Mount Pulaski, IL.   (1915?)

[letter uncovered by James Hickey, former curator of the Lincoln Collection, Springfield, IL.]

       When I was a child, my father built a house at the northwest corner of eighth and Jackson Streets, Springfield, Illinois, where we lived for a number of years.  Soon after we were in our new home, the Lincoln’s, then a happily married couple, with their first child, Robert, moved into the house opposite to us in which they bought and lived in for many years.  Only which is today one of the most celebrated spots in the United States.  I have a clear recollection of many things that happened while we lived so near to each other.  One thing I remember very distinctly:  I can see Mr. Lincoln as though it was yesterday coming up on our side porch and to our door in his shirt sleeves, bareheaded and feet in slippers, with fire shovel in hand and a few coals with which to start his morning fire.  This he did only in the summer, as everyone in those days covered their coals in winter and kept the fire over from day to day.  My mother never failed to save the fire for him except at one time and then she gave him a few matches for which he thanked her and said, “I never would have thought of matches”.  They were scarce and expensive in those days and no one thought of using matches if there were coals to be found in the neighborhood.  Mr. Lincoln, being a lawyer, did not require as early a  breakfast as my father who was in the mercantile business at the time, consequently he always found the fire excepting the one time I have mentioned.
        Again, I see Mr. Lincoln lying on the floor in his front hall of his home, playing with his children and dangling a baby up over him.  A chair was turned down to rest his shoulders on and his feet were up on the newel post.  Then again I see him pushing or pulling some kind of cart with a cab, in it as he walked back and forth in his own yard and reading a book as he walked.   These are little things, but they show how he loved and cared for his children and could adapt himself to all circumstances.
        Robert Lincoln was my first playmate and spent much of his time at our house.  I have many recollections of him, several of which are out of the ordinary.  Often when he was at our house the cry would go out, “Bobby is lost;  Bobby is lost.”  In one of Mr. Lincoln’s famous letters he says, “Since writing the above word has come to me that Bob is lost.  I suppose he is found and spanked and lost again by this time.”  It was almost an everyday occurrence.  Mr. Lincoln was never known to go by the Sobriquet “Abe”.  My parents said he was always called “Mr. Lincoln”, never “Abe” by anyone unless by some old friend or near relative.  He was always highly respected and “Mister” to everyone.
        We lived as neighbors and enjoyed the friendship of this great man for five or six years when my father decided to leave Springfield and go to the new town of Mt. Pulaski, which was causing something of an exodus from Springfield at the same time.  The attraction was the high and dry location of the new town, while Springfield at that time was a low muddy place where it was a common thing for carriages and horses to mire in the mud around the public square.
        My father, Thos. P. Lushbaugh, was in the mercantile business with David Spear, an old timer, on the west side of the square.  He (my father) withdrew from the business, took a stock of goods and went to this new town where he continued in business for many years.  Mt. Pulaski was at that time the county seat of Logan County where Mr. Lincoln came twice a year to tend court, one week in the spring and one in the fall.
        When we were settled in our own home, my father invited Mr. Lincoln to stop with us during court sessions, as the accommodations at the hotel at that time were miserable.  He accepted the invitation and made our house his home for about five years, when the county seat was moved to Lincoln, Illinois.  Previous to our coming to Mt. Pulaski to live, he had been entertained frequently by Jabez Capps, Sr., (Elizabeth’s grandfather) the founder of that city (Mt. Pulaski) and formerly one of the first settlers of Springfield.
        I will now relate some things I remember of Mr. Lincoln when a guest at my father’s house.  I can see him coming in through the front door in his tall hat and Prince Albert coat with its long tails, which made him look even taller than he was, stooping as he came through, although our door was unusually high.  His habit of stooping was formed in early life when going in and out of cabin doors.
       I can see him as plainly as though it were yesterday, sitting under the trees in our front yard talking to such men as Judge Davis, the Hon. John T. Stuart, Leonard Swett of Bloomington, and others I can’t recall who would come down to our house to visit him, as there was no privacy or comfort at the hotel.  I also have a picture of him in my mind as he sat at the table in our home,  talking in a lively manner with his hair all ruffled up, as it usually was in those days, for he had the habit of running his fingers through it occasionally when talking.  I have a good recollection of many things he did and or said, as I had to wait upon the table and keep the flies off with a brush made of fancy paper cut in strips and tied to a stick or old parasol handle.  Screens had not been dreamed of in those days.
