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

Lincoln's Marriage

Page 33

By permission of Mrs. Ben Edwards we are permitted to publish the account of the wedding of Abraham Lincoln and Miss Mary Todd in Springfield in November, 1842. Mrs. Edwards is the only person, now living, who was at the wedding. This letter will set at rest W. H. Herndon's wild vagaries concerning Lincoln's marriage.

A few weeks ago while in Springfield we called at the Edward's mansion. It is situated in the middle of a block and the house must have been built sixty years ago, and though Ben Edwards must have been dead many years ago, the house and grounds are carefully kept. The house is surrounded with flower beds and ornamental shrubbery with fine stone walks leading from the house and blue grass plats all over the yard. The house is very large and commodious.

We well remember Ben Edwards when he used to come to Petersburg courts, and at one time was a partner of Lincoln's. We felt kind of high reverence as we entered the historic grounds. The wife of Ninian Edwards was a sister of Mrs. Lincoln's, who also took part in the wedding but who has long since passed away, as have most of the actors in the scenes of those early days. The Edwards mansion is about ten blocks northwest of the old Lincoln home.

Mrs. Edwards gave an account of the events leading up to the marriage of Lincoln. She says that Mary Todd had naturally a fine mind and a cultivated taste. She was a thinker and possessed a remarkable memory. Her brilliant conversation often embellished with apt quotations, made her society much sought after by all the young people f the town. She was also quick at repartee and when the occasion seemed to require it, was sarcastic and severe.

About the time Mrs. Edwards came to Springfield, in 1840, Springfield society contained some of the brightest young men that any state could produce-men whose names hold a prominent place in Illinois history. During the sessions of the Illinois legislature among these were Isaac Arnold, J. L. Scammon, Lyman Trumbull, Mark Skinner, William B. Ogden and others. Besides our bright particular stars, of whom I will only name a few, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas, the Little giant, there were others whose names stand high on the roll of honor in our own state. These legislative assemblies were always the occasion for many social gatherings for distinguished men from every part of the state who came to the capital and were always royally entertained by our ladies whose hospitality was noted all over the state.

There was then a galaxy of beautiful girls, with vivacity and intelligence and propriety of deportment.

All though that Mr. Douglas was more assiduous in his attentions than Mr. Lincoln. Some of Mr. Edwards cousins were visiting and making a gay company and as Mr. Edwards' home was not far from Miss Todd's home and almost opposite the old Second Presbyterian church, where the legislative sessions were held, the state house not being complete, the Edward's house seemed to be the place of rendezvous for all the young girls who often tried to tease Mary about her suitor. She bore their jokes and teasing good naturedly, but would give them no satisfaction, neither denying nor affirming these reports. It was therefore a great surprise when the news of their intended marriage came out.

Ninian Edwards went to his brother's one morning and without any preliminaries said to Mrs. Edwards: " My wife wants you to come to our house this evening." Mrs. Ben Edwards asked what was going on. He replied:" We are to have a wedding: I met Mr. Lincoln a while ago and he told me that he and Mary were going to get married this evening at the parsonage. I told him this must not be, as Mary was my ward, and if she was to be married it must be from my house." He went on to say that he left his wife greatly disturbed over the fact that she did not have time to prepare a wedding feast. There were no confectioners in those days to furnish dainty refreshments which are so necessary on such occasions. No caterers to relieve the housekeeper of the labor of preparing the menu for the hungry guests. Every housekeeper had to depend upon the skill of her own hands and her good taste in preparing the edibles for such an occasion. There was only one bakery in Springfield and its choicest commodities were gingerbread and beer.

Some little misunderstanding had occurred which had prevented Mr. Lincoln from visiting at the house, but Mrs. Simon Francis, whose husband was editor of the Sangamon Journal, a mutual friend, had made arrangements that they should meet there, and it was there the wedding was planned. To her sister, Mrs. Edwards, she had not given the least intimation of her surprise.

Human nature is the same the world over. This little town was not free from its rivalries, envyings and jealousies. Some one had spoken of Mr. Lincoln as a plebian. This rankled in the heart of Miss Todd sorely, so when about noon on the wedding day Mrs. Edwards' feelings were sufficiently calmed to talk to her sister of the affair, she said: "Mary, you have not given me much time to prepare for our guests this evening." Then she added, "I guess I will have to send to Old Dickey's for some of the gingerbread and beer." Mary replied," Well, that will be good enough for plebeians I suppose."

Mrs. Edward's was a model housekeeper, and her entertainments were elaborate and elegant. She was equal to the emergency, and on this occasion provided an elegant and bountiful supper. The wedding was what might be called a pretty one, simple, yet impressive. The details were not long remembered by those present, but if the guests could only have had in their imaginations the thoughts of what was in store in the future of Mr. Lincoln, the most trifling event of that occasion would have been impressed upon their memories as with the point of a diamond.

Miss Todd's ambition was colossal. She had from early girlhood said she expected to marry a man who would some day be president of the United States, and she seemed to have a prophetic vision that this ambition would be realized. But what was there in Mr. Lincoln to encourage such ambition and expectation? Apparently nothing. And when he was nominated it seemed impossible that there ever should be, as there were so many others that could be named. Who seemed so much better fitted than he. But the one who regardeth not the outward appearance, but knoweth what is in the mind of man, saw in Lincoln that which so qualified him to be leader of this great nation which was to undergo such trying and fearful changes, and therefore bestowed upon him the crown of glory. His title to it who can doubt? His reign was short, but the result will last forever.

A few evenings after the wedding Mrs. Edwards met Mrs. Lincoln at the residence of Dr. Payne. She congratulated her and said: " Mary you were wise in your choice, but I used to think that Mr. Douglas would be your choice." She replied most emphatically: "No, I liked him well enough but that was all." The next time Mrs. Edwards met Mrs. Lincoln was after the assassination, when Mrs. Lincoln sent for Mrs. Edwards to meet her at the Clifton house in Chicago. She told her that for weeks and months after her husband's death she was in such a condition that life was a perfect blank. Time seemed blotted out, and she said that she saw she must have been living in a state of unconsciousness, for she remembered nothing, and the awakening was terrible. She said, to, that her great fear that Mr. Lincoln would not be re-elected gave her great uneasiness. " I could have gone down on my knees and asked for votes for him, and again and again, he said, "Mary, I am afraid that you will be punished for this overwhelming anxiety. If I am to be elected again it will be all right, if not you must bear the disappointment." If she could then only have had some prophetic vision of that which was on the other side of the impenetrable fog bank to that which was to be, how would she have received it? In merciful kindness it was hidden from her eyes.

Mr. Lincoln, at the time of his marriage was not probably worth five hundred dollars, in fact he was a poor man all of his life. He never charged more than one-half the fees other lawyers charged. His title "Honest Old Abe," followed him through life. His home in Springfield, which we visit every time we go to Springfield, is a plain building-about an average farm house.

Transcribed by:Rajean Gallagher



1902 Index

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Illinois Ancestors