Pioneers of Menard & Mason Counties
Including Personal Reminiscens of Abraham Lincoln & Peter Cartwright
By T.G. Onstot, 1902

His Second Love

Page 24

One year after the sad death of Anna Rutledge, Mr. Lincoln again fell in love. Miss Mary Owens was his second sweetheart. She came from Kentucky to visit her sister, Mrs. Bennett Able, who lived just north of Salem. In many respects she was very different from Anna Rutledge. She was older and larger. She was finely educated and had been brought up in the most refined society, and she dressed much finer than any lady who lived about New Salem. Her fashionable silk dress was in striking contrast with the calico dress, calfskin shoes and straw bonnet that Anna had worn. She was in the habit of making frequent visits to the post office for letters from her Kentucky home, and that was where Lincoln first became acquainted with her. It was not long until he became a frequent visitor at her sister's home, and these visits continued until her return to Kentucky. It became the gossip of the neighborhood that they were to be married. When the gossip was repeated to Lincoln by a friend he replied, "If ever that girl comes back to New Salem I am going to marry her." In about three years Miss Mary did return, but Lincoln did not marry her, and I presume the readers will want to know the secret of it all. They did not agree, and she would not consent to the marriage. On this point Miss Mary is reported to have said that there were many things she liked and other thins she did not like, and the things she did not like overbalanced the things she did like. "I could not help admire Mr. Lincoln," she said, "for his honesty, truthfulness and goodness of heart, but I think he was a little to presumptuous when he told his friend that if I ever came back to New Salem he was going to marry me. That is a bargain that it takes two to make, and then his training and bringing up has been so different from my own, and his uncouth behavior was most disagreeable. He was lacking in those little links which make up the chain of a woman's happiness. At least that was my judgment. He was not the ideal husband that I had pictured to myself that I could love. He asked me to become his wife; I told him no."

In our next we will give Mr. Lincoln's side of the story. He had a lady friend whom he confided in and advised with in many of his private affairs. She had learned that he was engaged to Miss Mary and that the engagement was broken off, and she wanted to know the cause. So he wrote her a letter and it is presumed he did not expect the letter to go out of her possession unless it went into the fire, but as time went on it did get out of her hands.

After James Rutledge moved out of the log tavern my father, Henry Onstott, moved in and occupied it from 1833 till 1835, and still had for a boarder Abraham Lincoln. It was at this time that my early impressions of him were formed. We did not know at that time that we were entertaining an angel unawares. My first knowledge of him was a great marble player. He kept us small boys running in all directions gathering up the marbles he would scatter. During this time he followed surveying, having learned in six weeks from books furnished him by John Calhoun, of Springfield. About this time he commenced to read some law book which he borrowed of Bowling Green, who lived one-half mile north of Salem. I think my father and Esquire Green did more than any other two men in determining Lincoln's future destiny. Green died in 1844 before Lincoln developed future greatness, while my father lived to see him at his zenith, and his sun go down undimmed, and a whole nation of mourners around his bier.

After the refusal of Mary Owens to marry Lincoln a lady friend knowing the circumstances wrote to Mr. Lincoln to ascertain the reason of the refusal, to which he replied:

