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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Abraham Lincoln Visits Southwestern Ohio

Dallas Bogan on 23 July 2004
Dallas Bogan, Warren County, Ohio and Beyond (Bowie Maryland: Heritage Press, 1979) page 366
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

When one tends to travel this beautiful county of ours, the thought of a visit from the greatest President, or possibly the greatest American of all times, is far from our thoughts. However, in the years 1859 and 1861, Warren County was graced with his presence. His name is Abraham Lincoln.
It was in Dayton that the name of Abraham Lincoln was first publicly mentioned for the presidency of the United States. Lincoln was fairly unknown at this time except for his debates with Senator Stephen A. Douglas, the "Little Giant."
Our setting is the year 1859. An exciting gubernatorial race was being held in Ohio between Republican William Dennison, a native of Cincinnati, and the Democratic contender, Judge Rufus P. Ranney, a resident of Portage County. The subject matter of this political post was based on the issue of whether the Union could survive half slave and half free.
Lincoln had served his Illinois district in Congress. At this time he became acquainted with Thomas Corwin, from Lebanon, and other dignitaries from this area of the State.
Corwin extended an invitation to the Illinois attorney to visit Ohio because of his commendable presentation against Douglas in debating the slavery question.
While the new party of the Republicans was jostling for outside orators, the Democrats were also on the move. They had secured the services of Stephen A. Douglas, and in his address in Columbus, Sept. 7, 1859; many highly ranked Republicans were swayed in their beliefs.
Justice could only be served by bringing Lincoln into the picture. On Friday, Sept. 16, he made a speech in Columbus on the east terrace of the State House, and, in the evening, at the City Hall.
The following day he chose to make a stop at Dayton. Preceding Lincoln's visit to Dayton was a scheduled stopover by none other than Mr. Douglas. Hon. Clement L. Vanlandigham, the soon-to-be leader of the famed "Copperheads", received him. Douglas's appearance of September 8 was addressed not only to the citizens of the Gem City, but to the country as well.
Lincoln was welcomed to Dayton by Robert C. Schenck of Franklin, who had since made his home in the Gem City. Schenck was an old friend of the future President, both having served in the 30th Congress, 1847-48. He was considered "Lincoln's best friend in Dayton." Lincoln originally had not prepared a speech for the Dayton residents, but he later changed his mind. On the 16th a message was sent from Columbus that: "Hon. Abe Lincoln will speak in Dayton at 1 1/2 o'clock; let the people attend."
Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln and their party arrived by train, making their stay at the Philips House. (This fine hotel once stood on the southwest corner of Third and Main, just south of the old courthouse.)
Schenck introduced the speaker with a speech of his own, which consisted mainly of political parties and their beliefs. Lincoln had been fittingly introduced. He referred to his two previous visits to Ohio, but stated that this was his first trip to Dayton. His earlier visits were made to Cincinnati in connection with legal cases in the Queen City, in which he represented clients residing in his own State of Illinois.
His speech was in referral to the often-repeated statement by Douglas that the Ordinance of 1787 had never made a free state and that Ohio had been made free merely by the action of its own people. The main issue of his speech was that getting rid of slavery was a troublesome concern. He also declared himself in favor of an absolute "Popular Sovereignty." He outlined his belief thus: "That each man shall do precisely as he pleases with himself, and with all those things which concern him."
After his stopover in Dayton, Hamilton was Lincoln's next destination, arriving in the afternoon of Sept. 17, 1859, on the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railroad. Before his scheduled stop, the train arrived at Middletown Station, which was located on the west side of town. (It was at that time called Madison.) The train was to be serviced and wood and water taken on. This took several minutes.
According to George Crout, Middletown area historian, Lincoln stepped off the train and conversed with the fairly small crowd. A chance to see the opponent of Stephen A. Douglas, whom most of them supported, was a once in a lifetime experience. Mr. Crout wrote "Lincoln looked to the east across the river, noting a few three-story brick buildings on the horizon." He also wrote that the Madison House was somewhat new, having been constructed in 1846. Some of the passengers frequented the bar, but Lincoln remained near the engine chatting with the small crowd. The fireman completed his assignment and complained that his fellow workers were too slow. He bellowed quite loudly, "Come on, men, we got to get out of here - We've got to have Lincoln at Hamilton on time, for he still has to make Cincinnati tonight." Lincoln immediately stepped back onto the train, and, in a matter of minutes the C.H.& D. was on its way.
