Descendants of John Todd Stuart recall rare stories about Lincoln
It’s become a common tradition at Centre College for students to place a penny on the base of the Abraham Lincoln statue just outside Crounse Hall for good luck. Others touch his boot toe, just as President John Roush does, as a reminder to always do one’s best. These recent campus traditions are just one way for the College to stay connected to one of America’s greatest leaders, a connection that stretches back more than 150 years.
The sixteenth president’s initial connection to Centre was John Todd Stuart, class of 1826 and one of the College’s earliest graduates, who was essentially Lincoln’s cheerleader and mentor, encouraging him to give up blacksmithing in order to become an attorney, and later practicing law with him in Illinois.
And while the fateful relationship between Lincoln and Stuart was forged more than a century ago, the memory of “Centre’s Lincoln” has been kept alive by the stories of Stuart’s direct descendants, including Bailey Allen (pictured above), who recently visited campus to share a few lesser-known stories about Honest Abe.
Allen, now in his nineties, is the great grandnephew of John Todd Stuart; during his visit (pictured right with President John Roush) he recalled tales about Lincoln that had been passed down to him from his mother and grandmother. Allen had one particularly memorable story about the first time Lincoln met his future wife, Lexington native and cousin to Stuart, at a party in Illinois.
“Lincoln got up enough courage to ask this young woman from Kentucky who was visiting there, Mary Todd, to dance,” says Allen. “He said ‘Miss Todd, I would like to dance with you in the worst way.’ So she danced with him, and later on she was talking to some ladies and said, ‘That’s Mr. Lincoln over there, Uncle John T’s law partner; he asked me to dance with him in the worst way, and it was the worst way.’”
The Lincoln connection is alive and well with current first-year student Emily Noelker ’17; John Todd Stuart is her great granduncle, six generations removed. Noelker traces her connection through her grandmother, who has a special Lincoln story of her own.
“My grandmother was going through some of her old family things one day, and found a letter from Robert Lincoln, President Lincoln’s son,” Noelker says. “In the letter he confirmed to our family that John Todd Stuart had definitely had a close relationship with Lincoln.
“It’s really neat to go to Centre and have all of this interesting family history,” she adds. “It makes me proud to be connected to this Centre legacy.”
by Caitlan Cole ’14
February 17, 2014