Lincoln Legal Briefs

June-August, 1988, Number 7

As many readers already know, project director Roger Bridges resigned in June to become director of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont, Ohio. During his tenure, the Lincoln Legals Project made significant progress in establishing its office, developing an editorial plan, accessioning some 5,00 items on file in the Illinois State Historical Library and the Illinois Supreme Court Library, preparing and revising grant proposals for the National Endowment for the Humanities, and generally publicizing the project in its crucial early stages. We regret losing him, but offer congratulations and best wishes in his new position.

Succeeding Roger on July 1 was Cullom Davis, Professor of History at Sangamon State University, and longstanding supporter of the venture. Cullom brings scholarly credentials in legal history and Lincoln studies, as well as administrative and fundraising experience, to the job. Among his publications are an edited collection of essays, The Public and the Private Lincoln (1979), and Bench and Bar on the Illinois Frontier (1979).

Associate Editor William Beard continues to serve in various important capacities, notably supervision of our intricate collection and accessioning plan. The loss in late spring of office manager Marty Benner has been a setback, and has intensified our effort to secure grant funds to establish that position on a permanent basis.

Richard Breckinridge Taylor, of Los Altos, California, has graciously consented to allow us to examine the Taylor collection of Benjamin Godfrey's papers. Godfrey was the founder of Monticello College, Alton, Illinois, and the founder and president of the Alton and Sangamon Railroad Company. Lincoln's first railroad case was James A. Barret v. The Alton and Sangamon Railroad Company. Barret appealed the decision of the Sangamon County Circuit Court, and Lincoln successfully defended the railroad in the December 1851 term of the Illinois Supreme Court.

We were able to locate Mr. Taylor, a great-great-grandson of Mr. Godfrey, with the help of Mrs. Elizabeth Pearson White, the author of the article, "Captain Benjamin Godfrey and the Alton and Sangamon Railroad," which appeared in the November 1974 issue of the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society. Mrs. White informs us that the Taylor collection has not been exhaustively searched. We thank Mrs. White and Mr. Taylor for their cooperation.

We are also pleased to announce the discovery of a valuable treasure of Lincoln era legal material in the Illinois Supreme Court basement. Approximately 80 volumes of various dockets, court records, ledgers, fee books, order books, and the 1819-1851 roll of attorneys were inventoried in early May, 1988. Though a few references to this material exist (e.g., in the compilation of Lincoln Day By Day), no systematic examination has been completed. Preliminary study already has identified at least six previously unrecorded Lincoln cases in the State Supreme Court. We also have found one Lincoln autograph in a bar docket. These records have been transferred to the Illinois State Archives in Springfield.

Since the last newsletter, the following individuals have made contributions to the Lincoln Legals fund: Ralph Carlson, Sheldon Cohen, Cullom Davis, Lawrence Elliott, Arnold Gates, Judge Sherrill Halbert, Gerald Kluetz, John Power, and Brandt Steele. Our thanks go to fundraising committee chairman Don Funk for his service the last several years. Springfield attorney Richard Hart has succeeded him in this invaluable work.

Thanks to our own publicity plus word-of-mouth, we continue to receive mail and telephone inquiries about the project. Frequently such contacts reveal a Lincoln legal document previously unknown to us. Recently, for example, we have received useful information from Mary-Jo Kline of Sotheby's in New York; Jim Hickey of Elkhart, Illinois; Jeffrey M. Wilday of Springfield, Illinois; Manlieus T. Blane of Petersburg, Illinois; and Wayne Russell, Chief Deputy Clerk of the Illinois Supreme Court.

Copyright, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
Springfield, Illinois