Anyone familiar the history of Lexington, Kentucky knows that there are many connections between our community and our nation’s sixteenth President, Abraham Lincoln. His wife, Mary Todd, was born in and grew up in Lexington. As a result of this connection, Lincoln made three trips to Lexington from 1847 to 1850.
Lincoln’s Trips to Lexington
The first of those trips was in November of 1847. Abraham Lincoln was a Congressman-elect, having just won an election to serve the people of Illinois in Congress. The young couple stayed in Lexington for about three weeks during their sojourn to Washington, D.C. During the visit, Abraham Lincoln heard two great orators speak with views that ultimately shaped his own.
Henry Clay, on November 13, 1847, gave an impassioned speech to a Lexington audience that included Mr. Lincoln. Lincoln was a supporter of Henry Clay and was influenced by both Clay and his Whig political views.
On the 25th of the same month, Lincoln heard the Rev. Robert J. Breckinridge, minister of First Presbyterian Church, preach a guest sermon at the newly opened Second Presbyterian. It was a Thanksgiving Day sermon. Rev. Breckinridge was known as the “Napoleon of the pulpit.” Though the words of his sermon from that day have not been preserved, Breckinridge was “noted for his hostility to slavery” and his sermon, no doubt, also had an influence on the future President. That afternoon, the Lincoln’s left Lexington for a trek by stage, boat, and train to our nation’s capital.
Two future occasions would cause Abraham Lincoln to return to Lexington: the death of Mary’s father in 1849 and her maternal grandmother in 1850.
To celebrate the President’s Lexington connection, November 17, 2018 will be designated Lincoln Day in Lexington. Hopefully, this will become an annual event timed to coincide with the occasions of Lincoln’s first visit to the Athens of the West!
Come celebrate with us the first Lexington Lincoln Day on November 17, 2018. The celebration will be from 10 am to 1 pm at the new VisitLEX Visitors Center at the newly renovated former Fayette County Courthouse. LEX History Tours and the Lexington History Museum are putting on this event with VisitLEX and the Explorium of Lexington. We will celebrate the significant influence that Lexington and Lexingtonians had on the remarkable life of Abraham Lincoln. We will also celebrate the recent designation of Camp Nelson as a National Monument and its importance to central Kentucky.
There will be activities for adults and children alike. Included will be presentations on Lexington’s influence on Lincoln followed by a short walking downtown tour displaying pertinent locations that were impactful to Lincoln during his three visits to Lexington. A short presentation will also be made describing the importance that Camp Nelson had on the African-American community in and around Lexington. The Explorium of Lexington will provide a table with fun tools for kids to learn the history of Kentucky.