Abe and Pleasant Hill

From the Pike County Express, December 26, 2012

Pleasant Hill is not often associated with Abe Lincoln, but he allegedly visited that village on at least one memorable occasion. This account was written by South Pike's well-known historian, the late Milo Pearson Jr.,and was related to Homer Stone, son of James Stone in 1943. "James Stone and his father, Samuel Stone, who lived on the Walton farm, had started to town to the Owsley grist mill. "As they came past what is now the Sally O'Brien farm (a log cabin stood on that knoll at that time), they noticed a group of men. "It was in August and hot. An old gentleman that lived in that cabin had died and had lain there for a month. The body was in bad condition, so bad, in fact, that the undertaker could not get into the house to take it out. Samuel Stone told the men that he believed that he could remove the corpse if he had some sulphur to burn to kill the odor. "They, however, did not have any, so Stone and two of the men wrapped old shirts around their heads, leaving only a thin layer over their eyes (so as to see) and in this way, went into the cabin. They pushed the bedclothes up around the body, binding them with buckskin thongs and carried it outside and dropped it in a box. "It is said that Stone was not able to eat for several days. "In the meantime, the small boy, James, had played with some other small boys at the foot of the hill. "The Stones then proceeded on to town. As they came into town, instead of going direct to the mill, which was located near where the Methodist Episcopal Church is now, they went first up the hill to the stores, which were then located on top of the hill. "As they neared the top of the hill, they came upon a group of men talking to a stranger who was sitting on a stump near the town well. This man was tall and lean and was very pleasant, having a nice chat with the men. He had under his arm three books. The man had walked from Hannibal down the old stage route, and inquiring of a family he knew who had lived in Pleasant Hill. He had intended to spend the night here but learned upon inquiring that they had moved. "So after getting a drink and resting a while the man arose and walked on up the street and thru the hills to Pittsfield. Samuel Stone then asked who the man was and the men answered saying, 'That was Abe Lincoln'. "This man, Stone (James H.), was present at the Owsley mill in 1865 when a man by the name of Zeke Hobbs came from Pearl on his way to Louisiana, MO. (in a Paul Revere type ride) giving out the news of the assassination of President Lincoln." This is an interesting story, but raises some questions: Did he walk from Hannibal to Pleasant Hill to Pittsfield in one day? That is at least a 40-mile walk? Why was Lincoln afoot? This appears to have occurred late in his life, in the immediate pre-Civil War period and Lincoln was a very successful attorney. He could have afforded any kind of transportation he wanted.

A Different View

Dr. Michael Burlingame of Connecticut College is one of the leading authorities on Lincoln and has close ties to Pike Couinty. He has twice spoken to the Pike County Historical Society. He is a "psychohistorian", a person who studies psychological factors of the persons who make history. His view of Lincoln is a little different from thepopular image. Burlingame said Lincoln's hatred of slavery was real -- he called it a "vast moralevil" -- but not entirely for traditional reasons. He was apparently not as concerned about civil rights as what he termed "organized, systematized robbery" of the slaves efforts. Burlingame said Lincoln identified with the slaves because he felt enslaved by his father, with whom he did not get along. Tom Lincoln made the boy work hard for both the father and neighbors and kept all of the money that came from that labor. When Tom Lincoln was on his deathbed, Abe Lincoln turned down a request from his stepbrother to visit him. He told his stepbrother, "Tell our father it would be more painful than pleasant if we were to see each other."..

(Edited by Steve Boze from "An Introduction to Pike County Illinois" by Tom Coulson.)