Golden Prairie Press ENews
February is a special month with only 28 days and two holidays, there is Valentine's Day and President's Day! Our ancestors used to celebrate Lincoln's birthday (February 12) and Washington's birthday (February 22) as well! In honor of Lincoln's birthday, I'm sharing a fun story about Lincoln and a little girl who gave him some interesting advice.
Pilgrim on a journey,
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By Charles Carleton Coffin, 1893
If we had been in the village of Westfield, on the shore of Lake Erie, New York on an October evening, we might have seen little Grace Bedell looking at a portrait of Mr. Lincoln, and a picture of the log cabin which he helped build for his father in 1830.
"Mother," said Grace, "I think that Mr. Lincoln would look better if he wore whiskers, and I mean to write and tell him so."
"Well, you may if you want to," the mother answered.
Grace's father was a Republican and was going to vote for Mr. Lincoln. Two older brothers were Democrats, but Grace was a Republican.
Among the letters going west the next day was one with this label, "Honorable Abraham Lincoln, Esq., Springfield, Illinois." It was Grace's letter, telling him how old she was, where she lived, that she was a Republican, that she thought he would make a good President, but would look better if he would let his whiskers grow. If he would, she would try to coax her brothers to vote for him. She thought the rail fence around the cabin very pretty. "If you have not time to answer my letter, will you allow your little girl to reply for you?" wrote Grace, at the end.
A day or two later Grace Bedell comes out of the Westfield post office with a letter in her hand, postmarked Springfield, Illinois. Her pulse beat as never before. It is a cold morning, the wind blowing bleak and chill across the tossing waves of the lake. Snowflakes are falling. She cannot wait until she reaches home, but tears open the letter. The melting flakes blur the writing, but this is what she reads:
Springfield, Illinois, October 19, 1860
Miss Grace Bedell
My Dear Little Miss,
Your very agreeable letter of the 15th is received. I regret the necessity of saying I have no daughter. I have three sons, one seventeen, one nine, and one seven years of age. They, with their mother, constitute my whole family. As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affectation if I should begin it now?
Your very sincere well-wisher,
When the train on which Mr. Lincoln was going to Washington, to become President of the United States, left Cleveland, Mr. Patterson, of Westfield, was invited into Mr. Lincoln's car.
"Did I understand that your home is in Westfield?" Mr. Lincoln asked.
"Yes, sir, that is my home."
"Oh, by the way, do you know of anyone living there by the name of Bedell?"
"Yes, sir, I know the family very well."
"I have a correspondent in that family. Mr. Bedell's little girl, Grace, wrote me a very interesting letter, advising me to wear whiskers, as she thought it would improve my looks. You see that I have followed her suggestion. Her letter was so unlike many that I received, some that threatened assassination in case I was elected, that it was really a relief to receive it and a pleasure to answer it."
The train reached Westfield, and Mr. Lincoln stood upon the platform of the car to say a few words to the people.
"I have a little correspondent here, Grace Bedell, and if the little miss is present I would like to see her."
Grace was far down the platform, and the crowd prevented her seeing or hearing him.
"Grace, Grace, the president is calling for you!" they shouted. A friend made his way with her through the crowd.
Mr. Lincoln stepped down from the car, took her by the hand, and said, "You see, Grace, I have let my whiskers grow for you."
The kindly smile was upon his face. The train whirled on. His heart was lighter. For one brief moment he had forgotten the burdens that were pressing him with their weight.