With Abraham Lincoln’s birthday just behind us…he was born on February 12, 1809. Most of us know that Lincoln had no formal education. We know that he gave amazing speeches and that he freed the slaves. We also know that he was assassinated, but there are a number of other Lincoln Facts that I didn’t know, and maybe you didn’t either. One sad fact is that Lincoln lost his mother at the tender age of 9 years old, when she drank poison milk. She wasn’t poisoned, but it turns out that many people died of a strange “milk sickness” that was caused by a cow eating a “poisonous to humans” plant called White Snakeroot. I’m sure it was a horrible time for Lincoln, but his father remarried, and the widow, Sarah Bush Johnston was a kind woman, who got along well with her step-son.
At the age of 21, Abraham Lincoln became a champion wrestler. I don’t know how he would have fared in WWE, but then that is a lot of drama and show too. Nevertheless, he wrestled in approximately 300 matches, and only lost once. It is thought that his long legs helped him lock his opponent down. Lincoln reportedly talked a little smack in the ring too. According to Carl Sandburg’s biography of Lincoln, “Honest Abe once challenged an entire crowd of onlookers after dispatching an opponent: ‘I’m the big buck of this lick. If any of you want to try it, come on and whet your horns.’ There were no takers.” Lincoln’s grappling exploits earned him an “Outstanding American” honor in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
Lincoln is also the only president to have personally test-fired rifles outside the White House, including one by my ancestor, Christopher Spencer who was the inventor of the Spencer Repeating Rifle. When Spencer signed his new rifle up for adoption right after the Civil War broke out, it was not well received by the Department of War Ordnance, that felt soldiers would waste ammunition by firing too rapidly with repeating rifles. The unit was also more expensive than Springfield Model 1861 rifled musket in use at the time. Nevertheless, shortly after the famous Battle of Gettysburg, Spencer was able to gain an audience with President Abraham Lincoln, who invited him to a shooting match and demonstration of the weapon on the lawn of the White House. President Lincoln was so impressed with the weapon that he ordered General James Wolfe Ripley to adopt it for production. Unfortunately, Ripley disobeyed the order and continued to use the old single-shooters.
President Lincoln is also responsible for the safety of the presidents that followed him. Yes, there were failures, but without Lincoln’s decision to create the Secret Service on April 14, 1865, just hours before he was assassinated, many presidents in the future would not have had the quality of protection they did. The Secret Service did protect President Lincoln after his death, when grave robbers attempted to steal his body and hold it for a ransom of $200,000 and the release of one of their gang from prison. Their attempt was foiled by the Secret Service that President Lincoln had initiated.
It was a long time coming. An actual house for the President of the United States was a long time coming. Prior to establishing the nation’s capital in Washington DC, the United States Congress and its predecessors had met in Philadelphia (Independence Hall and Congress Hall), New York City (Federal Hall), and a number of other locations (York, Pennsylvania; Lancaster, Pennsylvania; the Maryland State House in Annapolis, Maryland; and Nassau Hall in Princeton, New Jersey). Then, it was decided that our government needed a permanent home. Washington DC was selected.
The first president who would have an actual government-owned home in Washington DC was President John Adams, and he would only live there for the last year of his only term in office. President John Adams, in the last year of his only term as president, moved into the newly constructed President’s House on November 1, 1800. The President’s House was the original name for what is known today as the White House. Adams and his wife had been living in temporarily at Tunnicliffe’s City Hotel near the half-finished Capitol building since June 1800, when the federal government was moved from Philadelphia to the new capital city of Washington DC. When Adams first arrived in Washington, he wrote to his wife Abigail, who was still at their home in Quincy, Massachusetts, that he was pleased with the new site for the federal government and that he had explored the soon-to-be President’s House and liked it.
Although workmen had rushed to finish plastering and painting walls before Adams returned to DC from a visit to Quincy in late October, the construction was still unfinished when Adams rolled up in his carriage on November 1. However, the furniture from their Philadelphia home was in place and a portrait of George Washington was already hanging in one room. It was a decent start. The next day, Adams sent a note to Abigail, who would arrive in Washington later that month, saying that he hoped “none but honest and wise men [shall] ever rule under this roof.” I wish that had always been the case, and of course the idea of good and bad presidents are often a matter of opinion.
