important legal documents. Herndon did the research, wrote the minor documents, ran the errands, and did whatever other odd tasks which arose. Lincoln, however, insisted on dividing all of the practice’s income equally between the two of them.

Their Tinsley building office was somewhat sparsely furnished, the tables covered with green oilcloth and strewn with papers and books, mostly Herndon’s. Lincoln, famously, frequently had his nose buried in a book when he was a boy. According to Herndon and to my surprise, however, Lincoln read far less often in his adulthood. In fact, wrote Herndon, ‘Lincoln… read less and thought more than any man in his sphere in America.’ What Lincoln did read, however, he remembered. It seems, then, that Lincoln’s considerable ability was based at least as much as what he did with what he read than with the amount. He enriched and expanded the knowledge gained from what he did read with the greater amount of time he spent in thinking, in writing, and in conversation.

First Street Presbyterian Church at S 7th St and E Capitol Ave, Springfield, Illinois. The Lincoln’s pew from the church’s location in their time is preserved here.

I zigzag southwest a couple of blocks to the First Presbyterian Church at 321 S. Seventh St at E. Capitol Ave. The Lincolns attended services at First Presbyterian from about 1850 to 1860, when the Lincolns left for Washington, D.C. But there are two details to note. One, they never attended services at this exact church, since it was built two years after Mary died, but this church does contain and preserve their original pew from the old location. Two, though Mary formally joined the congregation out of enthusiasm for its new minister, Reverend Dr. James Smith, Abraham never did. Lincoln paid the yearly rent for the pew, attended at times with his family, and became good friends with Smith, but he did not join.

Lincoln’s religiosity has been a subject of much debate during his lifetime and up to the present day. Atheists, agnostics, and deists often emphasize the strong skepticism he evinced during his younger years and his admiration for Thomas Paine, who was notorious for his Age of Reason attack on Christianity and all organized religion. Lincoln rarely alluded to Christ in word or in writing, or to God in any denominational sense, and he was unwilling to join any church. In fact, he never did. His friend, law partner, and later biographer Herndon also emphasized Lincoln’s freethinking ways, to the dismay and anger of many of his friends, family, and supporters. On the other hand, Christians often emphasize his frequent Biblical quotations, the fact that he did go to church with his family somewhat regularly when his schedule allowed, his regular allusions to God in letters and especially in public speeches, and his frequent Biblical quotes. He also seemed to become much more religiously inclined in his later years.

So each of these groups likes to claim the great Lincoln as one of their own, each minimizing evidence from the other side of the argument or dismissing it altogether. The truth is, Lincoln was very private about his religious beliefs. I think this is because one, he was a canny and ambitious politician in a religious age, so he was loath to make overt statements of unorthodoxy or of strict adherence to one particular creed and thus hurt his chances of election to public office; second, though he did not ascribe to any particular creed, he often had feelings that were generally considered religious and over the years, he increasingly felt the need for religious comfort and became convinced of the truth of some religious arguments; and third, he was a private man about his inner life generally, and it’s clear he believed that matters of conscience and belief belonged to this category. Because he was private about his religious convictions, because he was a complex and subtle thinker, and because his views changed over time, I think it’s a mistake to try and fix Lincoln in any category of belief, with the possible exception of ‘freethinker.’ Though ‘freethinker’ has connotations of hostility to religion to some, the term’s literal meaning, and the way it was used more then, most closely reflects what we do know about Lincoln’s beliefs, and can include the ways this changed over time. Freethinker can encompass Lincoln’s early skepticism, his religious questioning, and his later status as a religious believer who nevertheless refused to align himself with any system of religious orthodoxy as a matter of principle.

First Presbyterian Church, Springfield, Illinois, at the southeast corner of Third and Washington, Springfield, Illinois, which the Lincolns attended from 1850-1860.

In his published eulogy for Lincoln, U.S. Representative Henry Champion Deming wrote: ‘[Lincoln] said, he had never united himself to any church, because he found difficulty in giving his assent, without mental reservation, to the long complicated statements of Christian doctrine, which characterize their Articles of belief and Confessions of Faith. “When any church,” he continued, “will inscribe over its altar, as its sole qualification for membership the Saviour’s condensed statement of the substance of both law and Gospel, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor as thyself, that church I will join with all my heart and all my soul.”‘ Presumably, since there was no such established church which had a formal membership, he never joined one.

I zigzag a little farther southeast to a particularly significant site to get the lay of the land, so to speak. It’s early evening and open hours are ended, so I’ll be returning tomorrow for a proper visit. I’ll wait to tell you all about it in that account.

Former site of the Globe Tavern, Abraham and Mary Lincoln’s first home together, at about 306 E Adams St, Springfield, Illinois

I head northwest, this time zigzagging a little haphazardly, to E Adams between 3rd and 4th Sts. On the north side of E Adams, at 315 where a parking lot is now, is the former site of the Globe Tavern. This is the first place the newlywed Lincolns lived in Springfield. They moved in on their wedding night on November 4th, 1842, and lived there until May 2nd, 1844. Their first son, Robert, was born here almost exactly nine months after their wedding, on August 1st, 1843.

It was a very nice tavern, and contrary to the common view that these accommodations would have been too humble for Mary Todd’s accustomed lifestyle, it was the first place that many newlyweds in her family stayed. According to the journal article ‘The Lincoln’s Globe Tavern’ by James T. Hickey and his co-authors,

In starting their married life at the Globe Tavern, the Lincolns were in fact following a precedent set by other members of Mary Lincoln’s family. John Todd Stuart, her cousin and Lincoln’s first law partner, had taken his bride there in November, 1837; Dr. William S. Wallace and Mary’s sister Frances also lived there after their marriage, on May 21st, 1839. The Wallaces stayed there more than three years, and it was into their recently vacated rooms that the Lincolns moved. These rooms were in the addition that fronted on Adams Street.

