Lincoln Legal Briefs

January - March, 1994, Number 29

On the Circuit

Winter weather occasionally interrupted travel to and between county seats throughout Illinois, but there still was notable progress in the search for documents. Staff researchers revisited four counties (Champaign, Douglas, McLean and Moultrie) to locate trial records that originated in other counties but had been transferred on change of venue. They also conducted a complete inspection in Piatt County, the last of 19 Eighth Judicial Circuit searches. In five additional counties (DeKalb, Iroquois, Kankakee, Kendall, Livingston) researchers quickly found trial level records for cases that Lincoln subsequently handled on appeal before the Illinois Supreme Court.

Work also got underway on manuscript collections of lawyers and others whose contact with Lincoln while he lived in Springfield might have included correspondence pertaining to his law practice. This phase of the search began with compiling a list of 150 of Lincoln's Illinois contemporaries (lawyers, court officials, office clerks, friends, political associates), then identifying which of them left papers for research use. We now have begun visiting more than a dozen manuscript libraries to scan the papers of over 50 individuals who may have corresponded with Lincoln about pending cases or other legal matters. For example, the extensive David Davis Papers at the Illinois State Historical Library yielded several new and interesting items.

With 80,000 documents now in hand, and the search completed in 63 counties, we remain confident about concluding this painstaking work by the end of 1994.

For their generous cooperation we gratefully acknowledge assistance by the following public officials, historians, and friends: Maureen Tosh and Phyllis Kelley (DeKalb County), R. Earl Lober and Marie Hanford (Iroquois County), Monica Bauer (Kankakee County), Shirley Lee (Kendall County), Judith Cremer (Livingston County), Sandra Parker, Ruth Weber, Greg Koos, and Michelle McNabb (McLean County), and Cheryl Schnirring (Illinois State Historical Library).



During the first quarter of every calendar year we usually experience a peak of fundraising effort and achievement, and the past three months were no exception. Many people and organizations contributed to our most successful season ever, and several deserve special recognition.

Betty (Mrs. Richard) Hullihen made a substantial donation to The Lincoln Legal Papers in memory of her late cousin, Dr. Street Dickerman of Springfield. Dr. Dickerman was a grandson of George Latham, who as a young man in 1860 received a famous letter of encouragement from Abraham Lincoln. Mrs. Hullihen and her husband live in northern Ohio.

With help from Advisory Board member Bob Willard, Mead Data Central has extended for another year its donation of complimentary use of two automated research tools, LEXIS and NEXIS. As staff effort shifts to research and editorial work, this service will grow in importance and value.

Attorney Rand S. Wonio, of Lane and Waterman in Davenport, Iowa, generously offered to solicit contributions from members of area bar associations in the Quad Cities region of northwestern Illinois and eastern Iowa. At personal expense he has mailed several hundred appeals on our behalf, and the response has been heartening.

There was major news from Washington, D.C., and all of it was good. For the fourth successive year, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) has awarded The Lincoln Legal Papers an annual grant, and at an increased level. Our 1994-95 award will be $50,000, a sixteen per cent increase over 1993-94. NHPRC program officer for our project is Kathryn Allamong Jacob. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced approval of our request for a two-year grant, totaling $150,000. One-third of this amount (or $50,000) is in matching support, requiring us to raise an equal amount in private donations. The NEH grant will underwrite the salaries of two key editors for the project's book edition. NEH program officer is Douglas Arnold. These grants from NHPRC and NEH will comprise fully one-third of our editorial stage annual budget, so their support is vital to both the momentum and the stability of The Lincoln Legal Papers.

We acknowledge with deep gratitude the generosity of the following recent donors: American Business Women's Association (Shelbyville Chapter), Mr. & Mrs. Lawrence Appel, Ron Banuk, Mrs. Harold W. Barner, Ward R. Bond, Jon G. Carlson, John R. Chapin, Hon. Linda J. Cook, Chris Coover, George M. Craig, George M. Curtis, III, Mr. & Mrs. John E. Daly, John Brooks, Rose Anne Davis, Irving Dilliard, Michael Duncan, Dan Eaton, Daniel P. Ellard, Mr. & Mrs. Lawrence Elliott, Tom Forgue, Mr. & Mrs. Guy Fraker, S. Howard Goldman, Harold Gross, Benjamin I. Green, William Hanchett, Arthur G. Harland, Jr., Gary L. Hoffman, G. William Horsley, Jefferson Inn of Court, Donna M. Jenkins, Kaller Historical Documents, Inc., Stanley N. Katz, Elizabeth Kerr, Robert C. Lanphier III, Dr. & Mrs. Victor Lary, Mr. & Mrs. Joseph A. Lesak, Travis H. Lewin, Mr. & Mrs. Claude B. Lilly, Lincoln National Life Foundation, Inc., Albert R. Link, Alfred J. Lipsey, Mr. & Mrs. John Lupton, Joe Luttrell, Harold B. MacMahon, Mathew Marshall, Frank J. Mason, McLean County Historical Society, Virginia B. McConnell, Mrs. Peter McEnteggart, Meyer Boswell Books, Inc., Richard Mills, Sella Morrison, Mr. & Mrs. Edward H. Nichols, Vance Gordon Oyer, Irving R.M. Panzer, Piatt County Historical and Genealogical Society, Mr. & Mrs. Alan R. Post, R. Edith Priester, Ronald J. Rosenberg, John C. Ryan, Donald Rydgren, Fred Schneeberger, Christopher Schnell, Edward C. Schoede, Mr. & Mrs. William P. Skemp, Dennis Suttles, John Taylor, Susan M. Volker, Morris F. Wiener, Frank J. Williams, Wayne D. Williams, Winchester Women's Club, Bruce Woner, Harlington Wood, Jr.


