Lincoln’s Long Journey

Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States, was born February 12th, 1809. He died April 15th, 1865.

He was last seen on September 26th, 1901 before being lowered into his grave.

No, this isn’t a fictionalized account like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (which I thoroughly enjoyed). Lincoln’s coffin was buried, opened, buried, opened, buried, opened, buried/moved/buried, almost stolen, moved/buried… you get the picture. He was not permanently buried until the 20th century, more than 36 years after his death. Even then, his tomb would be remodeled over 30 years after that, with President Hoover presiding over the associated ceremony.

The History Channel special and the book of the same title, Stealing Lincoln’s Body, explain the strange journey of Lincoln’s remains in detail. This macabre saga entered into a recent conversation when I was told that Evergreen-Washelli would be displaying a replica of Lincoln’s coffin at their Bothell and Seattle locations.

Replica Abraham Lincoln’s Coffin at Life Celebrations by Washelli – 18224 103rd Ave. NE, Bothell, Washington, February 12th, 2015. Special presentation at 3 P.M.

Replica of Abraham Lincoln’s Coffin at Evergreen Washelli – 11111 Aurora Ave. N., Seattle, Washington, February 14th-16th, 2015. Special presentation at 3 P.M. on February 16th.

Their blog has a fascinating post called Lincoln’s Coffin. It says:

President Lincoln’s coffin (and by extension, the replica) was elaborately crafted. Custom-made at 6 feet, 6 inches long, the coffin was solid walnut, lined with lead and covered in fine black cloth. It was studded with sterling silver, with sterling silver handles to match. The replica, made in great detail after photographs of the coffin, does not contain the lead lining of the original.

This container for Lincoln’s mortal remains went on an epic journey before it was even put in the ground the first time. Lincoln’s funeral train traveled 1654 miles, through 180 cities and 7 states according to This same article said the train also carried the body of his son Willie, who died several years before, and among the 300 people who rode the train was Lincoln’s son Robert.

As an aside, only one possible descendant of Abraham Lincoln survives now, although his paternity has been disputed and a court settlement declared that he’s not a descendant. He is a 46 year-old attorney in Florida, Timothy Lincoln Beckwith, and his mother’s second husband, Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith, is said to be Lincoln’s last true descendant (who died in 1985). Timothy Beckwith does not give interviews, but I suspect that there is more to this story. I hope it will be told.

Interestingly, the only one of Lincoln’s four sons who lived to adulthood, Robert, was said to have turned down an invitation to go to Ford’s Theater the night of April 14th, 1865. He was an eyewitness to the assassination of President James Garfield in 1881. He was at the same location as the assassination of President William McKinley 20 years later, at McKinley’s invitation, although he did not witness it.

Less than two years before John Wilkes Booth assassinated his father, Robert Lincoln’s life was saved by Edwin Booth, John’s older brother, who was an accomplished actor and Unionist. At the time, Edwin Booth did not know who he saved, but Robert knew who he was. Robert went on to become the 35th Secretary of War and then an ambassador to the United Kingdom.

(While looking up a bit of information about Edwin Booth, I came upon a fascinating website, Abraham Lincoln’s Assassination, that contains even more information about related events. It says that when Edwin Booth’s casket was being carried out of a church in New York in 1893, part of Ford’s Theater collapsed, killing 23 people. Booth did not condone his brother’s actions and was an ardent supporter of Lincoln, so I don’t want to read too much into that. This site does have the only known photo of Lincoln in his coffin, which was discovered almost a century after his death, as well as information on other attempts on Lincoln’s life.)

While February 12th is the day we celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birth and life, we also remember that he gave his life for his country. No matter how trying or tragic his personal circumstances, which had been heavy since childhood, he was determined to keep his nation together and achieve freedom for all. In his Gettysburg Address, he stated, “…we we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Although the story of what happened to Lincoln’s body is fascinating, that body is ultimately just an empty vehicle. Lincoln himself still lives on, in another place, reunited with his family. As he said, “Surely God would not have created such a being as man, with an ability to grasp the infinite, to exist only for a day! No, no, man was made for immortality.”

And live forever he shall, regardless of the state of his earthly remains.

Lincoln Family


Thanks to the Abraham Lincoln’s Assassination site for bringing to my attention the 2015 Lincoln Funeral Train and 2015 Lincoln Funeral Coalition sites. This year is the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s death.

Another interesting site: Presidents’ Last Words


©2015 H. Hiatt/ All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/

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