The Globe Tavern, former residence of the Lincolns and Robert Lincoln’s birthplace, photo by S.M. Fassett 1865, Library of Congress

Myers Building at former site of J. Speed’s store & Lincoln’s last law office, Springfield, Illinois

I head next to the Myers Building at the southwest corner of E Washington and S 5th Streets. In April 1837, Lincoln moved to Springfield. The legislative session had ended and Lincoln was ready to get going on practicing law, for which he’d been preparing the last two and a half years. He arrived here at A.Y. Ellis & Co’s store to inquire about the cost of a bed and its trappings. The clerk he found there ready to help him was not his old New Salem friend Ellis he had come to see, it was Ellis’ business partner, Joshua Fry Speed. Speed must have seen something he liked in Lincoln, and besides, there was a housing shortage in Springfield. So he offered to let Lincoln share his bed and his room upstairs. Lincoln accepted with alacrity and settled right in, and Lincoln and Speed became the closest of friends over the next almost-four years until Speed moved back to his native Kentucky in January of 1841. For a while, these two close friends stayed in contact, especially about their respective uncertain love lives, and then they mostly fell out of touch until Lincoln became the Republican Presidential nominee. Speed, the son of slaveowners and a conservative Louisville Democrat, wrote a warm letter of congratulations to Lincoln when he was elected President, and placed himself firmly on the side of his dear old friend. He worked with Lincoln and others to make sure that Kentucky, a border state split between Union and pro-slavery factions, was not lost to the Confederacy.

Buildings which included Joshua Fry Speed and Abner Y. Ellis’ grocery store on the ground floor. Speed, Lincoln, and Herndon’s living quarters were in a second-floor front room (with another man, Charles Hurst) and later, the second Lincoln & Herndon office was in a second floor rear room, at S. 5th St / SW Old State Capitol Plaza and E. Washington St, Springfield, IL. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Louisville, by the way, was the native town of my grandfather, within whom that old battle was still raging. Though I had never seen it manifested in the way he interacted with people, I had always been convinced of his entrenched and intractable racism because of his political and social views. I was convinced, that is, until I beheld the tenderness and affection with which he held and regarded his black great-grandson, just as he did with all the other kids in our large extended family. That’s when I became convinced that the racism I had perceived for so long was an ingrained habit, a cultural residue that could not overcome his natural kindliness and deep sense of family. I like to think that it was just so with Lincoln, except that for him, his ascendency to the Presidency made the entire nation, in a very important sense, his family, black, white, and all.

To be continued…

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Sources and inspiration:

Abraham Lincoln Online: The Gettysburg Address and Lincoln Timelines and Highlights

Andreasen, Bryon C. Looking for Lincoln in Illinois: Lincoln’s Springfield. Southern Illinois University Press, 2015

Bakke, Dave. ‘Springfield Man [Randy von Liski] Focuses Photo Hobby on Classic Barbershops.’ The State Journal-Register, Oct 15, 2010

Brink, McCormick & Co. ‘Springfield Township, Springfield City.‘ from Atlas of Sangamon County, 1874.

Carwardine, Richard. Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power. New York: Random House, 2003

Central Springfield Historic District‘ National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, Prepared by Nicholas P. Kalogeresis for the National Park Service.

Deming, Henry Champion. ‘Eulogy of Abraham Lincoln: before the General Assembly of Connecticut, at Allyn Hall, Hartford, Thursday, June 8th, 1865.’ Hartford: A.N. Clark & Co. State Printers, 1985

Donald, David Herbert. Lincoln. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995

Elijah Iles‘. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia

Hart, Dick. ‘Lincoln’s Springfield: Hotels and Taverns.’ Lincoln’s Springfield blog

Havlik, Robert J. ‘Abraham Lincoln and the Reverend Dr. James Smith: Lincoln’s Presbyterian Experience in Springfield.Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1998-) Vol. 92, No. 3, A Lincoln Issue (Autumn, 1999), pp. 222-237

Herndon, William H. and Jesse W. Weik. Herndon’s Lincoln: The True Story of a Great Life. 1889

History of Sangamon County, Illinois; Together with Sketches of its Cities, Villages and Townships … Portraits of Prominent Persons, and Biographies of Representative Citizens. Chicago: Interstate Publishing Co.,  1881

Illinois, Springfield: Tinsley Building. Excerpts from newspapers and other sources compiled by the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana, 1993

Joshua Fry Speed: Lincoln’s Confidential Agent in Kentucky.The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, Vol. 52, No. 179 (April, 1954), pp. 99-110

Lehrman, Lewis E. Lincoln at Peoria: The Turning Point. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2008.

The Lincolns’ Globe Tavern: A Study in Tracing the History of a Nineteenth-Century Building‘, by James T. Hickey, George W. Spotswood, C. G. Saunders and Sarah Beck, Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1908-1984) Vol. 56, No. 4 (Winter, 1963), pp. 629-653

Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Illinois. Website, National Park Service

Looking for Lincoln: various historical/informational placards throughout the Springfield, Illinois and surrounding areas about the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln at their associated sites

Martin Van Buren meets Abraham Lincoln.SangamonLink: History of Sangamon County, Illinois, Apr 13, 2013

Temple, Wayne C. ‘Herndon on Lincoln: An Unknown Interview with a List of Books in the Lincoln & Herndon Law Office.Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society (1998-) Vol. 98, No. 1/2 (Spring – Summer, 2005), pp. 34-50

von Liski, Randy. ‘Commercial Building (American House hotel site), 200 S. 6th Street, Springfield, Illinois.‘ My Old Postcards Flickr page