Lincoln’s doings November 30, 1859

“””””””“He crossed Missouri on the Hanibal & Quincy,  St. Joseph. Some histories say he stopped in St. Joseph only long enough to get his hair trimed, before hiring a black boy to row him across the river.  He staid all night in a small hotel in Elwood and almost froze.

He hired a hack and borowed a buffalo robe and drove to Atchison.  The day was very cold.  He made a fine speech in atchison.  He was met tare by Dan Anthony, editor of the Leavenworth times and they drove on to Leavenworth city.  He was well received and made an outstanding speech.”


On the afternoon of November 31st, Mr. Lincoln was conducted to the Kansas side of the Missouri. As he touched our soil he exclaimed. ” I am indeed delighted to be with you; I can now breathe freely.”  Mr. Lincoln was very kindly treated in Elwood, and made his first speech there. The Town Hall was filled; all classes and parties turning out. After his speech there was an elegant supper, the very soul of which was the honored guest.  

Leavenworth correspondence of The New York Tribune, August 30, 1860.

It is not likely that much publicity was given to Lincoln’s visit except that Delahay told the Leavenworth Times on November 28, to announce his coming in a day or two.  Finally, on December 1, Lincoln reached Elwood.  Wilder records the event: “Abram Lincoln arrives in Elwood, and makes a speech that evening.  He was met at St. Joseph by M. W. Delahay and D. W. Wilder.  His speech was substantially the same he made soon afterwards at the Cooper Institute, New York, and one of the ablest and clearest ever delivered by an American statesman.”

 Lincoln and his escorts crossed the Missouri on the ferry connecting St. Joseph and Elwood.  The latter town at that time promised to be the leading Midwest city.  It had the best hotel in Kansas, the Great Western, with seventy-five rooms.  When the party reached the Great Western, Lincoln was consulted about a speech that night.  He readily agreed and seemed surprised that no speech had been scheduled.  A crier was accordingly secured who went through the streets ringing a bell and shouting, “Abe Lincoln of Illinois will speak at 8 o’clock in the dining room at the Great Western Hotel. Everybody invited.”

There has been no record saved as to the number who heard Lincoln that night in the Great Western at Elwood.  Following the speech, Lincoln, Delahay, and Wilder had “supper” together at the hotel and planned the itinerary for the next two days.  Lincoln slept that night in the Great Western.

Charles Arthur Hawley.

Delahay came to Elwood and stayed all night, I suppose.  He and I went to St. Joseph the next morning, and way down south to the Hannibal depot (the Hannibal & St. Joe R. R., completed that year) and took Lincoln uptown in an omnibus.  I took him to a barber shop near the Planters’ House and bought for him the New York or Chicago papers at the post-office news-stand.  All sat in the dirt waiting for the ferry-boat ; to the Great Western hotel, a large frame building.  That night he spoke in the dinning-room of the hotel ; the meeting announced by a man going through the streets pounding a gong.  He stayed in Elwood that night.  

D. W. Wilder. 

Lincoln came to St. Joseph over that new road.  There was no pullman nor chair car. He rode all day in an ordinary coach and arrived late in the afternoon.  Delahay and Wilder met him at the depot.  They went with him to a barber shop, where he was shaved.  Then they sat on a log on the river bank, their feet in the mud, and waited for the ferry boat. 

The three crossed on the ferry to Elwood and went to the Great Western hotel.  Lincoln was not expected to speak in Elwood, but when it was known he was there many wanted to hear him.  A man went up and down the streets with the hotel dinner bell, ringing it and crying: “Abe Lincoln, of Illinois, will speak at 8 o’clock in the dining room of the Great Western hotel. Everybody invited!”  Lincoln made only a short speech.  He stayed overnight in Elwood.  

A. B. Macdonald, The Kansas City Star, Sunday, February 10, 1929.



Hon. Abraham Lincoln arrived in Elwood on Thursday.  Although fatigued with the journey, and somewhat “under the weather,” he kindly consented to make a short speech here.  A large number of our citizens assmebled at the Great Western Hotel to hear him.