        Mr. Lincoln occupied a large bed in a large room in our house and my brother, a small boy, slept in a single bed in the same room.  Mr. Lincoln wanted my parents to let Mr. Swett have a bed at our house, but they had no other room to spare.  Then Mr. Lincoln proposed that my brother sleep with him and allow Mr. Swett to occupy the single bed, which he accordingly did and Mr. Lincoln gave my brother a twenty-five cent piece for doing so.   My brother took the quarter, and didn’t spend it, as boys would do nowadays, but kept it as a keepsake for years, carrying it through the Civil War where he served three years as a drummer.  The coin is still in the family.  I say it two years ago.  It is worn quite smooth and has a hole in it and I imagine my brother wore it suspended from his neck, or he could not have it during the three years he served in the Army.
        The bed that Mr. Lincoln slept in at our house was a high posted affair with curtains about it, as was common in those days.  The springs were corpus laced back and forth for the bedding to rest on.  After a few years, these bedsteads were discarded, as this one was.  It was put out for one more modern and eventually sent to the barn.  It would in the end have been made into firewood if a relic hunter hadn’t happened along and bought it, giving my mother three dollars for it.  He had it made into picture frames and other souvenirs.  One of those frames was sent to Grover Cleveland who was President at the time.  I still have pillows in my possession that Mr. Lincoln slept on in this bed.  I never leave home without putting them where neither fire nor thieves can reach them. 
        After Mr. Lincoln attended court so many years in Mt. Pulaski, the county seat was removed to Lincoln, Illinois, and we saw him no more except when we went to Lincoln or Springfield to hear him speak at some big rally or demonstration in his honor.  I was 14 years old when he ceased coming to our house.
        Lincoln’s campaign against Douglas was one long to be remembered by those living at that time and who were privileged to attend the rallies.  I was at several of these demonstrations or “mass meetings”, as they were called, and heard all the principal speakers of the day.  One of these was a big rally at Lincoln, Illinois, where Mr. Lincoln spoke.
        Mr. Pulaski and vicinity was well represented, the populace congregating were black with teams and wagons, riders and pedestrians.  Lines formed in town with flags, banners and floats of various kinds after which we proceeded to Lincoln, 10 miles away, in the form of a procession. One feature in our delegation was young ladies on horseback representing the states of the union, each wearing a badge naming the state she represented, and each rode with a gentleman escort.  As I remember it, I represented Massachusetts.  This was in 1858 and was the most celebrated rally, presidents or otherwise, ever held in Logan County.
       Greatest of all was the demonstration held in Springfield, on the 8th of August, 1860.   Thousands and thousands were there.  They came from all over the state and from surrounding states.  There was never such a time before nor has there ever been anything to compare with it since.  No one having attended can ever forget it.  Some traveled three and four days to get there.  There was a daytime celebration and a torchlight procession at night.  The crowd was estimated at forty or fifty thousand.  Those waiting to shake hands with Mr. Lincoln stood in a line blocks long waiting their turn.  One many pushed his way to the front and said, “I came all the way from Chicago to shake hands with the next president and I’m not going away with doing so.”  Mr. Lincoln pressed forward, gave his outstretched hand and said, as he did so, “God bless you.”  In the afternoon there was speaking at the Fair Grounds, then west of the city.  The crowd was so insistent upon seeing Mr. Lincoln and upon getting close that they couldn’t be kept off the platform, so it broke down.  He was then taken to another platform and the same thing happened again.  Then he went to his carriage to finish speaking when someone unhitched the horses from it to keep him from getting away from them.  Finally, to release him from the mob, as it were, a man on a horse pushed through, got him on and took him back to a hotel in the city.
       In the evening, there was the torchlight procession.  It was said to be 12 miles long with illuminated floats.  One float built of rails; I’ve forgotten what it represented, was drawn by 25 yoke of oxen.  It bore the legend, “Vote for Lincoln the rail splitter”.  Another was built like the flat boat that took Mr. Lincoln on his famous trip to New Orleans.  Another was a log cabin, the sides covered with coon skins and deer hides.  There were many others I’m unable at this late day to describe.
        It was the most wonderful gathering ever in Illinois.  The city couldn’t furnish sleeping quarters for all these people, so as it was August and very warm weather, they lay along the curbing and inside on the lawns of private residences.  My party didn’t find sleeping places until after 12 o’clock.
        This surely was a time never to be forgotten.


Elsewhere, Ms. Lushbaugh wrote:  “Mr. Lincoln seemed to accept his wife’s eccentricities and nervous displays with philosophic calm.  To one friend who remarked on a humiliating public exhibit of her temper, he said:  ‘It does her lots of good and it doesn’t hurt me a bit.’”  Another time when Mrs. Lincoln had berated a local vendor who had indeed sold some unsatisfactory produce, Mr. Lincoln in apology to the vendor remarked:  “My friend, you don’t know how much I regret this, but in all candor, can’t you take for fifteen minutes what I have taken for fifteen years?”.  The vendor had nothing more to say.  [Lincoln, An Illustrated Biography by Philip B. Kunhardt, Jr., Philip B. Kunhardt III,  and Peter W. Kunhardt; Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1992]

Transcribed by Betty Hickey & Phil Bertoni - March, 2005