Abraham Lincoln stepped off of the train at St. Joseph, Missouri, on the last day of November in 1859. There to greet him was Daniel Wilder, editor of the Elwood 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 cousin of Lincoln. Those two men had invited Lincoln to bring his presidential campaign to the territory. After a stop at a local barber shop 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 an open carriage in the bitter cold on Dec. 1 to Troy and Doniphan for speeches and the next day to Atchison. There, a brass band paraded through the streets drumming up a large crowd.
The next morning, 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 Daniel R. Anthony, founder of the Leavenworth Times, 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. 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?’ And Lincoln said, ‘Not only will I not sanction it, but I will cause legal action to be brought against the offenders.’”
The next day, Lincoln went to the home of his cousin to stay a few days. On Monday, Dec. 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 about the local beer and just had to have a taste.
On Wednesday, Dec. 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.
Ref: “True Tales of Old-Time Kansas,” by David Dary
To reach Ted W. Stillwell send email to Ted@blueandgrey.com or call him at 816-896-3592