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A View of Alton, and the Lincoln - Douglas Debate

From The Valley of Shadows, Recollections of the Lincoln Country 1858-1863, by Francis Grierson, 1909

(Book is in Public Domain)

 

Note:  Francis Grierson is also the author of Modern Mysticism and The Celtic Temperament. 

The Valley of Shadows is the recollections of scenes and episodes in his early life in Illinois and Missouri.

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Also, read the Alton Weekly Courier's newspaper report of the Last Great Debate!

 

Statues of Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Alton, Illinois.  Courtesy of Angie Johnson.  Unveiled in 1995.

 

A View of Alton

 

 

THE LINCOLN - DOUGLAS DEBATE

 

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LAST JOINT DEBATE BETWEEN LINCOLN AND DOUGLAS!   6,000 PEOPLE PRESENT!   LINCOLN TRIUMPHANT!  DOUGLAS VANQUISHED!

Source: Alton Weekly Courier, October 21, 1858

 

       The seventh and closing debate between Messrs. Douglas and Lincoln came off at this city yesterday afternoon. The day was not the best - the morning being somewhat cloudy, with indications of rain. At an early hour the country began to arrive. It came on foot - on horseback - by carriage - by lumber wagon, and by all other conveyances possible. The steamer Baltimore from St. Louis, brought up its load of those desirous to hear the great debate. At half past ten o'clock the train on the Chicago, Alton & St. Louis Railroad, freighted with its gatherings from Springfield, Auburn, Girard, Carlinville, Brighton, Monticello, and we know not how many other towns, steamed slowly into the city with its burden of eight full cars. The other passenger trains of the forenoon and early part of the afternoon demonstrated too, that the names of Lincoln and Douglas have a hold upon the country. About noon the extra steamer, White Cloud, landed upon the levee its quota of the denizens of St. Louis. With the earliest arrival, the rooms of Messrs. Douglas and Lincoln, who reached the city before daylight - coming down the river from Quincy, became the centres of attraction. Mr. Lincoln received at the Franklin House, and Mr. Douglas at the Alton. The train of the Chicago, Alton & St. Louis Railroad brought down the Springfield Cadets, a fine military company who paraded through our streets, accompanied by Merritt's Coronet Band, discoursing sweet music. At a later hour, the band of the Edwardsville delegation also gave us a display of its power "to charm the sense and soothe dull care away."

 

       By the hour of 12, the great American People had taken possession of the city. It went up and down the streets - it hurrahed for Lincoln and hurrahed for Douglas - it crowded to the auction rooms - it thronged the stores of our merchants - it gathered on the street corners and discussed politics - it shook its fists and talked loudly - it mounted boxes and cried the virtues of Pain Killer - it mustered to the eating saloons, and did not forget the drinking saloons - it was here and there and everywhere, asserting its privileges and maintaining its rights. Immediately thereafter, couples and triplets and singles of its 6,000 component parts betook themselves to the neighborhood of the stand prepared for the speaking. Over this, which was located on the eastern side of the City Hall and Market building, the Stars and Stripes floated out upon the breeze. Mr. Henry Lea displayed several banners and flags. One was inscribed "Illinois born under the Ordinance of '87 - she will maintain its provision;" another "Lincoln not yet trotted out;" and a third, "Free Territories and Free Men. Free Pulpits and Free Preachers. Free Press and a Free Pen. Free schools and Free Teachers." 

 

       Mr. E. H. Goulding notified everybody in this style, "Squat Row for 'Old Abe' and Free Labor." A cord stretched from the store of Mr. I. Scarritt to that occupied by De Bow & Barr, sustained a large flag bearing the mottoes, "Old Madison for Lincoln," and "Too late for the milking." The national colors floated proudly from the flag staff of the Courier office. The Douglas men concentrated their whole energies in one grand, magnificent, superb, right-royal banner, which was suspended over Third street, between the store of Mr. Henry Lee and the Bank building. The words "Popular Sovereignty" - "National Union" - "S. A. Douglas, the People's Choice," were surmounted by a very buzzard-like bird, ready poised to swoop down upon his prey, and surrounded by five stars, intended, as wel suppose, to represent the four States of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Iowa, which have already put their knives to the throat of Mr. Douglas, and Illinois, which will do so in November, after which he will be ready, politically, for the buzzard. The hour of two having nearly arrived, the great American People having gathered all its parts, or so many of them as would consent to be gathered, to the first floor of the City Hall building and the ground between that and the Presbyterian church, Messrs. Lincoln and Douglas made their appearance upon the stand.

