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Lincoln's Tomb

On the Occasion of the
Dedication of Lincoln's Tomb

Custodians of Lincoln's Tomb 



transcribed exclusively for Genealogy Trails by ©Barb Moksnes

News of President Abraham Lincoln's death on April 15, 1865, came just 6 days after General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Confederate Army to Union General Ulysses S. Grant. The celebratory atmosphere that had prevailed as the Civil War drew to a close was replaced with one of shock and grief. As the nation mourned its martyred president, the National Lincoln Monument Association dedicated itself to the task of erecting a fitting memorial in Springfield, Illinois, where Lincoln had lived from 1837 to 1861. Construction of the monument, which holds the remains of the 16th President, his wife, and 3 of their sons, began in 1869. It was dedicated 5 years later (Read Story).

The Monument Association deeded the tomb and surrounding grounds at Oak Ridge Cemetery to the State of Illinois in 1895, and today the Lincoln Tomb is managed by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

Lincoln's tomb

The first of many funeral services for the fallen President was conducted at the White House on Wednesday, April 19, 1865. A procession then accompanied the horse drawn hearse as Lincoln was carried to the Capitol where he lay in state in the rotunda the following day. On Friday, the president's remains were placed on a special train for 1,700 mile trip to Springfield. The train also carried the remains of Lincoln's son William "Willie", who had died in Washington D.C., in 1862. The train stopped during its 12 day journey for 10 services in as many cities before arriving on May 3rd at the Springfield Depot. Thousands of mourners paid their last respects as the president lay in state throughout the day and night at the state capitol [now the Old State Capitol State Historic Site] . On the morning of the 4th, the long funeral procession journeyed to Oak Ridge Cemetery, where services for the president were conducted. Following a final hymn, Lincoln's casket was placed in the cemetery's public receiving vault next to Willie's. The public receiving vault was one of the resting places at Oak Ridge for the president's remains. That vault, at the foot of the hill north of the present tomb, still stands. The following December, Lincoln's remains were moved to a temporary tomb, which was dismantled after he was moved to the partially completed permanent tomb in 1871.

The Lincoln Tomb was constructed through the efforts of the National Lincoln Monument Association. 10 days after Lincoln's death, the committee that organized in Springfield to plan his funeral formed the monument association. Illinois Governor Richard Oglesby presided over the small group of the late president's friends and political associates. Once the site was selected [and only after Mrs. Lincoln insisted on Oak Ridge Cemetery], the association focused on raising money for construction. Appeals to the public brought donations from school children, Sunday schools, veteran groups, and benevolent societies that were supplemented by state funds. As fundraising for the memorial gained momentum, the association turned its attention to the monument's design. In September 1868, the association chose sculptor Larkin Mead's design from 37 submitted by artists. Construction of the $171,000 tomb began in 1869, and dedication ceremonies were held October 15, 1874. In 1895 Richard Oglesby, the monuments association's only surviving member, deeded the property to the State of Illinois.



The remains of Mary Todd Lincoln and 3 of the Lincoln's 4 children are interred with the 16th President. Edward "Eddie" [1846-1850], who died in Springfield and was buried at Hutchinson Cemetery, was moved to the temporary tomb at Oak Ridge Cemetery on December 13, 1865. 8 days later, the remains of the president and his son William "Willie" [ 1850-1862] were placed in the temporary tomb. All 3 were moved to the partially completed permanent tomb on September 19, 1871. Thomas "Tad" [ 1853-1871] was the first family member buried in the permanent tomb. He was interred in the tomb on July 17, 1871, 2 days after his death. Mary Todd [1818-1882] died in Springfield on July 16, 1882, and was placed, as she wished, next to her husband and children. Robert Todd Lincoln [1843-1926], the only Lincoln child to reach adulthood, is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D. C. with his wife, Mary Harlan Lincoln [1846-1937], and son Abraham "Jack" Lincoln II. Jack [1873-1890] was interred in the Lincoln Tomb from 1890 to 1930.


Internal and external deterioration of the Lincoln Tomb has prompted 2 reconstructions. The first began in 1899 and was completed 2 years later. At that time the height of the obelisk was increased by 15 feet, and the steel and concrete vault counting the president's remains was buried beneath the floor of the burial chamber. During the 1930 reconstruction the hallways were created, and a simple red marble stone was placed in the burial chamber to mark the president's grave. 11 varieties of marble were used for the walls and floors. Bronze statues and plaques were also added.


Engraved names in the burial chamber walls mark the location of the Lincoln family crypts. From the left, surrounding the president's burial marker, are the flags of Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia- the homes of Lincoln's ancestors. In the center stands the United States Flag. Next, representing the states where Lincoln lived, are the flags of Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois. The Presidential flag is on the right. Above the window is engraved "Now he belongs to the ages", the words spoken by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton upon Lincoln's death. Throughout the tomb, bronze statues by Daniel Chester French, Leonard Crunelle, Fred M. Torrey, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Adolph A. Weinman, and Lorado Taft commemorate important periods in Lincoln's career. A biographical sketch of the president and the words of several significant speeches are inscribed on bronze plaques.

