Abraham Lincoln to William H. Davenport, 28 December 18571
W. H. Davenport,Dear Sir:
When I went to Danville in the fall I found that Don Carlos had not yet been served with process– I was greatly vexed, and made an affidavit to have a publication made for him, as one who was evading process–2 Before the end of the term Drake & Moses (lawyers) concluded to, and did enter his appearance,3 upon which they were ruled to file answers ^by^ some day this winter— I think Jany[January] 1. but not quite certain– That was all I could do– When the answers shall be filed, I ought to have copies of them & I have not yet provided for getting them–4
Yours very trulyA. Lincoln
1Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed this letter.
2Lincoln filed an affidavit of publication against William C. Don Carlos in the Vermilion County Circuit Court in October 1857. Per Illinois law, such affidavits were required whenever a defendant in a lawsuit could not be located or was “concealed” within the state and a complainant in a lawsuit wanted the office of the clerk of the court to publish a formal summons notice regarding the case in at least one newspaper in the county in which the defendant resided.
Affidavit, Document ID: 4609, Davenport v. Sconce & DonCarlos, 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=137241; “Chapter XXI: Chancery,” 3 March 1845, Revised Statutes of Illinois (1845), 94.
3John N. Drake and John C. Moses entered the appearance of Don Carlos with the Vermilion County Circuit Court in November 1857 and requested a continuance of the case, which the court granted.
Decree, Document ID: 59013, Davenport v. Sconce & DonCarlos, Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Details.aspx?case=137241.
4Lincoln is discussing the case Davenport v. Sconce & DonCarlos. In March 1856, William H. Davenport purchased land from Lafayette H. Sconce and Don Carlos for $480. Davenport gave Sconce the $480, and Sconce gave Davenport a quit claim deed on the land as well as a $2,000 bond promising to give Davenport a warranty deed after Sconce received a patent from the U.S. General Land Office. Davenport claimed that although only Sconce’s name was on the bond, the contract was with both Sconce and Don Carlos. In March 1857, Davenport retained Lincoln and Shelby M. Cullom and sued in the Vermilion County Circuit Court to have the contract voided and receive either the present value of the land or have his money refunded, plus interest. Davenport charged that Sconce and Don Carlos tried to defraud him and take his money by concealing information that proved that they had no legal title to the land.
Documentation in the Danville, Illinois branch of the General Land Office office revealed that Sylvester W. Richmond had entered the land to receive a patent long before Sconce developed an interest in the land, but that Richmond’s patent entry had been declared invalid because of a minor issue with the land warrant. The U.S. General Land Office in Washington, DC directed the Danville land office to notify Richmond of this issue and permit him to enter a valid warrant on the land. Davenport alleged that Don Carlos—who served as the Danville land office’s clerk for a time—did not notify Richmond of the cancellation of his patent entry, but put a fraudulent note in the Danville land office books that Richmond had been notified, then colluded with Sconce to claim the land. Richmond did not learn that his patent entry was cancelled until Don Carlos procured the land to be entered in Sconce’s name. Richmond then wrote to the U.S. General Land Office, which issued him a valid patent for the land in October 1856, took possession of the land, and improved it to the point that it was worth $15.00 per acre.
Drake, Moses, and, eventually, Elias S. Terry represented Sconce and Don Carlos in the case, which first came before the Vermilion County Circuit Court in April 1857. On November 24, 1860, Judge David Davis ruled for Davenport, declared the land purchase invalid, and ordered Sconce and Don Carlos to refund Davenport’s $480 and pay half the court costs related to the case.
Bill of Complaint, Document ID: 4611; Attorney’s Notes, Document ID: 4606; Judge’s Docket, Document ID: 59014; Decree, Document ID: 59035; Judge’s Docket, Document ID: 59037; Judgment Docket, Document ID: 59038; Davenport v. Sconce & DonCarlos, Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, http://www.lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Details.aspx?case=137241

Copy of Autograph Letter Signed, 1 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Association Files, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).