 

       As previously agreed, Judge Douglas opened the debate in a speech of an hour. Although appearing very well, his voice was completely shattered, and his articulation so very much impeded that very few of the large crowd he addressed, could understand an entire sentence. Nearly all his speech was a repetition of his previous charges of amalgamation, negro-equality &c., against the Republican party; and he labored and twisted them, and rolled them as sweet morsels under his tongue till his own friends were disgusted with his pertinacity and falsehood. Having nearly exhausted himself and his hour also on this terrible bug-bear, the Judge then ventured upon one of the most important, and to him, the most fearful act of his life. He actually attacked Buchanan and his administration and berated them to his heart's content. His friends here were not prepared for this bold step on the part of their leader, and opened wide their eyes in astonishment. What - had their Little Giant - their terrible leader stood so long calmly and meekly by when the heads of his friends, one after another in rapid succession, rolled before him in the dust, and not a word of rebuke or condemnation! and now, at the very heels of an election, more important to him than any other of his life, he plucks up courage and denounces the President in terms admitting of no mistake as to his feelings. With this exception his speech was not different from his previous efforts. It was flat and unsatisfactory, unredeemed by a single sparkle of wit or patriotic elevation.

 

       The hour and a half reply of Mr. Lincoln was an effort of which his friends had every reason to be proud. One by one he took up the oft-exploded charges of Douglas against the Republican party and scattered them to the winds, and charged back upon him his own army of sins of omission and commission, with terrible effect. Not a single point was left unanswered of all the charges Douglas made, and so convincing was the array of testimony he produced, so clear and logical every deduction drawn from them, and so honest and candid was he in all his assertions, the Douglasites themselves were forced to admit that they had not only underrated the native strength of the man, but that he was greatly misrepresented in their papers. His reply was, in fact, a complete vindication of himself and the Republican party, from the foul slanders sought to be heaped upon them, and, as a vindication, could not be successfully answered.

 

       Douglas' half-hour rejoinder was both in better spirit and better taste than his opening. It was not in fact a rejoinder at all. It was principally a series of charges against Mr. Lincoln about his Mexican war votes, which he then introduced so that Mr. Lincoln could have no opportunity of replying. Brave Little Giant! Cunning Little Giant! Magnanimous Little Giant!

 

       As we intend to publish the speeches in full in a few days, we shall not further speak of them now. The discussion has been longed for by the Republicans of this city and vicinity, and their expectations have been more than realized. As the Democracy of the States of Iowa, Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania has been thrashed out, so was Mr. Douglas thrashed out by Mr. Lincoln yesterday.

 

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EX-GODFREY RESIDENT URGES BRONZE STATUTES OF LINCOLN & DOUGLAS...........WAS AT THE DEBATE

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, September 5, 1906

Former Mayor H. G. McPike has received the following letter from Dr. James Squire, formerly of Godfrey, now practicing his profession in Carrollton, Ill., and is self explanatory:  "Dear Sir: I saw the statement in a St. Louis paper you made about the debate between Lincoln and Douglas in Alton in 1858. I was there, and as a boy climbed up on the platform on the east side of the Alton City Hall and sat there at the feet of Lincoln and Douglas. I remember how they looked and spoke - remember the sweet, pleasant smiles and ringing invectives, and great truths expounded by Lincoln; the poor voice and oratorical gestures of the 'Little Giant,' Douglas, who was plainly out of health, or 'cornered,' and could not answer the man who proclaimed the doctrines of the emancipation - who said, 'this government cannot stand one-half slave, one-half free,' etc.  I have always quoted that day and my position on the platform as one of the bright days and spots of my history, and have often thought as I passed along how nice it would be to see those men in bronze statues, one on each side of that place, on a pedestal, and it would be attractive to all people visiting Alton. Beautify that hallowed spot! The last meeting place of the two greatest men of Illinois, if not of this country, as the speech delivered that day in Alton made Lincoln President and secured emancipation. The legislature should make an appropriation to help erect the statues, and if Madison county will elect men of strong character to represent her in the legislature, no doubt help could be secured in part from the state to commemorate those two giants and that one spot. You, as presiding officer of that meeting, Mr. McPike, should start this movement, and I know you can, and believe you will inaugurate it and see that it reaches a successful consummation.  I write this only to congratulate you on the accuracy of the details of that debate as given by you between the two greatest men on earth at that time, 1858.  I am willing to do anything I can to help, and I urge that justice be done to the debaters and I also am anxious to show that Alton was on the map in the past, and I hope she will be in the future as a 'great city.'"

