February 10, 2017
This is “Our Past Is Present” from the Geary County Historical Society.
On December 1st, 1859, a tall gangly traveler got off a riverboat in the little Kansas town of Elwood, which is just across the Missouri River from St. Joseph, Missouri. The traveler was identified the next day in the Elwood “Free Press” as the honorable Abraham Lincoln, who according to the report “kindly consented to make a speech here although he was somewhat under the weather and fatigued with the journey.” During the following week, Lincoln visited the few towns and settlement eastern part of the strife-torn Kansas territory. He had come to see for himself the situation and the territory.
Albert Richards was amongst a crowd of forty people who gathered to hear Lincoln speak in the little town of Troy in Doniphan County. Mr. Richards recorded the following about the future President:
“There was none of the magnetism of a multitude to inspire the long angular, ungainly orator, who rose up behind a rough table. In a conversational tone he argued the question of slavery in the territories in the language of an average Ohio or New York farmer. I thought, if the Illinoisans consider this a great man, their ideas must be very peculiar. But in 10 or 15 minutes I was unconsciously drawn by the clearness and logic of his argument. His fairness and candor were very noticeable. He ridiculed nothing, and misrepresented nothing.”
The address lasted three quarters of an hour and when Lincoln concluded his remarks an older man originally from Kentucky, the heaviest slaveholder in the area, was asked to respond. He began with this honest comment: “I have heard, during my life all the ablest public speakers, all the eminent statesmen of the past and the present generation and candor compels me to say - that this is the most logical speech I ever listened to.” In March of 1861, just 16 months after his visit to Kansas, Lincoln would become our 16th President until his assassination in 1865. Lincoln’s birthday was February 12th, 1809. With the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1971, Lincoln and George Washington’s birthdays are included for recognition on that day. However, President’s Day is not a federal holiday. States are permitted to make their own decision about closing offices and schools.