Abraham Lincoln never campaigned in Jackson County, but he did up in Leavenworth, Kansas. He stepped off of the train at St. Joe on the last day of November back in 1859. There to greet him was Daniel Wilder, the editor of the Elwood, Kansas, Free Press and a leader of the newly organized Republican party of Kansas Territory. Along with Wilder was Mark W. Delahay of Leavenworth, a former Illinois newspaperman. In fact, Delahay's wife was a close cousin of Lincoln. It was those two men who had invited Lincoln to bring his presidential campaign to the territory. After a stop at a local barber shop for Lincoln to get a shave, the trio took a ferry across the river into Kansas Territory.
By this point in time, the struggle to make Kansas a free state was about over. The free-staters had won and Kansas Territory was knocking at the door for admission to the Union as a free state. That struggle had, in part, been responsible for lifting Lincoln into the national spotlight.
After a campaign stop at Elwood, and a good night's sleep, Lincoln rode in a open carriage in the bitter cold of December to Troy and Doniphan for speeches and the next day to Atchison.
The next morning, Saturday, Lincoln was taken to Leavenworth where he took a room at the Planter's Hotel and then went to visit his cousin, Mrs. Mark Delahay. That night, he spoke at Stockton's Hall, and then joined a few men in an upstairs room across the street from the Planter's.
One of those men that night was Susan B. Anthony's brother, Daniel, who in later years recalled a story of that evening:
“The room contained two beds, a cot, some plain chairs, and an old box heating stove, that could eat enough to keep one man busy carrying wood up the stairs and two or three men poor paying for it. Lincoln was good enough with conversation, that the men stayed talking until long after all of the wood in the room had been devoured by the stove.
It was a cold night, as I remember it, and nobody was willing to leave the room long enough to go for wood. Marcus J. Parrott (the Kansas delegate in Congress) had sent us great sacks full of patent-office reports from Washington to distribute among the boys. Times were not quite dull enough in town, however, to make government reports popular reading matter, and many sacks full of bound papers were unopened in the room. Some had already served for fuel, and when the fire died down two or three bulky books went into the stove.
As the books were heaved into the stove one of the men asked Mr. Lincoln, “When you become president, will you sanction the burning of government reports by cold men in Kansas Territory?”
“Not only will I not sanction it,” Lincoln said, “but I will cause legal action to be brought against the offenders.” Of course, he smiled good naturedly as he said it, because Lincoln had a good sense of humor.
The next day was Sunday, Lincoln went to the home of his cousin to stay a few days. On Monday, December 5, a public reception was held at the Planter's Hotel, and shortly before everyone arrived, Lincoln sent out for a pitcher of lager beer brewed in Leavenworth. He had heard enough about the local beer, he just had to have a taste.
On Wednesday, December 7, after seven full days in the territory, Lincoln departed upriver by steamboat.
Mark Delahay latched onto the beer pitcher and it remained in the family until the 1920s. Today it is located in the Fort Leavenworth Museum.
Reference: “True Tales of Old-Time Kansas” by David Dary.
-- To reach Ted W. Stillwell, send an email to Ted@blueandgrey.com or call him at 816-896-3592.