Since this weekend’s theme is everything Abraham Lincoln, I thought I’d hop aboard on this bandwagon (pulled by a mid-1800’s Lincoln era locomotive naturally).
The Summer of Lincoln kicked off with a grand start when we first got a glimpse of 30-foot tall Honest Abe and his co-hort “Modern Man” when they were dropped off to spend a few months camped out in front of the county courthouse.
When it was announced our town would host the president and his pal, I guess I failed to truly grasp how big these guys would be.
Lincoln looks right at home out front of our courthouse since he, too, was a practicing lawyer — without a law degree. Try practicing law without passing the bar in this century and you’ll end up with your own TLC reality show. Lincoln only had about 18 months of formal schooling, but I’m sure he was a smooth talker with his clients and in the courtroom. Heck, he was even a judge at one point in his life.
Lincoln did more than end slavery at the end of the Civil War. He is also the only president to hold a patent. He invented a device that would free steamboats that ran aground.
Lincoln also was the first president who sported a beard. He’d fit right in these days with the our nation’s hipster movement. Maybe stove pipe hats could make a come back? Pocket Apple watches? (If this ever comes about, please note I just trademarked the iPocketWatch. Thanks).
My twin sister and I always loved learning about all the U.S. Presidents.We each had our own presidential favorites whose stories stand out more so than others. Evan likes to quiz me on presidential trivia and I school opponents every time. I do admit I get Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge mixed up from time to time.
One of our childhood summer vacations was spent visiting Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Ill. Remember, any and all vacations were strictly confined to the Corn Belt for my dad’s agricultural eye, therefore Lincoln’s home on Eighth and Jackson streets in the middle of Illinois was a destination for our family.
It was hot. It was mid-July. It was crowded. If I recall, we picked a weekend where Civil War re-enactors camped out on the front lawn outside Lincoln’s home. His home was pretty remarkable especially when you considered his humble birthplace of a simple log cabin in Kentucky.
This was the only home Lincoln ever owned and where three of his four children were born. He even had a dog named Fido. It also was the home where he was elected president on Nov. 6, 1860.
I remember one of the details of this house that stuck out to me was the rambunctiousness of his children. Stories of wooden hoop roll contests, wild games, conjured up visuals more like the Little Rascals than a presidential family. My favorite was the tale of how the neighborhood children would hide behind a wall and used long sticks to knock off men’s top hats as they walked by.
One interesting fact was the Lincolns rented this home to the Tilton family when they moved to Washington D.C. When Lincoln was assassinated, mourners gathered at the home, taking blades of grass and leaves off of trees as mementos.
The Tiltons finally had to ask for police intervention when people started peeling the paint off the Lincoln house and stealing bricks from its retaining wall. Mary never returned to the home after her husband’s death. Surviving son Robert eventually deeded the house to the state of Illinois for $1 as long as they kept it in good condition and allowed visitors. In 1972, the National Park Service took over ownership and many have enjoyed its place in history ever since.
The courthouse will sure look lonely after Lincoln and Modern Day Man head back home, so I hope you all enjoyed our Summer of Lincoln as much as I have.
“Twin” Melanie Yingst appears weekly in the Troy Daily News. Lincoln’s funeral train traveled about 1,600 miles through 400 cities for about two weeks. The exhumed casket of his son, William Wallace Lincoln, went with him, but his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, was too distraught to go.