The President’s House though new had its issues. Adams was initially very pleased with the presidential mansion, but he and Abigail found it to be cold and damp during the winter. Abigail wrote to a friend saying that the building was tolerable only so long as fires were lit in every room. She also said that on a funny note, she also said that she had to hang their washing in an empty “audience room,” which is the current East Room. Now, that’s quite a thought. During the War of 1812, the White House was set on fire by the British, and had to be repaired.
With the new school year just beginning, the reality is that the year’s end will arrive in incredibly short order. Football, basketball, and track will be over, and before we know it, the high school students are getting ready for prom again. Everyone wants their prom to be that wonderful dance that is unforgettable…one that they can carry the memories of forever. Proms are usually held in the school gym, or maybe at an events center, and on rare occasions, a hotel, but in 1975, in Washington DC, was held what could only be called the ultimate prom!! And don’t think your school could duplicate this particular prom, because they couldn’t. This particular prom was held at the White House!! It was the only prom ever to be held at the executive mansion, which makes it an odd event in White House social history.
Our president at the time was Gerald Ford, and he had a 17 year old daughter named Susan. Like most daughters, Susan knew that her daddy wanted to make her happy. So, she asked him if her high school could hold their prom at the White House. It was the first and only prom ever to be held there…and not something that is likely to happen again. Susan went to school at the Holton-Arms school. The prom was held on March 31, 1975, and President and Mrs Ford were on their way from Belgium to Spain as part of a diplomatic tour of Europe. In their place was the president’s sister-in-law, Janet Ford, “a small figure in a white lace dress, casting a tolerant but observant eye on the proceedings.”
Over forty years later, the students who attended the regal prom still carry those wonderful memories of a very special prom that could never be equaled. They even got to take a sunset cruise on the presidential yacht. Many parties have been held at the White House, but none quite like this one. The White House was rockin’ that Saturday, with Susan Ford. her classmates and their dates, dancing the bump and the hustle in the East Room until 1:00am. Susan had been a student at the Holton-Arms School, an academy for girls in Bethesda, Maryland, since her freshman year. “The members of the class of 1975 paid the cost of the prom…$1,300, after raising funds at bake sales and school fairs. Tablecloths were made out of floral pink and yellow sheets. The menu included Swedish meatballs and quiche, as well as a nonalcoholic punch made of tea, lemonade, soda, grape juice, and sugar. Susan and her classmates assembled the centerpieces, candles in a setting of daisies, tulips, lilies, sweet peas, and ming fern.”
“The girls wore long dresses, light makeup, casual hairdos, and, in many cases, orchid corsages,” the Associated Press reported. “Many of their escorts, in black or white tuxedos, wore boutonnieres and below-the-collar length hair.” “Susan, at that age, was strikingly beautiful,” says Sally Alexander, a retired English teacher at Holton-Arms, who was one of six chaperones. “And it’s a great deal of fun to watch a bunch of beautiful young girls with handsome young men, all dressed up. They were clearly excited about being where they were, but they were not uncomfortably awed. It was a beautiful affair.” And of course, the media was there to document the entire historic prom. So, if you want your prom to be this cool, you had better start planning now…or maybe several years ago.
Everyone knows that President Lincoln was assassinated on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, while attending the play Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC, as the Civil War was drawing to a close, but what you may not know is that this was not the first attempt on Abraham Lincoln’s life. The first attempt came one August night in 1864, just under a year before the successful attempt by John Wilkes Booth. It is unknown who the would-be assassin was in that earlier attempt, just that they very nearly succeeded.
President Lincoln and his family often stayed at the Soldiers’ Home during the summer months due to the unbearable heat at the White House. President Lincoln often made the 4 mile trip from the White House to the Soldiers’ Home alone, and often late at night, an unheard of situation these days, with the secret service officers always shadowing the presidents, vice-presidents, and their families. As Lincoln was riding along that night, a shot rang out. Private John W Nichols, who was stationed at the Soldiers’ Home, rushed to the aid of the president, whom he found well, but missing his hat. President Lincoln told the private that the horse jerked upon hearing the gunshot, and his hat went flying. The private went to retrieve the hat for the president, and went he examined it, he found that it now had a bullet hole in it. It was an extremely close call, but President Lincoln requested that the matter be kept quiet, and Private Nichols didn’t tell the story until 1867. His tall hat had saved his life by causing the would be assassin to aim too high to hit his head.