He arrived at the Hamilton Station (the station is still standing and has been placed on the city's Historic Preservation list), and on the afternoon of the 17th, he gave his speech. It was along the same lines as the speech given in Dayton, which concentrated on Popular Sovereignty. It started out giving mention to the Miami Valley. He said: "This beautiful and far-famed Miami Valley is the garden spot of the world."
Now it seems all too fair to mention that the procession traveled the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railroad. The tracks of this line passed through the corporation of Carlisle, which at that time was called Carlisle Station. So, according to written tradition, this was the first excursion through Warren County for the soon to be President.
Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860, receiving only 40 percent of the votes. His activity on the campaign trail consisted mostly of stump speaking. He was the first Republican to win the nation's highest office. His opponents on the Democratic ticket were Stephen Douglas, John Bell and John C. Breckenridge. If it were not for the split in the vote of the opposition, he would have been defeated and Stephen Douglas would have been elected President.
President-elect Lincoln and his family stepped off his special train (the Wabash Line) in Cincinnati on his 52nd birthday, February 12, 1861. Cincinnati was honored with the presence of the newly elected President and his family. They stepped into a special carriage drawn by six white horses, and rode in a procession that included brass bands and fife-and-drum corps. The citizens, Democrats and Republicans alike, welcomed them and all plans were carried out as hoped for. Their stay was the Burnet House at Third and Vine streets.
As he gazed across the Ohio River into Kentucky, his birth place, he would say: " We mean to treat you, as near as we possibly can, as Washington, Jefferson, and Madison treated you," that "under the Providence of God, who has never deserted us...we shall again be brethren, forgetting all parties - ignoring all parties."
President-elect Lincoln was invited to visit Dayton once again. Some respected citizens of the Gem City sent an invitation and he answered the request through his secretary, John Nicolay. "Mr. Nicolay will answer this, that I will pass through Dayton, and bow to the friends there, if I can get to and from Columbus as soon; other wise not. - Lincoln."
The citizens of Dayton were disappointed when news arrived that the C.H.& D. line was not to be used. It was decided to use the Little Miami Railroad as an alternative route, thus bypassing Dayton and taking the trip from Cincinnati to Xenia and on to Columbus.
The President's party arose at 6:15 on the morning of February 13, ate breakfast and was at the Little Miami depot by 8:30. A lead engine preceded the special train, which was made up of three coaches. The Presidential train was now underway. It moved along at speeds of 30 miles per hour. It slowed for stops at "Milford, Loveland, Miamiville, Morrow, Corwin, Xenia and London."
In an article by the late Marion Snyder, he informs us "that at Morrow, a junction point, Mrs. Lincoln was presented a bouquet of flowers of white camellias on behalf of the railroad president's wife." Snyder presumed that Mrs. Clement, wife of the president of the Little Miami, made the presentation of the flowers either to Mary Todd Lincoln or to one of her attendants.
Many Dayton citizens, obviously disappointed at the news concerning the change of plans, jumped into their buggies, or took the train to nearby Xenia, and enlarged the crowd there. Lincoln did not eat from breakfast time until late at night.
The folks at Xenia prepared food for the Presidential train, but the massive crowd that had stampeded the depot dining room soon devoured it. Some of the train party were left behind simply pacifying their appetite.
The Dayton Journal noted on the 14th: "A large crowd of people, some 5,000, welcomed Mr. Lincoln to Xenia yesterday. He spoke a few minutes from the platform of the car. The enthusiasm was great...Mr. Lincoln addressed them from the rear of the car, reiterating what he said before - no speech to make, and no time to make one."
On April 14, 1865, President Lincoln was assassinated. The whole nation mourned for one who was to become the greatest President in the history of the United States.
In accordance with suggestions from the War Department, religions services were to be held at noon on the 19th of April in all parts of the country. In Dayton, all businesses were closed in honor of the dead President. A committee of 100 on the 25th was appointed to go to Columbus in respect of the slain leader.
On April 29, Abraham Lincoln's funeral procession passed just north of Dayton, traveling from Columbus to Piqua, on to Greenville and New Paris. This was the President's last tour through the Miami Valley.
The writer might add that the next time you pass through Carlisle, or cross the Little Miami Railroad (now a bicycle and walking trail most of the way), just look around and you will catch a glimpse of history that was once shared with our 16th President.

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