Abraham Lincoln’s pallbearers

UPDATED with information from Lincoln’s Springfield: The Funeral of Abraham Lincoln, by Richard Hart (2015).

Some confusion exists regarding who were the pallbearers for President Abraham Lincoln in May 1865 in Springfield. Springfield newspapers published two slightly different lists preceding the ceremonies — partly, apparently, because at least one designated pallbearer was too ill to attend the funeral, and partly because there were, essentially, two funeral processions.

Ten men were on both lists:

Jesse K. Dubois (Illinois secretary of state, Lincoln neighbor)

Stephen T. Logan (Lincoln’s second law partner)

Gustavus P. Koerner (lawyer, judge, friend of Mary Lincoln)

James L. Lamb (meatpacker, industrialist)

Samuel H. Treat (Springfield-based federal judge)

John Williams (merchant, land developer)

Erastus Wright (educator, abolitionist)

James N. Brown (shorthorn cattle innovator who served in the Illinois House with Lincoln)

Jacob Bunn (merchant, banker, investor)

Charles W. Matheny (merchant, developer, son of Sangamon County pioneer Charles R. Matheny)

A list published in the May 4 Illinois State Journal included the following two dignitaries:

Elijah Iles (pioneer store owner)

John T. Stuart (first Lincoln law partner, U.S. representative)

Other lists omit Iles and Stuart in favor of:

William Elkin Sr. Elkin, a farmer, politician and friend of Lincoln, who missed the funeral due to “an acute illness.”

Gershom Jayne (Sangamon County’s first physician)

In his Lincoln’s Springfield, researcher Richard E. Hart says the differences are explained because there were two processions: one from the Chicago & Alton railroad station at Third and Jefferson streets to the Statehouse (now the Old Capitol State Historic Site), and the other from the Statehouse to Oak Ridge Cemetery. Iles and Stuart were not pallbearers in the first, but replaced Jayne and Elkin (perhaps due to his illness) in the second, Hart says.

(Hart also says the Illinois State Register list did not include Erastus Wright as a pallbearer. It’s not clear what edition of the Register Hart is referring to, but Wright was among a list of pallbearers listed in the May 3 Register.)

Confusion over the pallbearers isn’t just present-day. On May 8, 1865, the Journal published a correction to its list of pallbearers. “In the list of Pall Bearers published by us, in the report of the obsequies of President Lincoln, the names of ex-Gov. John Wood and Hon. W.B. Archer were omitted. They will appear in the Weekly.”

Wood served as governor in 1860 and ’61. W.B. Archer of Clark County had been a state legislator and had supported Lincoln as a Republican candidate for vice president in 1856. Hart lists Wood and Archer as participating in the procession from the train station to the Statehouse, but does not say where their position was in the procession, as he does for the other 12 pallbearers.

In the final procession to Oak Ridge Cemetery, the group of pallbearers was preceded by “surgeons and physicians of the deceased” and followed by the “horses of the late President, led by two grooms.”

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Original content copyright Sangamon County Historical Society. You are free to republish this content as long as credit is given to the Society.


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8 Responses to Abraham Lincoln’s pallbearers

  1. Max Harkness says:

    I heard a relative, Harkness was part of the pallbearer’s, for Lincoln, can’t find anything on whether this is so or not. Possible James was first name. Was awarded a medal if Honor.

    • editor says:

      Mr. Harkness: No one named Harkness was among the pallbearers in Springfield. However, there would have been pallbearers in most, if not all, of the other towns where the president’s casket was displayed on the train trip from Washington. It’s possible he performed that duty somewhere else. (Also, for what it’s worth, Wikipedia’s list of Civil War Medal of Honor recipients includes no one named Harkness.)

      Sorry I couldn’t be more help.

    • Renee Suttles says:

      My great great maybe another great lol Harkness was pallbearer. But it was in a different town, and he was chosen due to his size. I have the article clipping and picture of the heirloom they gave him.

  2. Victoria Walsh says:

    This is very interesting! How many places was Lincoln taken? I was told that his cousin carried his casket and the white glove and my family has it. Lincoln is my cousin related to the Wolcott family. I wonder how do I find out?

  3. Victoria Walsh says:

    How do I find out if one of his cousins carried his casket from the Wolcott family?

    • editor says:

      Ms. Walsh: I doubt you can get a definitive answer. The funeral train stopped 11 times between Washington and Springfield, and I imagine different people acted as pallbearers from place to place. As you can see, SangamonLink lists the people known to have helped with the casket in Springfield, but that’s the best we can do. There are quite a few books on the funeral; maybe one of them can give you a clue.

  4. Tim Meagher says:

    According to Waterford museum in Ireland, General Thomas F. Meagher was a pallbearer but I don’t see his name listed in any documents. Above suggests there so many sets of pallbearers though that perhaps no accurate list of all of them exists. https://www.waterfordtreasures.com/bishops-palace/whats-inside/meagher-of-the-sword?fbclid=IwAR2NYTQOhkuOS7QnErWWHUlD6tMPt7h3YucbPc6qEi2GIECXF0MjrWCZAW0

    • editor says:

      Mr. Meagher: “Pallbearer” appears to be a misleading term in this connection, but Gen. Meagher did have a role in the Lincoln funeral observance in New York City. The New York Journal of Commerce for April 25, 1865, lists Gen. Meagher as a member of the second shift of the “Guard of Honor,” men who stood next to Lincoln’s coffin in NYC as visitors filed past. I’ll email you a copy of the Journal page with that information. Thanks for reading SangamonLink.

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