Abraham Lincoln died on Good Friday, the 15th of April, 1865. Almost immediately plans were undertaken for his funeral. In Chicago, a call was issued for all members of the Saint Andrew’s Society to meet on Saturday night. The special meeting was held in Parlor No. 1 at the Briggs House. The outcome of the meeting is unknown, but the Society did participate in the procession that brought the hearse from Park Row (12th St. station) to the Court House.
In Washington, D.C. plans were also under way for the funeral which was held on April 19. The actual funeral was held in the White House which was filled to overflowing. The Reverend Dr. Phineas Dinsmore Gurley gave the sermon. He had been present when Lincoln died and knelt by his bed for prayer. Rev. Gurley was the President’s pastor at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. He would later ride the great funeral train all the way to Springfield. The Gurley ancestors came from Inverness, Scotland, arriving in 1695. Mary Todd Lincoln, whose family had a direct link back to Scotland, did not attend the funeral in the White House.
The Governor of Illinois at the time was Richard J. Oglesby who happened to be in Washington when the President died He took a major role in seeing that the burial would be in Springfield. Oglesby, who was a Major General in the Civil War, was a close friend of the fallen President and according to Thomas C. MacMillan "liked to trace his ancestry back to Scotland."
The funeral train, known as the Lincoln Special, would travel for the next 14 days and cover 1,666 miles. Some of the stops were: Philadelphia, New York City, Albany, Buffalo, Cleveland, Indianapolis, and finally arriving in Chicago on May 1. The largest crowd to see the President was in New York City where 150,000 people viewed the remains. In Chicago an estimated 40,000 marched in the procession and 120,000 viewed their fallen leader in the Court House.
Leaving Chicago the train would stop in Joliet, Pontiac, Bloomington, Lincoln and other small towns along the route. Lincoln finally arrived in Springfield on May 4. A Committee of One Hundred accompanied the body from Chicago to Springfield. There are at least seven Scots in the Committee that I recognize. They are: George Anderson, James H. McVicker, Robert Hervey, Joseph Medill, John H. Kinzie, John Alston and John A. Wilson. There are probably more but these are the names I know.
The hearse came from St. Louis and was finished in gold, silver and crystal. It was followed by Lincoln’s horse, Old Bob. The Abraham Lincoln Memorial Association wanted to bury Lincoln at the current site of the State Capitol, which was then vacant, but Mrs. Lincoln refused to give her approval. Oakridge Cemetery appeared to be important to the Lincoln’s since they had participated in its dedication in 1859 and “it was quiet.”
The final funeral sermon was given by Bishop Simpson of the Methodist Church. He was a friend of the President but never his pastor. Thomas C. MacMillan in his article, The Scots and Their Descendants in Illinois, called Bishop Simpson “a Scot.”
Abraham Lincoln, like George Washington, was surrounded by Scots in life and in death.We remember this great president on Good Friday 2011.
Wayne Rethford, Historian
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society