Did Abraham Lincoln, born near Hodgenville 200 years ago this past February, ever visit Richmond?

Local history buffs believe Lincoln and his wife, born Mary Todd in Lexington, could have come to Richmond when they spent about six weeks in central Kentucky in 1846, visiting her relatives.

On Saturday evening, before introducing a Louisville couple who portray the 16th president and his wife, Battle of Richmond Association President Linda Ashley talked about the speculation.

“Mary Todd Lincoln was quite fond of her aunt Jane, who lived on Lancaster Avenue with her husband, Judge Daniel Breck,” Ashley said. “If they were in Lexington for six weeks, the Lincolns may very well have come to Madison County to visit Mr. Lincoln’s friend and fellow emancipationist Cassius Clay at his home, then known as Clermont, and spent time with Mary’s aunt Jane in Richmond.”

Even if the future president never visited Judge Breck, the Richmond jurist probably played an important, if indirect, role in Lincoln’s life.

One of Mary Todd’s cousins, John Todd Stewart, came to Richmond after graduating from Centre College and read law under Judge Breck.

To practice law, Steward moved to Springfield, Ill., where he also enlisted in the Illinois militia during the Black Hawk War. His company commander was a tall, raw-boned Springfield shopkeeper and Kentucky native named Abraham Lincoln.

Recognizing Lincoln’s intelligence, business acumen and interest in politics, Steward encouraged him to study law.

When Lincoln said he could not afford to buy law books, Stewart loaned him his.

“John Stewart may well have obtained the law books he loaned Lincoln from Judge Breck, or some other Richmond attorney,” Ashley said.

Regardless of whether the real Lincolns visited Richmond, more than 50 Battle of Richmond Association patrons enjoyed a realistic evening Saturday with Larry and Mary Elliott, who portrayed the ill-fated couple.

While a bit heavier that the rail-thin Lincoln, Larry Elliott’s high-pitched voice more likely matches the president’s voice, as described by his contemporaries, than the bass-voice actors who have portrayed him in movies and television shows.

Sitting in period rocking chairs with double-globed oil lamps by their sides, the Lincolns welcomed a delegation form their native state to the White House on April 14, 1865.

The earnest emotion of Lincoln could be felt in Elliott’s voice as he described how much he at first had hoped to keep America together, even if he could not accept any expansion of slavery.

Pulling words from Lincoln’s first inaugural address, Elliott said, “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.”

Sadly, the president could not, he said, uphold his oath to the Constitution and let the southern states depart in peace.

The Lincolns’ duties as president and first lady had to come before their devotion to family, both Lincolns said.

Mary Lincoln had to leave her boy Willie’s sick bed intermittently to attend the president’s first White House reception. Willie died days later.

Mary begged the president not to attend the dedication of the Gettysburg Battlefield, because their other child still at home, Tad, was then sick with a fever.

Though heavy in heart, Lincoln went to Gettysburg where he delivered the short address that has become immortal. Much to his relief, Willie recovered from the fever.

“You see, God does answer prayer,” said Lincoln, referring to the Union victory and Willie’s recovery.”

The Lincolns offered their Kentucky visitors a fond farewell, and left for Ford’s Theater, where an assassin’s bullet would claim the president’s life.

Bill Robinson can be reached at brobinson@richmondregister.com or 624-6622.

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