Archive for Wednesday, September 5, 2001

Author transforms idea into book on President Lincoln

September 5, 2001

A plaque stating that Abraham Lincoln stayed in a house roughly five miles northwest of Tonganoxie and 10 miles southwest of Leavenworth might not have been accurate.

Carol Ayres, who published the book, "Lincoln and Kansas: Partnership in Freedom," spoke last week to the Tonganoxie Historical Society. Ayres mentioned that no historical records would indicate Lincoln stayed at the residence, although it's sometimes difficult to know.

"He's probably slept and stayed in every house between here and St. Joe (Mo.)," Ayres said.

When Ayres was special collections librarian at St. Mary College in Leavenworth, she was introduced to an extensive collection about Lincoln.

Ayres wanted to have literature explaining the exhibit.

"I thought I would write a pamphlet," Ayres said.

The Leavenworth resident's idea turned into a larger piece of literature.

During the historical society meeting, Ayres discussed her book and the relationship Lincoln and Kansas had during the turbulent era leading up to his presidency in the 1850s.

Lincoln made campaign stops through much of northeast Kansas. With the idea of preserving the Union by making Kansas a free state, Lincoln spoke in Linwood, just west of St. Joseph, Mo., and in Troy and Doniphan in late November 1859. Ayres said Lincoln also visited part of the Underground Railroad at Doniphan. He then spoke in Atchison on Dec. 3 and at Stockton Hall in Leavenworth after that. Four years and one month later, John Wilkes Booth performed at Stockton Hall in a Shakesperian tragedy. Booth shot Lincoln 18 months later in Chicago.

Ayres said that Lincoln was part of the moderate and new Republican Party. His main goal was keeping the Union intact no matter what it took, although his view of slavery became more and more unfavorable as time progressed.

Various constitutions were drawn up for Kansas with slavery being a major issue. The Lecompton Constitution called for slavery within the state; the Topeka Constitution called for no slavery. The Leavenworth Constitution was ahead of its time, making slavery illegal and giving women voting rights.

A compromise was struck, and the Wyandotte Constitution made Kansas a free state without voting rights for women.

Violence was common in the area because of the slavery issue. When Kansans voted on the slavery issue, 5,000 Missourians crossed the border to vote, carrying guns if Kansas officials needed persuasion.

The tension between Kansas and Missouri was obvious. Sites in Lawrence and Osceola, Mo., were burned, and various murders took place on both sides of the border.

After Booth had shot Lincoln, it was Boston Corbett, who lived near Concordia in Cloud County, who shot Booth through a hole in the barn where Booth had fled. Men were ordered not to shoot, but Corbett, who Ayres described as unstable, ignored the instruction. Corbett was run out of the Concordia area after threatening to shoot neighbor children. He was then assigned to a position as a guard with the Legislature. He later lived in an asylum in Topeka.

Ayres said it was wonderful to learn about Lincoln, a man with humble beginnings and little education in Illinois, and his rise to the presidency.

"To study or to research him is to love him," Ayres said.

During a speech in New York that was said to propel Lincoln into the presidency, a local reporter said Lincoln was just a country hick, but in the course of the speech, the reporter viewed him as a legitimate leader of the nation.

Lincoln wasn't always viewed as the most attractive or best dressed, though.

A woman once told Lincoln: "You are the ugliest person I've ever seen." He told her that he couldn't help it, and she replied, "Well you could have at least stayed at home."

Ayres had some interest in Lincoln before being involved in the special collection, but has become very interested in his part in history.

After conducting so much research about Lincoln, could Ayres write another book?

"Who knows," Ayres said. "It's possible."

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