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ALTON LADY REMEMBERS DEBATE DISTINCTLY

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, December 18, 1907

Mrs. Catherine Dietschy, widow of Joseph Dietschy, who resides at 614 East Fourth street, is one of the surviving Altonians who listened to the Lincoln-Douglas debate in this city, and she remembers the occasion and much of the speech of Douglas distinctly. She says there was a big crowd present on the east side of the city hall, and that Douglas, who was a "little, short, heavy man," who kept his head bobbing backwards and forward - sometimes violently bobbing all through his speech. After the speaking she says Douglas was taken to St. Louis on a handsomely decorated steamboat. The Lincoln-Douglas organization might be able to secure some valuable information from Mrs. Dietschy, and if not valuable, certainly some interesting information concerning that verbal battle of intellectual giants.

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SURVIVORS OF LINCOLN-DOUGLAS DEBATE

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, December 19, 1907

Below is a list of persons who have sent their names to the Telegraph as having been present at the Lincoln-Douglas debate in this city, October 15, 1858:

 

Unknown Pfeifenberger Mrs. K. Dietschy Edmond Beall John Haley E. A. Smith
F. A. Hummert Ferd. Volbracht John Diamond Mrs. A. Johnston Rev. J. A. Scarritt
J. L. Blair E. P. Wade L. H. Yager H. G. McPike T. M. Long
George H. Davis G. D. Hayden J. L. Watkins J. W. Cary Henry Watson
Joseph Einsele L. Stiritz, Clifton Terrace A. A. Neff E. Marsh H. Basse
L. Walter F. H. Ferguson Thomas Dimmock, St. Louis Mrs. S. Sotier George Dickson
J. M. Ryrie G. W. Carhart William Jarman Joseph I. Lamper R. J. Young
Wolf Laudener Dr. George Worden L. H. Kelly M. H. Boals G. H. Weigler
Albert Wade H. S. Mathews C. Wuerker G. W. Cutter P. J. Meiling
William Flynn Gaius Paddock B. Schlageter Charles Holden Harrison Johnson
John Hoffman Thomas O'Leary John Bauer R. Maerdian A. L. Daniels
J. M. Pearson, Godfrey Nicholas Challacombe, Melville Dr. T. P. Yerkes, Upper Alton Capt. Henry A. Morgan, Upper Alton R. R. McReynolds, Upper Alton
Capt. Troy Moore, Upper Alton G. B. (Barley) Weed, Girard Mrs. L. V. Rutherford James Barr, Nevada, MO Lewis Megowan, Upper Alton
E. M. Hugo, Upper Alton A. F. Rodgers, Upper Alton William R. Wright, Upper Alton James Seyboldt, Troy W. C. McPike, Atchison, Kan.
John Seaton, Atchison, Kan. Jacob Preuitt, Bethalto Louis Houck, Cape Girardeau, MO Dr. James Squires, Carrollton R. W. Atwood, Chicago
W. R. Prickett, Edwardsville Christian Schwartz, Edwardsville S. B. Gillham, Upper Alton James W. Davis, St. Louis M. A. Lowe, Upper Alton
Dr. Joseph Pogue, Edwardsville August Baker, Melville      

 

The persons whose residences are not given live in Alton. There are no doubt a large number of others living in Alton and elsewhere whose names are not given. If these persons will send their names to the Telegraph, they will be published later.

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LINCOLN-DOUGLAS STORIES BROUGHT OUT BY SEMI-CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION OF DEBATE

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, December 20, 1907

Anent the proposed celebration in this city in October next year of the debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas on October 15, 1858, many interesting stories are told of by the older people of the occasion and the amenities that passed between the eminent speakers on the occasion.  Great interest was stirred among the residents of the territory 75 to 100 miles around Alton. People came in all kinds of vehicles, some of them traveling for two days and nights. Some of them estimated the crowd at ten thousand, but this no doubt is larger than the actual number.

 

Thomas M. Long, city engineer, then deputy United States marshal under President Buchanan, happened to be in Edwardsville at the time on business and organized a crowd to come over to Alton. Something like twenty to thirty vehicles were used to convey the people from the county seat. All along the way, Mr. Long says that the procession was enlarged by farmers wagons filled with people, and when the procession reached that part of the city where Washington street now is, there must have been 200 vehicles of all kinds in line. Mr. Long got a good position in company with the late Z. B. Job and others, and heard the speakers distinctly. He says there was intense feeling and much enthusiasm, and the points made by the speakers were loudly applauded.

 

F. A. Hummert was at that time a lad, and with his father came in a wagon from Fosterburg to attend the debate. Mr. Hummert has a very vivid recollection of the men and what they said; of the crowd and its great size, and of the way the partisans of the two men cheered and applauded their favorites.

