Centre/Lincoln Connections Part 1: It's all in the family
RELEASED: July 24, 2008
First there is Rick Dixon '75, whose great-great-great uncle gave Lincoln his famous nickname of "Railsplitter." The uncle's name was Richard James Oglesby, a Kentucky native as well as governor and senator of Illinois. In addition, Oglesby was with Lincoln on the day of his assassination and was in the room when Lincoln died the next morning.
"On April 14, 1865, upon returning to the White House, Lincoln saw Oglesby leaving with some other acquaintances and shouted out: 'Don't go, boys!' They stayed, chatted and read aloud from works of humor, until Lincoln was called off for dinner (for the third time)" Dixon says.
"Lincoln had to eat early as he had agreed, reluctantly, to go to the theater that night for a production of "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theater," Dixon writes. "Lincoln invited 11 people to accompany him and Mary Todd, [including] Oglesby. All declined for various reasons.
"When Oglesby was informed later that evening that the president had been shot, "Dixon says, "he rushed to the back room of the Peterson house, across the street from the theatre, to comfort his fellow Kentuckian, Mary Todd, and to stand in vigil for his fallen friend. He was in the room when the President died on April 15, shortly after 7 a.m. and, is so depicted in many engravings of the scene."
Next there is Aaron Lincoln Smith '06. ("And that's my real name!" he says.) Smith's great-great-great grandfather, Austin Gallagher, was a childhood playmate of Lincoln's in Kentucky near Hodgenville, before the Lincoln family moved to Indiana.
Stuart Sanders '95 also has an interesting connection to Lincoln: he is related to John Todd Stuart, the 1826 Centre alum and Illinois lawyer who lent Lincoln his law books, entered into practice with him and helped set him on his way to greatness. Sanders' great-great-great-great-great grandfather was Levi Todd, a soldier in the catastrophic Indian battle at Blue Licks and grandfather of John Todd Stuart. Levi's daughter, Hannah Todd, married the Reverend Robert Stuart, and together they had two children: the Reverend David Todd Stuart, Sanders' great-great-great grandfather, and John Todd Stuart.
Two related Centre alums claim a blood relation to the 16 president. Nancy Sweazy Mayer and Judi Colyer Royalty, both of the Class of 1966, are first cousins four times removed with Honest Abe. Their great-great-great-great-grandmother was Abraham Lincoln's maternal aunt, a sister of Nancy Hanks.
Lastly, John McClellan '56 shares a story that is best told in his own words:
"In 1952 (the year before I started at Centre) I was speaking with my great grandmother, who was age 106 at the time, and asked her what was the most memorable day of her life. With no hesitation she answered, 'Easy! The day I shook hands with Abraham Lincoln.' She was fifteen [years old] at the time and a train of four cars carrying the President stopped in Muhlenberg County 'to take on water for the engine.' He got off the train and was walking along side of the train and she and four other children approached him and began talking. 'Then three bullies jumped off the train and tried to run us off, but Mr. Lincoln said leave them alone, they won't hurt anything.' So they talked a while and then he shook each of their hands and got back on the train."
Check Centre's Web site for the next several Thursdays to read more connections between Kentucky's most famous native son and its leading academic institution.
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Consumers Digest ranks Centre No. 1 in educational value among all U.S. liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
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