Abraham Lincoln to Onslow Peters, 25 June 18521
Onslow Peters, Esq[Esquire]Dear Sir
Yours of the 23rd is just received–2 I can not recollect John W. Gere by name,3 but if ^it is^ the case I had in hand once, Gere had no legal claim or title papers, but on speculation had made an arrangement with one of the Shurtluffs, to show expenses & profits in an attempt to get the land under Shurtluffs’ claim– At my own expense I went to Jacksonville once, and investigated the claim, & decided it to be valueless– The case was this– While Shurtluff was a minor,4 his father entered the land in the minors name; then wishing to change residence, as guardian of the minor, applied to the Morgan circuit court (in which county the land lies) for an order to sell the land and to invest the proceeds in other lands for the minor– Judge Lockwood was Judge of the circuit court then; & he conducted the case with great caution– He allowed the sale of land, (which had in fact been previously negociated) to be conferred only after taking proof that it had been sold for it full value, and the proceeds, or rather, an equal amount of money, already invested in other lands, in the minors name, in Tazewell county— deeds executed & recorded, for the Tazewell lands, & evidence of it brought into
<Page 2>
the Morgan court, before the decree conferring the sale of the Waverly land was allowed to pass– The quantity of the Tazewell land was greater (as I remember) than that of the Waverly land— the former 3. 80.s the other 160– I believe there were two minors instead of one, but this does not change the principal principle– one died under circumstances that made the other sole heir–5 After the survivor came of age he took & appropriated the Tazewell land–6
Yours as everA Lincoln
[ docketing ]
A, Lincoln
June 25/52[1852]7
1Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed this letter.
2Onslow Peters’ letter to Lincoln has not been located.
3John W. Gere could not be positively identified.
4This is most likely a reference to Benjamin Shurtleff.
5Lot Shurtleff was likely the “sole heir” Lincoln references. He was Milton Shurtleff’s second son, by his first marriage. His first son, Benjamin Shurtleff, died in 1842.
Although public land sale records confirm that Milton Shurtleff purchased hundreds of acres of public land in Tazewell County between 1831 and 1834, there are no public land sales in Tazewell County under either of Shurtleff’s son’s names. It is possible, however, that the lands Lincoln mentions that Milton invested in his son or sons’ names in Tazewell County were private land sales.
Benjamin Shurtleff, Descendants of William Shurtleff of Plymouth and Marshfield, Massachusetts (Revere, MA: Benjamin Shurtleff, 1912), 1:157. For a full list of Milton Shurtleff's land purchases in Tazewell County, search "Shurtleff Milton" and "Shurtliff Milton," https://www.ilsos.gov/isa/landsrch.jsp.
6Lincoln was familiar with the Shurtleff family, and Milton Shurtleff in particular, since the latter had participated in at least one legal case in which Lincoln was directly involved. However, neither Roy P. Basler, editor of The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, nor the editors have been able to identify the case referred to in this letter. No records related to a legal case between a John W. Gere and any member of the Shurtleff family have been located. Not only is it unclear if the case Lincoln outlines above involved the Gere that Peters inquired about, since Lincoln himself notes that he is unsure; it is also unclear if the land dispute between the person Lincoln believed could have been Gere and one of the Shurtleffs ever went to trial, since, as Lincoln writes, records held in Morgan County’s seat of Jacksonville revealed that Gere’s claim was “valueless.”
Wells v. Clark , Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, 2d edition (Springfield: Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, 2009), http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Details.aspx?case=136339; Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 2:120-21.
7It is unclear who wrote this docketing.

Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Gilder Lehrman Collection (New York, New York).