Mr. Lincoln was received with great enthusiasm.  He stated the reasons why he was unable to make a speech this evening. He could only say a few words to us who had come out to meet him the first time he had placed his foot upon the soil of Kansas.  Mr. Lincoln said that it was possible that we had local questions in regard to Railroads, Land Grants and internal improvements which were matters of deeper interest to us than the questions arising out of national politics, but of these local interests he knew nothing and should say nothing.  We had, however, just adopted a State Constitution, and it was probable, that, under that Constitution, we should soon cease our Territorial existence, and come forward to take our place in the brotherhood of States, and act our parts as a member of the confederation.  Kansas would be Free, but the same questions we had had here in regard to Freedom or Slavery would arise in regard to other Territories and we should have to take our part in deciding them.  People often ask, “why make such a fuss about a few niggers?”  I answer the question by asking what will you do to dispose of this question?  The Slaves constitute one seventh of our entire population.  Wherever there is an element of this magnitude in a government it will be talked about.  The general feeling in regard to Slavery had changed entirely since the early days of the Republic.  You may examine the debates under the Confederation, in the Convention that framed the Constitution and in the first session of Congress and you will not find a single man saying that Slavery is a good thing.  They all believed it was an evil.  They made the Northwest Territory—the only Territory then belonging to the government—forever free.  They prohibited the African Slave trade.  Having thus prevented its extension and cut off the supply, the Fathers of the Republic believed Slavery must soon disappear.  There are only three clauses in the Constitution which refer to Slavery, and in neither of them is the word Slave or Slavery mentioned.  The word is not used in the clause prohibiting the African Slave trade;  it is not used in the clause which makes Slaves a basis of representation;  it is not used in the clause requiring the return of fugitive Slaves.  And yet in all the debates in the Convention the question was discussed and Slaves and Slavery talked about. Now why was this word kept out of that instrument and so carefully kept out that a European, be he ever so intelligent, if not familiar with our institutions, might read the Constitution over and over again and never learn that Slavery existed in the United States.  The reason is this.  The Framers of the Organic Law believed that the Constitution would outlast Slavery and they did not want a word there to tell future generations that Slavery had ever been legalized in America.

Your Territory has had a marked history—no other Territory has ever had such a history.  There had been strife and bloodshed here, both parties had been guilty of outrages;  he had his opinions as to the relative guilt of the parties, but he would not say who had been most to blame.  One fact was certain—there had been loss of life, destruction of property;  our material interests had been retarded.  Was this desirable?  There is a peaceful way of settling these questions—the way adopted by government until a recent period.  The bloody code has grown out of the new policy in regard to the government of Territories.

Mr. Lincoln in conclusion adverted briefly to the Harper’s Ferry Affair.  He believed the attack of Brown wrong for two reasons.  It was a violation of law and it was, as all such attacks must be, futile as far as any effect it might have on the extinction of a great evil.

We have a means provided for the expression of our belief in regard to Slavery—it is through the ballot box—the peaceful method provided by the Constitution.  John Brown has shown great courage, rare unselfishness, as even Gov. Wise testifies.  But no man, North or South, can approve of violence or crime.  Mr. Lincoln closed his brief speech by wishing all to go out to the election on Tuesday and to vote as became the Freemen of Kansas.

The Elwood Free Press 


“The greatest man that ever set foot on this Township, arrived here on the first day of December, 1859, to warm the beautiful day.  The late Judge Delahey and I met him at the depot in St. Joseph that day, and rode up town with him; took him to a barber shop on Francis Street, and I went up to Woodworth’s news stand in the next block, and bought him the latest papers.  Then the three went down to the ferry landing, near the old Robidoux building, and sat down in the dirt on the banks, waiting for Capt. Blackiston’s boat.  As we sat there I remember being impressed with the wonderful length of Mr. Lincoln’s legs.  They were legs that could fold up; the knees stood up like that high and hind point of the Kansas grasshopper.  He wore a hat of the stovepipe shape, but made of felt, unglazed, not shiny, and needing no brush.  The buttons were off his shirt, as I had noticed them the summer before, when, by a lucky accident, I spent several days in the law office of Lincoln & Herndon in Springfield.

“Mr. Lincoln made a speech that evening at the Great Western hotel, in the dining room, a very great speech, to an audience called together by a man who went through the town sounding a gong.

Extracts from an address by the Honorable Daniel Webster Wilder, at Wathena, Kansas, July 4, 1884.