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The Lincoln Funeral Train

At Chicago May 1st and 2nd 1865

Although Abraham Lincoln was not a Mason, he was held in high esteem by the Fraternity, particularly by brethren in Illinois. Following his assassination on April 15th, 1865, plans were made to pay respects as the train bearing his body passed through Chicago enroute to Springfield. Oriental Lodge helped organize the thousands of Masons who attended this solemn observance.

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The train arrived in Chicago at 11:00 a.m. on Monday, May 1st, and did not go the full distance to Union Station, but stopped on a trestle that carried the tracks out into Lake Michigan. The train then traveled down Michigan Avenue, to Lake Street, and then on Clark to Court House Square (at right). The coffin was opened for public viewing at the Cook County Court House on Clark Street at 6:00 p.m. and lasted through the night and the entire next day.

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On May 2nd, an estimated 7,000 people per hour filed  past Lincoln’s casket.  The body’s discoloration, which was noticeable earlier in its long journey, was becoming distressing to viewers, and additional makeup was eventually applied by an undertaker.  At 8:00 p.m., the hearse carrying the coffin proceeded to the St. Louis and Alton Railroad depot, destined for Springfield, passing through nearly three dozen towns on a precise timetable.

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On May 3rd, the train reached Lincoln’s hometown as the locomotive pulled into the depot on Jefferson Street. Mr. Lincoln was to lie in state in the Hall of Representatives—the same room in which he gave his famous “House Divided” speech. Shortly after 10:00 a.m. the doors were opened to a long line of mourners. Hundreds of people also gathered around Lincoln’s home where his favorite horse named Old Bob, who was now 16 years old, and his beloved dog, Fido, had been brought back for the day.

On May 4th, Lincoln’s body was prepared for burial by the undertaker and embalmer. The coffin was carried to an elegant hearse for a procession led by Major General Joseph Hooker on a route from the State House, past Lincoln’s home, the Governor’s Mansion, and onto the country road to Oak Ridge Cemetery. The hearse was followed by Old Bob wearing a mourning blanket.

The oration was given by Bishop Matthew Simpson who was chosen over every other minister in the country for this sad occasion. He gave a most eloquent address and, when he was finished, Dr. Phineas Densmore Gurley read the benediction. The crowd watched as the iron gates and heavy wooden doors of the tomb were closed and locked. It was over at last.

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Document images are of an excerpt from the Oriental Lodge Secretary’s 1865 Annual Report regarding the Lincoln Funeral Train: “This [lodge] in common with other Lodges in the City & many brethren from abroad, also joined in the funeral obsequies of President Lincoln on the 1st of May last.”

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This invoice, dated June 25th, 1865, was for publicizing arrangements for members of nine lodges who assisted in coordinating the fraternal procession, at $2.50 per lodge, funds to be sent to Committee Secretary DeWitt Clinton Cregier, who later served as Mayor of Chicago 1889-91.

Philip Schwartz