A Significant Milestone

April marks the beginning of the two-year effort to convert documents collected during the past several years to electronic form in preparation for the publication of The Abraham Lincoln Legal Papers: The Complete Facsimile Edition, which is scheduled for release in 1997. Exhaustive research and planning for this edition has been underway for 18 months by Assistant Director Martha Benner, who will serve as editor of The Complete Facsimile Edition. The 100,000 documents in the collection (representing over 250,000 pages) will be scanned into electronic format as digital images, and then made available to the public on CD-ROM discs. A comprehensive electronic index will accompany the CD-ROM set, enabling researchers to search for information about specific cases, documents, legal subjects, and people involved in Lincoln's law practice. Documents meeting the selection criteria will be projected instantaneously on the computer screen, and can then be printed to produce a hard-copy facsimile of the original.

Media Conversion Corporation, of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, is serving as consultant on system design and equipment selection. Data conversion and computer experts from this firm will be on hand throughout the scanning process to assist in developing procedures, instructing project staff in hardware and software use, and maintaining the system for optimum productivity. Dan Dixon, who worked with the project as Research Assistant several years ago, is rejoining the staff as technical assistant responsible for the laborious scanning work.


Old Abe and Davy

Two historic American names intersected in the Shelby County Probate Court in the 1850s. Abraham Lincoln sued the estate of Elliott Crockett, nephew of legendary adventurer Davy Crockett. Edna Clausen, a volunteer researcher for the Shelby County Historical and Genealogical Society, found several references to Lincoln in the Probate Record, and forwarded the information to The Lincoln Legal Papers. Further research showed that Elliott Crockett was the nephew of Davy Crockett, famous among other things for his stand at the Alamo in 1836.

William Crockett, Davy's older brother, moved his family to Shelby County in the 1840s. One of his sons, Elliott, accompanied him there. Elliott's own son, John, was arrested in Moultrie County in 1852 for alleged murder.

In November 1852, Abraham Lincoln defended John A. L. Crockett in the Moultrie County Circuit Court on the murder charge. Crockett was found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to the Alton State Penitentiary for two years of hard labor. A week after the sentencing, Lincoln petitioned Governor Augustus C. French for a pardon because "Crockett has been, from his infancy, only not quite an ideot, being at least, of the very lowest grade of intellect above absolute ideocy" (Collected Works, 2:161). Anthony Thornton, co-counsel and attorney from Shelbyville, wrote an accompanying letter supporting the petition.

Lincoln charged a relatively high fee of $59.87 for his legal services from John Crockett's father, Elliott. It is unclear whether the amount was for only one case or several. John Crockett was unable to handle his own financial affairs because of his "ideocy."

Elliott Crockett died in September 1855 with a somewhat sizable estate. Lincoln had not been paid for his legal services and promptly filed suit in Shelby County Probate Court for payment. Two years later, in September 1857, Lincoln received $62.70 from Crockett's estate. Anthony Thornton received the money on Lincoln's behalf. Crockett and Lincoln, two famous historical names not generally connected in the popular mind, reveal in this episode that it is, indeed, a small world.


Staff News

Stacy McDermott resigned in March to await the birth of a second child. On March 17 she and husband Kevin became the parents of a daughter, Mackenzie Kathleen. Last summer's Research Intern, Stephen Sauer, completed all requirements for his M.A. in History in January, and will receive his diploma from Sangamon State University in May. He teaches social studies in Lincoln, Illinois.

Numerous staff members addressed area audiences during the winter months on either The Lincoln Legal Papers or some aspect of Lincoln's law career. Among the speakers were Dennis Suttles, Christopher Schnell, John Lupton, Michael Duncan, Cullom Davis, and Bill Beard. Davis also delivered papers at the Huntington Library (San Marino, CA), the annual meeting of the National Council on Public History (Sacramento, CA), a University of Illinois alumni celebration of the centennial of its history department (Urbana), and the Jefferson Inn of Court (Waukegan).

John Lupton's account of an interesting document discovery that required some detective work will appear in a forthcoming issue of Documentary Editing.


A Case of Adamant Instructions

Researchers in Woodford County discovered an interesting case that involved Lincoln, his fellow lawyer and friend Norman Purple of Peoria, and a prolonged family dispute. Lucy Ann Davenport sued in chancery to secure her dower, or one-third of her deceased husband's estate, as provided under Illinois law. The defendants were her brother-in-law William H. and father-in-law William Davenport, who had established a trust whereby the younger man would administer the estate on behalf of Lucy Ann and her infant children. Purple represented Lucy and Lincoln represented the defendants.

The case endured several continuances, one of which was due to the fact that Lincoln was late in attending the fall term of Woodford Circuit Court. According to the affidavit, Lincoln was the only defendant lawyer "fully advised of the facts," so the case was carried over another term. Evidently what had detained him was politics, not court work, because throughout September he delivered numerous campaign speeches in Vandalia, Decatur, and Springfield regarding the presidential election.

Something drastically changed Lucy Ann's mind the next spring, and she implored Purple to end the suit. Her feelings about this were starkly evident in her letter to Purple:

Sir. Will you be so kind as to stop this Law Suit between myself and Mr. Davenport. I do not want it to go on at all. I want it to stop and not to go on. This matter must stop. I want it to stop. Please stop it. O, stop stop stop it for me. Yours, Lucy A. Davenport

A few days later Lucy again reversed herself, and the case stretched another year. In the fall of 1858 the court decided against her and in favor of Lincoln's clients.

Copyright, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
Springfield, Illinois