RECOLLECTIONS OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
ELIZABETH LUSHBAUGH CAPPS
[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
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
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
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]
Betty Hickey & Phil Bertoni - March, 2005