For America, this missed shot changed history. Had Lincoln been killed on that August night…even just that much earlier would have had devastating consequences for America. Hannibal Hamlin would have become a lame duck president. Hamlin was already off the Union ticket for vice president, having been replaced by Andrew Johnson. Hamlin would have faced strong opposition, because at the time, the Radical Democracy Party…an offshoot of the Republicans…and their nominee, John Fremont, had not yet dropped from the race. The Radical Democracy Party were even more strongly opposed to slavery than Lincoln, which is what led to their formation. Had the assassin aimed a bit lower in 1864, the election in November would likely have pitted Hamlin against Fremont and McClellan, the Democratic nominee, with Johnson perhaps running on the Union ticket.
Presidential elections always rest on who can win in an election, and in this case the winner would have turned 1864 America into a mess. Had the earlier would-be assassin’s shot been just a little lower, Lincoln, would have been succeeded by Hannibal Hamlin which may have given the upcoming election to Lincoln’s overly cautious former commander, General George McClellan. How either Hamlin, had he actually won re-election, or McClellan would have carried on the last year of the war, much less dealt with southern reconstruction, is a source for debate. Lincoln’s death, if combined with a lame-duck Hamlin and a conciliatory McClellan, might have encouraged the South to hold on just a while longer and resulted in an armistice rather than a victory, dramatically changing the history of America. I don’t think that anyone but Lincoln could have freed the slaves at that time.
As a thankful nation took time to honor it’s fallen peace officers, my brother-in-law, Chris Hadlock, who was Wyoming’s Peace Officer of the Year, was among those invited to attend the services to honor fallen comrades across the nation. A solemn occasion, it began on Saturday with a candlelight vigil, to remember those officers who lost their lives in the line of duty this year. It was an awe inspiring ceremony with an awe inspiring crowd of police officers, their families, and of course, the families of the fallen. This ceremony is, after all, for the loved ones of the fallen heroes…the families, who also made the ultimate sacrifice. No one can understand what a sacrifice that was, until they have gone through it themselves.
Yesterday was the 36th Annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service. President Trump and Vice President Pence both spoke at the service, and when they were finished speaking, there was an atmosphere of hope among the officers and their families. President Trump has taken a strong stance concerning our law enforcement officers, saying “The attacks on our police are a stain on the very fabric of our society, and you are entitled to leadership at the highest level that will draw a bright line in the sand — not a red line in the sand that isn’t gone over — but a bright line in the sand. And we will protect you. That I can tell you. And we will say, “Enough is enough.” The attacks on our police must end, and they must end right now.” He also said, “We must also end the reckless words of incitement that give rise to danger and give rise to violence. It is time to work with our cops, not against them, but to support them in making our streets safe; not to obstruct them — which we’re doing, we obstruct them. It is time for all Americans, from all parties and beliefs, to join together in a simple goal to ensure that every child in America has the right to grow up in safety, security and peace. True social justice means a future where every child, in every neighborhood, can play outside without fear, can walk home safely from school, and can live out the beautiful dreams that fill their heart.”
It was a speech filled with hope and those who were blessed enough to be there felt awe inspired….and humbled at the same time. They were standing in the midst of heroes, both living and remembered. They were all in this fight together…a fight to make our nation safer, and to make it a place where our children can play outside without fear of kidnap or death. As President Trump has stated, “One of the fundamental rights of every American is to live in a safe community. A Trump Administration will empower our law enforcement officers to do their jobs and keep our streets free of crime and violence. The Trump Administration will be a law and order administration. President Trump will honor our men and women in uniform and will support their mission of protecting the public. The dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America is wrong. The Trump Administration will end it.” In addition to that amazing speech, President Trump had the White House lit up blue in honor of the police officers of this nation.