"Springfield, Ill., April 1, 1838 - Dear Madam: -- It was in the autumn of 1836 that a married lady, Mrs. Bennett Able, of my acquaintance, who was a great friend of mine, being about to pay her father a visit to Kentucky, proposed to me that on her return she would bring a sister of hers back with her on condition that I would become her brother-in-law. With all convention dispatch I of course accepted the proposal, for you know I would not have done otherwise had I been averse to it, but between you and me I was most confoundedly well pleased with the project. I had seen her sister some years before and thought her agreeable and intelligent and saw no good reason and no objection to plodding along through life hand to hand with her. Time passed. The lady took her journey in due time and returned her sister in company with her. This astonished me a little for it appeared to me that he coming so readily showed that she was a trifle too willing, but on reflection it occurred to me that she might have been prevailed upon by her married sister to come without anything concerning me ever having been mentioned to her, so I concluded that if no other objection presented itself I would consent to the plan. All this occurred to me on learning of her arrival in the neighborhood for be it remembered that I had not seen her except about three years previous as above mentioned. In a few days we had an interview and although I had seen her before she did not look as my imagination had pictured her. I knew she was over size, but she now appeared a match for "Falstaff." I knew she was called an old maid and I felt the truth of one-half the application, but now when I beheld her I could not help thinking of my mother, and this not from her withered features for her skin was too full of fat to permit it to wrinkle, but from her want of teeth and weather beaten appearance in general and from a kind of a notion that ran in my head that nothing could have commenced in infancy and reached her present bulk in less than thirty-five or forty years. In sort I was not well pleased with her, but what could I do. I told her sister I would take her for better or worse and made it a point of honor in all things to stick to my word, especially if others had had been induced to act on it, which in this case I had no doubt they had. I was now convinced that no other man on earth would have her and hence they were bent on holding me to the bargain. Well, thought I, I have said it and may the consequences be what they may, it shall not be my fault if I fail to do it. At once I determined to consider my wife. This done all my powers of discovery were put to work in search of perfections which might upset her defects. I tried to imagine her handsome, which, but for her corpulency was true. Exclusive of this no woman I had ever seen had a fairer face. I also tried to convince myself that the mind was much more to be valued than the face and in this she was inferior, as I could discover, to anyone with whom I was acquainted. Shortly after, without coming to an understanding with her, I set out for Vandalia to take my seat in the legislature. During my short stay there I had letters from her which did not change my opinion of her intellect or intention, but on the contrary confirmed it in both. All this time I was fixed firm in my resolution. I found that I was continually repenting of the rashness that had led me to make it. After my return home I saw nothing to change my opinion of her. She was the same and so was I. I now spent my time in planning how I might get along inlife after my changed condition, how I might put off the evil day, which I really dreaded as the Irishman the halter. And now you want to know how I got out of the sscrape clear in every sense of the term with no violation of word of honor. I do not believe you can guess so I will tell you. As the lawyer says it was done in this manner, to-wit: After I had delayed the matter as long as I thought I could I came to the conclusion that I might as well bring the matter to a close so I mustered up courage and proposed to her direct, but shocking to related she answered, "No." I first thought she did it through modesty, which I did not think becoming under the circumstances of the case, but on renewing my suit she repelled it with greater firmness than before. I tried it again and again with the same success or rather want of success. I was finally forced to give it up and found myself mortified beyond endurance; I was mortified it seemed in a hundred ways. My vanity was deeply wounded by the reflection that I had been too stupid to discover her intentions and at the same time never doubting that I understood them perfectly and that she whom I had taught myself to believe would have been the last to reject me - me with all my greatness - and then to cap the whole thing I began to suspect that I was really in love with her. But let it all go. I'll try to out-live it. Others have been made fools of by girls but this can never be said of me. In this instance I made a fool of myself. I now have come to the conclusion never again to think of marrying and for the reason that I never could be satisfied with anyone who would be blockhead enough to have me.
Your sincere friend.

Mr. Lincoln was noted for his kindness and when he could exercise it he always did. One of the many examples of his kind-hearted nature recently came to light among the papers in the war department at Washington. It was a letter from a young woman in a western state asking for the return of her sweetheart who was at that time a soldier in the union army. In a pathetic way she told how in the beginning of the war she was engaged and her lover had gone to the front promising to return and make her his bride. Over a year had passed and her lover was lying wounded in a hospital. The young woman said that if the soldier did not return she would die of a broken heart. Whether the lovers were reunited the records do not show but the papers bear evidence that the appeal touched the heart of the president for across the back is written in his own handwriting, "Let her go to him." A. LINCOLN

It would seem that after the death of Anna Rutledge and the refusal of Mary Ownes, Mr. Lincoln would have been discouraged in his matrimonial attempts, but it was not so in his case. It is an old saying that there are as good fish in the sea as ever were caught. After his removal to Springfield he was thrown into different society and with his genial good nature he was not destined to live an old bachelor. We shall give his third and last love.

By his marriage with Mary Todd there were three children so the name of Lincoln was perpetuated. We have met Robert Lincoln several times but there is not the least resemblance to his father in his make-up. He is a short, heavy-set man with a broad face and heavy eyebrows. He resembles the Todds and not the Lincolns.

We received a letter from Harvey L. Ross, Oakland, Cal., in which he says: "I am glad you are writing a history of Mason and Menard counties. I lived in what is known as Mason county and I knew every man, woman and child and almost every horse and dog. I am glad that my brother Leonard sent you a copy of my book and you are welcome to copy from it when you wish. I did not get my book out to sell or make money but for the accommodation of my relatives and friends in order that they may have a correct knowledge of the events that took place in those old pioneer days. There were some of my letters I wrote for the Fulton County Democrat, which got lost and when the book came out I found they were not in it and I thought that if you were going to get up a book I would write them over and send them to you and if you thought they would be of any benefit to you, you could use them. If I can render you any assistance in getting up your book I will do so and all I will charge you is a copy of your book when it is printed. I am now in my eighty-third year. My health is good and I can remember many of the early events that took place in those counties. I believe you can get up a good and correct history o Mason and Menard counties. If there is anything you would like to ask me about I will be pleased to give you all the information that I can."

Transcribed by:Jeanie Lowe



1902 Index

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Illinois Ancestors