The 117 foot tall Lincoln tomb is constructed of granite quarried at Quincy, Massachusetts. Near the entrance is the bronze bust of Lincoln, the work of sculptor Gutzon Borglum. Tomb designer Larkin Mead created the monumental bronze military statues and the statue of Lincoln on the terrace.Mead's design has been popularly interpreted as symbolizing Lincoln's role in the preservation of the Union. Representing the Constitution is a plaque featuring the U.S. Coat of Arms, above which stands a statue of the sixteenth President. Symbolically, Lincoln stands on the Constitution as the authority for employing the military in defense of the Union. The military is represented by heroic statues portraying the infantry, cavalry, artillery, and navy that stand at the corners of the terrace. The Union is represented in the names of the states engraved in shields below the statues. The names of 37 states were inscribed in the terrace-level shields at the time of construction; other states' names were included as they were created.

On Tuesday evenings at 7:00 June through August, the 114th Illinois Volunteer Reactivated Infantry demonstrates Civil War military drills and conducts impressive flag retreat ceremonies at the Lincoln Tomb. At each ceremony, a selected visitor receives the United States flag that flew over the tomb the previous week. There is no admission charge.

Dedication of Lincoln Tomb
by George L. Cashman
as printed in the
"Central Illinois Genealogical Quarterly"
August 1968, Vol IV, Number 3
Transcribed by ©Kim Torp


The Lincoln tomb was officially dedicated to the memory of Abraham Lincoln on October 15, 1874, nine years and six months to the day after his death, 28 years and 6 months to the day since he moved from New Salem to Springfield. The dedication date was chosen by the National Lincoln Monument Association. Former Governor, and now United States Senator, Richard J. Oglesby, Chairman of the Association, officiated at the ceremony. The particular date was chosen as it would permit the Society of the Army of Tennessee, surviving veterans of the Civil War, in reunion in Springfield, to participate. The Tomb was now completed and would be opened to public visitation on October 29.

Much difficulty was experienced by the Association in obtaining a person of prominence to assume the task of delivering the dedicatory address. General U.S. Grant, then President of the United States, was the first choice of the Association, but Grant declined the honor, feeling that he was incapable of doing justice to the memory of the illustrious dead. Grant did attend the dedication and did deliver a brief, but for him, a lengthy address. Among the several persons invited to be the orator of the day were former Civil War General, John A. Dix, former Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, and former Governor of Indiana, Oliver P. Morton. All declined, giving various reasons that they could not accept the honor. The Association met and passed a resolution naming Richard J. Oglesby to be the speaker, an invitation that he graciously accepted.
The Association mailed a thousand invitations requesting attendance of as many men and women throughout the Union to attend as honored guests. On the morning of the dedication it was estimated that between 25 and 30 thousand witnessed the event. Public buildings, business houses and private homes were tastefully adorned with drapery, evergreens and flowers.

The procession which would march to the Tomb formed on north Sixth Street at the State House. Governor John L. Beveridge was the Grand Marshall. With the procession formed, it moved out following much the same route taken by the funeral cortege on May 4, 1865.

At the Tomb, former Governor of Illinois, John M. Palmer, acted as Master of Ceremonies. When called upon to deliver the dedicatory address, Senator Richard J. Oglesby delivered, in the forensic style of the day, an eulogy of nearly ten thousand words. When he completed his address, two Dominican nuns from Jacksonville unveiled the heroic statue of Abraham Lincoln at the front of the obelisk.

Among the others who spoke briefly at the ceremony was General William T. Sherman of Civil War fame.


by George L. Cashman
as printed in the
"Central Illinois Genealogical Quarterly"
August 1968, Vol IV, Number 3

Transcribed by ©Kim Torp

The magnificent Lincoln Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery was completed and dedicated in 1874, under direction and guardianship of the National Lincoln Monument Association, organized in Springfield in April, 1865, by Governor Richard J. Oglesby. Former custodians of the Lincoln Tomb have all contributed to our knowledge of its early history. John Carroll Power, a distinguished resident of Springfield and a member of the Lincoln Guard of Honor, which was organized later, was named as the first custodian. Power served in that capacity for 20 years, from the day the memorial was opened to public visitation until his death, at the age of 75, in 1894.

It is to John Power that we are most indebted for his untiring efforts in recording for posterity, much of the early history of Springfield, Sangamon County, and the Lincoln Tomb. Without his contributions to history, we would not have had the knowledge we now have of the early history of the Lincoln Tomb and of the events surrounding its construction.

