Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Robert Todd Lincoln In His Father's Shadow

The minute you hear the name Lincoln you immediately think of Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary Todd. You also usually think about his mother Nancy Hanks,  because of her elusive background and fewer people even remember his father, Thomas Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln and Mary Ann Todd were married 1842
They had four sons, but three of them died before reaching adulthood
Robert Todd Lincoln was the first born, in 1843 in Springfield Illinois
Edward Baker 1846 died Feb 1. 1850  in Springfield, ILL
William Wallace "Willie"  born Dec 21, 1851 died Feb 20, 1862 Washington DC
Thomas "Tad" born Apr 4, 1853 died at age 18 July 16, 1871 in Chicago, Ill

Their son Robert also had quite an impressive life, beginning by following in his father's footsteps by becoming a lawyer.

Robert Todd Lincoln, born in 1843, at Springfield Illinois  died on July 26, 1926 at his home in Vermont at the age of 82.  He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery along with his wife Mary and their son Jack. The three of them are buried together in one tomb.

Robert graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy in 1860 and then studied at Harvard University from 1861 to 1864. He was a member of two fraternities, Delta Kappa Epsilon (Alpha Chapter) and the also Delta Chi. He was enrolled in the Law School at Harvard but he did not graduate.

After his father was assassinated, Robert moved back to Chicago with his mother  and his brother Tad. and it was there that he completed his law studies at the University of Chicago (present name) and was admitted to the bar on Feb 25, 1867.

His mother didn't want him joining the Civil War, but eventually he did over her objections, and with the blessings of his father. He was a Captain in the Union Army, serving in the last weeks of the Civil War, under  General Ulysses S. Grant, assigned to his immediate staff. He was present when Lee surrendered at Appomattox.

Robert was married,on Sept 24, 1868, to Mary Eunice Harlan (Sept 25, 1846-March 31, 1937) She was the daughter of Senator James Harlan and Ann Eliza Peck of Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

They had a son Jack (Abraham Lincoln II  who died at age 16 (March 5, 1890) in England.

A daughter, Jessie Harlan Lincoln  Nov 6, 1875 - Jan 4, 1948  Born in Chicago, Illinois died Jan a4, 1948 at Rutland Hospital in Rutland Vermont.  She married Warren Wallace Beckwith , eloping on Nov 10, 1897 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They  had two children, Mary Lincoln (Peggy)Beckwith born in 1898 in Des Moines Co, Iowa. She died in 1975 Rutland Vermont. And son, Robert (Bud) Todd Lincoln Beckwith on July 19, 1904  and died Dec 24, 1985 in Saluda, Middlesex Co. Virginia. He married Hazel Holland on March 14, 1927 and then Annemarie Hoffman on November 6, 1967 in Hartfield Virginia and then Margaret "Maggie" Fristoe in 1976. He had several step-children but no issue of his own.  He was the last Lincoln descendant. Jessie divorced Warren in 1907 and married  Frank Edward Johnson in 1915 and then Rober John Randolph in 1926.  There were no children born of the last two marriages.

Daughter Mary Todd Lincoln (Mamie) born Oct 15, 1869, Chicago, Illinois,  married Charles Bradley Isham on September 02, 1891 in Holy Trinity Church, Brompton Parish, near London, England.  They had a son, Lincoln Isham, born June 8, 1892 . Lincoln married Leahalma Correa in 1919 but died September 1 1971 at Putnam Memorial Hospital, Bennington  Vermont, without issue. Leahalma had a daughter,
Frances Mantley, whom Lincoln helped raise.

Robert turned down President Rutherford B Hayes' offer to appoint him Assistant Secretary of State, but later accepted President James Garfield's Secretary of War position,  serving from 1881-1885.

Robert assisted Oscar Dudley  in establishing the Illinois Industrial Training School for Boys in 1887 which was located in Norwood Park and In 1899 the school relocated to Glenwood, Illinois. Girls were not enrolled in the school until 1998. Under the name Glenwood School for Boys & Girls, the school continues to operate today as a haven for both boys and girls whose parents are unable to care for them.

Later, he served as the U.S. minister to the United Kingdom from 1889 to 1893 under President Benjamin Harrison, then returned to private business as a lawyer.

He was general counsel under George Pullman, and was named president after Pullman's death in 1897. In 1911, Robert Lincoln became chairman of the board, a position he held until his death in 1926.

The last public appearance of Robert Lincoln was at the dedication ceremony of his father's memorial on May 30, 1922, in Washington, D.C.


Robert was once saved from possible serious injury by Edwin Booth, the brother of John Wilkes Booth. They were on a train platform in Jersey City New Jersey. The incident occurred in late 1864 or early 1865, the exact date is not known,  shortly before President Lincoln was assassinated.

The train platform was crowded with people and it was late in the evening, people were securing sleeping car places from the conductor. Robert was pressed against the car body and the train began to move.  He lost his footing and ended up down into an open space when someone grabbed him by the coat collar and pulled him up onto the platform. That person was Edwin Booth, an actor, whom Robert knew and called by name, as he thanked him.

He was present at three assassinations, His father's, where he had turned down an invitation to go to the theater with them because he was not feeling well, President Garfield's in 1881, where he was actually an eye-witness, and President McKinley's in 1901 where he was there but not an eye-witness to the actual event.

Lincoln constructed an observatory at his home in Manchester, Vermont, because he was a serious amateur astronomer.
His telescope still exists; it was restored and supposedly is still being used by a local astronomy club.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting! I have been very interested in the Lincoln family and agree that we hear very little of Robert. Thank you for sharing!