The trip that my brother-in-law was honored with for being Wyoming’s Peace Officer of the Year, concluded today with a tour of the White House. This is a tour that not many people get to take…especially these days. The tour and the pictures they took will be a treasure for them forever. My sister, Allyn Hadlock said that she “felt so honored and privileged to be there! It was a wonderful glimpse into the past and future” Our family is very excited that they got to take this trip, and very proud of Lieutenant Chris Hadlock, Wyoming’s Peace Officer of the Year. You’re a credit to Wyoming!!
When we think of the White House, we seldom think of death. Oh, there have been presidents who were assassinated, or died while in office, but mostly not in the White House. It is too well guarded, and an ill president usually was taken to a hospital. Nevertheless, death has visited the White House, and the case I am referring to was not a president, but rather his son. Abraham Lincoln is my 7th cousin thrice removed, making his children, my 7th cousins 4 times removed. Lincoln married Mary Todd on November 4, 1842, in Springfield, Illinois. They were the parents of four sons Robert Todd Lincoln was born in 1843 and Edward Baker “Eddie” Lincoln in 1846. Edward died on February 1, 1850, in Springfield, probably of Tuberculosis. William Wallace “Willie” Lincoln was born on December 21, 1850, and died of a Typhoid Fever on February 20, 1862. The Lincolns’ fourth son, Thomas “Tad” Lincoln, was born on April 4, 1853, and died of heart failure at the age of 18 on July 16, 1871. While three of the four boys died in childhood, only one, Willie passed away in the White House.
Disease was a scary thing in those days, because many serious diseases, which we have cures for now, were a death sentence in those days. Little Willie Lincoln had contracted Typhoid Fever. Typhoid fever, also known simply as typhoid, is a bacterial infection due to Salmonella Typhi that causes symptoms which may vary from mild to severe and usually begin six to thirty days after exposure. The disease was all over Washington DC, and even the White House was not safe from it’s deathly grip. In fact, Willie was not the only one to have it. His brother, Tad was in bed just down the hall, with the same illness. Tad would survive, but I have to wonder if his heart was not severely weakened by the disease, because he passed away just nine years later of heart failure. On February 20, 1862, little 11 year old Willie succumbed to the Typhoid Fever at 5:00pm. His parents were with him, and Abraham Lincoln said, “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth. God has called him home. I know that he is much better off in heaven, but then we loved him so. It is hard, hard to have him die!” Mary watched him bury his head in his hands, “his tall frame convulsed with emotion.” At the foot of the bed she stood “in silent, awe-stricken wonder,” marveling that so rugged a man could be so moved. “I shall never forget those solemn moments — genius and greatness weeping over love’s idol lost.” President Lincoln then walked down the hall to his secretary’s office. He startled the half-dozing secretary with the news: “Well, Nicolay, my boy is gone — he is actually gone!” John Nicolay recalled seeing his boss burst into tears before entering his own office. I think I have to agree with Mary. When we think of Abraham Lincoln, we think of a strong man, but if we think about it, he also had a softer side, and he loved children.
Willie Lincoln was a favorite around the White House. In the words of a government official’s wife, “The White House is sad and still, for its joy and light have fled with little Willie. He was a very bright child, remarkably precocious for his age, and had endeared himself to every one who knew him.” Mary Lincoln’s cousin said he was “noble, beautiful…a counterpart of his father, save that he was handsome.” Mary herself called him the “idolized child, of the household.” It’s somewhat strange to think that such a large household as the White House, with all of it’s staff who work there, could be so changed by the death of a child, but Willie Lincoln was not an ordinary child. Had he been, he might not have come to the attention of everyone in the White House. Most of us know who the first children are but the White House staff knew Willie Lincoln and dearly loved him. As dates in history go, while this little boy was not an important man is the way we think of that today, he had a impact that went far beyond his short time on this earth, and his dying day was one that saddened a nation.
