Thursday, November 22, 2012

Abraham Lincoln in Erie, PA 1861

Abraham Lincoln stopped in Erie, Pennsylvania at the bequest of the Erie County Republican Club in 1861. 

The club wrote a letter to Lincoln on February 1, 1861, which stated:

Hon. A. Lincoln, President Elect
Dear Sir,
As it is announced that your route to Washington will be through Cleveland & Buffalo, and consequently through this place we address you to ascertain if it would be convenient for you to make a short stay at Erie. Our city is connected with the interior of the State by the Sunbury & Pittsburg Railroads, thus enabling the people at the lines of those Roads an opportunity of meeting you which they could not have at any other point. Your reception here would not be partisan in its character, though the political sentiment of this part of the State is largely Republican- As the trains change engines here, you would be necessarily detained and if you could prolong your stay sufficiently to enable our citizens to pay their respects to you as the President elect, you would place them under many obligations. 

Please inform as whether this would be agreeable, and at what time you would reach here.
Very respectfully yours
R. F. Gaggin [Richard F. Gaggin]
A. M. D. Lyon [Alexander McD. Lyon, Yale graduate]
A. H. Caughey [Andrew H. Caughey]"
Citation: The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916. Erie Pennsylvania Republican Club to Abraham Lincoln, Friday, February 01, 1861 (Invitation) 

Lincoln arrived in Erie, PA on February 16, 1861, on his way to his first inauguration, which took place on March 4, 1861. Erie Mayor Sherburn Smith was the chairman of the welcoming committee. The old Union Depot on Peach Street was decorated with flags. An arch was built over the railroad tracks and evergreens were wrapped around the pillars. 

"The train bearing Mr. Lincoln and suite and the Erie committee arrived at twenty minutes past twelve, announced by the booming of cannon and huzzas from the assembled multitude. Great enthusiasm was manifested as he passed from the car he occupied to the depot dining room." -Erie Observer, December 20, 1876.

Lincoln stopped in three communities in Erie County, PA.
"At Girard station several baskets of splendid fruit and flowers were presented to the Presidential family. No little sensation was produced at this point by the unexpected apparition on the train of Horace Greeley, equipped with a valise and his well known red and blue blankets. He was at once conducted into the car of the President, who came forward to greet him. He got off again at Erie, after traveling about twenty miles with the company.

At Erie quite a scene occurred, by the breaking down of a roof on which a large number of curious republicans had gathered. The sudden appearance of the whole group, and the scramble among the ruins, was most ludicrous. Fortunately no one was seriously hurt.
After dinner at Erie Mr. Lincoln addressed the people, excusing himself for not expressing his opinions on the exciting questions of the day. He trusted that when the time for speaking should come he should find it necessary to say nothing not in accordance with the constitution together with the interests of the people of the whole country.

At North East station a flag, inscribed 'fort Sumter,' was carried right up to where Mr. Lincoln stood, but he did not seem to take the hint, and made no allusion to it in his remarks. At the same station Mr. Lincoln took occasion to state that during the campaign he had received a letter from a young girl of this place, in which he was kindly admonished to do certain things, and among others to let his whiskers grow, and that, as he had acted upon that piece of advice, he would now be glad to welcome his fair correspondent, if she was among the crowd. In response to the call, a lassie made her way through the crowd, and was helped on the platform and kissed by the President." -New York Herald, February 17, 1861.

Lincoln's Funeral Train passed through Erie, PA on April 28, 1865 at 3 a.m. on its way from Buffalo, NY to Cleveland, OH.


  1. Regarding the young Miss Bedell who recommended that Mr. Lincoln grow out his whiskers - all of the sources that I've seen state that she was from Westfield, NY, and that THAT was where he met her. I understand that Westfield, NY, is only about 15 miles or so from North East, PA, and that I may just be nitpicking, but which city did they meet in?

    1. Hi Christopher. I'm surprised it took so long for someone to catch the discrepancy. The paragraph that you refer to was published in the New York Herald. Most of the sources that I have seen say the girl was from Westfield. Good catch!

    2. Thanks, Debbi! I just came across this blog a few days ago. I'm enjoying browsing through the posts. Thanks for doing what you do! :-)

  2. Debbi; The error is probably due to how stories reached New York. As they were wired by telegraph and newspapers were charged "by the word" by Western Union at that time, reporters had a sort of shorthand that they used which did not always work out correctly. AP would not exist until after the Civil War began