 

G. B. (Bradley) Weed was a boy at the time and lived in Alton and attended the meeting. He tells of his feelings and give interesting data of the occasion. Mr. Weed has lived in Girard since he moved away from Alton, and is now practicing his profession, a druggist, although he is 69 years of age. The writer remembers him well as being one of the pupils of the old school that formerly was on the site of the Garfield school.

 

R. J. Young says he was present and heard the debate. He says that the speakers addressed each other as "Abe" and "Steve." During the addresses Mr. Douglas said something about "Abe" which drew a long and loud volley of applause from the Democratic section of the crowd. After the applause, Mr. Lincoln responded: "Well Steve, I see you have a big lot of friends here in this little city of Alton, but there will be another time. You may beat me this time, but in the next race the longest pole will knock the persimmon on the highest limb." This was a remarkable prophecy, for Douglas did beat Lincoln that time.  Two years afterwards the two men were opposing candidates for the Presidency, and Lincoln won the big persimmon. He carried Alton, which had always been Democratic at prior elections, giving Lincoln a majority of 13, and was in line with the entire North.

 

John S. Leeper of this city was present at the Freeport meeting and gives his impressions of both men. After Douglas closed his part of the debate in which he belabored Lincoln in his usually caustic and telling manner, Lincoln arose, and with great solemnity announced: "I now propose to stone Stephen." Stephen no doubt had many sore spots on his anatomy as "Abe" threw political stones at Stephen until the latter was almost ready to cry out. "Bold enough." There was great good humor between the two men, and they were seen to walk away from the meeting arm in arm and laughing over the jokes they perpetrated on each other.

 

Charles S. Leech was among those who listened to the debate. He was then as now a resident of Alton. He was 18 years of age at the time. Mr. Leech was walking along Piasa street on his way to the speakers' stand east of city hall. A few yards in front of him was Lincoln, accompanied by Amasa Barry and B. B. Harris, both now deceased, and heard part of the talk indulged in by the three men.  Messrs. Barry and Harris ..... [unreadable] Lincoln about ..... to engage in .... "Little Giant,"  as .....in those days.  Mr. Leech has a very distinct recollection of Douglas' voice, something on the order of the baying of an immense mastiff, "wow," "wow," as if at some distance. When near Douglas his words came slow and deliberate, very distinct. Lincoln, on the other hand, was a quick speaker, with a high keyed voice, and every word could be very plainly heard at a distance.

 

C. A. Rodemeyer of upper Alton says he remembers the debate between Lincoln and Douglas, which occurred in 1858, as well as if it occurred yesterday. He says he was a small boy then, but he was always on hand when there was any excitement on and he stood very close to the two speakers while they were talking and afterward shook hands with Douglas. Mr. Rodemeyer says a man named Merritt from Chicago spoke right after the debate and he has heard no one say anything about that in speaking of the famous debate.

 

Mr. Edward Rogers, also of Upper Alton, says he remembers the debate very distinctly and remembers many things said by both speakers.

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ALTON WILL HAVE BIG ART EXHIBIT DURING LINCOLN-DOUGLAS DEBATE CELEBRATION

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, September 26, 1908

In another column will be found a local ad by W. H. Wiseman, the photographer, who is asking Altonians and others to contribute to a big art exhibit which will be given at his place, fort Wiseman, October 12-17. St. Louis artists have already agreed to send some of the finest collections of paintings, etc., ever seen in Alton, and Mr. Wiseman himself will have on exhibition many remarkably fine specimens of his own work done with his new $250 camera. There will be on display a suit of armor taken from a Moro chief after he was killed by a United States soldier in the Philippines during the Spanish War. The armor is made of bronze and weighs seventy-five pounds. The chief was a small man weighing only about ninety pounds, and the exhibit for this alone will be of great interest. Among other things to be displayed will be a five foot long photograph of the Standard Oil refinery site and buildings, which was taken by Mr. Wiseman for the Standard Oil company from a tower one hundred and eight feet high, which was built especially for the purpose. This is pronounced by those who have seen it to be the finest piece of photographic work ever seen in Alton. Mr. Wiseman has also had a tower built on the Alton bridge and from this he will take an eight feet long photograph of Alton on the river front. He is waiting for weather conditions to improve a little and the river to become higher before taking this last picture. The exhibit will bring many fine art specimens and curious things generally to Alton, and all who can contribute to its interest ought to do so, as the studio will probably be visited by thousands of out of town visitors during the time the exhibition will be on.