As I watched the “peaceful transition of power” from on president to the next today, I was quite moved by the prayers, the oath of office, and of course, the amazing speech given by President Donald J Trump. For those who chose Donald Trump, it was a joyous day. For those who didn’t choose him, I hope that his speech gave you some hope that the future can be bright, and less scary than you had expected it to be. Change is always something met with anticipation. It is different for everyone. Those who don’t like the change, meet it with concern, and those who like the change, meet it with joy. For me, the speech gave hope…hope of unity, prosperity, freedom, safety, and thanksgiving, but mostly of bringing God back into our country. You see, I am a patriot. I believe that this country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and I want God back in this country.
I have watched many inaugurations in my lifetime, and maybe I missed it, but I was disappointed by the outgoing side’s continual attempts to plug their message…a message that contained one very large mistake in my mind. Everyone kept calling our country a democracy. It is not. We are a Constitutional Republic…and not a Democracy as some would have you believe. A Constitutional Republic has a Constitution that limits the powers of the government. It also spells out how the government is structured, creating checks on its power and balancing power between the different branches. Our founding fathers knew very well the meaning of the word “democracy,” and the history of democracies. They were deliberately doing everything in their power to prevent the United States from being a democracy. The people in a Constitutional Republic have no obligation to the government, but rather, the government is a servant of the people, and obliged to its owner, We the People. Many politicians have lost sight of that fact, and that has been a major flaw in the outgoing administration. A Democracy, on the other hand, is a government of the masses, where authority derived through mass meeting or any other form of “direct” expression. It often results in mobocracy, where mobs, the offended, and protestors try to change how things run…sound familiar. Our current administration has done it’s best to incite these kinds of changes, and it is harming our country. It is my prayer that We the People, will begin to remove the idea of democracy from this nation, once and for all. I don’t say this to create a stir, but rather, in the hope that people will educate themselves on these two ideas, so that they can see how much better it is to be a Constitutional Republic.
As the United States begins a new era, with a new president, vice president, and congress, it is my hope that we can now set aside the protesting, the hatred and racism, and the lawlessness, and become a nation that is proud and honorable…a nation that exhibits respect for one another. Congratulations to President Donald J Trump, Vice President Michael R Pence, their families, and this great nation. Happy Inauguration Day, and God bless America!!
For a time it seemed that our nation couldn’t decide where to put the capitol. The first capitol…for a very short time, was New York City. President George Washington occupied two executive mansions in New York City…the Samuel Osgood House and the Alexander Macomb House. New York began building Government House, but Washington never occupied it. The capitol was moved to Philadelphia. Few people realize that it all began in New York City, nor do they realize that Philadelphia was the first official capitol of the United States. Washington DC became the capitol in December, 1800.
The 1790 Residence Act named Philadelphia the temporary capital for ten years untile the White House could be built on the Potomac River in what is now Washington DC. Philadelphia housed both Continental Congresses and the Constitutional Congress. Both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written in Philadelphia. When it was decided that Washington DC would become the capitol, there was a bit of a fight over the move. While President Washington lived in Philadelphia, he lived in the Market Street mansion, which he altered in ways that may have influenced the White House. In an effort to keep the capitol in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania built a grand presidential mansion a few blocks from the Market Street mansion, but President Washigton declined to occupy it.
President Washington’s term would end before the White House was completed. John Quincy Adams became president and lived in the Market Street mansion from March 1797 to May 1800, having also declined to move into the grand presidential mansion that Pennsylvania had built. Then on June 3, 1800, President Adams moved to Washington DC. The White House was still not finished, so in what I found a shocking move, he moved into the Washington City Hotel, as it was properly named. It was called, and rightfully so, Tunnicliff’s, named after William Tunnicliff, who had it build, and owned it. The Washington City Hotel was in reality, a tavern. A tavern!! That is such a strange place for a US president to choose to live. I’m sure he was excited about moving into the White House, but it would not be finished unto the end of October. President Adams finally moved into the White House on November 1, 1800, making him the only president to live in the Philadelphia mansion, a tavern, and the White House.
Things were much different in those days, of course. I’m sure that there was no big pre-move check of the tavern and the surrouning area, like there would be now. I suppose that there was security to some degree, but in reality most Americans wouldn’t have even known that the president had moved at that time, much less that he was living in a tavern.