Power published several books concerning people and events of Sangamon County, but two which are of primary importance to Lincoln students are "Abraham Lincoln, His Life, Public Services, Death and Great Funeral Cortege" and "The Attempt to Steal Lincoln's Body" (Read related story

During much of Power's custodianship of the Lincoln Tomb, agitation for the State of Illinois to take over the management of the property was rife. In 1895, after Power's death, former Governor Richard J. Oglesby deeded the physical assets of the Association to the State by simple agreement.

John Carroll Power was present the night of November 7, 1876, when the ghouls make their attempt to steal the body of Abraham Lincoln. For Power it was a most harrowing experience, as he could not have been expected to have had much intimate knowledge of such matters. Lincoln students are grateful for Power's contribution to Lincoln history.

With the ownership of the Lincoln Tomb vested in the State of Illinois, Major Edward S. Johnson was appointed as custodian. He assumed his duties on July 9, 1896, during the period of reconstruction, and retained his position until his death at age 77 years, on February 15, 1921. As a soldier in the Union Army, Johnson rose from the ranks to become a major in 1864. During his years at the Tomb he wrote and published a work, familiar to Lincoln students, under the title "Abraham Lincoln, His Last Resting Place". Johnson knew Lincoln, and as a boy, he and Robert Todd Lincoln were schoolmates.

The third custodian, Herbert Wells Fay, was probably best known as the "man with a million pictures"/ Fay began collecting Lincoln and other historical figures in photographs as a young man. His photographic collection was so extensive that a leading encyclopedia, at one time, published 500 of his pictures. Fay served as custodian for a longer period than his two predecessors, having greeted visitors for 28 years. He retire din January 1948, and passed away of October 24, 1949 at the age of 90 years.

The present incumbent as appointed to the post in 1951, George L. Cashman.

Further information on George L. Cashman:

In the years following Lincoln's death, attempts were made to steal Lincoln's body and hold it for ransom. Around 1900, Robert Todd Lincoln decided that, in order to prevent body theft, it was necessary to build a permanent crypt for his father. Lincoln's coffin would be encased in concrete several feet thick, surrounded by a cage, and buried beneath a rock slab. On September 26, 1901, Lincoln's body was exhumed so that it could be re-interred in the newly built crypt. However, those present (there were 23 of them) feared that his body might have been stolen in the intervening years. They decided to open the coffin and check.

When they did, they were amazed at the sight. Lincoln's body was almost perfectly preserved. It had been embalmed so many times following his death that his body had not decayed. In fact, he was perfectly recognizable, even more than thirty years after his death. On his chest, they could see red, white, and blue specks - remnants of the American flag with which he was buried, which had by then disintegrated.

All 23 of the people who viewed the remains of Mr. Lincoln have long since passed away. One of the last, a youth of 13 at the time, was Fleetwood Lindley, who died on February 1, 1963. Three days before he died, Mr. Lindley was interviewed. He said, "Yes, his face was chalky white. His clothes were mildewed. And I was allowed to hold one of the leather straps as we lowered the casket for the concrete to be poured. I was not scared at the time but I slept with Lincoln for the next six months."

Another youth present, George Cashman, also remembered the event until his death and it made even more of an impression on him, even as an adult. The last years of his life, George Cashman was the curator of the National Landmark in Springfield called "Lincoln's Tomb." He particularly enjoyed relating his story to the more than one million visitors to the site each year. Mr. Cashman passed away in 1979. Some have said Cashman was the last living person to have viewed the remains of Abraham Lincoln.

However, Cashman's wife, Dorothy M. Cashman, wrote a pamphlet entitled "The Lincoln Tomb." Her husband, George L. Cashman, was (at the time of her writing) curator of the tomb. The couple actually lived on the grounds of the Lincoln Tomb. Mrs. Cashman dedicated her pamphlet to her husband. On page 14 of "The Lincoln Tomb" Mrs. Cashman writes, "At the time of his death in 1963 Fleetwood Lindley was the last living person to have looked upon Mr. Lincoln's face." Thus, Cashman's wife admitted her husband was not present at the 1901 exhumation.

Private Car Which Carried Martyred President From Washington to Springfield Is Destroyed.
Minneapolis, Minn., March 20:  The historic Lincoln car, the private traveling carriage of Abraham Lincoln and the car that carried his body from Washington to Springfield, Ill., for burial in 1865, was destroyed by a prairie-fire that swept Columbia Heights, burning every bit of dry grass in the northeast part of the city and setting fire to the crate in which the car had been boxed. Scores of women and children turned out to fight the fire with buckets of water and brooms. Fragments of ruins of the historic car will be saved as mementos by Edmund G. Walton, manager of Columbia Heights Land company, its owners. [Urbana Daily Courier, 20 March 1911; Sub. by Pam Geyer]


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