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BRONZE MEMORIAL TABLET ARRIVES FOR LINCOLN-DOUGLAS DEBATE MEMORIAL

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, October 6, 1908

The bronze memorial tablet to be placed on the city building to mark the place where the famous closing debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas took place October 15, 1858, arrived this morning and is in the custody of Jacob Wead, who will make arrangements for having it set in place. The tablet will be placed on the panel in the east side of the city hall building, on the Market street side, between the two fire escapes. It will be set about eight feet from the ground to put it out of the way of people who might deface it or mar its beauty in any way. The tablet is severely plain. The lettering is raised and is of the plainest kind. The inscription on the tablet is as follows:  "1858-1908.  Erected by the Citizens of Alton commemorating the Closing Debate Between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas, Which took place here, October 15, 1858."   The tablet will be set in place before the time for its unveiling but will not be open to the view of the public until the morning of October 15, when the veil will be drawn by John Bowman, a son of Mr. and Mrs. Edward M. Bowman. Mr. Bowman is chairman of the committee which is in charge of preparations for the celebration and his son was chosen in recognition of is valuable services in behalf of the semi-centennial.

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SEMI-CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION OF LINCOLN-DOUGLAS DEBATES

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, October 15, 1908

Fifty years ago today the last of the series of debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas took place at Alton. The semi-centennial observance of the debate today was a gigantic success. The interest in the anniversary celebration far exceeded what was expected. Alton had been preparing for the anniversary day by making a thorough house cleaning. The city never looked prettier in her autumnal dress, and it never looked neater or cleaner after the strenuous exertions of the city government. It never looked more attractive either from the point of view of the artistic decorator. The decorations were quite an important feature of the occasion, and elicited many favorable comments from those who were back in their old home to spend the day and see what Alton had been doing in the many years they had been absent. Those who feared there might be lack of interest in the celebration were greatly mistaken. It was the reawakening of old memories to many of the old residents of Alton. It aroused the interest of hundreds of one-time residents here who flocked to Alton for the day from all parts of the country. Some had come from Denver and other western points. Some were here from New York, some from the north and some from the south. Alton's homes were filled with guests. The hotels were filled and there were many who had difficulty in finding places to stay. Among the visitors were great numbers who heard the debate of fifty years ago. The committee did not believe there would be so many, and the demand for badges far exceeded the supply. Alton probably had more old people in her borders today than she ever had in her history. The hundreds of old men, ranging from 90 years of age downward to 62 and 63, who were here, made the occasion a notable one in this respect alone. Among the oldest who were present as veterans and were given seats in the carriages were Captain Troy Moore of Upper Alton and Hon. George H. Weigler of Alton, both past 90 years of age and both well preserved. There were other "younger" men who were between 80 and 90, the number of them being so large that it would require a long roll to contain them. From that down to 60 years there were many who had heard the debates and who had not been in Alton in many years. The day was a complete counterpart of the date of the original debate. The air was warm and balmy, the skies were blue and everything in Nature helped to make the celebration what it was desired it should be. Preceding the unveiling of the tablet was the parade of the school children, military bodies and the city officers and those of the celebration. It was a thrilling sight. The parade was formed on Ridge street according to a plan prepared by the Grand Marshal, Col. A. M. Jackson. One by one the bodies fell in line marching down Second street toward the city hall. Fifteen hundred flags had been provided for the children of the Alton and Upper Alton public and parochial schools. There was not near enough, and the younger children had been ruled out of the parade because they were thought to be too young to march. The following was the formation of the parade:  Grand Marshal and aides from Alton High school, mounted; automobiles and carriages, Western Military Academy band and cadets, Naval Militia, Shurtleff college, Upper Alton schools, Alton Y. M. C. A., White Hussars band, Board of Education, High School and Garfield School pupils, St. Mary's pupils, Humboldt school pupils, St. Patrick's and Cathedral schools, Lovejoy, Douglas, Washington annex and McKinley annex schools, Lincoln and Irving schools; reception committee, G. A. R. drum corps.  The parade started moving about 10:15 a.m. There was wild enthusiasm among the marchers. Each section of the parade carried a banner denoting its identity. When the city hall was reached by the marchers it was almost impossible for the children to be massed in close enough to hear anything of the program. The audience was packed solidly with people who could not be moved, and after vainly trying to get close enough to the speakers stand to hear what was going on, many hundreds of the audience scattered out and moved around the city. An incident of the gathering was the efforts of some of the old timers trying to get themselves straightened out. They were puzzled coming to the new Alton. They could not get their bearings, the changes had been so radical since they came, and prior to the beginning of the program the old folks were working hard to find out where some of their old landmarks were and how to get around the city. At the opening of the program the White Hussars band played and the Invocation by Rev. Fr. E. L. Spalding, rector of SS. Peter and Paul's Cathedral, followed. The formal presentation of the memorial tablet by Rev. A. A. Tanner of the Congregational church followed. Rev. Tanner made a lengthy and scholarly address, dwelling on the historic features of the occasion. At the conclusion of his address, the unveiling of the tablet was done by John Drummond Bowman, son of Mr. and Mrs. E. M. Bowman. The tablet of bronze had been set in the panel of the wall on the east side of the city hall building. It was concealed by a curtain of two silk American flags, suspended from a bar above them. At the appointed time the flags were drawn aside amid the cheers of the audience. The acceptance of the tablet in behalf of the city was done by Mayor Edmund Beall. Mayor Beall made a short address in performing his official duty of acceptance. After a beautiful address by General Alfred Orendorf of Springfield, president of the Illinois Historical Society, which was the promoter of the celebrations, the morning program closed. 

