Thomas Meharry to Abraham Lincoln, 6 April 18571
T T Mr A W2Pleasant-Hill Ind. April 6th 1857
M [Mr?] M3A. Linkin Attorney at lawSir
I Bougt or entered a qurter Section of land at the sale of public lands at Danville Illanois on November the 24th 1855 the Number of the land is the South East Quarter (1/4) of Section Thirty three (33) Township No Eighteen (18) North. Range Nine (9) East in Champaign County Illanois4 [&?] there was [oblige yours with respectThomas Meharry
...?] two premptions5 laid in for the same piece of ^land^ on August the 17th 1855 one by Wm [Bcelle?] and the other by S Powel6 one of them has proven up and entered the ^land^ again you can tell which one of them it is that has proven it up by examining in
the land office7 there were three or four of us on the land November the 10th and there was no person living on it and no improvements and my son was on it November
the 21d8 ^21^ and ^he says^ there was no improvements on it then ^(except some lumber and logs halled out, on it)^9 . . .
<Page 2>The preempter says he was living on the land by the 21st November and could prove it by several witnesses I want to know ^what^ you think of the case whether I will stand a good chance of gaining it or not and tell me what evidence will be particularly required in this case My Brother James Meharry has a case of the same kind on the West half of the West half of Section 15 same township and range10 he has some distant chance of a compromise and if he does not get a compromise and it is not probable ^that^ he will he wants you to attend to his case allso now we want ^to^ know what you will charge to runn each of our cases through one court and which place we had better enter suit in Urbanna or Springfield and which court Circuit supreme or Chancery court ^and how soon^ if you undertake our cases we will want them runn Through forthwith please answer on the receipt of this and11
4Illinois public land sales records do not contain an account of Meharry having purchased any lands on November 24, 1855, nor any lands in section thirty-three of township number eighteen north in Champaign County, Illinois. There are, however, records that he purchased more than 500 acres of land in sections five, seven, and nine of township number seventeen north, range nine east of Champaign County on November 23, 1855. Biographical records indicate that he eventually purchased 4,000 acres of land “from the government” across Champaign, McLean, and Shelby counties. It is possible that records for some of his purchases of public lands are no longer extant.
Illinois Public Domain Land Tract Sales, Champaign County, 238:146, Illinois State Archives, Springfield, IL; Alexander Meharry, III, History of the Meharry Family in America: Descendants of Alexander Meharry I (Lafayette, IN: Lafayette Printing, 1925), 74.
5Pre-emption relates to the right of person who settles upon a tract of public land to purchase that land before other applicants.
“Pre-emption,” Reference, Glossary, 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/Reference.aspx?ref=Reference%20html%20files/Glossary.html.
6The script for William’s surname is difficult to read but may be “Bcelle” or “Rcelle.” Since Meharry utilizes phonetic spelling throughout this letter, William’s actual surname may be spelled differently than what Meharry wrote. Neither William nor S. Powel could be positively identified.
7Springfield, Illinois received a land office in 1823. Local land offices operated as satellites of the U.S. General Land Office.
John Carroll Power and S. A. Power, History of the Early Settlers of Sangamon County, Illinois (Springfield, IL: Edwin A. Wilson, 1876), 72.
9Meharry had four sons by 1855: William, Jesse, Abraham, and Isaac. It is unclear which of his sons visited the Champaign County, Illinois property in question, but, since twins Abraham and Isaac were just twelve years old as of November 1855, it was most likely either William or Jesse who inspected the land.
Alexander Meharry, III, History of the Meharry Family in America: Descendants of Alexander Meharry I, 74.
10Public land sales records show that on November 24, 1855, James Meharry purchased 160 acres of land in the west half of the west half of section fifteen of township eighteen north, range nine east of Champaign County. He also owned tracts of land in other sections of Champaign County.
Illinois Public Domain Land Tract Sales, Champaign County, 238:147, Illinois State Archives, Springfield, IL. For a full list of James Meharry’s land purchases in Champaign County, search “Meharry James,” https://www.ilsos.gov/isa/landsrch.jsp.
11Abraham Lincoln replied to this letter on April 21.
No records are extant which indicate that Lincoln filed a suit on behalf of either Thomas or James Meharry.
Copy of Autograph Letter Signed, 2 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Association Files, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (Springfield, IL).