Abraham Lincoln to William H. Davenport, 22 May 18581Springfield, May 22. 1858W. H. Davenport, Esq.[Esquire]Dear Sir
Yours of the 14th is just received–2 In your case at Danville, I got just so far, and no farther, than to be ready to take testimony [?] for the next term–3 I guess we will have to take the deposition of the man on the land. (I forget his name just now) We want to prove by him that he was not notified of his entry being cancelled–4Yours trulyA. Lincoln
[?] 1858W. H. Davenport, EsqEurekaWoodford CoIllinois–
[?] 1858W. H. Davenport, EsqEurekaWoodford CoIllinois–
[ docketing ]
[?] that [?]
1Abraham Lincoln wrote and signed this letter. He also wrote the name and address on the envelope, shown in the second image.
3Lincoln is discussing the case Davenport v. Sconce & DonCarlos, which was adjudicated in the Vermilion County Circuit Court. The court’s fall term began October 25, 1858.
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), https://lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Details.aspx?case=137241; “An Act Declaring What Counties Shall Compose the Eighth Judicial Circuit, and Fix the Times of Holding the Courts and Regulate the Practice in Said Circuit,” 11 February 1857, Laws of Illinois (1857), 13.
4In the case Davenport v. Sconce & DonCarlos, William H. Davenport purchased land from Lafayette H. Sconce and William C. Don Carlos for $480 in March 1856. 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.
John N. Drake, John C. 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.
Lincoln wrote William H. Davenport one more letter regarding this case after this May 22, 1858 letter.
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, https://lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Details.aspx?case=137241.
5Lincoln is discussing another legal case in this final sentence: Davenport v. Davenport et al. In this case, Lucy A. Davenport sued William Davenport, William H. Davenport, and several others in April 1856 in the Woodford County Circuit Court. She claimed that her late husband, John Davenport, held title to ninety-two acres of land that he had purchased from William Davenport. She petitioned the court for her dower from the land.
Dower was a form of estate that provided for a widow’s needs out of her husband's real and personal property, and such property was not subject to creditor’s demands. In antebellum Illinois, the widow of a man with children received one-third of the land that her husband owned at any time during their marriage for the rest of her life, unless she relinquished her dower rights in the prescribed manner. If her deceased husband had no children, the widow received outright ownership of one-half of the estate.
William H. Davenport retained Lincoln. Lucy dismissed the case, but later motioned to reinstate it. The court did so, and, after several continuances, in October 1858 Judge James Harriott ruled for the defendants and dismissed her petition.
“Dower,” Reference, Glossary, Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, https://lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Reference.aspx?ref=Reference%20html%20files/Glossary.html; Davenport v. Davenport et al., Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds., The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, https://lawpracticeofabrahamlincoln.org/Details.aspx?case=137053.
Copy of Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Association Files, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).