 

Sidelights on Lincoln-Douglas Debate:

This morning there was a banner borne in the parade which was carried fifty years ago by Ewing Dale of Edwardsville, a son of Judge Dale. A brother of the deceased banner bearer brought the banner to Alton this morning and displayed it. On the banner was the inscription:  "Dinna ye hear the Slogan, Tis Douglas and his Boys."  On the reverse of the banner was the inscription:  "Douglas Blues."  William G. Pluckard of Chicago had with him in Alton today the contract for the first house erected in Alton by contract. It was the property of his father and his grandfather, Samuel Pluckard, was the contractor. 

 

Among those who attended the speaking were George C. Cockrell of Omaha, who was one of the marshals of the parade fifty years ago, and Hon. H. G. McPike, who was a member of the platform committee. The only living speaker who took part in the program fifty years ago, Joseph Sloss of Memphis, Tennessee, was unable to be here because of his great age.

 

Mayor Beall wore a rosette that was worn by Daniel Sullivan's wife in the celebration fifty years ago. It was loaned to the Mayor for the day.

 

The exercises at the Airdome were opened at 2:30 o'clock. The amphitheatre was filled to its capacity and the east fence was taken down to admit of the overflow standing in the street, hearing the talk. After the prayer by Rev. R. P. Hammons, E. M. Bowman was presented by Mayor Beall, and presided during the exercises. On the stage were seated a large number of people who had heard the debate of 50 years ago.

 

J. McCann Davis of Springfield was introduced for the first address. He prefaced his remarks by referring to the late Stephen A. Douglas, whose name was on the program, and who was to have delivered an address. He paid a tribute to the memory of Mr. Douglas, and spoke of a recent address of Mr. Douglas at Ottawa and Charleston. The address of Mr. Davis was on the two giants of Illinois, Lincoln and Douglas. Lincoln was little known, while Douglas was of national reputation. Fifty years ago these two giants in Alton debated momentous issues of the time. No two names in American history are so inseparably linked as those of Lincoln and Douglas. If Lincoln had not lived, the career of Douglas might have been the same. If Douglas had not lived the world would not have known Lincoln as it does today. Douglas' rise was rapid, at the age of 28 he being on the Supreme Court bench. Lincoln was elected to Congress when Douglas was the Senatorial compeer of Webster and Clay. Lincoln, in a dingy law office at Springfield, sat downcast when Douglas was being mentioned for the Presidency. Douglas for 28 years was the master spirit of the majority party, while Lincoln was in the weaker. In 1852 Lincoln was not even a delegate to the convention of his party. It was supposed the slave question was settled. Both parties had settled down to trivial issues, and Lincoln had his beginning in 1854. Prior to that time, though rivals in many ways, the two giants were personal friends and continued until death separated them. In 1854 Douglas forced through Congress his Kansas-Nebraska bill. He aroused from peaceful slumber Abraham Lincoln. He became a changed man - his soul was stirred to the depths. Slavery was a great institution of the country and its solution baffled the minds of the greatest statesmen of the age. Sooner or later the conflict had to be settled right. The effect of the Kansas-Nebraska bill was to bring forth a new party and its great leader. From that day Lincoln and Douglas opposed each other. In the great debate of 1858, Lincoln found himself at a disadvantage. The renown of his antagonist was world-wide. Of himself Lincoln said nobody expects me to be president. Douglas won the senatorial battle of 1858, but Lincoln had laid the foundation of the defeat of his rival in 1860. In the crisis following Lincoln's election, Douglas rose to the heights of statesmanship. Douglas predicted a great war that would last for years. When Lincoln was inaugurated, Douglas was at his side and offered him his help. The great union speech of Douglas, delivered before the Legislature at its next session, was said to be the greatest ever delivered before the Legislature. Douglas was in a hard position. He had a magnificent devoted following in the North. Defeat had come to his party. If he had lapsed in the sullen silence of disappointment the course of history would have been changed and the Confederacy would have been maintained. He was not silent, and his words went thundering over the country and stirred his followers to go forth to do battle for their country. American history furnishes no higher example of patriotism than that of Douglas in 1861. He died in the noonday of life, his ambition unfulfilled and if Lincoln could speak he would pay his tribute to his old antagonist.

