“You go with Diane,” Jimmy said without a whisper of remorse. “You two will have fun.”
Lincoln met his wife, Mary Todd, in the rapidly growing city of Springfield in 1840.
You go girl! They do say power can be quite the aphrodisiac.
Lincoln was certainly a man on a mission, at least if history and Mary Todd are any indication. Abe was just 28 when he arrived in Springfield in 1837; he carried all his belongings in two saddlebags. He officially became the junior law partner of John Todd Stewart, a partnership that lasted four years. John Todd Stewart was Mary Todd’s cousin.
Don’t you just love serendipity! Which reminds me; Lincoln may have lost the Senate race of 1858, the same race that prompted the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates (check out my recent blog post to see this quaint town where the first of seven debates took place), but Lincoln did win Mary’s hand in marriage. Years before the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Stephen Douglas had called on Mary Todd several times.
In May of 1844, Lincoln moved his wife and firstborn into the only home he ever owned in his lifetime. That same month, Lincoln established his own law practice with William Herndon.
Lincoln purchased the property on the corner of Eighth and Jackson Streets for $1500 from the Reverend Charles Dresser, the same man that married Abe and Mary almost two years earlier, on November 4, 1842.
When Lincoln was on the road, Mary relied heavily on family and friends for help. Mary became good friends with Julia Sprigg, a widow who’d purchased a modest home just down the street from the Lincolns in 1853.
Willie died in 1862 at the age of 11 of typhoid fever, while his father was president. He was the second of the Lincoln’s four children to die. Edward Baker “Eddie” died of tuberculosis in the family home on Eighth and Jackson Streets on February 1, 1850, just two months shy of his fourth birthday. Tad died at the age of 18 (in 1871) from either pleurisy, pneumonia, congestive heart failure or tuberculosis.
I’m not sure I could have endured the heartache that comes with losing one child, much less three. And then there was her husband’s assassination by John Wilkes Booth in 1865. Seems to me migraines were the least of Mary’s problems, except of course when Mary’s son Robert had her committed to a private sanitarium called Belleview in 1875 in Batavia, Illinois (I’ll have to check that out and get back to you with that blog).
And I thought my family history was insane! Some historians and psychologists speculate, given the evidence of Mary’s erratic mood swings, fierce temper, and public outbursts throughout her husband’s presidency (that's politics for you in D.C.), that she may have been bipolar.
I imagine Mary might have viewed her 17 years in Springfield with her family as some of the best years of her life. Following the assassination of President Lincoln, Mary did write that she
“could not bear to return to the scenes of the happiest times in my life without my family.”
The family often spent evenings in the beautifully decorated Sitting Room playing games, listening to the stereoscope (a photograph viewing device that made the pictures appear three-dimensional) or reading. Fido, the family dog, was probably close at hand. Lincoln was known to like cats also.
Overnights guests were provided very comfortable accommodations designed to impress and serve their needs.
The Lincoln’s kitchen was a modern marvel with the purchase of a new cast iron wood burning stove in 1860. I cannot imagine the Lincoln’s hosting parties for several hundred and preparing the food for those numbers in their tiny kitchen. I can barely manage sixteen for Thanksgiving with all the modern conveniences of the 21st century!
I know I’ve talked your ear off, too (or something to that effect). So much history; so little time!
There are twelve historic structures that were part of the four-block area representing the Lincolns’ Springfield neighborhood. All have undergone extensive renovations to preserve this piece of history. Entrance to the Lincoln home is free, the price of admission the day Diane and I were there a three hour wait for our assigned tour; we began wandering the streets of Springfield doing the Looking for Lincoln thing before returning for our official tour.
It was truly an amazing race taking in all we could of the life of one truly amazing man, the same man whose face was the first president's ever to appear on a regular issue American coin. The one-cent coin was first minted on the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, 1909. It's a shame it costs about $2 to mint each one-cent piece today.
Lincoln's life is every bit the American Dream; his tragic death following his tremendous accomplishments truly catapulted Lincoln to greatness. What's truly amazing is Lincoln might not have ever been president had the duel to which he'd been challenged in 1842 had proceeded as planned.
Isn't history amazing!