 

Horace White of New York, who reported the Lincoln-Douglas debate, as a newspaper reporter, was the next speaker. Mr. White was the only person present at all the Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858. He heard the Lincoln speech in Springfield on the "House divided against itself." He stated he remembered the Alton debate well. Douglas' voice was so worn out his words could not be heard ten feet from the platform. He had an air of entire confidence, notwithstanding. Madison county was the pivot, being controlled by the Whigs. Lincoln believed he could carry the Fillmore vote, but he was mistaken, and Lincoln lost in this county. Lincoln's voice was clear and high-pitched. He was perfectly at home. Lincoln is coming into his kingdom with a completeness that no one could have expected. Douglas brought Lincoln into the public eye and Lincoln now keeps there.

 

Lyman Trumbull was one of the giants of 1858. His old home is still in Alton. He made a great impression when he delivered his speech on the Kansas-Nebraska bill. That measure, backed by Douglas, had brow-beaten an almost terrorized foe. Before Trumbull appeared in the Senate, Douglas had only one antagonist. Trumbull was a perfect match for Douglas, and when he replied to Douglas the whole north rang with his praises and said a great man had come forth to do a great work. Lincoln's greatest mark was the emancipation proclamation. Yet it had no real effect, as it applied only to territory not under the President's control. It did not purport to rest upon constitutional rights but only as a war measure. Public opinion was divided. The questions that arose were puzzling. On January 13th, 1864, a resolution was introduced in Congress to abolish slavery, which became the 13th amendment. Illinois gave to the union three great men - Grant, Lincoln and Trumbull. Trumbull, the great senator who brought to the Senate the 13th amendment, should be applauded by his fellow townsmen. Trumbull never sought a personal controversy, but never declined one. His influence in the Senate was great. Such was the Senator the citizens of Alton gave to be the whole coadjutor of Lincoln and Grant.

 

Franklin House, later named Lincoln Hotel [Alton, 1908], where Lincoln received guests while in Alton for the debate with Stephen Douglas

 

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ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S WORDS TO A LITTLE BOY [G. F. LONG OF ALTON]

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, October 16, 1908

G. F. Long of 524 west Vine street, Springfield, formerly of Alton, is down taking in the Lincoln-Douglas celebration. He was present fifty years ago at the debate between the two great men. Incidentally, Frank was one of the most heroic Union soldiers who shouldered a musket for his country. He is not very large physically, but was made up of a brave spirit and did his duty at the sacrifice of a limb, his hearing, and his eyesight. He was only 13 years old when he heard the great orators. What education he had received was mostly gotten in the East where his father's home, the late Dr. Long, was, and Douglas was the great man in that section, Lincoln not being known there. Mr. Long and his father were on the platform and Frank got as close to the future President as he could, sitting on the railing. Sitting there he looked up into Lincoln's face and mentally said, "he don't amount to much." Pretty soon Lincoln began to warm up, his face glowed and the muscles of his neck and throat swelled up as whip cords when some great idea struck him, and the orator swung his arms out wildly, sometimes lurching forward as he expressed his intense ideas. On one of those occasions he came very near where the boy was sitting, and Frank moved to get out of the way. Lincoln glanced down at Frank and said, "Never mind little boy, I won't step on you." As one of "Father Abraham's" soldiers a few years later, he was stepped upon quite severely by mini rifle balls and bombs bursting in the air, in the wildest of battle scenes in the South and in the last battle of Sherman's campaign at Bentonville, North Carolina.

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OBITUARY OF LETITIA V. RUTHERFORD REVEALS STORY OF LOCAL SPEAKERS AT LINCOLN-DOUGLAS DEBATE

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, April 20, 1910
Mrs. Letitia V. Rutherford, a resident of Alton since 1858, died at 7:15 o'clock Wednesday morning, at her home, 431 east Ninth street, after an illness of two weeks. Her death was due to a breaking down of her system from old age, and had been expected for almost a week. She was taken ill two weeks before her death with what was believed to be a slight ailment, and she never was able to be around again. Up to the evening before her death she was conscious, her mind was undimmed, and while she knew for several days she was dying, she was glad and ready to go and was happy with the members of her family around her. Up to the time she lost consciousness finally, the evening before her death, she conversed about current events, seemed to be still as deeply interested in her friends and her family as ever, and was not in the least perturbed by the certainty of her near dissolution. Mrs. Rutherford had always maintained her youthful interest in the young people. Her family and friends said she would never grow old in spirit, because she loved children so well, and this prediction was borne out to the last. She had a sweet simplicity of soul that would not countenance any display, her family and her friends were her little world, and she was never so happy as when, surrounded by many of her descendants, she lay on her dying bed. She was a devoted member of the Presbyterian church and had held membership in the First Presbyterian church of Alton since she came to this city. Her father was Rev. James Sloss, a Presbyterian minister. She was born in Florence, Ala., and would have been 79 years of age June 13. She was married on her 18th birthday to Friend S. Rutherford, at her home, and she was separated from him by death in June 1864. Her husband was the colonel of the 97th Illinois volunteers, and he was taken sick after a long campaign in the neighborhood of Vicksburg, and at New Orleans. His wife went south and brought him home, and soon thereafter she was left with a large family of children, by her husband's death. She always maintained her home circle, made it the center for the other home circles that grew from her own, and was imbued with the spirit of hospitality that made her home a delightful place to be. She leaves four daughters, Mrs. W. C. Johnston of St. Louis; Miss Mary Rutherford; Mrs. John F. McGinnis; Mrs. William Russell of Alton; and one son, F. S. Rutherford of St. Louis. She leaves also an adopted daughter, her niece, Miss Grace Sloss. She is survived by two brothers, Joseph Sloss of Memphis, Tenn., and Robert Sloss. She leaves thirty-six of grandchildren and eleven great-grandchildren. In 1852 Mr. and Mrs. Rutherford and their 13 months' old daughter, Anna, later Mrs. J. A. Cousley, now deceased, removed to Edwardsville, where Mr. Rutherford began the practice of his profession, the law. The family resided in Edwardsville until 1858, until Mr. Rutherford received an appointment as one of the officials of the Illinois State Penitentiary, then at Alton. Their residence was continued here until the present time. Mrs. Rutherford's brother, Joseph Sloss, is the only survivor of the persons who participated in the original Lincoln-Douglas debate. Prior to the arrival of the principal speakers it was planned that speeches would be made by local talent. Her husband, F. S. Rutherford, and her brother, Joseph Sloss, both attorneys, were the speakers selected to represent the two parties, the brother being on the Douglas side and her husband on the Lincoln side. Later both enlisted in armies, the one to fight for the Union, the other for the Confederacy. Later her brother was elected as representative in the United States congress, and was later appointed U. S. Marshall for the North District of Alabama of the Federal Court, by President Grant. The funeral will be held Friday afternoon at 2:30 o'clock, and services will be held in the First Presbyterian church by Rev. A. O. Lane. Burial will be in City Cemetery.

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SAMUEL PITTS RECALLS INCIDENTS OF LINCOLN-DOUGLAS DAYS

Source: Alton Evening Telegraph, January 30, 1911

Editor Telegraph:  After reading the account in the Alton Telegraph of the Lincoln-Douglas times and affairs, I decided to job down a few lines from my standpoint. It was the lot of my good wife and I to sit at the table, at the right and left with Lincoln and Douglas, at my father and mother's table. The conversation between the two great men was very friendly, but they would occasionally assume their individual sides of the question with much spirit, and as both orators were of marked ability, strong points were brought out by them. As my wife and I were married diagonally across the street from Lincoln's old home in Springfield, we felt more freedom than other guests at the table. As to the other two orators (Colonel F. S. Rutherford and Captain Joseph Sloss) mentioned in the Telegraph, although much younger than either, it was my lot to sit up with the Colonel later, when ill (1862).  Dr. C. M. Smith, a brother-in-law, was the physician in attendance. While on the subject of men and times, I wish to mention that the older men of Alton at that time, such as Isaac Scarritt, Samuel Wade, John L. Blair, J. G. Lamb, and many others who were held up to youthful guidance and example, men who were as near to the line of perfection as it was possible for men to be in this world, I feel thankful for their conduct and help. They have nearly all passed away. I recall their noble lives with pleasure and profit.    Samuel Pitts.

 

 

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